Nehemiah 5:5
Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children as their children: and, see, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought to bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.
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(5) We bring into bondage.—But the climax of the cry was the bondage of their children, especially of the daughters, whom they had been obliged to sell until the Jubile for money: children as precious to their parents as were the children of the rulers to them.

Nehemiah 5:5. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren — We are of the same nature, nation, and religion with them; nor is there any other difference between us, but that they are rich and we are poor; and yet they treat us as if we were beasts or heathen, forgetting both humanity and God’s law, Deuteronomy 15:7. And our children as their children — As dear to us as their children are to them; and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and daughters — We are compelled to sell them for our subsistence. In case of great necessity this was lawful: but those Jews were very void of compassion who forced their brethren to do what was so much against nature. And it was especially distressing that they were driven to such an extremity as to be under a necessity of selling even their daughters for slaves, being more tender and weak, and unfit for servitude, and more exposed to injuries than their sons. Neither is it in our power to redeem them — None being willing to lend us money, and our lands being mortgaged to our oppressors. It was an aggravation of the sin of these oppressing Jews, that they were themselves so lately delivered out of the house of bondage, which surely obliged them in gratitude to undo the heavy burdens, Isaiah 58.5:1-5 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.The power of a father to sell his daughter into slavery is expressly mentioned in the Law Exodus 21:7. The power to sell a son appears from this passage. In either case, the sale held good for only six years, or until the next year of jubilee (see the marginal references). 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.

Our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren; we are of the same nature, and nation, and religion with them although they treat us as if we were beasts or heathens, forgetting both humanity and God’s law, Deu 15:7.

We bring into bondage; we are compelled to sell them for our subsistence.

Our sons and our daughters; which was an evidence of their great necessity, because their daughters were more tender, and weak, and unfit for bond-service, and more exposed to injuries, than their sons.

Neither is it in our power to redeem them; which we are allowed to do, Exodus 21:7, but have not wherewith to do it. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren,.... We are of the same nature, nation, stock, and religion: our children as their children; are circumcised as they, and have a right to the same privileges in church and state:

and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and daughters to be servants; shall be obliged to it, unless relieved:

and some of our daughters are brought into bondage already; sold to be servants, as they might in case of the poverty of parents, Exodus 21:7, and some were sometimes taken to be bondmen in payment of their parents' debts, 2 Kings 4:1

neither is it in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and vineyards; as pledges for money borrowed.

Yet now our flesh is as {d} the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power {e} to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

(d) By nature the rich are no better than the poor.

(e) We are not able to redeem them, but out of poverty are forced to sell them to others.

5. Yet … children] The argument is, the rich are our brethren; how is it right that our children should be made slaves by our brethren on account of the calamities which ought to fall evenly upon all classes? The rich should share and not make a profit out of the common trouble.

lo, we bring into bondage] i.e. we are on the point of selling as slaves in order to satisfy our creditors.

are brought unto (R.V. into) bondage already] A few instances of daughters being thus made ‘bondservants’ had already occurred. It was not contrary to law or custom. The complaint is that the distress arises from public causes, and that the rich creditors make an unfair use of the common crisis.

The Israelite laws upon this subject are not in perfect agreement. The earliest code of law contemplates the case of a Hebrew selling himself to be a ‘bondman;’ but he is to be released in the 7th year of his service. The special case of a man selling his daughter as a ‘bondwoman’ is dealt with and certain benevolent conditions imposed (Exodus 21:2-6). The Deuteronomic law (Deuteronomy 15:12-18) is in close agreement with this; it enjoins release to take place in the 7th year, and extends the favourable terms granted in Exodus to the ‘female bondservant’ so that they should be applicable also to the male.

The Priestly Law (Leviticus 25:39-41) forbids any Israelite to be made ‘a bondservant.’ There is no mention of release in the 7th year of service; but a general release is to be granted in the year of jubile (Leviticus 25:41). The Priestly Law contemplates a less rigorous degree of service, but is less favourable than are the other codes in the matter of release.

The present passage does not recognize the distinction between ‘the bondservant’ and ‘the hired servant.’ It assumes the condition of things permitted by the law of Ex. and Deut., which is also illustrated by 2 Kings 4:1; Isaiah 1:1; Amos 2:6; Amos 8:6; Matthew 18:25. The grievance is not so much that children are sold as slaves to Jewish creditors, as that the parents are compelled to resort to this extreme measure in order to pay the high interest exacted by usurers who were their own countrymen. That the extortion and not the slavery is the offence which excited the popular indignation is shown by the measures of relief recommended by Nehemiah in Nehemiah 5:11. The slavery of countrymen was unworthy of the people, but was not an offence against the Law (see Nehemiah 5:8).

neither is it in our power] The Hebrew idiom here is not common and deserves notice. The literal rendering of the words is sometimes thought to be ‘and our hand is not for (or to) God (Êl),’ ‘our hand is not in the place of God, our strength is but human.’ But it is more probable that we ought to render ‘and it is not for (i.e. within the measure of) the strength of our hand,’ the word ‘Êl’ not being used as a Divine title. For other instances of this idiom see Genesis 31:29; Deuteronomy 28:32; Proverbs 3:27; Micah 2:1.

to redeem them] R.V. to help it.

for other men, &c.] A general statement, describing the result which seemed inevitable. The poor Jews mortgaged their property. The interest on the mortgages was so high that they could not pay it or were compelled to sell their children into bondage. At this rate it would not be long before the mortgages were all foreclosed, and the property had passed into the hands of ‘other’ men.

It is clear that the Jews at this time either were not acquainted with the Priestly Law enacting the reversion of property in the ‘jubile’ year (Leviticus 25:25-28) or regarded it as a Utopian measure incapable of application to the actual needs of society.Verse 5. - Our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren. We love our own flesh and blood, poor as we are, just as much as do our richer brethren; our children are as dear to us as theirs to them. The necessity which compels us to bring into bondage our sons and our daughters is therefore most grievous to us. Some of our daughters are brought into bondage already. On the power of fathers to sell their daughters, see Exodus 21:7. Neither is it in our power to redeem them. Literally, "nor is aught in the power of our hands" (see Genesis 31:29). We have no remedy; it is not in our power to effect any change. He took moreover, a further precaution: he said to the people (i.e., to the labourers on the wall, and not merely to the warriors of the community, as Bertheau supposes): Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, i.e., to remain together during the night also, and not be scattered through the surrounding district, "that they may be guardianship for us by night and labour by day." The abstracts, guardianship and labour, stand for the concretes, guards and labourers. As לנוּ, to us, refers to the whole community separated on the walls, so is ונערו אישׁ to be understood of all the workers, and not of the fighting men only. From ונערו אישׁ it only appears that the fathers of families and master builders had servants with them as labourers.
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