Nehemiah 5:8
And I said to them, We after our ability have redeemed our brothers the Jews, which were sold to the heathen; and will you even sell your brothers? or shall they be sold to us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Will ye even sell your brethren?—The appeal is a strong one. Nehemiah and his friends had redeemed Jews from the heathen with money; these men had caused Jews to be sold to Jews.

Nothing to answer.—They might have replied had the letter of the law been urged; but this argument puts them to shame.

Nehemiah 5:8. We, after our ability, have redeemed our brethren — Nehemiah and his predecessors had used their utmost interest and power with the kings of Persia, that their brethren might be redeemed from bondage, whereby they had been restored both to their liberty and to their own country. And it is probable they had, with their money, procured the freedom of such as were slaves to some of the Babylonians, who would not part with them without a price paid for them. Shall they be sold unto us? — Do you expect that we should pay you a price for them, as we did to the Babylonians? Or must we use as much importunity to solicit you for their redemption as we used with their enemies? Then held they their peace — They made no reply, because they could neither deny the fact nor justify it, an express law of God being against them.5:6-13 Nehemiah knew that, if he built Jerusalem's walls ever so high, so thick, or so strong, the city could not be safe while there were abuses. The right way to reform men's lives, is to convince their consciences. If you walk in the fear of God, you will not be either covetous of worldly gain, or cruel toward your brethren. Nothing exposes religion more to reproach, than the worldliness and hard-heartedness of the professors of it. Those that rigorously insist upon their right, with a very ill grace try to persuade others to give up theirs. In reasoning with selfish people, it is good to contrast their conduct with that of others who are liberal; but it is best to point to His example, who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich, 2Co 8:9. They did according to promise. Good promises are good things, but good performances are better.Nehemiah contrasts his own example with that of the rich Jews. He had spent money in redeeming some countrymen in servitude among the pagan; they were causing others to be sold into slavery among the Jews. Ne 5:6-19. The Usurers Rebuked.

6-12. I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words—When such disorders came to the knowledge of the governor, his honest indignation was roused against the perpetrators of the evil. Having summoned a public assembly, he denounced their conduct in terms of just severity. He contrasted it with his own in redeeming with his money some of the Jewish exiles who, through debt or otherwise, had lost their personal liberty in Babylon. He urged the rich creditors not only to abandon their illegal and oppressive system of usury, but to restore the fields and vineyards of the poor, so that a remedy might be put to an evil the introduction of which had led to much actual disorder, and the continuance of which would inevitably prove ruinous to the newly restored colony, by violating the fundamental principles of the Hebrew constitution. The remonstrance was effectual. The conscience of the usurious oppressors could not resist the touching and powerful appeal. With mingled emotions of shame, contrition, and fear, they with one voice expressed their readiness to comply with the governor's recommendation. The proceedings were closed by the parties binding themselves by a solemn oath, administered by the priests, that they would redeem their pledge, as well as by the governor invoking, by the solemn and significant gesture of shaking a corner of his garment, a malediction on those who should violate it. The historian has taken care to record that the people did according to this promise.

We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen: I, and my, brethren, and predecessors, have used our utmost interest and power, both with the kings of Persia, that our brethren might be redeemed from that bondage into which God had sold them for their sins; and with particular persons in Babylon and Persia, and the adjacent parts, whose bond-slaves the Jews were, and who would not part with them without a price, which we paid for them.

Will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? do you expect that we should pay you a price for them, as we did to the Babylonians? or must we use as much importunity to solicit you for their redemption as we did to their enemies? And I said unto them,.... The nobles, and rulers, and other rich persons that exacted usury of the poor:

we after our ability; speaking of himself in the plural number, which now obtained in the court of Persia; or of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and others, who, according as their worldly circumstances, having been captives, would admit of:

have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the Heathen; not that they had given a ransom for them to Cyrus, or any other king of Persia, which would be contrary to the prophecies concerning their redemption, Isaiah 45:13 but such who had sold themselves to particular persons in Babylon, who, without being redeemed, could not take the advantage of the liberty granted by Cyrus, and his successors; and it may be there were others also in the like circumstances, in other neighbouring nations, that had been redeemed this way. The Jewish canon (i) now is, he that sells himself, and his children, to Gentiles, they do not redeem; but they redeem the children after their father's death; which the commentators (k) explain of the third time that he sells himself:

and will you even sell your brethren? their lands and vineyards mortgaged to them, and even their persons:

or shall they be sold unto us? must we be obliged to buy them, and to redeem them:

then they held their peace, and found nothing to answer; being convinced they had done wrong, by the arguments used, to which they could make no reply.

(i) Misn. Gittin, c. 4. sect. 9. (k) Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.

And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be {h} sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.

(h) Seeing God has once delivered them from the bondage of the heathen, shall we make them our slaves?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. We] ‘We’ and ‘ye’ in this verse are in emphatic antithesis.

after our ability] So Vulg. ‘secundum possibilitatem nostram.’ LXX. ἐν ἑκουσίῳ ἡμῶν. Another rendering is ‘according to the number of those that were among us.’

have redeemed] R.V. marg. ‘Heb. bought’, i.e. as many as were put up to sale we redeemed. Nehemiah apparently refers to what had been the merciful custom of himself and his countrymen when they were in exile; but possibly also to his action in Jerusalem since his arrival. The word for ‘redeemed’ here would be literally rendered ‘acquired’ or ‘bought.’ The word is used here presumably because the stress of the clause rests not so much on the slavery from which the Jews were delivered, but upon the price that Nehemiah and his companions willingly paid for them.

unto the heathen] Lit. ‘unto the nations.’

and will you even sell your brethren] R.V. and would ye, &c.

or shall they] R.V. and should they. Nehemiah’s indignant question contrasts the conduct of the wealthy money-lenders with his own practice and that of his friends. He in a foreign land redeemed every Jew he could that was being sold to the heathen, and here in Jerusalem itself he finds Jews selling their own flesh and blood, and the market in which they barter their brethren is within the walls of the Holy City. They not only sold Jews as slaves, but bought them as such. They were ready to buy them, not to redeem but to enslave them.

found nothing to answer] R.V. found never a word. There was no justification either in law or equity for their conduct, in making money out of their brethren’s misfortunes at a time of national danger.Verse 8. - We after our ability have redeemed our brethren. "We," here, may be either "we Jews of the captivity," in contrast with "you who have long returned from it," or "we of my house and household" (equivalent to the "I, my brethren, and my servants" of ver. 10), in contrast with "you rich Jews not of my household." Nehemiah must appeal to a well-known fact, that he and others had been in the habit of redeeming enslaved Jews among the heathen. Will ye even sell your brethren? An argumenturn ad verecundiam. Will ye do the exact opposite? Cause your brethren to be sold into slavery? And not to heathen masters, but to men of their own nation, unto us? Roman creditors, if they sold their debtor slaves, were required by law to sell them across the Tiber - to men of a different race. It was felt to add to the indignity of the slave condition that one should have to serve one's own countryman, recently one's equal and (perhaps) acquaintance. They held their peace, and found nothing to answer. Or, "found never a word. The argument told. It admitted of no reply. The nobles were ashamed, and had not a word to say. There were some who said: Our sons and our daughters are many, and we desire to receive corn, that we may eat and live. These were the words of those workers who had no property. נקחה (from לקח), not to take by force, but only to desire that corn may be provided.
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