Nehemiah 5:7
Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said to them, You exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) I consulted.—But he mastered himself, and studied his plan of operation. The matter was complicated, as the transgressors had violated rather the spirit than the letter of the law. Hence the rebuke, that they exacted usury each of his brother, failed in its object; and the governor called a general assembly, not “against them,” but “concerning them.”

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.Ye exact usury - The phrase is unique to Nehemiah, and is best explained by the context, which shows the practice of the rich Jews at the time to have been not so much to lend on usury as to lend on mortgage and pledge. 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.

Ye exact usury every one of his brother; which was against the plain and positive law of God, Deu 23:19,20; especially in this time of public calamity and dearth.

I set a great assembly against them; I called a public congregation, both of the rulers and people, the greatest part whereof were free from this guilt, and therefore mere impartial judges of the matter, and represented it to them, that the offenders might be convinced, and reform this abuse; if not for fear of God, or love of their brethren, yet at least for the public shame, and the cries of the poor. Then I consulted with myself,.... What was to be done, what method to be taken to redress such grievances:

and I rebuked the nobles and the rulers; who were the men that monopolized the corn in this dear season, and sold it at an extravagant price, and had got the lands, vineyards, and houses of the poor mortgaged to them, and to whom they had lent money on usury:

and said unto them, you exact usury everyone of his brother; which was contrary to the express law of God, Exodus 22:25 and which even the Indians (h) strictly observed, who neither let out money, nor took any upon usury:

and I set a great assembly against them; either of the poor that were oppressed, who brought in their accusations and complaints against them, or a large body of the people, who were not guilty, to hear them, that the delinquents might be put to public shame; or he called a large court of judicature, and set them to examine these allegations, and to do justice.

(h) Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 4. c. 1.

Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye {f} exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great {g} assembly against them.

(f) You press them with usury, and seek to bring all thing into your hands.

(g) Both because they should be moved with pity seeing how many were oppressed by them, and also hear the judgment of others, who should be witnesses of their dealings with their brethren.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. Then I consulted with myself] The word in the original belongs to late Hebrew usage, and is only paralleled in the O. T. by the word rendered ‘my counsel’ in Daniel 4:27. Literally the clause runs ‘then my heart took counsel within me.’

and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers] R.V. and contended with the nobles and the rulers (marg. ‘Or, deputies’). For Nehemiah’s use of the expression ‘contend with,’ see Nehemiah 13:11; Nehemiah 13:17; Nehemiah 13:25. It denotes the conflict of opinion as well as the administration of reproach. Cf. Jeremiah 2:9. ‘The nobles and the rulers,’ as in Nehemiah 2:16.

You exact usury, every one of his brother] The reader should refer to the passages in the Pentateuch bearing upon usury, (a) Exodus 22:25. This passage relates to the dealings between Israelites. The purpose of lending is to assist a brother. Interest is not to be exacted but pledges are permitted. The giving of pledges is regulated by principles of charity.

(b) Deuteronomy 23:19-20. The Deuteronomic law forbids interest upon loans advanced to Israelites, but permits them with foreigners. The principle of brotherhood is upheld in the nation. The rules regulating ‘the giving of pledges’ are repeated (Deuteronomy 24:10-13).

(c) Leviticus 25:35-37. This law treats only of dealing with Israelites, and prohibits all idea of making gain out of assistance rendered to brethren in distress.

In all three passages, the law contemplates the lending of money to the poor man in distress. The taking of a pledge or security is permitted, but not the exaction of interest from a fellow-countryman. Nehemiah himself exacted interest upon loans (Nehemiah 5:10). We are not therefore to suppose that his indignation was directed against the practice of usury, but against the hard-heartedness and covetousness of the usurers. Mere denunciation against them for these moral failings would have availed nothing. He wisely puts in the forefront of his expostulation the general statement that the Jews were practising ‘usury’ against their brethren. He implies that this was contrary to the spirit of the law and to good fellowship. He himself sought to relieve his brethren (Nehemiah 5:8), but he and his companions had, he confessed, given way to the custom of the time, and had lent on usury, although he had not been exacting in his demands. He and the wealthy professional money-lenders had both done wrong. He had been merciful and they had not This was the only difference. On the general principle he therefore proposed that all taking of interest from needy fellow-countrymen should be abandoned. His manner of approaching the subject conciliated the rulers, as he associated himself with their wrong-doing. He benefited the poor by procuring the abolition of usurious transactions. He upheld the charitable principle of the old Israelite law. The violation of it is the subject of rebuke in very different periods. Amos 2:8; Job 22:6; Job 24:3; Sir 13:22-23.

That the strict law of Israel forbade taking upon usury is shown by a comparison of such passages as Psalm 15:5; Psalm 37:26; Proverbs 28:8; Ezekiel 18:8; Ezekiel 18:13; Ezekiel 18:17; Ezekiel 22:12. But that these passages as well as the laws in Ex., Lev., Deut. refer primarily to usury upon charitable loans seems probable. Usury as a legitimate financial transaction between Jews seems to have been recognized by the Jews (cf. Matthew 25:27); but in the Talmud it is forbidden.

And I set a great assembly] R.V. And I held a great assembly. ‘Assembly.’ The word here used occurs elsewhere only in Deuteronomy 33:4, ‘the assembly of Jacob.’ Nehemiah’s object probably was to give a public hearing to the complaints, and by the largeness and importance of the meeting to establish beyond controversy an arrangement which was calculated to meet with disapprobation from an influential class.Verse 7. - I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury. So the Vulgate, and most commentators; but Bertheau has shown that the expression used, which is peculiar to Nehemiah, cannot have this meaning, since it is not the taking of usury that has been complained of, or that Nehemiah is especially anxious to stop, but the lending of money upon the security of lands, houses, or children, with its consequences, the forfeiture of the lands and houses, with the enslavement of the children. He therefore translates, "I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye lend upon pledge." I set a great assembly against them. It is evident that Nehemiah's rebuke had no effect. The nobles gave him no reason to think that they would change their conduct. He was therefore compelled to bring the matter before the people; not that they had any legal power, but he felt that the nobles might be ashamed or afraid to continue their oppression when it was openly denounced by the chief civil ruler in the hearing of a great assembly of their countrymen. The people complain of oppression. - Nehemiah 5:1 There arose a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews, i.e., as appears from what follows (Nehemiah 5:7), against the nobles and rulers, therefore against the richer members of the community. This cry is more particularly stated in Nehemiah 5:2, where the malcontents are divided into three classes by וישׁ, Nehemiah 5:2, Nehemiah 5:3, Nehemiah 5:4.
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