I likewise, and my brothers, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Might exact.—We have lent them money and corn. By his own example the governor pleads with them: not “let us leave off this usury,” but let us all and together “remit the loans.”Nehemiah 5:10. I likewise, and my brethren — In office; who are employed with me in the government of this people; and my servants — In my name and for my use; might exact of them money and corn — As a just recompense for our pains and care for the public good, to which we wholly devote ourselves, even to the neglect of all our private concerns. But I freely remit my own right, and therefore you also ought to remit yours, seeing I lay no burden upon you but what I am willing to bear a part of upon my own shoulders.
6-12. I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words—When such disorders came to the knowledge of the governor, his honest indignation was roused against the perpetrators of the evil. Having summoned a public assembly, he denounced their conduct in terms of just severity. He contrasted it with his own in redeeming with his money some of the Jewish exiles who, through debt or otherwise, had lost their personal liberty in Babylon. He urged the rich creditors not only to abandon their illegal and oppressive system of usury, but to restore the fields and vineyards of the poor, so that a remedy might be put to an evil the introduction of which had led to much actual disorder, and the continuance of which would inevitably prove ruinous to the newly restored colony, by violating the fundamental principles of the Hebrew constitution. The remonstrance was effectual. The conscience of the usurious oppressors could not resist the touching and powerful appeal. With mingled emotions of shame, contrition, and fear, they with one voice expressed their readiness to comply with the governor's recommendation. The proceedings were closed by the parties binding themselves by a solemn oath, administered by the priests, that they would redeem their pledge, as well as by the governor invoking, by the solemn and significant gesture of shaking a corner of his garment, a malediction on those who should violate it. The historian has taken care to record that the people did according to this promise.My brethren, to wit, in office; those who are employed with me in the government of this people.
My servants; in my name, and for my use.
Might exact of them money and corn, as a just recompence for our pains and care for the public good, to which we wholly devote ourselves, even to the neglect of all our private concerns. But I will not rigorously exact, but do freely remit my own right, which, in those circumstances, it is my duty to do; and therefore you also ought to do so, seeing I lay no burden upon you but what I am willing to bear a part of upon my own shoulders. I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants] R.V. And I likewise, my brethren and my servants. We must conclude from this verse that Nehemiah himself lent ‘on usury’ to his countrymen. The words are not, as A.V., ‘I … and my brethren, &c.’, but ‘I, my brethren, &c.’ Nehemiah takes the reply out of the mouth of his opponents. He confesses he is himself not free from blame. For ‘his own kinsfolk and dependants’ lent ‘on usury,’ and he their head and representative was responsible for them. They may have been generous and forbearing, but they had violated the principle, which he was upholding: and in so far, Nehemiah accepted the blame of his house. Some suppose that Nehemiah in lending did not require a pledge, and thus differed from the regular money-lenders. ‘Brethren,’ ‘servants.’ See note on Nehemiah 4:23.
might exact of them money and corn] R.V. do lend them money and corn on usury. The rendering of the A.V. ‘might exact’ seems to be dictated by the desire to save the honour of Nehemiah and of his house. But the clause does not claim a privilege, but states a fact. By diplomatically accepting the responsibility of a share in the general guilt, he conciliates his hearers and disarms them of a retort. Nevertheless we gather from the clause that it was not so much ‘usury’ as the abuse of usury, the excessive and tyrannical rate of interest exacted from the poor, which excited his indignation against the rich.
I pray you] These words render a Hebrew particle adding urgency to the request, without introducing the idea of supplication, cf. Nehemiah 1:5. It might be rendered ‘Come now, let us leave off, &c.’
let us leave off this usury] Nehemiah invites his hearers to join with him in abandoning a custom which had been productive of such evil results. ‘This usury,’ i.e. requiring of interest or of pledges. LXX. ἀπαίτησιν. Not the lending but the plan of making a gain out of loans to the poor, whether by demanding interest upon loans or seizing the pledge which had been the security for an advance, is condemned.Verse 10. - I likewise... might exact of them. Rather, "have lent them." I and mine have advanced to the poorer classes, in this period of their distress, money and corn; but not as you have, not upon security. Let us then, all of us, you as well as I, henceforth relinquish this practice of mortgaging and pledge-taking. Leviticus 25:14-17.
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