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CHAPTER 5 Nov.18 
The Poor Are Suffering
Then there arose a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brothers the Jews. 2For there were some that said, We, our sons and our daughters, are many. Let us get grain, that we may eat and live. 3Some also there were that said, We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our houses. Let us get grain, because of the famine. 4There were also some who said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute using our fields and our vineyards as collateral. 5Yet our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children as their children. Indeed, we have to bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants. Some of our daughters have already been brought into bondage. Neither is it in our power to get out of it; for other men have our fields and our vineyards.
Nehemiah Has a Just Solution
6I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. 7Then I considered the matter, then contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, You exact usury, each one from his brother. I held a great assembly against them. 8I said to them, We, as much as we could, have redeemed our brothers the Jews that were sold to the nations. Would you really sell your brothers, and should they be sold to us? Then they held their peace, and found never a word to answer. 9Also I said, The thing that you do is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the nations our enemies? 10For this reason, I my brothers and my servants lend them money and grain. Please let us stop this usury. 11Please restore to them, even this 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 charging them. 12Then they said, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do, even as you say. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they would do according to this promise. 13Also I shook out my lap and said, So may God shake out every man from His house and from His work that doesn’t perform this promise; even thus may he be shaken out, and emptied. All the assembly said, Amen, and praised Yahweh. The people did according to this promise.
Nehemiah's Unselfishness
14Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even to the thirty second year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brothers did not eat the bread of the governor. 15But the former governors who were before me were supported by the people, and took bread and wine from them, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants ruled over the people: but I didn’t do so, because of the fear of God. 16Yes, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land; and all my servants were gathered there to the work. 17Moreover there were at my table, of the Jews and the rulers, one hundred and fifty men, besides those who came to us from among the nations that were around us. 18Now that which was prepared for one day was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine. Yet for all this I didn’t demand the bread due to the governor, because the bondage was heavy on this people. 19Remember me, my God, for good, for all that I have done for this people.


5:1-5 The prophecies of the restored Kingdom emphasized that the princes would not then oppress the people (Ez. 45:8,9; 46:18); but we see here that they did (see too Zech. 7:10; Mal. 3:5). Jer. 7:3-7 made it clear that Judah’s return to the land was to be conditional upon them not oppressing the poor- only “then will I cause you to dwell in this place”. Yet in His grace and zeal for His people, it seems God overlooked that condition- for the returned exiles did oppress each other, and yet they returned to the land. And yet they would’ve dwelt in Zion “for ever and ever” (Jer. 7:7) if they had not been abusive to others and truly loved God. Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi all record social injustice as being the order of the day at the time of the restoration.
5:7 See on 2:16.
5:8 We... have redeemed our brothers- God redeemed the exiles from Babylon (Is. 48:20; 51:11; 52:9; 62:12), and our response to that redemption should be to redeem others and not abuse them.
5:15 Is. 58:1,2 is a criticism of Judah in exile and also of those who did return to the land- they sought God daily, and yet abused their brethren (Is. 58:6), just as recorded here. If they had ceased from their sins, "Then shall your light break forth as the morning", if they had fed the hungry etc, then would've been fulfilled the Messianic Kingdom prophecies of the light of Zion rising above the Gentiles etc (Is. 58:10,12 cp. Is. 60:1). These Kingdom predictions will ultimately come true at Christ’s return to earth and the establishment of His Kingdom here, but we will only be there if we learn the lessons from Judah’s failure and don’t abuse our brethren.