Nehemiah 5

Social Injustice

1 There was a widespread outcry from the people and their wives against their Jewish countrymen.
2 Some were saying, "We, our sons, and our daughters are numerous. Let us get grain so that we can eat and live."
3 Others were saying, "We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to get grain during the famine."
4 Still others were saying, "We have borrowed money to pay the king's tax on our fields and vineyards.
5 We and our children are [just] like our countrymen and their children, yet we are subjecting our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters are already enslaved, but we are powerless[a] because our fields and vineyards belong to others."
6 I became extremely angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints.
7 After seriously considering the matter, I accused the nobles and officials, saying to them, "Each of you is charging his countrymen interest."[b] So I called a large assembly against them
8 and said, "We have done our best to buy back our Jewish countrymen who were sold to foreigners, but now you sell your own countrymen, and we have to buy them back." They remained silent and could not say a word.
9 Then I said, "What you are doing isn't right. Shouldn't you walk in the fear of our God [and not invite] the reproach of our foreign enemies?
10 Even I, as well as my brothers and my servants, have been lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop charging this interest.[c]
11 Return their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses to them immediately, along with the percentage[d] of the money, grain, new wine, and olive oil that you have been assessing them."
12 They responded: "We will return [these things] and require nothing more from them. We will do as you say." So I summoned the priests and made everyone take an oath to do this.
13 I also shook the folds of my robe and said, "May God likewise shake from his house and property everyone who doesn't keep this promise. May he be shaken out and have nothing!" The whole assembly said, "Amen," and they praised the Lord. Then the people did as they had promised.

Good and Bad Governors

14 Furthermore, from the day King Artaxerxes appointed me to be their governor in the land of Judah-from the twentieth year until his thirty-second year, 12 years-I and my associates never ate from the food allotted to the governor.
15 The governors who preceded me had heavily burdened the people, taking food and wine from them, as well as a pound[e] of silver. Their subordinates also oppressed the people, but I didn't do this, because of the fear of God.
16 Instead, I devoted myself to the construction of the wall, and all my subordinates were gathered there for the work. We didn't buy any land.
17 There were 150 Jews and officials, as well as guests from the surrounding nations at my table.
18 Each[f] day, one ox, six choice sheep, and some fowl were prepared for me. An abundance of all kinds of wine was [provided] every 10 days. But I didn't demand the food allotted to the governor, because the burden on the people was so heavy.
19 Remember me favorably, my God, for all that I have done for this people.

Nehemiah 5 Commentary

Chapter 5

The Jews complain of grievances. (1-5) Nehemiah redresses the grievances. (6-13) Nehemiah's forbearance. (14-19)

Verses 1-5 Men prey upon their fellow-creatures: by despising the poor they reproach their Maker. Such conduct is a disgrace to any, but who can sufficiently abhor it when adopted by professing Christians? With compassion for the oppressed, we should lament the hardships which many in the world are groaning under; putting our souls into their souls' stead, and remembering in our prayers and succours those who are burdened. But let those who show no mercy, expect judgment without mercy.

Verses 6-13 Nehemiah knew that, if he built Jerusalem's walls ever so high, so thick, or so strong, the city could not be safe while there were abuses. The right way to reform men's lives, is to convince their consciences. If you walk in the fear of God, you will not be either covetous of worldly gain, or cruel toward your brethren. Nothing exposes religion more to reproach, than the worldliness and hard-heartedness of the professors of it. Those that rigorously insist upon their right, with a very ill grace try to persuade others to give up theirs. In reasoning with selfish people, it is good to contrast their conduct with that of others who are liberal; but it is best to point to His example, who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, ( 2 Corinthians 8:9) according to promise. Good promises are good things, but good performances are better.

Verses 14-19 Those who truly fear God, will not dare to do any thing cruel or unjust. Let all who are in public places remember that they are so placed to do good, not to enrich themselves. Nehemiah mentions it to God in prayer, not as if he had merited any favour from God, but to show that he depended upon God only, to make up to him what he had lost and laid out for his honour. Nehemiah evidently spake and acted as one that knew himself to be a sinner. He did not mean to claim a reward as of debt, but in the manner that the Lord rewards a cup of cold water given to a disciple for his sake. The fear and love of God in the heart, and true love of the brethren, will lead to every good work. These are proper evidences of justifying faith; and our reconciled God will look upon persons of this character for good, according to all they have done for his people.

Footnotes 6

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO EZRA 5

In this chapter is a complaint of the poor against the rich for oppression of them, Ne 5:1-5 for which Nehemiah being angry, reproved them, and made them promise, and swear to it, to make restitution, Ne 5:6-13 and set them an example himself, taking nothing of them during his twelve years' government, supporting himself and his at his own expenses, Ne 5:14-19.

Nehemiah 5 Commentaries