Nehemiah Chapter 5
"Grievance, and Redress."
Bible Study is written by Roger Christopherson, and it's
This chapter is what we call a insert chapter. It will leave the problems between Nehemiah and Sanballat the governor, and take a close look at the personal look at the personal problems of the people of Judah. This is given to us as an example for us, to understand that when the work is hard, and the pressure comes from the outside, God's walls built around us will protect us.
This chapter takes a look at the condition of the people that migrated from Babylon back to Jerusalem, that were caused by not only the journey, but also the drought, loss of crops and just plain living conditions. This caused for a great shortage of food. We will see that if your not behind the wall of God, the problems within the family can be far more painful then from outside sources.
Nehemiah 5:1 "And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews."
To be more accurate, there was a great cry from the common, or poor people of the city, against the children of Judah that were of the king line, who were over them. The problem amongst these Jews is the friction between the poor people and the rich people, the "haves and the have nots". This wasn't just a little belly-aching, but it was reaching the point of a full scale rebellion against the rulers of Judah, and those in authority.
This is happening at the same time that Nehemiah is trying to bring the people together to get the wall built, and battle the enemy of Sanballat and his heathen forces.
Nehemiah 5:2 "For there were that said, "We, our sons, and our daughters, and many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live."
This plea is in the fact that these families have grown to a great size, and they simply have to have something to eat.
Bear in mind that these people had not been in Jerusalem very long at this time, and in the middle of trying to get settled, here came the drought.
Nehemiah 5:3 "Some also there were that said, "We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth."
So we see that the real problem is the same on that is going on today; the taking of the mortgage against their homes, has to eat and make ends meet. This draught is one of the thirteen major droughts of the Bible that followed after rebellions. Each of the droughts were sent by God, for the sake of strengthening the people, to make them ready to face even a harder task ahead. To make them able to stand and survive when the real tests of time come. God allows and uses that that is natural to come to pass, and He uses these natural things to be given for our good, when at times we simply can't see the good in it. God expects us to use our common sense to carry us through.
As you overcome the obstacles, and commit yourself to Him and His work, then He will send the blessings to you. These Jews were in a confined area, they were trying to build the Wall and the Temple, and still maintain their little farms in the surrounding area, and here came the drought. The crops failed, and the food shortage dried up, and here came the money changers.
Remember the Nethinim [Kenites] that they allowed to come into their community, and corrupt the house of the Lord? They are now called "their brethren the Jews", and these brethren inside their group are simply doing what they always do, they are traders, merchants, money bankers, Lawyers, and in the key positions to govern over them. You can apply what is happening here to any period of time, for even in war, they seek huge profits, and at this time in Jerusalem, there was a huge construction project [the wall and Temple], a war with Sanballat forces, and on to of it all, the drought. This was truly a time for high usury, mortgages, and a good profit.
The problem then that is falling on the house of Judah is the mortgaging and foreclosures on the farm, just to get the food to keep their families alive.
Nehemiah 5:4 "There were also that said, "We have borrowed money for the king's tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards."
The other problem is the "king's tribute", and today we call it "taxes". During the times of trouble, the cost of keeping royalty and the services they provide gets more costly, thus taxes rise. It is no different then as it is today. As we see today that the people of today have demanded so much of their government that the taxes have rose to a very high point, and still the government is at the point of default. So this is the second group of people that are in trouble because of the mortgaging.
Nehemiah 5:5 "Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: ad, 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."
It is the poor people that are telling Nehemiah that these people that are putting the bondage upon them are all of one flesh, and they are becoming slaves to their own brothers. The people can see that there is simply no way out of this. They see their sons and daughters are being sold as servants and slaves, their lands have already been mortgaged, and there is no way to redeem their families, or their lands.
Notice how the Kenites have come to the position now within Judah, and that they are even considered of one flesh with Israel. It is no different today as it was then. The mixing and corruption has taken place, and now by tradition they are accepted against God's will.
So here we have come to the third problem with in their families. They have mortgaged their own kids, just to get the means to purchase food.
What was this whole thing about in returning to Jerusalem? It was to come out of captivity of the Babylonians, that is to say confusion. And look at what they have done; they have allowed themselves go go back into the same captivity that they just came out of. This time only, the bondage is to the persons that they call their own brethren. They are becoming slaves to their own people.
This leads to a major violation of God's law, that was from the time of Moses, it existed in Nehemiah's day, in Jesus day, and it is still in effect today. That law is against usury. Through the effect of usury, God's people are placed in slavery [bondage], and their children are sold. This is possible even today in many countries around the world.
In the law of Moses, at the end of seven years, a man placed in bondage by usury automatically became free under the law. However, it is the Kenites that have changed the law, and Israel has bound themselves to their laws. In Exodus 22:25 we can read of this law that applies here. "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."
Friend, this law was in effect then, and it is still in full effect today. It applies to all Israel, all twelve tribes, and it is for all times. The problem now is that the Kenites have become Israel, and Israel today doesn't even know who they are, for they even think they are Gentile. This allows the so-called Jews [not Israel] to use usury against true Israel, and have it accepted by God's people as acceptable.
If you lend money to the poor, of your own family members [of Israel], your not to charge them interest. It is against God's law, because interest compounds, until the interest turns into a bondage to itself. Most people borrow to buy a home, and this is proper, because very few can pay cash for their homes. When the cost of the home is determined and the mortgagee is taken, by the time it is paid for, the cost is doubled. However this is proper, for it is virtually the only way that many people can provide a decent place to live, and stay within their means. This debt obligation is for your entire life, in most cases, but compare the difference between what is going on principle and what is going on interest for a real eye opener.
Nehemiah 5:6 "And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words."
Nehemiah was a busy man, trying to coordinate the efforts on the wall construction, set up defenses, and see to the needs of the people; and then these problems come to the surface. Nehemiah knew the Law of Moses, and this would make him very angry.
Nehemiah 5:7 "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."
Notice that Nehemiah first thought the whole thing through and set up a plan of attack, then eh went to the nobles and rulers and confronted them. The real underlining problem in the first place is when the House of Judah allowed the Nethinims and Kenites in the Temple in the first place, and then sat back when they moved into the positions of authority. It is now these sons of Cain that are in the controlling seats, both in the governmental, and religious areas, and it is them that Nehemiah is approaching as his brethren.
There came a point in time when the priesthood was not sharp enough to put a stop to the infiltration of these Kenites, and now their Satanic laws of usury are replacing the Law of Moses. This has grown to the point under Nehemiah where the people simply will not take it any more, and something has to be done about it. Even the Kenites know they can lose everything if there is a full scale rebellion, and now its time to cut their losses.
Nehemiah 5:8 "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?"
The term "brethren the Jews" is not correct from the Massorah text, and should be "the children of Judah", which would be correct. Also in the term "unto the heathen", should read, "unto the nations". Nehemiah is telling them that they were first sold into bondage to the Babylonians, and now we are selling our own people into bondage to ourselves. A family can do that to each other if they are not real careful.
Nehemiah 5:9 "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?"
Then Nehemiah asked them, "Don't you even care what God thinks about usury? Are you coming down hard on your own people, because of what the has done to you? The the question comes to us, Are we wise in the handling of the money that God has placed in our own hands?
Nehemiah 5:10 "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 here admits that he also is guilty of doing this, and he includes himself in the action that must be taken. This points out one important thing, that we should not follow a man, whether he be a preacher, or in any key position, but we should follow God and His word. All men will fall in one point or another, just as Nehemiah did, but God's word is the only Standard that is true for all times. However when we are teaching others the word of God, and we come to the point where we get scuffed up a little, we are to do as Nehemiah did; he recognized the fact of his guilt, and did something to correct it. We are not to side-step the places , but stay right on the chapter by chapter, and verse by verse course of our study.
Let me bring out another thing, that these poor people were poor because of an act of God, and not because of pure laziness. With the drought heavy upon them, the conflict with the near by neighbors, and the high taxes, left these people without food to eat. These poor are not the type that Paul addressed in II Thessalonians 3:10, "...that if a man would not work, neither should he eat." And this is also not pointing to the disabled, handicapped and widows. We are talking about able bodied people.
Nehemiah 5:11 "Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive yards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine and the oil, that ye exact of them.
Nehemiah is telling these nobles to restore these poor people to their lands, and give back all the excess interest, the twelve present that they have taken for them, that was against the Laws of Moses.
Nehemiah 5:12"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".
It is the priest that run the government, and the majority of them and the leadership are the Nethinim [Kenites] that have moved into these positions of authority. This is the root of the major problem, and to go against the Law of Moses when it is called to their attention, would be to expose them for what they truly are. These Nethinim were raking off, and taking advantage of the poor, to the maximum that they could achieve, and it finally caught up to them.
When these nobles and Nethinim [Kenites] verbally made the commitment, Nehemiah made them take the oath legally, and in writing, that they could not go back on their word, as they surely would have, and Nehemiah knew it. They took the oaths "according to this promise", and that promise is spelt out in the Mosaic laws. Satan was using his children, the Kenites, to bring hardship on the house of Judah, and when you don't use the common sense to see the injustice done to you by these people, God will allow you to be brought down.
That is what this letter of Nehemiah is all about, and is teaching us. It is showing us what the factors are that can cause trouble within our own families, so that we can avoid them. God expects us to think, and be aware of what is going on around us, so that we are not pulled into each of Satan's little traps.
Nehemiah 5:13 "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."
In the Hebrew expression, "shook my lap", it meant that he got right on it immediately. there was no delay to get the entire matter resolved. This is action that is pleasing to God. Those that made the oath, got it done, and if they went back on their oath they were stripped of their worldly gain. Today it would be the same as foreclosing on someone and taking what they have legally, because they have not fulfilled their commitment to an oath [contract.]. Shaking these people out, is a holy deed, because it is making right a wrong that was committed against God's law and His people.
Nehemiah 5:14 "(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 Artaxerxas the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor."
Many scholars believe this was added at a later point in time, but that doesn't matter. Ezra and Nehemiah were told to put the scriptures in order, and it is in the Massorah text so it does have value to the message. However, this was done so that they did not give this governor, who was subject to king Artaxerxes, a reason to complain to the about Nehemiah, who was in Jerusalem under the letters of the King.
Nehemiah had the right to eat and have a wage drawn from the king's storehouse, however they wanted to get the job done on their own. When the government pays for the job and the project, then the government wants to control the matters around what it paid for. It is no different today then it was in Nehemiah's day, and Nehemiah had the common sense to know this.
Nehemiah 5:15 "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."
Notice how the people of God [Judah] had allowed the public servants to control their lives, to make rules and govern when they did not have the authority to do so. This is common today, where the bureaucrats assume powers and give out fines that exceed their authority. God's law forbids this, and Nehemiah had the knowledge to respect His Law. The sad thing is that ignorance by God's people is the only power that they hold.
Nehemiah 5:16 "Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither brought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work."
Nehemiah and his servants put their full time in on the finishing of this wall.
Nehemiah 5:17 "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."
Nehemiah is pointing out that besides his servants, there were one hundred and fifty of those in authority, besides many from other nations [heathen] that came to work on the wall.
Nehemiah 5:18 "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."
Nehemiah had the right as a leader to tax them, but because to the other taxes assessed against them, Nehemiah provided all this food for those who were working on the wall from his own wealth and livestock.
Nehemiah 5:19 "Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.)"
Nehemiah never fell short in thanking our Heavenly Father for everything that He provides. Does he brag a little? No, he only states fact. He is an honest man before the Lord in all his prayers.
Nehemiah did not charge the people for his leadership, and his rights to taxation, but when he prayed he asked God for the blessings to fall on the people, and not on himself. Nehemiah used his personal wealth to complete the task that God had commissioned him to do.
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