Dave Burnette's Commentary

Nehemiah Chapter 5

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Nehemiah
Date Penned: (445-432 BC)
Overview:  The Return of the 3rd Group of Jewish Exiles (c 1-13)
Theme: The Rebuilding of the Wall (c 1-7)
Message: Nehemiah Defends The Poor (1-19)

Nehemiah 5 Commentary 

(5:1-5) Anti-Semitism - Who were these that bitterly resented Jews? They were either (1) Jews who had become wealthy in exile and brought this wealth with them to Jerusalem or (2) descendants of Jews who had arrived almost a century earlier during the first return under Zerubbabel (Ezra 1-5) and had established lucrative businesses.

(5:7-9) Usery - Many of the returned exiles were suffering at the hands of some of their rich countrymen. These people would lend large sums of money; then, when the debtors missed a payment, they would take over their fields. Left with no means of income, the debtors would be forced to sell their children into slavery, a common practice of this time. Nehemiah was angry with these wealthy Jews who were taking advantage of their own people in order to enrich themselves. These practices violated the law set forth in Exodus 22:25

(5:9-11) Fairness To The Poor - God's concern for the poor is revealed in almost every book of the Bible. Here, Nehemiah insisted that fairness to the poor and oppressed was central to following God. The books of Moses clearly spelled out the Israelites responsibility to care for the poor (Exodus 22:22-27; Leviticus 25:35-37; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 15:7-1). The way we help those in need ought to mirror God's love and concern.

(5:10) Profiting From Others Misfortune -  Nehemiah told the rich Jews to stop charging interest (usury") on their loans to their brothers and sisters who were in need. God never intended people to profit from the misfortunes of others. In contrast to the values of this world, God says that caring for one another is more important than personal gain. When a Christian brother or sister suffers, we all suffer (1 Corinthians 12:26). We should help God's people who are in need, not exploit them. The Jerusalem believers were praised for working together to eliminate poverty in their church (Acts 4:34-35). Remember, "He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack" (Proverbs 28:27). Make it a practice to help those in need around you.

(5:13) Shaking The Folds Of His Robe - This symbolic act was a curse. Nehemiah shook out the folds of his robe and pronounced that those who did not keep their promises would likewise be "shaken out, and emptied," losing all they had.

(5:14-15) A Change in Leadership - This comment by Nehemiah is a parenthetical statement, comparing his 12 years as governor with the unjust proceedings in the land before he arrived. The governor was appointed by the Persian king, not elected by the people.

(5:16) Leading By Example - Nehemiah led the entire construction project, but he also worked on the wall alongside the others. He was not a bureaucrat in a well-guarded office but a leader who got involved in the day-to-day work. Nehemiah did not use his position to lord it over his people. A good leader keeps in touch with the work to be done. Those who lead best lead by what they do as well as by what they say.


Dave Burnette's Life Application

Restore those in Need

 Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue in the book of Nehemiah with Chapter 5 and we see Nehemiah defending the poor as usury is explained as some take advantage others in need to then take their land. In making application we see usury being used today. Title pawn loans, Pay day loans, Lotteries, etc. all are business that are arranged to to take advantage of those who cant manage their resources. The Lord does not approve of one taking advantage of others. The Lord would have us help our brother in need with the goal of restoring them. Not a hand out but a helping hand of restoration. A wise saying is give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. How about you? Do you help your brother in need verses taking advantage of their weaknesses? Let us learn from our text today and the instruction of Nehemiah to avoid usury and restore our brothers, teaching them, helping them as Christ has helped us. 


Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah 5

 1And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.

 2For 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.

 3Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.

 4There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king's tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.

 5Yet 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.

 6And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.

 7Then 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.

 8And 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.

 9Also 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?

 10I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.

 11Restore, 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.

 12Then 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.

 13Also 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.

 14Moreover 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.

 15But 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.

 16Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work.

 17Moreover 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.

 18Now 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.

 19Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.