Nehemiah Helps Poor People
1The men and their wives complained loudly against their fellow Jews. 2Some of them were saying, “We have many sons and daughters in our families. To eat and stay alive, we need grain.”
3Others were saying, “We are borrowing money against our fields, vineyards, and homes to get grain because there is not much food.”
4And still others were saying, “We are borrowing money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5We are just like our fellow Jews, and our sons are like their sons. But we have to sell our sons and daughters as slaves. Some of our daughters have already been sold. But there is nothing we can do, because our fields and vineyards already belong to other people.”
6When I heard their complaints about these things, I was very angry. 7After I thought about it, I accused the important people and the leaders, “You are charging your own brothers too much interest.” So I called a large meeting to deal with them. 8I said to them, “As much as possible, we have bought freedom for our fellow Jews who had been sold to foreigners. Now you are selling your fellow Jews to us!” The leaders were quiet and had nothing to say.
9Then I said, “What you are doing is not right. Don’t you fear God? Don’t let our foreign enemies shame us. 10I, my brothers, and my men are also lending money and grain to the people. But stop charging them so much for this. 11Give back their fields, vineyards, olive trees, and houses right now. Also give back the extra amount you charged—the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine, and oil.”
12They said, “We will give it back and not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.”
Then I called for the priests, and I made the important people and leaders take an oath to do what they had said. 13Also I shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out everyone who does not keep his promise. May God shake him out of his house and out of the things that are his. Let that person be shaken out and emptied!”
Then the whole group said, “Amen,” and they praised the Lord. So the people did what they had promised.
14I was appointed governor in the land of Judah in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ rule. I was governor of Judah for twelve years, until his thirty-second year. During that time neither my brothers nor I ate the food that was allowed for a governor. 15But the governors before me had placed a heavy load on the people. They took about one pound of silver from each person, along with food and wine. The governors’ helpers before me also controlled the people, but I did not do that, because I feared God. 16I worked on the wall, as did all my men who were gathered there. We did not buy any fields.
17Also, I fed one hundred fifty Jewish people and officers at my table, as well as those who came from the nations around us. 18This is what was prepared every day: one ox, six good sheep, and birds. And every ten days there were all kinds of wine. But I never demanded the food that was due a governor, because the people were already working very hard.
19Remember to be kind to me, my God, for all the good I have done for these people.