Nehemiah 5-7

Good morning! Now that Nehemiah has repaired the walls and gates of Jerusalem, he discovers in chapters 5-7 that managing people has its own troubles. He advocates on behalf of the poor, declares the righteousness of his own conduct, and defends against those who would ensnare him or take him out.

Evidently there was famine in the land, and we hear at the start of chapter 5 that those who were more well-off were extorting the poor and forcing them to pay exorbitantly before giving them food. (Think of them as the payday lenders of ancient times.) The people object to this economic oppression and bring it to Nehemiah’s attention. Acting as the governor, Nehemiah chastises the nobles and officials, claiming that they violate the law of Torah against charging interest to one’s own people. Nehemiah forces the leaders to return ill-gotten fields, vineyards, olive orchards, homes and interest. In order to establish contrast, Nehemiah finishes the chapter with a declaration of how he’s not taken what could have rightfully been his. He has not exacted high wages as a benefit of his position, unlike previous governors. His prayer asks that God would remember the good things he’s done, but this actually seems intended to persuade whomever the book was written for.

Sanballat and others who have been a thorn in Nehemiah’s side already now try to coax him out somewhere by himself so they can ambush him. When he refuses to follow along, they send a letter threatening to accuse him before Artaxerxes of fomenting rebellion. Nehemiah again declines to take the bait, and likewise when he’s tempted by another to hide in the temple for his own safety. He models non-anxious leadership in the face of those who wish to cause him harm.

Most of chapter 7 is genealogical lists of who came in the first wave of Hebrew exiles from Babylon. Near the end of the chapter, we start to see this narrative converge with that of Ezra. Both mention some returning priests who could not validate their ancestry and so were barred from the temple. They also describe some who were able to give money or goods to the work of rebuilding. We’ll see those narratives overlap all the more in the remaining chapters of Nehemiah. Happy reading!

Read Nehemiah 5-7.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Nehemiah 8-10. Thanks for reading!

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