Some said, "We have large families, we need grain to keep us alive."
Others said, "We have had to mortgage our fields and vineyards and houses to get enough grain to keep us from starving."
Still others said, "We had to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards.
We are of the same race as the other Jews. Aren't our children just as good as theirs? But we have to make slaves of our children. Some of our daughters have already been sold as slaves. We are helpless because our fields and vineyards have been taken away from us."
When I heard their complaints, I grew angry
and decided to act. I denounced the leaders and officials of the people and told them, "You are oppressing your own relatives!" 1 I called a public assembly to deal with the problem
and said, "As far as we have been able, we have been buying back our Jewish relatives who had to sell themselves to foreigners. Now you are forcing your own relatives to sell themselves to you, their own people!" The leaders were silent and could find nothing to say.
Then I said, "What you are doing is wrong! You ought to obey God and do what's right. Then you would not give our enemies, the Gentiles, any reason to ridicule us.
I have let the people borrow money and grain from me, and so have my companions and those who work for me. Now let's give up all our claims to repayment.
Cancel all the debts a they owe you - money or grain or wine or olive oil. And give them back their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses right now!"
The leaders replied, "We'll do as you say. We'll give the property back and not try to collect the debts." I called in the priests and made the leaders swear in front of them to keep the promise they had just made.
Then I took off the sash b I was wearing around my waist and shook it out. "This is how God will shake any of you who don't keep your promise," I said. "God will take away your houses and everything you own, and will leave you with nothing." Everyone who was present said, "Amen!" and praised the Lord. And the leaders kept their promise.