|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-5 Men prey upon their fellow-creatures: by despising the poor they reproach their Maker. Such conduct is a disgrace to any, but who can sufficiently abhor it when adopted by professing Christians? With compassion for the oppressed, we should lament the hardships which many in the world are groaning under; putting our souls into their souls' stead, and remembering in our prayers and succours those who are burdened. But let those who show no mercy, expect judgment without mercy.
Verse 1. - A great cry. Compare ver. 6, where the "cry" is distinguished from the "words." The Oriental habit of shrill lamentation must be borne in mind it is always shrillest when the women have a part in it, as on this occasion. Their wives. Mothers, whose children had been sold into slavery, or who anticipated losing them in this sad way speedily (ver. 5). Their brethren the Jews. i.e. the richer Jews, who had adopted the practice of lending upon pledge.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And there was a great cry of the people, and of their wives,.... Those of the poorer sort:
against their brethren the Jews; the rich that oppressed them; and this cry or complaint was made to Nehemiah for redress.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ne 5:1-5. The People Complain of Their Debt, Mortgage, and Bondage.
1-5. there was a great cry of the people … against their brethren—Such a crisis in the condition of the Jews in Jerusalem—fatigued with hard labor and harassed by the machinations of restless enemies, the majority of them poor, and the bright visions which hope had painted of pure happiness on their return to the land of their fathers being unrealized—must have been very trying to their faith and patience. But, in addition to these vexatious oppressions, many began to sink under a new and more grievous evil. The poor made loud complaints against the rich for taking advantage of their necessities, and grinding them by usurious exactions. Many of them had, in consequence of these oppressions, been driven to such extremities that they had to mortgage their lands and houses to enable them to pay the taxes to the Persian government, and ultimately even to sell their children for slaves to procure the means of subsistence. The condition of the poorer inhabitants was indeed deplorable; for, besides the deficient harvests caused by the great rains (Ezr 10:9; also Hag 1:6-11), a dearth was now threatened by the enemy keeping such a multitude pent up in the city, and preventing the country people bringing in provisions.
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