Chapter 5: Many Jews are in Bondage
There was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren. For there were those who said that their sons, and their daughters were many; so why not let some of them get grain, so they wouldn’t starve. But there were also some who said, that they have mortgaged their lands, vineyards and houses, so they could buy food during the famine. There were also some who said that they had borrowed money for the king’s tax on their lands and vineyards. Because of this, some families had to offer sons and daughters as servants (slaves) to repay the debt.
And Nehemiah became very angry when he heard their outcry and these words. After serious thought, he rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said told them that each of them is exacting usury (abusing the creditor/debtor relationship with unfair interest rates, etc.) from his brother. So he called a great assembly against them, and told them, that according to their ability they have redeemed their Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. He then goes on to ask; will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us? Because of this, they were silenced and found nothing to say. Then he told them that what they were doing is not good. He then asks them, should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? Nehemiah begs them to stop the usury! He demands that they restore their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, and a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that they had charged them.
So they said that they would restore to them, as Nehemiah had asked, and would require nothing from them. Then Nehemiah called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to this promise.
From the time that Nehemiah was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, twelve years, neither he nor his brothers ate the governor’s provisions. Nehemiah just continued his work on the wall.
Nehemiah, received much provisions, (one ox, six choice sheep, fowls and an abundance of wine) yet in spite of this he did not demand the governor’s provisions, because the bondage was heavy on this people, he gave them food to the people… to further the Lord’s work.
Chapter 6: Sanballat and Nehemiah
When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of their enemies heard that Nehmiah had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time Nehmiah had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “…Come, let us meet together… in the plain of Ono…” (Nehmiah 6:2) But they only thought to do him harm. So Nehmiah sent messengers to them, saying, “…I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3) But they sent him this message four times, and he answered them the same every time. Nehemiah knew of the importance of his work, and couldn’t be bothered with someone who wanted to distract him from that work. We need to always remember that Satan will try to pull us away from what we know is the right thing. Because Satan knows good from evil, and because he made poor choices, he wants everyone to suffer with him. So the next time you are doing good and something or someone tries to get in your way or discourage you… don’t come down and entertain it, turn your back and keep working!
Then Sanballat sent his servant to Nehemiah as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. In it was written: “…It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together. Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart (make them up out of his own heart). For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done.” (Nehemiah 6:6-9)
Afterward Nehemiah came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and Shemaiah told them to meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and to close the doors, because they were coming to kill Nehemiah. Nehemiah, asked; should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” Then he perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against him because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this reason he was hired, that he should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach him.
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all their enemies heard of it, and all the nations around them saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by God.
In those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them. For many in Judah were pledged to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shechaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah.