Nehemiah 5:1–19

 |  January 14, 2019

Context of the Passage:

The rebuilding of the walls has passed the half-way mark.  As the work progressed, in addition to the external threats from enemies, Nehemiah also faced internal threats.  The needs were real and in part caused by Nehemiah’s insistence that the people live in the city while the walls were being built (4:16) and the taxes the people were required to pay (5:1-5).  However, the problem was exacerbated by the uncompassionate interest charged by the leaders on loans given to their own people.

Outline of the Passage

Exegesis of the Passage

Five problems can be traced from the text that contributed to the problems of this chapter:

  1. Even though the Jews had been back in Jerusalem for nearly a century, the infrastructure was not sufficient to support the growing population (5:2)
  2. The needs of the people were exacerbated by a recent famine (5:3)
  3. Because of the workers working on the wall, there were not as many laborers to work in the fields (4:16, 22)
  4. The heavy taxes the people were required to pay (5:4)
  5. The leaders were taking advantage of the people for selfish benefit rather than helping those in need (5:7)

There are four groups represented in this passage

  1. Those with large families who struggled to buy food for everyone
  2. Those who were forced to sell property to buy food because of the famine
  3. Those who had no property to sell, but were forced to sell themselves and their children to pay the taxes and buy food
  4. Those leaders who were oppressing the people

5:1 – an outcry from the people and their wives

5:2 – “Let us take grain that we may eat and live”

5:3– There were others … we have mortgaged our land …

5:4-5 – There were others … we have borrowed money to pay our taxes

5:5 – Our flesh is like our brothers

5:6 – Nehemiah heard their cry

5:7 – I consulted with myself

5:7-8 – I rebuked the nobles

    1. They were exacting usury (unjust interest)
    2. From their brothers
    3. It was heartless in how they were doing it – knowing that it was causing some of them to be enslaved

5:7 – I called (lit. “gave”) a great assembly against them

5:8 – We have redeemed our Jewish brethren

5:8 – They were sold

5:8 – They were silent and had nothing to say

5:9 – What you are doing is not good

5:10-11 – Nehemiah presents a four-part solution

  1. He and others are lending the people money to buy grain and pay their taxes
  2. Stop exacting usury
  3. Give the people back their property
  4. Repay the usury that you charged

5:12-13 – We will do exactly as you say

5:14-19 – Note the sacrificial example of Nehemiah rule as Governor

  1. Note that Nehemiah was not officially “appointed” as Governor by the king
    • He served in that capacity for 12 years from approximately 445-433.
    • During that entire time, Nehemiah refused to accept any personal privileges normally afforded to the Governor.
  2. Nehemiah also refused to add a tax on the people like former Governors
    • His motivation was the fear of the Lord – the very motivation that he indicated should drive the actions of the leaders (5:9)
  3. Nehemiah remained faithful in his work
  4. He fed 150 leaders of the Jews as well as others from surrounding nations at his own table

5:19 – Remember me

Sermon on the Passage – Overcoming Internal Conflict

  1. Be a Good Listener
    • Nehemiah Listened to the Cries of the People (1-6)
  2. Address Sin Specifically and Courageously
    • Nehemiah considered the situation carefully (7)
    • Nehemiah rebuked the sin (7)
    • Nehemiah challenged the leaders (7)
    • Nehemiah appealed to the Fear of the Lord (9)
  3. Plan Carefully and Call for Commitment
    • Nehemiah laid out a plan (10-11)
    • Nehemiah required a verbal commitment from the leaders (12)
    • Nehemiah reminded the people of the consequences of sinning against God (13)
  4. Set a Positive Example
    • Nehemiah set a positive example (14-18)
    • Nehemiah remained submissive to the Lord (19)

Category: Sermon Structure
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