Considering the Poor
1Then there was a great outcry from the people and their wives to their fellow Jews.
2There were those who said, “We and our sons and our daughters are numerous. We must take grain, so we may eat and live.”
3There were others who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our houses in order to obtain grain during the famine.”
4Still others were saying, “We have borrowed money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards.
5And now, though we share the same flesh as our brothers, and our children are just like their children, still we subject our sons and our daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved but our hands are tied since our fields and vineyards belong to others.”
6I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.
7I pondered them in my heart and then I opposed the nobles and the officials, saying to them, “Usury! Each of you is putting his brother in debt!” So I convened a great assembly to deal with them.
8I said to them, “As much as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who had been sold to the nations. Now you also are selling your brothers so that they will be sold back to us?” Then they became silent and could not find anything to say.
9Then I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good! Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God, in order to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?
10Even I, my brothers, and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let this usury stop, now!
11Now, return to them this very day, their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, as well as the hundredth that you have extracted from them on the money, the grain, the new wine, and the fresh oil.”
12Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do just as you say.” Then I summoned the kohanim and I made them swear to do according to this promise.
13Also I shook out my garment, and said, “In this way may God shake out from His house and from His property every one that does not keep this promise. In this way may he be shaken out and emptied!” And all the assembly replied, “Amen!” and they praised Adonai. So the people did according to this promise.
14Moreover, from the day when I was appointed to be the governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes—twelve years—neither I, nor my relatives have eaten the bread allocated to the governor.
15The earlier governors, those preceding me, placed heavy burdens on the people, and took bread and wine from them, in addition to forty shekels of silver. Their attendants also lorded over the people. But I did not do so, out of fear of God.
16Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall, without even buying a field. All my attendants were gathered there for the work.
17Furthermore, 150 Judeans and officials, as well as those that came to us from the nations around us, were at my table.
18Now, each day one ox and six choice sheep, as well as some fowl, were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundance of every kind of wine was prepared. Despite all this, I did not require the governor’s food allowance, because the work was already heavy on this people.
19Remember me for good, O my God, for all that I have done for this people.