Nehemiah 5:3
Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.
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(3) Because of the dearth.—Not any particular famine, strictly speaking, but their present hunger. The past mortgages had straitened their resources.

Nehemiah 5:3. Because of the dearth — Not long before this, there had been a great scarcity of corn through want of rain, which God had withheld as a punishment for the people’s taking more care to build their own houses than his temple, as we read Haggai 1:9-11. And, in this time of scarcity the rich had no compassion on their poor brethren, who were forced to part with all they had for bread. And this dearth was now increased, from the multitude of the people in and near Jerusalem; from their work, which wholly took them up, and kept them from taking care of their families; and from the expectation of their enemies’ invasion, which hindered them from going abroad to fetch provision, and the people round about from bringing it to them.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.

Which might easily happen, both from the multitude of the people now in and near Jerusalem, and from their building work, which wholly took them up, and kept them from taking care of their own families, and from the expectation and dread of their enemies’ invasion, which hindered them from going abroad to fetch in provision, and the people round about from bringing it in to them; or from divers other causes. Some also there were that said, we have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses,.... Made them over to others, put them into their hands as pledges for money received of them:

that we may buy corn; for the support of their families:

because of the dearth; or famine; which might be occasioned by their enemies lying in wait and intercepting all provisions that might be brought to them; for this seems not to be the famine spoken of in Haggai 1:10 for that was some years before this, and for a reason which now was not.

Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.
3. Some also] The complaint in this verse is that among the poorer classes, those who had a little property were compelled to mortgage it in order to obtain the bare necessaries of life.

We have mortgaged] R.V. We are mortgaging. The Hebrew verb expresses a state of things going on at the time.

our lands, vineyards, and houses] R.V. our fields, and our vineyards, and our houses. ‘Fields’ is better than ‘lands,’ which is too large and general a word. The three words refer to the corn-fields, vineyards, and dwellings, such as the poorer householders might possess.

For the tenacity with which the possession of house or land was retained in a family, cf. 1 Kings 21. In the Hebrew these three words stand emphatically at the head of the sentence corresponding to ‘our sons and our daughters’ in the previous verse.

that we might buy corn] R.V. let us get corn. The words are the same as in the previous verse. They express not the purpose of the mortgage, but the resolve of the people to obtain food. By mortgaging their property they had lost the little capital they had. They had not the means to pay the interest on the mortgage as well as to obtain food for their families. The prospect before them was the final loss of property and starvation.

because of the dearth] This might be rendered ‘in the famine.’ But the sense is hardly different. It was necessary to obtain food in the time of scarcity because of the dearth. Cf. ‘through the famine,’ Genesis 41:36.Verse 3. - Because of the dearth. Some, who could not say that their families were large, claimed relief on account, as it would seem, not so much of a present as of a past famine, which had forced them to mortgage their fields, vineyards, and houses. That Judaea was liable to famines about this time appears from Haggai 1:6, 9-11; Haggai 2:16-19. Hence he said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, i.e., all employed in building, "The work is much (great) and wide, and we are separated upon the wall one far from another; in what place ye hear the sound of the trumpet, assemble yourselves to me: our God will fight for us." - In Nehemiah 4:15 the whole is summed up, and for this purpose the matter of Nehemiah 4:10 is briefly repeated, to unite with it the further statement that they so laboured from early morning till late in the evening. "We (Nehemiah and his servants) laboured in the work, and half of them (of the servants) held the spears from the grey of dawn till the stars appeared."
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