Nehemiah 5

1 Then there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren, the Jews.
2 For there were some that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many; therefore we have bought grain that we may eat and live.
3 There were also some that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine.
4 And there were some that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.
5 Yet now, given that the flesh of our brethren is as our flesh and their sons as our sons, behold, we subject our sons and our daughters to slavery, and there are some of our daughters in bondage already; neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.
6 And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.
7 Then I meditated unto myself, and I rebuked the principals and the rulers and said unto them, Does each one of you exact usury of his brother? And I set a great assembly against them.
8 And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren, the Jews who had been sold unto the Gentiles; and will ye even sell your brethren? And shall they be sold unto us? Then they remained silent, for they had nothing to answer.
9 Also I said, What you do is not good, do you not walk in the fear of our God, that ye not be the reproach of our enemies the Gentiles?
10 I, likewise, and my brethren and my servants, have lent them money and grain; let us now release them from this burden.
11 Restore, I pray you, to them, today, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, and even the hundredth part of the money, and of the grain, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.
12 Then they said, We will return it and will require nothing of them; so we will do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests and caused them to sware that they should do according to this promise.
13 Also I shook my lap and said, Thus will God shake out each man from his house and from his labour, that does not perform this promise, even thus shall he be shaken out and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise.
14 Moreover, from the day that I was appointed by the king to be their captain in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the captain.
15 But the former captains that had been before me had charged the people and had taken of them for bread and wine, upon forty shekels of silver; and in addition to this their servants bore rule over the people; but I did not do so because of the fear of God.
16 In addition to this, I restored my part in the work of this wall, neither did we buy any inheritance; and all my servants were gathered together unto the work.
17 I also had at my table one hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, besides those that came unto us from among the Gentiles that are around us.
18 Now that which was prepared for each day was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and every ten days wine in all abundance; yet with all this I did not require the bread of the captain because the bondage was heavy upon this people.
19 Remember me, my God, for good and 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.

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

The Jubilee Bible

(from the Scriptures of the Reformation)

edited by Russell M. Stendal

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