Passage: Nehemiah 5, 6 (RSV)

Nehemiah 5

1Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brethren.
2For there were those who said, "With our sons and our daughters, we are many; let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive."
3There were also those who said, "We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine."
4And there were those who said, "We have borrowed money for the king's tax upon our fields and our vineyards.
5Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children are as their children; yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved; but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards."
6I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.
7I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, "You are exacting interest, each from his brother." And I held a great assembly against them,
8and said to them, "We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brethren who have been sold to the nations; but you even sell your brethren that they may be sold to us!" They were silent, and could not find a word to say.
9So I said, "The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?
10Moreover I and my brethren and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us leave off this interest.
11Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the hundredth of money, grain, wine, and oil which you have been exacting of them."
12Then they said, "We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say." And I called the priests, and took an oath of them to do as they had promised.
13I also shook out my lap and said, "So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not perform this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied." And all the assembly said "Amen" and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.
14Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Ar-ta-xerx'es the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brethren ate the food allowance of the governor.
15The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens upon the people, and took from them food and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.
16I also held to the work on this wall, and acquired no land; and all my servants were gathered there for the work.
17Moreover there were at my table a hundred and fifty men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations which were about us.
18Now that which was prepared for one day was one ox and six choice sheep; fowls likewise were prepared for me, and every ten days skins of wine in abundance; yet with all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the servitude was heavy upon this people.
19Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

Nehemiah 6

1Now when it was reported to Sanbal'lat and Tobi'ah and to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates),
2Sanbal'lat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono." But they intended to do me harm.
3And I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?"
4And they sent to me four times in this way and I answered them in the same manner.
5In the same way Sanbal'lat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand.
6In it was written, "It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall; and you wish to become their king, according to this report.
7And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, `There is a king in Judah.' And now it will be reported to the king according to these words. So now come, and let us take counsel together."
8Then I sent to him, saying, "No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind."
9For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done." But now, O God, strengthen thou my hands.
10Now when I went into the house of Shemai'ah the son of Delai'ah, son of Mehet'abel, who was shut up, he said, "Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple; for they are coming to kill you, at night they are coming to kill you."
11But I said, "Should such a man as I flee? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in."
12And I understood, and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobi'ah and Sanbal'lat had hired him.
13For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me an evil name, in order to taunt me.
14Remember Tobi'ah and Sanbal'lat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess No-adi'ah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.
15So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.
16And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations round about us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
17Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobi'ah, and Tobi'ah's letters came to them.
18For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecani'ah the son of Arah: and his son Jehoha'nan had taken the daughter of Meshul'lam the son of Berechi'ah as his wife.
19Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence, and reported my words to him. And Tobi'ah sent letters to make me afraid.

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