5 1NOW THERE arose a great cry of the [poor] people and of their wives [driven to borrowing] against their Jewish brethren [the few who could afford to lend]. 2For some said, We, our sons and daughters, are many; therefore allow us to take grain, that we may eat and live! If we are not given grain, let us take it! 3Also some said, We are mortgaging our lands, vineyards, and houses to buy grain because of the scarcity. 4Others said, We have borrowed money on our fields and vineyards to pay the [Persian] king’s heavy tax. 5Although our flesh is the same as that of our brethren and our children are as theirs, yet we are forced to sell our children as slaves; some of our daughters have already been thus sold, and we are powerless to redeem them, for others have our lands and vineyards. 6I [Nehemiah] was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. 7I thought it over and then rebuked the nobles and officials. I told them, You are exacting interest from your own kinsmen. And I held a great assembly against them. 8I said to them, We, according to our ability, have bought back our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations; but will you even sell your brethren, that they may be sold to us? Then they were silent and found not a word to say. 9Also I said, What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts and reproach of the nations, our enemies? 10I, my brethren, and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us stop this forbidden interest! 11Return this very day to them their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses, and also a hundredth of all the money, grain, new wine, and oil that you have exacted from them. 12Then they said, We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say. Then I called the priests and took an oath of the lenders that they would do according to this promise. 13I shook out my lap and said, So may God shake out every man from his house and from [the exercise and fruits of] his labor who does not keep this promise! So may he be shaken out and emptied. And all the assembly said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise. 14Also, in the twelve years after I was appointed to be their governor in Judah, from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, neither I nor my kin ate the food allowed to [me] the governor. 15But the former governors lived at the expense of the people and took from them food and wine, besides forty shekels of silver [a large monthly official salary]; yes, even their servants assumed authority over the people. But I did not so because of my [reverent] fear of God. 16I also held fast to the work on this wall; and we bought no land. And all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17And there were at my table 150 Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations about us. 18Now these were prepared for each day: one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days a store of all sorts of wine. Yet for all this, I did not demand [my rights] the food allowed me as governor, for the [tribute] bondage was heavy upon this people. 19O my God, [earnestly] remember me for good for all I have done for this people.
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