Nehemiah 5:2
For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) We take up.Let us receive. This is a general appeal for the governor’s help.

Nehemiah 5:2. We, our sons, and our daughters, are many — Which indeed is in itself a blessing, but to us is turned into a curse. The families that were most necessitous were most numerous. Those who have great families and little substance must learn to live by faith in God’s providence and promises: and those who have little families and great substance must make their abundance a supply for the wants of others. We take up corn for them, that we may eat and live — That is, we are compelled by our and their necessities to take up corn on unreasonable terms. Or, the sense of the words may be, Where, or how, shall we get corn, that we may eat and live?

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.Are many - A slight emendation brings this verse into exact parallelism with the next, and gives the sense - "We have pledged our sons and our daughters, that we might get corn, and eat and live." Compare Nehemiah 5:5. 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.

We, our sons, and our daughters, are many; which is in itself a blessing, but to us is turned into a curse.

We take up corn for them, i.e. we are forced by our and their necessities to take up corn, to wit, upon their own unreasonable terms, as is here implied, and plainly expressed in the following relation. Others, Let us take up, &c., i.e. seeing we do the public work, let provision be made for us and our children out of the public stock. But this is no petition, but a complaint, as will appear.

For there were that said, we, our sons, and our daughters, are many,.... Not that they complained of the number of their children, for a numerous offspring was always reckoned a blessing with the Jews; but this they observed to show that their families, being large, required a considerable quantity of food to support them:

therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat and live; that is, they were obliged to take it at an exorbitant price, which is the thing complained of; or otherwise they must starve, the rich taking the advantage of their poverty and present dearth.

For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up {b} corn for them, that we may eat, and live.

(b) This is the complaint of the people, showing the extremity they were brought to.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. For there were that said] This and the two following verses describe the people’s complaint. Their misfortunes were brought to a climax by the condition of hostilities, which put an end to trade and threatened town and country with ruin. The class referred to in this verse are the labourers, who depended upon wages.

We … are many] The number of the poorer population in comparison with the wealthy was probably disproportionately large. The community since the return under Zerubbabel had never been prosperous. It had suffered much from the ill-treatment of the neighbouring peoples, more especially of the Samaritans. The pressure of the work on the wall, coupled with the expectation of attack, brought matters to a crisis. It was impossible to obtain regular employment, and prices had gone up. They had no property like those mentioned in Nehemiah 5:3-4, upon the security of which they could borrow money.

therefore we take up corn for them &c.] R.V. let us get corn &c. The words in the A.V. are ambiguous. The clause expresses the wish. It is the utterance of the poor who have grown desperate. They demand food for themselves and their families. They cannot acquiesce in starvation, when they know that wealthy capitalists—their own fellow-countrymen—have made money out of their necessities and could well afford in a time of common peril to render them relief. Hence the words have a ring of menace. ‘If we are not given corn, let us take it’. It was equivalent to a threat either to use violence or to surrender the city to its enemies.

The Vulgate ‘accipiamus pro pretio eorum frumentum’ gives a different interpretation of the words. It supposes that these poor starving people offered to sell their children as slaves in order that they might get money to buy food for themselves. This gives a sense approximating that of the conjecture to read ‘’orebhim’ for ‘rabbim’, ‘We give in pledge our sons and our daughters.’ In favour of this conjecture it is claimed (1) that the alteration is very slight, (2) that it brings Nehemiah 5:2 into close parallelism with Nehemiah 5:3, (3) that it obviates the awkwardness of the present text ‘our sons and our daughters, we are many,’ (4) that the present text is at variance with Scripture in making the size of families a subject of complaint. The conjecture is ingenious. But the existing text gives a good sense (see above), and is supported by the versions, which do not show any variation of reading. The position of the words ‘our sons and our daughters, we’ &c. emphasizes the thought uppermost in the people’s mind. The conjecture doubtless increases the verbal parallelism between Nehemiah 5:2-3. But this parallelism does not exist between Nehemiah 5:3-4, and the proposed alteration gives an artificial appearance to the language used. Lastly the conjecture anticipates the statement contained in Nehemiah 5:5. The fact that parents were on the point of giving their children in pledge as slaves forms the climax of the complaint. We should not therefore expect to find it mentioned in the present verse.

Verse 2. - There were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many. Those who had large families were foremost in making complaint. They found their numerous progeny not the blessing that abundant offspring is ordinarily reckoned in Holy Scripture, but a burthen and an anxiety. Therefore we take up corn for them. We are obliged to get corn for them, or they would die, and have to run in debt for it. Corn, wine, and oil seem to have been lent, no less than money (ver. 11). Nehemiah 5:2There were some who said: Our sons and our daughters are many, and we desire to receive corn, that we may eat and live. These were the words of those workers who had no property. נקחה (from לקח), not to take by force, but only to desire that corn may be provided.
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