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Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah helps poor people

1 Some men and their wives were not happy with some other Jews. 2 They said, ‘We have many sons and daughters. But we have no food.’ 3 Other people said, ‘We have no money for food. We have to sell our fields, vineyards and homes for food to stay alive.’

5:3Vineyards are pieces of land where the fruit called grapes grow. People make the drink called wine from grapes.

4 Other people said, ‘We have no money to pay our debts to the king. 5 We have had to sell our sons and daughters as slaves. Other people buy them because we have no money. Our sons and daughters are Jews like them. But some of our daughters are already slaves. They make us pay for the money that they lent to us. We should not have to do this because we are all Jews. We have no power because we have sold our land to other people.’

6 When I knew about this, I was very angry. 7 I thought about what these Jews had said. Then I said to the rich Jews and their officers, ‘You are using other Jews to get more money.’ I asked many Jews to meet together. 8 I said, ‘We have bought back those Jews who were slaves. They were slaves to people who were not Jews. Now you are making poor Jews become slaves. They are like your brothers. We will have to buy them back again.’ The rich Jews did not say anything. They had nothing to say. 9 I said, ‘You are doing a very wrong thing. You should be afraid that our enemies will have no respect for our God.’

10 ‘My brothers and I, together with other men, are lending the people money and food. But we are not getting extra money from them. 11 Please give the fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses back to the poor Jews now. And do not ask them to give back more money than you lend. You have asked for one 100th part more than you lent! Give that money back to them, too.’

5:11Olive groves are pieces of land where people grow olive trees. People used olives, their fruit, to make oil. They used olive oil in food. And they burnt it to give light.

12 The rich Jews said, ‘We will give everything back to them. We will not ask them to give back more money than we lent to them. We will do as you say.’ I asked the priests to come and join us. I made the rich Jews make a promise. They promised to do as I said. 13 I moved my clothes while I was still wearing them. While I did this, I said, ‘Like this, God should move every man out of his house if he does not obey this promise. God should move him away from everything that is his. People should take him away and destroy all his things.’ Everyone said, ‘Amen’. Everyone worshipped the LORD. All the people obeyed this promise.

14 During all the time that I had authority in Judah, I did not eat the food of those in authority. I did this from the 20th to the 32nd year of King Artaxerxes. For 12 years I did not eat this food. Nor did my brothers. 15 Those in authority before I came took 40 pieces of silver, food and wine from the people. Those who helped them thought of them as more important than other people. I did not do this, because I worship God. 16 I worked together with my men when we built the wall. I did not take any land. 17 150 Jews and officers ate at my table. Also, men from lands near Jerusalem ate with me. 18 Every day, my servants cooked one ox, 6 sheep and some birds for us to eat. Every 10 days I bought much wine. I did not ask for all the things that usually they gave to people in authority. The Jews were poor. They could not give me the food that people in authority could ask for. 19 ‘Please God, remember me. And do good things to me because of what I have done on behalf of the Jews.’

5:19An ox is a large animal, like a cow.