The Work Is Threatened by Internal Dissension
51Now there was a great outcry by the people and their wives against their fellow Jews. 2There were those who were saying, “We and our sons and our daughters are many! We need to acquire grain so that we can eat and stay alive.” 3There were others who were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and houses so that we can acquire grain during the famine.” 4There were others who were saying, “We borrowed money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards. 5Although our flesh is the same as the flesh of our countrymen, and our children are as good as their children, we must subject our sons and our daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters are already enslaved, but we have no power to prevent it, since our fields and vineyards belong to others.”
6It infuriated me when I heard their outcry and these words. 7My heart guided me, and I accused the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “Each of you is loaning money at interest to his brother Israelite.”
I called for a large meeting to deal with them. 8I said to them, “As much as possible, we have bought back our fellow Judeans who have been sold to the Gentiles, and yet, you sell your countrymen so that they can be resold to us!” They were silent and could not find a word to say.
9So I said, “What you are doing is not good. Shouldn't you walk in the fear of our God because of the ridicule from the Gentiles, who are our enemies? 10In addition, I, my brothers, and my servants are lending them money and grain. I urge you. Let's abandon the practice of charging this interest. 11I urge you. Today give them back their fields, their vineyards, their olive trees, their homes, and the money they were charged as interest, also the grain, the new wine, and the olive oil for which you have been charging them.”
12They said, “We will give it back, and we will not seek anything else from them. In this way we will do what you say.”
So I called the priests and made them swear to act according to this promise. 13I also shook out the folds of my garment and said, “In this way may God shake out from his home and from his property every man who does not keep this promise. May he be shaken out and emptied in this way.”
The entire assembly said, “Amen,” and they praised the Lord. Then the people kept this promise.
14In addition, from the day that he appointed me to be the governor of the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes—twelve years—I and my brothers did not eat the governor's food allowance.
15However, the previous governors who served before me had placed a heavy burden on the people. They took food and wine from them—valued at forty silver shekels. Even the lower officials lorded over the people. But because of the fear of God, I did not do this. 16In addition, I dedicated myself to the work on this wall (although we had acquired no land), and all of my servants were gathered there for the work.
The Plot to Kill Nehemiah
61When it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and there was no breach left in it (although at that time I had not installed doors in the gates), 2Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me: “Come, let's meet together in Kephirim in the Plain of Ono.” (However, they were planning to harm me.)
3So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am working on an important project, and I am not able to come down. Why should the project stop while I leave it and come down to you?” 4They sent messages like this to me four times, and I answered them the same way each time.
5Then Sanballat sent his servant to me with a message like this for a fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. 6In it was written, “It is rumored among the nations, and Gashmu also says that you and the Jews are planning to rebel. This is the reason you are building the wall. According to these reports, you will be their king. 7You have also set up prophets to make a proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘A king is in Judah.’ Now reports like these will be heard by the king. So now come, let us consult with one another.”
8So I sent a reply to him: “These things that you are saying have not been done, since you are simply making them up.”
9So all of them were trying to intimidate us, thinking, “Their hands will grow weary of the work, and it will not be finished.”
So now, strengthen my hands!