Nehemiah 5

Usury Abolished

1 Now 1there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their 2Jewish brothers.
2 For there were those who said, "We, our sons and our daughters are many; therefore let us 3get grain that we may eat and live."
3 There were others who said, "We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our houses that we might get grain because of the famine."
4 Also there were those who said, "We have borrowed money 4for the king's tax on our fields and our vineyards.
5 "Now 5our flesh is like the flesh of our brothers, our children like their children. Yet behold, 6we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters are forced into bondage already, and we are helpless * * because our fields and vineyards belong to others."
6 Then I was very 7angry when I had heard their outcry and these words.
7 I consulted with myself and contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, "8You are exacting usury, each from his brother!" Therefore, I held a great assembly against them.
8 I said to them, "We according to our ability 9have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?" Then they were silent and could not find a word to say.
9 Again I said, "The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of 10the reproach of the nations, our enemies?
10 "And likewise I, my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury.
11 "Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new wine and the oil that you are exacting from them."
12 Then they said, "We 11will give it back and 12will require nothing from them; we will do exactly as you say." So I called the priests and 13took an oath from them that they would do according to this promise.
13 I 14also shook out the front of my garment and said, "Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied." And 15all the assembly said, "Amen!" And they praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.

Nehemiah's Example

14 Moreover, from the day that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from 16the twentieth year to the 17thirty-second * year of King Artaxerxes, for twelve * years, neither I nor my kinsmen have eaten the governor's food allowance.
15 But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people and took from them bread and wine besides forty shekels of silver; even their servants domineered the people. But I did not do so 18because * of the fear of God.
16 I also applied myself to the work on this wall; we did not buy any land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work.
17 Moreover, 19there were at my table one hundred and fifty Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us.
18 Now 20that which was prepared for each day was one ox and six choice sheep, also birds were prepared for me; and once in ten days all sorts of wine were furnished in abundance. Yet for all this 21I did not demand the governor's food allowance, because the servitude was heavy on this people.
19 22Remember me, O my God, for good, according to 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.

Cross References 22

Footnotes 9

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