Nehemiah 5:11
Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.
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(11) Also the hundredth part of the money.—The monthly payment of one per cent. per month, twelve per cent. in the year, they were required to give up for the future.

Nehemiah 5:11. Restore their land, &c. — Give them up their mortgages, put them again in possession of their estates, remit the interest, and give them time to pay the principal. I pray you — Though he had authority to command, yet, for love’s sake, he rather beseeches. Also the hundredth part of the money — Require not this, as the next verse explains it, where it is expressed in their grant of this desire. The hundredth part of the money lent was wont to be required every month for the use of it, according to the custom then prevailing in those countries, and afterward adopted by the Romans. So that every year an eighth part of the principal was paid for interest, which was a very extravagant usury.

5:6-13 Nehemiah knew that, if he built Jerusalem's walls ever so high, so thick, or so strong, the city could not be safe while there were abuses. The right way to reform men's lives, is to convince their consciences. If you walk in the fear of God, you will not be either covetous of worldly gain, or cruel toward your brethren. Nothing exposes religion more to reproach, than the worldliness and hard-heartedness of the professors of it. Those that rigorously insist upon their right, with a very ill grace try to persuade others to give up theirs. In reasoning with selfish people, it is good to contrast their conduct with that of others who are liberal; but it is best to point to His example, who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich, 2Co 8:9. They did according to promise. Good promises are good things, but good performances are better.The hundredth part of the money ... - i. e. the interest. It is conjectured that the 100th part was payable monthly, or, in other words, that interest was taken at the rate of twelve per cent. The Law altogether disallowed the taking of interest from Israelites (see Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36, etc.). Ne 5:6-19. The Usurers Rebuked.

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.

Also the hundredth part of the money; also require not; which is to be supplied out of the next verse, where it is expressed in their answer to and grant of this desire. The hundredth part; which they required every month for the use of their monies or goods, according to the custom then used, and afterwards by the Romans.

Restore, I pray you, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses,.... Which they had made over to them for corn they had had, or money they borrowed of them; it is entreated that an immediate restitution be made, and the rather, if what Aben Ezra observes is true, that this was the year of release, when debts were not to be exacted, but forgiven, Deuteronomy 15:1,

also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them; the hundredth part of the money might be what they took for usury, as the Romans did in later times, even so much a month; so that if the loan was one hundred pounds, a pound was given every month for it, and so one hundred and twelve pounds in the year; and the hundredth part of the corn, wine, and oil, might be the hundredth part of those fruits of the earth which the rulers demanded for their salary, see Nehemiah 5:15.

Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, {l} that ye exact of them.

(l) Which you take from them for the loan.

11. Restore, I pray you, &c.] On ‘I pray you’ see note on Nehemiah 5:10. Nehemiah demands immediate redress for the wrongs done to fellow-countrymen. He demands restoration of property and remission of interest on loans.

even this day] The same Hebrew word as is rendered in 1 Samuel 9:13, ‘at this time.’ Literally = ‘as if to-day,’ i.e. ‘immediately.’

their lands … houses] R.V. their fields … houses. The first part of the demand is the restoration to the poor of the property which had been offered as security for the sums borrowed from the money-lenders.

also the hundredth part, &c.] This ‘hundredth part’ was in all probability reckoned by month. It corresponded therefore to the Latin ‘centesima usura,’ and represented interest at the rate of 12 per cent.

corn, the wine, and the oil] This exorbitant rate of interest seems to have been exacted in kind if cash was not forthcoming.

The second part of Nehemiah’s demand refers to the exaction of interest. It is impossible to suppose that he required the moneylenders to restore the sums which had already been paid in interest. The main verb ‘restore’ is only by ‘zeugma’ applicable to ‘the hundredth part;’ and the meaning is ‘do not exact,’ ‘remit your claim to the 12 p. c. interest which you are accustomed to levy in money or produce of the land.’

His twofold demand, for immediate restoration of property and for future renunciation of interest, corresponds to the twofold reply of the money-lenders in the following verse. It is probable that we are only to understand Nehemiah’s intervention to be made in the interests of the poor. The transactions of the wealthy with one another are not contemplated by the early Israelite or the Levitical laws, Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36-37.

An ingenious conjecture, which alters the text by the insertion of one letter only, would read, instead of ‘the hundredth part’ (um’ath), ‘the usury’ (umash’ath). The latter part of the verse would then only expand in greater detail the substance of the first. The LXX. ἀπὸ follows a different pointing of the word.

Verse 11. - Restore, I pray you, etc. Nay, more. Let us not only give up this practice in the future, but let us remedy its evils in the past. You are in possession of lands and houses that have become yours through these mortgages, and you have received a heavy interest on the sums of money, or on the corn, wine, and oil that you have advanced. I bid you restore it all. Give back at once the houses and the lands that you will in any case have to restore in the year of jubilee. Give back the interest that you have illegally taken, and so, as far as is possible, undo the past; make restitution of your ill-gotten gains, relinquish even your legal rights, and become self-denying patriots, instead of tyrants and oppressors. Nehemiah 5:11"I, likewise my brethren and my servants (comp. Nehemiah 4:17), have lent them money and corn; let us, I pray, remit (not ask back) this loan!" The participle נשׁים says: we are those who have lent. Herewith he connects the invitation, Nehemiah 5:11 : "Restore unto them, I pray you, even this day (כּהיּום, about this day, i.e., even to-day, 1 Samuel 9:13), their fields, their vineyards, their olive gardens, and their houses, and the hundredth of the money, and of the corn, wine, and oil which you have lent them." Nehemiah requires, 1st, that those who held the lands of their poorer brethren in pledge should restore them their property without delay: 2nd, that they should remit to their debtors all interest owing on money, corn, etc. that had been lent; not, as the words have been frequently understood, that they should give back to their debtors such interest as they had already received. That the words in Nehemiah 5:11 bear the former, and not the latter signification, is obvious from the reply, Nehemiah 5:12, of those addressed: "We will restore, sc. their lands, etc., and will not querie of them, sc. the hundredth; so will we do as thou sayest." Hence we must not translate בּהם נשׁים אתּם אשׁר, "which you had taken from them as interest" (de Wette), - a translation which, moreover, cannot be justified by the usage of the language, for ב נשׁה does not mean to take interest from another, to lend to another on interest. The אשׁר relates not to וּמאת, but to והיּצהר ... הדּגן; and השׁיב, to restore, to make good, is used of both the transactions in question, meaning in the first clause the restoration of the lands retained as pledges, and in the second, the remission (the non-requirement) of the hundredth. The hundredth taken as interest is probably, like the centesima of the Romans, to be understood of a monthly payment. One per cent. per month was a very heavy interest, and one which, in the case of the poor, might be exorbitant. The law, moreover, forbade the taking of any usury from their brethren, their poor fellow-countrymen, Exodus 22:25 and Leviticus 25:36. When the creditors had given the consent required, Nehemiah called the priests, and made them (the creditors) swear to do according to this promise, i.e., conscientiously to adhere to their agreement. Nehemiah obtained the attendance of the priests, partly for the purpose of giving solemnity to the oath now taken, and partly to give to the declaration made in the presence of the priests legal validity for judicial decisions.
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