Nehemiah 5

1 Then there arose a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brothers the Jews. 2 For there were that said, “We, our sons and our daughters, are many. Let us get grain, that we may eat and live.” 3 There were also some that said, “We are mortgaging our fields, and our vineyards, and our houses. Let us get grain, because of the famine.” 4 There were also some who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute using our fields and our vineyards as collateral. 5 Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children as their children. Behold, we bring our sons and our daughters into bondage to be servants, and some of our daughters have been brought into bondage. It is also not in our power to help it, because other men have our fields and our vineyards.” 6 I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. 7 Then I consulted with myself, and contended with the nobles and the rulers, and said to them, “You exact usury, everyone of his brother.” I held a great assembly against them. 8 I said to them, “We, after our ability, have redeemed our brothers the Jews that were sold to the nations; and would you even sell your brothers, and should they be sold to us?” Then they held their peace, and found not a word to say. 9 Also I said, “The thing that you do is not good. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the nations our enemies? 10 I likewise, my brothers and my servants, lend them money and grain. Please let us stop this usury. 11 Please restore to them, even today, 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.” 12 Then they said, “We will restore them, and will require nothing of them. We will do so, even as you say.” Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they would do according to this promise. 13 Also I shook out my lap, and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house, and from his labor, that doesn’t perform this promise; even be he shaken out, and emptied like this.” All the assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. The people did according to this promise. 14 Moreover 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 have not eaten the bread of the governor. 15 But the former governors who were before me were supported by the people, and took bread and wine from them, plus forty shekels of silver; yes, even their servants ruled over the people; but I didn’t do so, because of the fear of God. 16 Yes, I also continued in the work of this wall. We didn’t buy any land. All my servants were gathered there to the work. 17 Moreover there were at my table, of the Jews and the rulers, one hundred and fifty men, besides those who came to us from amongst the nations that were around us. 18 Now 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 a store of all sorts of wine. Yet for all this, I didn’t demand the governor’s pay, because the bondage was heavy on this people. 19 Remember to me, my God, for good, all that I have done for this people.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

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, that we, through his poverty, might be rich, 2Co 8:9. They did 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.

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