Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah helps poor people

1 Some men and their wives were upset, because of the things that some other Jews were doing. 2 Many of them said, ‘We are big families, with many sons and daughters. We need to have food to eat so that we can stay alive.’ 3 Other people said, ‘People have to lend us money to buy food. We have to give them our fields, our vineyards and our homes until we can pay them back.’

4 Other people said, ‘We have to pay taxes to the king for our fields and our vineyards. People had to lend us money to pay the taxes. 5 Now we have to sell our sons and daughters as slaves so that we can pay back the money. But we are from the same human family as those other Jews. Our children are not different from their children. Already some of our daughters have become slaves. Our fields and vineyards now belong to other people, so we are helpless to do anything.’

6 When I heard what they were complaining about, I was very angry. 7 I thought carefully about what they had said. Then I said to the Jewish leaders and officers, ‘You are cheating your own people! You are taking back more money than you have lent to them.’

I told the Jews to come together for a big meeting. 8 I said to them all, ‘When our own Jewish people have become slaves of foreign people, we have tried hard to buy them back. But now you are making your own people sell their children to you. And you want us to pay you to buy them back again!’ The Jewish leaders kept quiet. They had nothing to say.

9 Then I said to them, ‘You are doing something that is completely wrong. Instead, you should obey God and live in a good way. Then the foreign people who are our enemies will not have a chance to insult us. 10 I myself have agreed to lend poor people money and food. My family and my friends have done the same thing. But we must not make those poor people pay back more to us. 11 Now you must give back to them their fields, their vineyards, their gardens of olive trees and their houses. Do not make them pay any extra money for the money, food, wine or olive oil that you lent to them.’

12 The leaders replied, ‘We will give everything back to them. We will not make them pay back their debts to us. We will do everything that you have said.’

I told the priests to come to our meeting. While they were with us, I made the Jewish leaders and officers make a strong promise. They agreed to do what they had promised to do. 13 I shook my coat so that everything fell out of its pockets. I said, ‘You must all do what you have promised to do. If not, I pray that God will shake you out like that! He will take away your homes and all your things. You will be left with nothing!’ Everyone at the meeting said, ‘Amen, we agree!’ They praised the Lord.

All the people did what they had promised to do.

14 All the time that I ruled the land of Judah, I did not eat the government officer's special food. I was the ruler from the 20th year of King Artaxerxes until his 32nd year as king. For all those 12 years, I and my relatives refused to eat the special food. 15 The officers who ruled there before I came made much trouble for the people. They took food and wine from the people, as well as 40 silver coins every day. Their servants also gave the people much trouble. But I did not live like them, because I wanted to please God. 16 I worked hard to help the work on the city's walls. I did not take any land for myself. All my servants also had to join with me in the work.

17 150 Jews and their officers ate meals with me. There were also people who came to visit from countries that were near to us. 18 Every day, my servants cooked one ox, six good sheep and some birds for us to eat. Every ten days they bought for me many different kinds of wine. But I did not ask to receive the extra food that the ruler usually receives. The people were working hard on the wall and I did not want to give them more trouble.

19 My God, please remember the many things that I have done to help my people. Please bless me.