Nothing exposes Christianity more to the reproaches of its enemies than the worldliness and hardheartedness of its professors. Followers of Christ should be careful, lest by these means, they bring a reproach upon their religion.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
19 Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
Nehemiah 5:1-4 – J. Vernon McGee
Nehemiah 5:5 – J. Vernon McGee
Nehemiah 5:6-8 – J. Vernon McGee
Nehemiah 5:9-12 – J. Vernon McGee
Nehemiah 5:13-19 – J. Vernon McGee
Nehemiah 5 – Securing Justice for the Poor
The prospects of the poor people among the returned exiles were deplorable. There had been deficient rains and poor harvests, Haggai 1:6-11. They had mortgaged their lands to their richer brethren, and had even sold their children to pay the royal taxes and procure means of subsistence. The rich had taken advantage of their necessities, oppressing them with grievous exactions and heavy usury. When Nehemiah heard of it, he seems to have withstood the wrong with strenuous protest, depending on his God for support. And, in a great assembly, he carried the day against selfishness and greed. There is nothing here to condemn mortgage, or interest in themselves. Each is a legitimate method of trade, except when undue advantage is taken of a brother’s necessities. The Nehemiah 5:14-19 were evidently added at a subsequent period to the rest of the chapter, and relate the habits of Nehemiah’s administration. How full is this book of ejaculatory prayer! Even from his writing-table, this true-hearted man would lift up his eyes to God. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Nehemiah 5:15 – “So did not I, because of the fear of God.”
These were great words. Nehemiah had a perfect right to take this money. Not a word could be said even by his critics, if he did. He was doing a priceless work, and might justly claim his maintenance. On the other hand, the people were very poor, and he would have a larger influence over them if he were prepared to stand on their level, and to share with them. It was just so that the Apostle argued in I Corinthians 9. And from both we learn that often we must forego our evident rights and liberties in order to influence others for Christ. Do not always stand on your rights; but live for others, making any sacrifice in order to save some—even as Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us.
If Nehemiah did so much for the holy fear of God, what ought not we to do for love? Love is more inexorable than law. Its exactions are more stringent and searching. Are we doing as much for love of Jesus as generations before did simply on the score of duty? It is much to be questioned if Jesus does not get less, of outward service at least, out of his followers, than Mahomet or Buddha does. But what He does get is infinitely sweet to Him, in so far as love prompts it.
All around you people are doing things that they say are perfectly legitimate; they call you narrow and bigoted because you do not join with them; they are always arguing with you to prove you are wrong. But your supreme law is your attitude to your Master. “I cannot do otherwise for the love of Jesus.”
“Not I, because of the fear of God.”
“Not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
“Not I, but Christ liveth in me.” —Our Daily Homily
Nehemiah 5:15 – Doubtful amusements are like doubtful eggs – so likely to be bad that it is safest to let them alone. (Moody)