Nehemiah Defends the Oppressed
1 About that time there was a great outcry from the people and their wives against their fellow Jews.
2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous. We must get grain in order to eat and stay alive.”
3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our homes to get grain during the famine.”
4 Still others were saying, “We have borrowed money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 We and our children are just like our countrymen and their children, yet we are subjecting our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters are already enslaved, but we are powerless to redeem them because our fields and vineyards belong to others.”
So I called a large assembly against them 8 and said, “We have done our best to buy back our Jewish brothers who were sold to foreigners, but now you are selling your own brothers, that they may be sold back to us!”
But they remained silent, for they could find nothing to say.
9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our foreign enemies? 10 I, as well as my brothers and my servants, have been lending the people money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury. 11 Please restore to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses, along with the percentage of the money, grain, new wine, and oil that you have been assessing them.”
12 “We will restore it,” they replied, “and will require nothing more from them. We will do as you say.”
So I summoned the priests and required of the nobles and officials an oath that they would do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “May God likewise shake out of His house and possession every man who does not keep this promise. May such a man be shaken out and have nothing!”
The whole assembly said, “Amen,” and they praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.
14 Furthermore, from the day King Artaxerxes appointed me to be their governor in the land of Judah, from his twentieth year until his thirty-second year (twelve years total), neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor.
15 The governors before me had heavily burdened the people, taking from them bread and wine plus forty shekels of silver. a Their servants also oppressed the people, but I did not do this because of my fear of God. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the construction of the wall, and all my servants were gathered there for the work; we did not acquire any land.
17 There were 150 Jews and officials at my table, besides the guests from the surrounding nations. 18 Each day one ox, six choice sheep, and some fowl were prepared for me, and once every ten days an abundance of all kinds of wine was provided. But I did not demand the food allotted to the governor, because the burden on the people was so heavy.
19 Remember me favorably, O my God, for all that I have done for this people.
15 a 40 shekels is approximately 1 pound or 453.6 grams of silver.