Nehemiah 5:9
Also I said, It is not good that you do: ought you not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Because of the reproach.—The text of another strong argument used in the assembly. We learn in Nehemiah 6 how watchful the heathen were: all matters were reported to them, and every act of oppression would become a reproach against the God of the Jews.

Nehemiah 5:9. It is not good that ye do — Though you get money by it, you contract guilt, and expose yourselves to the displeasure of God; ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God? — Certainly you ought, for you profess religion and relation to him; and if you do walk in his fear, you will neither be covetous of worldly gain, nor cruel toward your brethren. They that live in the fear of God, will not dare to do an ill thing. Because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies — Who are round about you, and are enemies to us, our God, and our religion. They observe all your actions, and will reproach both you for such barbarous usage of your brethren, and religion for your sakes.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.Nehemiah contrasts his own example with that of the rich Jews. He had spent money in redeeming some countrymen in servitude among the pagan; they were causing others to be sold into slavery among the Jews. 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.

It is not good, i. e. it is a very bad and wicked thing; as this same phrase is used, Proverbs 16:29 17:26 18:5 19:2. A common figure, called meiosis, where more is understood than is expressed.

Because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies; who are round about you, and observe all your actions, and will loath and reproach both you for such barbarous usage of your brethren, and religion for your sakes; which, if you have any love or respect either to God or to yourselves, you will prevent. Also I said, it is not good that ye do,.... The meaning is, that it was very bad; it is a "meiosis", by which more is intended than is expressed:

ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God; in reverence of him and his law, and according to that:

because of the reproach of the Heathen our enemies? whose mouths will be open to reproach the true religion, and the good ways of God; and say, these are the men that pretend to fear God, and serve him, and yet break his law, and use their brethren ill, see Romans 2:24.

{i} Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the {k} reproach of the heathen our enemies?

(i) Meaning, Nehemiah.

(k) Who by this occasion will blaspheme the Name of God, seeing that our actions are no better than theirs.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. Also I said] ‘And I said.’ The C’thib in the Hebrew text (which is probably due to an error of transcription) gives the meaning ‘and it was said,’ i.e. by Nehemiah. The rendering ‘and I said’ follows the reading of the K’ri, LXX., Vulg.

It is not good that ye do] R.V. The thing that ye do Is not good. The R.V. rendering is in itself preferable to that of the A.V. In addition it enables the English reader to recognize the exact correspondence of this clause with words in Exodus 18:17. The sentence is so simple that too much must not be made of the resemblance. But the supposition that Nehemiah’s words perhaps unconsciously repeated a familiar sentence from ‘the book of the law’ is not to be lightly dismissed. That the words of Jethro to Moses should be used by Nehemiah to the money-lenders indicates the courtesy of his expostulation. Fiercer language would have only exasperated them.

ought ye not, &c.] or ‘will ye, or should ye, not,’ &c.

walk in the fear of our God] This precise phrase does not, apparently, occur elsewhere in the O. T. It condenses the thought of Deuteronomy 10:12, ‘And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways,’ (cf. Nehemiah 8:6). We find it in the N. T. in Acts 9:31, ‘The church … walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost was multiplied.’ ‘The fear of God,’ cf. Nehemiah 5:15. ‘The fear of the Lord’ is the usual expression, espec. in Pss. and Prov. ‘The fear of God,’ cf. Genesis 20:11; 2 Samuel 23:3; 2 Chronicles 26:5, R.V. Marg. The fear of God’s hatred of oppression should be before the eyes of all. Cf. Proverbs 14:31, ‘He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker.’

because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies] Though the general sense is obvious, there is some uncertainty as to the exact shade of meaning to be attached to these words. (1) It may mean ‘on account of the reproach wherewith our enemies have reproached us; since, so long as we have not walked in the fear of our God, we have been feeble and weak and have deserved the reproach of our enemies. If we walk in His fear, He will bless us and remove the cause of their reproach.’ Cf. chap. Nehemiah 4:4. (2) It may mean ‘for fear of incurring the just reproach of our enemies,’ seeing that, if they hear of your cruel and ungenerous action to your brethren, they will have good cause to rebuke and ridicule our people. Cf. Nehemiah 6:13.

‘the heathen our enemies.’ On ‘the heathen’ see Nehemiah 5:8. The two words are only here combined in these books. For ‘our enemies’ cf. Nehemiah 4:15, Nehemiah 6:1; Nehemiah 6:16. For the general meaning see 2 Samuel 12:14, ‘thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.’ Cf. Isaiah 52:5.Verse 9. - Also I said. To silence the nobles was not enough. To shame them was not enough. What was wanted was to persuade them. Nehemiah therefore continued his address. It is not good that ye do. It is not good in itself, apart from any contrast with what I have been doing. Ought ye not to walk - or, literally, "will ye not walk"- in the fear of our God? Will ye not really, "fear God and keep his commandments, not in the letter only, but in the spirit? Will ye not cease to oppress your brethren? Will ye not deal kindly and gently with them? Because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies. If the mere fear of God, the desire to escape his displeasure and win his approval, is not enough, will not the thought of the light in which you will appear to the heathen influence you? You make a profession of religion; you claim to be actuated by high motives; to be merciful, compassionate, and self-denying. If they see you as keen after gain as any of themselves, as regardless of others, as pitiless and oppressive, what a reproach will not this bring on your religion! What a proof will it not seem to be that you are no better than your neighbours, and your religion, therefore, no whit superior to theirs! Others, who were indeed possessed of fields, vineyards, and houses, had been obliged to mortgage them, and could now reap nothing from them. ערב, to give as a pledge, to mortgage. The use of the participle denotes the continuance of the transaction, and is not to be rendered, We must mortgage our fields to procure corn; but, We have been obliged to mortgage them, and we desire to receive corn for our hunger, because of the dearth. For (1) the context shows that the act of mortgaging had already taken place, and was still continuing in force (we have been obliged to pledge them, and they are still pledged); and (2) נקחה must not be taken here in a different sense from Nehemiah 5:2, but means, We desire that corn may be furnished us, because of the dearth; not, that we may not be obliged to mortgage our lands, but because they are already mortgaged. בּרעב, too, does not necessarily presuppose a scarcity in consequence of a failure of crops or other circumstances, but only declares that they who had been obliged to pledge their fields were suffering from hunger.
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