5:1 Then there was a great outcry from the people and their wives against their fellow Jews. 1 5:2 There were those who said, “With our sons and daughters, we are many. We must obtain 2 grain in order to eat and stay alive.” 5:3 There were others who said, “We are putting up our fields, our vineyards, and our houses as collateral in order to obtain grain during the famine.” 5:4 Then there were those who said, “We have borrowed money to pay our taxes to the king 3 on our fields and our vineyards. 5:5 And now, though we share the same flesh and blood as our fellow countrymen, 4 and our children are just like their children, 5 still we have found it necessary to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. 6 Some of our daughters have been subjected to slavery, while we are powerless to help, 7 since our fields and vineyards now belong to other people.” 8
5:8 I said to them, “To the extent possible we have bought back our fellow Jews 9 who had been sold to the Gentiles. But now you yourselves want to sell your own countrymen, 10 so that we can then buy them back!” They were utterly silent, and could find nothing to say.
1 tn Heb “their brothers the Jews.”
2 tn Heb “take” (so also in v. 3).
3 tn Heb “for the tax of the king.”
4 tn Heb “according to the flesh of our brothers is our flesh.”
5 tn Heb “like their children, our children.”
6 tn Heb “to become slaves” (also later in this verse).
7 tn Heb “there is not power for our hand.” The Hebrew expression used here is rather difficult.
8 sn The poor among the returned exiles were being exploited by their rich countrymen. Moneylenders were loaning large amounts of money, and not only collecting interest on loans which was illegal (Lev 25:36-37; Deut 23:19-20), but also seizing pledges as collateral (Neh 5:3) which was allowed (Deut 24:10). When the debtors missed a payment, the moneylenders would seize their collateral: their fields, vineyards and homes. With no other means of income, the debtors were forced to sell their children into slavery, a common practice at this time (Neh 5:5). Nehemiah himself was one of the moneylenders (Neh 5:10), but he insisted that seizure of collateral from fellow Jewish countrymen was ethically wrong (Neh 5:9).
9 tn Heb “our brothers, the Jews.”
10 tn Heb “your brothers.”