Some said, "We have big families, and we need food just to survive."
Others said, "We're having to mortgage our fields and vineyards and homes to get enough grain to keep from starving."
And others said, "We're having to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards.
Look: We're the same flesh and blood as our brothers here; our children are just as good as theirs. Yet here we are having to sell our children off as slaves - some of our daughters have already been sold - and we can't do anything about it because our fields and vineyards are owned by somebody else."
I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints.
After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, "Each one of you is gouging his brother."
I told them, "We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners. And now you're selling these same brothers back into debt slavery! Does that mean that we have to buy them back again?" They said nothing. What could they say?
"What you're doing is wrong. Is there no fear of God left in you? Don't you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you?
"I and my brothers and the people working for me have also loaned them money. But this gouging them with interest has to stop.
Give them back their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now. And forgive your claims on their money, grain, new wine, and olive oil."
They said, "We'll give it all back. We won't make any more demands on them. We'll do everything you say."
Then I emptied my pockets, turning them inside out, and said, "So may God empty the pockets and house of everyone who doesn't keep this promise - turned inside out and emptied." Everyone gave a wholehearted "Yes, we'll do it!" and praised God. And the people did what they promised. "Remember in My Favor, O My God"
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)