Nehemiah 5

 

וַתְּהִי צַעֲקַת הָעָם וּנְשֵׁיהֶם גְּדוֹלָה אֶל־אֲחֵיהֶם הַיְּהוּדִים׃   5:1

Nehe. 5:1   Then the outcry of the people and their wives was great against their brethren, the Jews.

The consensus among scholars, which is supported by subsequent verses, is that “the people and their wives” refers to the poor, and “their brethren, the Jews” refers to the rich, the nobles, the officials, and the priests.

וְיֵשׁ אֲשֶׁר אֹמְרִים בָּנֵינוּ וּבְנֹתֵינוּ אֲנַחְנוּ רַבִּים וְנִקְחָה דָגָן וְנֹאכְלָה וְנִחְיֶה׃   5:2

Nehe. 5:2   And there were those who were saying, “We, our sons and our daughters, are too numerous to get corn to eat and survive.”

וְיֵשׁ אֲשֶׁר אֹמְרִים שְׂדֹתֵינוּ וּכְרָמֵינוּ וּבָתֵּינוּ אֲנַחְנוּ עֹרְבִים וְנִקְחָה דָגָן בָּרָעָב׃   5:3

Nehe. 5:3   And there were those who were saying, “We have been mortgaging our fields and our vineyards and our houses to get corn in scarcity.”

וְיֵשׁ אֲשֶׁר אֹמְרִים לָוִינוּ כֶסֶף לְמִדַּת הַמֶּלֶךְ שְׂדֹתֵינוּ וּכְרָמֵינוּ׃   5:4

Nehe. 5:4   And there were those who were saying, “We have borrowed the value for the tribute of the king of our fields and our vineyards,

וְעַתָּה כִּבְשַׂר אַחֵינוּ בְּשָׂרֵנוּ כִּבְנֵיהֶם בָּנֵינוּ וְהִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ כֹבְשִׁים אֶת־בָּנֵינוּ וְאֶת־בְּנֹתֵינוּ לַעֲבָדִים וְיֵשׁ   5:5

מִבְּנֹתֵינוּ נִכְבָּשׁוֹת וְאֵין לְאֵל יָדֵנוּ וּשְׂדֹתֵינוּ וּכְרָמֵינוּ לַאֲחֵרִים׃

Nehe. 5:5   but now, our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children, that behold, we are subjecting our sons and our daughters to being servants -- and there are some of our daughters already in bondage!  And the power of our hands is as nothing, as our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”

וַיִּחַר לִי מְאֹד כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׁמַעְתִּי אֶת־זַעֲקָתָם וְאֵת הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה׃   5:6

Nehe. 5:6   Then a great anger was mine as I heard their outcry and these words.

וַיִּמָּלֵךְ לִבִּי עָלַי וָאָרִיבָה אֶת־הַחֹרִים וְאֶת־הַסְּגָנִים וָאֹמְרָה לָהֶם מַשָּׁא אִישׁ־בְּאָחִיו אַתֶּם נֹשִׁאים   5:7

וָאֶתֵּן עֲלֵיהֶם קְהִלָּה גְדֹולָה׃

Nehe. 5:7   And my heart advised on my behalf, and I confronted the nobles and the officials, and I said to them, “You are lenders on interest of everyone with his brother.”  And I set up a great assembly for them.

Notice that Nehemiah uses the plural second-person pronoun (third-from-last word) to address those assembled.  It seems obvious that he is speaking to each man there.  This provides additional support for my theory that when someone addresses a group of individuals, the plural pronoun targets each individual in the group, whereas the singular applies to the group as one.  This grammatical pattern is repeated in the next two verses.

Additionally, there are three exceptions to my theory of vavs in this verse.  The first one is the fourth word in the top row, translates as and I confronted.  The Hebrew should be, according to me, ytb'yrI ynIa]w.  The second exception is the ninth word, translated as and I said, which we’ve seen several times now.  The Hebrew should be ytir'm.ai ynIa]w.  The third exception is the last word in the top line, translated as and I set up.  The Hebrew should be ytn>t;n" ynIa]w.

וָאֹמְרָה לָהֶם אֲנַחְנוּ קָנִינוּ אֶת־אַחֵינוּ הַיְּהוּדִים הַנִּמְכָּרִים לַגּוֹיִם כְּדֵי בָנוּ וְגַם־אַתֶּם תִּמְכְּרוּ   5:8

  אֶת־אֲחֵיכֶם וְנִמְכְּרוּ־לָנוּ וַיַּחֲרִישׁוּ וְלֹא מָצְאוּ דָּבָר׃

Nehe. 5:8   And I said to them, “We have gotten our brethren, the Jews who had been selling themselves to the gentiles.  It should be enough to us, but you would also sell your brethren, and they would sell themselves to us.”  Then they were silent and not did come up with a word.

The first word in this verse is an exception to my theory of inverting vavs that is the same as the second exception in the preceding verse.  The Hebrew should read as I’ve indicated above, ytir'm.ai ynIa]w.

וַיֹּאמֶר) [וָאֹומַר] לֹא־טֹוב הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּם עֹשִׂים הֲלֹוא בְּיִרְאַת אֱלֹהֵינוּ תֵּלֵכוּ מֵחֶרְפַּת הַגֹּויִם   5:9

 אֹויְבֵינוּ׃

Nehe. 5:9  And I said more.  “The thing that you are doing is not good.  Should you not walk in reverence of our God, because of the reproach of the gentiles, our enemies?”

The word before the left parenthesis is both an error and an exception.  The Hebrew should be the same as that in the preceding verse.

But something else in this verse is intriguing and fascinating.  Nehemiah presents an argument here for revering God:  To prevent the reproach of the gentiles.  That wouldn’t be my argument.  Mine is that God is to be revered because He is.  Period!

וְגַם־אֲנִי אַחַי וּנְעָרַי נֹשִׁים בָּהֶם כֶּסֶף וְדָגָן נַעַזְבָה־נָּא אֶת־הַמַּשָּׁא הַזֶּה׃   5:10

Nehe. 5:10   “And I too, my brethren, and my servants, have been lending to them money and corn.  We must stop this usury now.”

הָשִׁיבוּ נָא לָהֶם כְּהַיּוֹם שְׂדֹתֵיהֶם כַּרְמֵיהֶם זֵיתֵיהֶם וּבָתֵּיהֶם וּמְאַת הַכֶּסֶף וְהַדָּגָן הַתִּירוֹשׁ וְהַיִּצְהָר   5:11

אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם נֹשִׁים בָּהֶם׃

Nehe. 5:11   “Return, to them now, as of today, their fields, their vineyards, their olive yards, and their houses, and the hundred pieces of silver and the corn, the wine and the oil, that you are exacting among them.”

וַיֹּאמְרוּ נָשִׁיב וּמֵהֶם לֹא נְבַקֵּשׁ כֵּן נַעֲשֶׂה כַּאֲשֶׁר אַתָּה אוֹמֵר וָאֶקְרָא אֶת־הַכֹּהֲנִים וָאַשְׁבִּיעֵם   5:12

  לַעֲשׂוֹת כַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה׃

Nehe. 5:12   And they said, “We will return, and we will demand nothing from them.  So we will do as you have been saying.”  Then I called the priests and made them take an oath to do according to this word.

The fifth-from-last word in the top line, translated as then I called, is another exception to my theory.  The Hebrew should be ytiar'q'' ynIa]w:.  And the next-to-last word in the top line, translated as and [I] made them take an oath, is another exception.  The Hebrew there should be ~h,yti[;yBiv.hi ynIa]w:.

גַּם־חָצְנִי נָעַרְתִּי וָאֹמְרָה כָּכָה יְנַעֵר הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת־כָּל־הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יָקִים אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה מִבֵּיתוֹ   5:13

וּמִיגִיעוֹ וְכָכָה יִהְיֶה נָעוּר וָרֵק וַיֹּאמְרוּ כָל־הַקָּהָל אָמֵן וַיְהַלְלוּ אֶת־יְהוָה וַיַּעַשׂ הָעָם כַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה׃

Nehe. 5:13   I also shook out my lap as I said, “God shall shake out every man like this who will not fulfill this word from his house and from his acquisition, and he will be shaken out the same way and emptied.  And all of the congregation said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord.  And the people did according to this word.

גַּם מִיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּה אֹתִי לִהְיוֹת פֶּחָם בְּאֶרֶץ יְהוּדָה מִשְּׁנַת עֶשְׂרִים וְעַד שְׁנַת שְׁלֹשִׁים וּשְׁתַּיִם   5:14

לְאַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא הַמֶּלֶךְ שָׁנִים שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה אֲנִי וְאַחַי לֶחֶם הַפֶּחָה לֹא אָכַלְתִּי׃

Nehe. 5:14   Indeed from the day that he appointed me to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year and until the thirty-second year for Artaxerxes, the king -- twelve years -- I, even my brethren, did not eat the food of the governor.

From this verse to the end of the chapter Nehemiah’s praise of his accomplishments, his pride, and his own back patting are shamelessly described.  He ends with a self-centered plea for good for himself from God as reward for his actions.  Seems like an often-expressed plea by many who consider themselves deserving.  Now something more interesting.  This verse could have been inserted after the book was transcribed, because it speaks of the entire twelve years that Nehemiah was in Jerusalem.  Alternatively, it could suggest that the book was written after all the events of this book had transpired.

וְהַפַּחוֹת הָרִאשֹׁנִים אֲשֶׁר־לְפָנַי הִכְבִּידוּ עַל־הָעָם וַיִּקְחוּ מֵהֶם בְּלֶחֶם וָיַיִן אַחַר כֶּסֶף־שְׁקָלִים   5:15

  אַרְבָּעִים גַּם נַעֲרֵיהֶם שָׁלְטוּ עַל־הָעָם וַאֲנִי לֹא־עָשִׂיתִי כֵן מִפְּנֵי יִרְאַת אֱלֹהִים׃

Nehe. 5:15   Though the previous governors who were before me had laid heavily upon the people and seized from them for bread and wine besides forty shekels of silver (even their servants had had mastery over the people), yet I had not done the same, because of reverence of God.

וְגַם בִּמְלֶאכֶת הַחוֹמָה הַזֹּאת הֶחֱזַקְתִּי וְשָׂדֶה לֹא קָנִינוּ וְכָל־נְעָרַי קְבוּצִים שָׁם עַל־הַמְּלָאכָה׃   5:16

Nehe. 5:16   And even in the work of this wall I was firm, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work.

וְהַיְּהוּדִים וְהַסְּגָנִים מֵאָה וַחֲמִשִּׁים אִישׁ וְהַבָּאִים אֵלֵינוּ מִן־הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר־סְבִיבֹתֵינוּ עַל־שֻׁלְחָנִי׃   5:17

Nehe. 5:17   And at my table, of the Jews and the officials were a hundred and fifty men, and those were coming to us from the gentiles who were around us.

וַאֲשֶׁר הָיָה נַעֲשֶׂה לְיוֹם אֶחָד שׁוֹר אֶחָד צֹאן שֵׁשׁ־בְּרֻרוֹת וְצִפֳּרִים נַעֲשׂוּ־לִי וּבֵין עֲשֶׂרֶת יָמִים   5:18

  בְּכָל־יַיִן לְהַרְבֵּה וְעִם־זֶה לֶחֶם הַפֶּחָה לֹא בִקַּשְׁתִּי כִּי־כָבְדָה הָעֲבֹדָה עַל־הָעָם הַזֶּה׃

Nehe. 5:18   And what was prepared for one day was one ox , six choice sheep, and birds were prepared for me, and every ten days being enhanced with all kinds of wine.  Yet despite this, I demanded no food of the governor, for the service was heavy upon this people.

זָכְרָה־לִּי אֱלֹהַי לְטוֹבָה כֹּל אֲשֶׁר־עָשִׂיתִי עַל־הָעָם הַזֶּה׃   5:19

Nehe. 5:19   Remember me for good, My God, all that I did for this people.

 

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