Nehemiah 5:1
And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.
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(1) Their brethren the Jews.—Nehemiah’s other troubles had come from the enemies without: he begins this account by laying emphasis on the hard treatment of Jews by Jews.

Nehemiah 5:1. There was a great cry of the people, &c. — Of the poor against their rich brethren, who had oppressed them; for though the people in general were cured of their idolatry by their captivity, yet they were not cured of their other sins, but loved strange women, as we read before in the book of Ezra; and were so covetous that they oppressed the poor and needy; and this at a time when their enemies threatened the destruction of them all. This crime was the more heinous, because the twentieth of Artaxerxes, when this was done, began about the end of a sabbatic year, (as Dr. Alix observes,) which raised the cry of the poor to a greater height against their creditors, who exacted their debts of them contrary to the law, Deuteronomy 15:2; which was read to them publicly in such a year, Deuteronomy 31:12.

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.Saving ... - The text here is probably unsound. It yields no satisfactory sense. See the margin. CHAPTER 5

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.The people complain of their brethren, by reason of their debts, mortgages, and bondage, Nehemiah 5:1-5. Nehemiah rebuketh the usurers, and causeth them to make a covenant of restitution, Nehemiah 5:6-13. He forbeareth his own allowance, and keepeth hospitality, Nehemiah 5:14-17. The quantity of his preparations, and his prayer, Nehemiah 5:18,19.

To wit, the great and rich who had oppressed their brethren.

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.

And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives {a} against their brethren the Jews.

(a) Against the rich who oppressed them.

1. And there was a great cry, &c.] R.V. Then there arose a great cry, &c. The R.V. rightly shows that the outbreak of the discontentment described in these verses was connected with the rebuilding of the walls. A general stoppage of trade must have resulted from the national undertaking. The presence of the enemy in the neighbourhood prevented free agricultural labour.

the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews] By ‘the people and their wives’ are denoted the poorer classes, the great bulk of the nation as distinguished from the nobles and the priests. ‘Their brethren the Jews,’ seem here to denote ‘the nobles and the rulers’ whom Nehemiah rebukes in Nehemiah 5:7. At any rate the cry proceeds from the poor, the multitudes who were driven in their need to borrow, against the few who could afford to lend. The actual expression ‘their brethren the Jews,’ as in Nehemiah 5:8, does not imply any particular section of the people, but is employed to contrast the true fraternal relation of fellow-citizens with the existing selfishness and oppression.

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. Nehemiah 5:1The people complain of oppression. - Nehemiah 5:1 There arose a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews, i.e., as appears from what follows (Nehemiah 5:7), against the nobles and rulers, therefore against the richer members of the community. This cry is more particularly stated in Nehemiah 5:2, where the malcontents are divided into three classes by וישׁ, Nehemiah 5:2, Nehemiah 5:3, Nehemiah 5:4.
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