Nehemiah 5

1Many of the ˻poor˼ people began to complain against their Jewish brothers. 2Some of them were saying, “We have many children. We must get some grain if we are going to eat and stay alive!” 3Other people were saying, “This is a time of famine. We are having to mortgage our fields, vineyards, and homes to get grain. 4And still other people were saying, “We have to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. But we can’t afford to pay, so we are having to borrow money to pay the tax. 5˻Look at those rich people!˼ We are as good as they are. Our sons are as good as their sons. But we will have to sell our sons and daughters as slaves. Some of us have already had to sell our daughters as slaves! There is nothing we can do! We already lost our fields and vineyards! Other people own them now!” 6When I heard their complaints, I became very angry. 7I calmed myself down and then I went to the rich families and the officials. I told them, “You are forcing your own people to pay interest on the money you loan them! ˻You must stop doing that!˼ Then I called for all the people to meet together. 8And I said to those people, “Our Jewish brothers were sold as slaves to people in other countries. We did our best to buy them back and make them free. And now, you are selling them like slaves again!” Those rich people and officials kept quiet. They could not find anything to say. 9So I continued speaking. I said, “What you people are doing is not right! You know that you should fear and respect God. You should not do the shameful things other people do! 10My men, my brothers, and I are also lending money and grain to the people. But let’s stop forcing them to pay interest on those loans! 11You must give their fields, vineyards, olive fields, and houses back to them, right now! And you must give back the interest you charged them! You charged them one per cent for the money, grain, new wine, and oil that you loaned them. ˻You must give that back to them!˼ 12Then the rich people and the officials said, “We will give it back. And we won’t demand anything more from them. Nehemiah, we will do as you say.” Then I called the priests. I made the rich people and the officials promise to God that they would do what they said. 13Then I shook out the folds of my clothes. I said, “God will do the same thing to every person that doesn’t keep his promise. God will shake them out of their houses and they will lose everything they worked for! That person will lose everything!” I finished saying these things and all those people agreed. They all said, “Amen!” And they praised the Lord. And so the people did as they had promised. 14And also, during the whole time that I was appointed to be governor in the land of Judah, neither I nor my brothers ate the food that was allowed for the governor. ˻I never forced the people to pay those taxes to buy my food.˼ I was governor from the 20th year until the 32nd year that Artaxerxes was king. I was governor of Judah for twelve years. 15But the governors that ruled before me made life hard for the people. Those governors forced every person to pay 1 pound of silver. They also made those people give them food and wine. The leaders under those governors also ruled over the people ˻and made life even harder˼. But I respected and feared God, so I didn’t do things like that. 16I worked hard at building the wall of Jerusalem. All my men gathered there to work on the wall. We didn’t take any land from anyone! 17Also, I regularly fed 150 Jews that were always welcome at my table. And I fed the people that came to us from the nations around us. 18Every day I fixed this much food for the people that ate at my table: one cow, six good sheep, and different kinds of birds. And every ten days all kinds of wine were brought to my table. Yet, I never demanded the food that was allowed for the governor. ˻I never forced the people to pay those taxes to pay for my food.˼ I knew that the work the people were doing was very hard. 19God, remember all the good I have done for these people.

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