Nehemiah 5 Commentary

The greed of the rich (5:1-19)

Another problem that Nehemiah dealt with was the tension that had developed over the years between the rich and the poor. Those in financial difficulty borrowed money from the rich to buy food and pay their land taxes to the Persian government. The rich took advantage of them by charging heavy interest. Then, when the poor could not pay, the rich took their land from them in payment, and in some cases took their children as slaves. Troubles increased when a famine hit the land, and with the rebuilding of the wall these troubles increased further, since the workers were not able to earn a normal living. The poor saw no way out of their difficulties and appealed to Nehemiah for help (5:1-5).

Nehemiah knew the greed and cunning of the rich. One of their schemes was to sell Jews to foreigners as slaves, knowing that Nehemiah’s policy was for the state to buy them back (6-8). Therefore, he commanded the rich to return any people or property they had seized, and to remove all interest on loans (9-13).

Throughout the twelve years of his governorship, Nehemiah gave the people an example to follow. He did not claim benefits that were lawfully his, as he did not want to place added burdens on the people. He even fed his employees and guests out of his personal funds (14-19).

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