The Jews complain of their debt, mortgage, and bondage, 1-5. Nehemiah rebukes those who exact interest, and causes them to make a covenant of restitution, 6-13. He forbears his own allowance, and keeps hospitality, 14-19.
1 And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brothers the Jews. 2 For there were some who said, "We, our sons, and our daughters are many. Therefore, we take up grain for them, so that we may eat and live." 3 There were also some who said, "We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, so that we might buy grain, because of the famine." 4 There were also some who said, "We have borrowed money for the king's tribute, and that is upon our lands and vineyards. 5 Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children as their children. And behold, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought to 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 consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles and the rulers, and said to them, "You exact interest, each from his brother." And I set a great assembly against them. 8 And I said to them, "We, after our ability, have redeemed our brothers the Jews who were sold to the heathen. And will you even sell your brothers? Or shall they be sold to us?" Then they held their peace and found nothing to answer. 9 Also I said, "That which you do is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies? 10 I likewise, my brothers and my servants, might exact from them money and grain. I pray you, let us leave off this usury. 11 I pray you, restore to them even this day their lands, their vineyards, their olive-groves, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the grain, the wine, and the oil that you exact from them." 12 Then they said, "We will restore them and will require nothing of them. We will do so as you say." Then I called the priests and bound them by oath that they would do according to this promise. 13 Also I shook my lap, and said, "In this manner may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not perform this promise. Even in this manner, may 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 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 had been before me were burdensome to the people and had taken from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. And even their servants bore rule over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. 16 And I also continued in the work of this wall, neither did we buy any land. And all my servants were gathered there to the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table one hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, besides those who came to us from among the heathen who were around us. 18 Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox and six choice sheep, birds were also prepared for me, and once in ten days an abundance of all sorts of wine. Yet for all this I did not require the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people. 19 Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
Matthew Henry Commentary - Nehemiah, Chapter 5[➚]