Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as you say. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)We will restore.—The promise was given to restore the mortgaged property and to require no more interest. But Nehemiah required an oath to give legal validity to the procedure, and the priests’ presence gave it the highest religious sanction.Nehemiah 5:12. Then said they, We will restore them — Namely, the houses and lands; and require nothing — Demand no interest. Thus he got a promise from them, and proceeded afterward to bring them under the obligation of an oath to do as they had promised. Then I called the priests — As witnesses; that the oath being taken before the priests, who acted in God’s name, it might make the more deep and durable impression upon their consciences.Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36, etc.).
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.We will restore them, to wit, the lands and houses.
Will require nothing of them, for the hundredth part.
I called the priests; either,
1. As delinquents in that kind; or rather as witnesses, that the oath being taken before the priests, who acted in God’s name and stead, the oath might make the more deep and durable impression upon their consciences. See Numbers 5:19 1 Kings 1:8,31,32.
Took an oath of them; not of the priests last mentioned, for it doth not appear that any of them were guilty, and it is absurd to think that they only were guilty of this extortion, as they must be, if this them belongs to them only; but of all the persons who were before charged with this crime, Nehemiah 5:3,4, whether priests or others, as is evident from the text, and from the nature of the thing.
and will require nothing of them; not the hundredth part of the fruits of the earth by way of salary:
so will we do as thou sayest; they approved of his proposal, and readily agreed to it:
then I called the priests, and took an oath of them that they should do according to this promise; not that the priests were delinquents, they were not charged with anything of this kind, nor were they the men that promised restitution; but the priests were called to administer the oath to the nobles, and rulers, and rich men, to oblige them the more to keep their word; an oath being sacred, priests in an holy office were made use of to give it, that it might be the more solemn, and the more strictly regarded.Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)12. Nehemiah’s audience comply with his request. ‘We will restore’ refers to the fields, vineyards, oliveyards and houses seized in default of payment or as pledges; ‘will require nothing’ refers to the usury, i.e. the interest already due upon the sums borrowed.
as thou sayest] R.V. even as thou sayest.
Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them] Nehemiah takes measures publicly to bind the money-lenders before the impression had passed away. He summoned the priests to administer the oath. Thus the engagement was undertaken in the presence of public witnesses. The presence of the priests added to the solemnity of the transaction, and was of additional importance, since the priests were entrusted with judicial functions and would have to decide questions between debtor and creditor. On the judicial functions of the priests and their duties outside the Temple cf. Nehemiah 11:16; 1 Chronicles 23:4; 1 Chronicles 26:29.
took an oath of them] ‘Them’ refers not to the priests, but to the money-lenders. Nehemiah bound them by an oath which the priest solemnly administered, Ezra 10:5.
according to this promise] ‘Promise,’ as also in Nehemiah 5:13; literally ‘this word.’ The Hebrew language has no distinct word for ‘promise,’ cf. 1 Kings 8:56, ‘there hath not failed one word of all his good promise’ (lit. ‘good word’). Psalm 105:42, ‘For he remembered his holy word’ (A.V. ‘promise’). In Psalm 77:8, ‘Doth his promise fail for evermore?’ the expression used is different, and is more like our ‘saying’ or ‘utterance.’Verse 12. - Then they said, We will restore them. Nehemiah's eloquence prevailed, and brought about a "day of sacrifices." The nobles, one and all, agreed not only to give back the interest that they had illegally received on the corn and money borrowed of them, but to restore the forfeited lands and houses, which must have been of far greater value, and to which they were by law fully entitled. "We will restore them," they said, "and will (in future) require nothing of them, neither interest nor security, but will do as thou sayest." The promise was sweeping in its terms, and probably not insincere; but Nehemiah mistrusted all sudden impulses. He would have something more than a promise. Then called I the priests, and took an oath of them (the nobles), that they should do according to this promise. i.e. he swore the nobles, in the sacred presence of the priests, to the performance of the promise which they had made. Nehemiah 5:6 Nehemiah was very angry at this complaint and these things, i.e., the injustice which had been brought to his knowledge.
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