Nehemiah 5:1 And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.
2 For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live.
3 Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.
4 There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.
Those who had returned from Babylon following the captivity found it hard to make ends meet.
They were experiencing a famine.
They had been forced to borrow money from the wealthy.
Under the Law of Moses Jews were not allowed to charge interest on money loaned to fellow Jews,
Exodus 22:25 If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.
Leviticus 25:36 Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. 37 Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
Deuteronomy 23:19 Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:
But the wealthy Jews were charging interest.
Further they were forcing the borrowers to sell their children as bond servants in order to live.
5 Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.
Others had taken possession of their inheritance depriving them of the means of making a living.
6 And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.
Nehemiah was justifiably angry at the heartlessness of the wealthy Jews.
7 Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one 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, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.
9 Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?
10 I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.
Nehemiah tells them to stop taking interest on loans, restore the people’s inheritance and give them money, corn, wine and oil so that they could begin to make a living.
11 Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.
They agreed to do this and Nehemiah took an oath of them that they would comply.
12 Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.
13 Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise.
As their appointed Governor, Nehemiah could have required the people to provide for his sustenance over the 12 years he had served. But to set an example he had not taken anything of them.
14 Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor.
Previous governors and their servants had received money and goods from the people. But Nehemiah would not.
15 But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God.
He and his servants had worked on the building of the wall of Jerusalem.
They had not purchased any land, and moreover had provided food for the Jewish leaders and those who came to work at Jerusalem.
16 Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work.
17 Moreover there were at my table an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that are about us.
18 Now that which was prepared for me daily 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 required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people.
All this came out of his own pocket because he reverenced God.
19 Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
He was a man after God’s own heart.
He reminds us of the apostle Paul who refused to take money from those to whom he preached the gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
2 Thessalonians 3:8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
The lesson we take from it is that we should not make merchandise of our fellow man.
We are to be generous with what God has given us.
Luke 6:30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
Deuteronomy 15:10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
Proverbs 19:17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
Proverbs 22:9 He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.
Ecclesiastes 11:1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. :2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
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