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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Nehemiah 5

 

 

Verses 1-19

WE HAVE NOTICED certain good features that marked the people, as recorded in chapter 4, but as we commence to read chapter 5, we discover that beneath the surface sad mischief had been at work. Under Nehemiah's leadership there had been a courageous attitude towards opposition from without, while all the time there was selfish oppression proceeding within. The richer Jews had taken advantage of the plight into which many poorer ones had drifted, owing to the shortage of the necessaries of life, borrowing money or raising mortgages, in order to obtain food for themselves and their families. We might summarize the situation by saying that while externally they presented a picture of commendable zeal, in doing what was God's service at that moment, internally they were guilty of much self-seeking and corruption.

The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy that the 'Holy Scriptures', which he had known 'from a child',-the Old Testament, therefore-were able to make him 'wise unto salvation' (2 Timothy 3:15); not only from future doom, but also from the dangers that infest our pilgrim path. Here, we think, is an illustration of this, for again and again even in our day, the work of God in revival amongst His saints has been damaged in similar fashion. Whilst outwardly the work of God has been carried on with diligence and success, even in building a wall of spiritual separation from the outside world; there has grown up the spirit of self-seeking within, and consequently of damage and impoverishment to many humbler saints. Is not this the reason why gracious revivals, that have visited the English speaking regions during the past four centuries, have lost their power and gradually faded away?

So, in the light of what is here recorded, let us all accept the warning, and try our ways before our Lord. In the case before us the situation was met for a time by the faithful energy of Nehemiah. He was angry, with the kind of anger that is to be permitted, as Ephesians 4:26 indicates, and he called upon them to act 'in the fear of God', even if they did not fear the retribution of men. Faced by Nehemiah's searching words, they had nothing to say. They admitted the charge, and under an oath they undertook to restore what they had taken away, and this they did according to the 13th verse.

What added force to Nehemiah's indignant charge was that he himself had been so careful in this matter, as we see in the verses that follow. Former governors had exacted their food and support from the people. He on the contrary had taken nothing from them, and had supported 150 Jews and rulers, besides occasional visitors. Just how he did this we are not told, but presumably he drew his supplies from the Persian monarch. When rebuke is called for, the power of it is greatly increased when the one administering it is wholly free of the error he has to rebuke. The same principle stands when the happy work of restoration has to be undertaken, as we see in Galatians 6:1 -'considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted'. Either way, the call to consider ourselves and our own ways is very insistent, when dealing with others. This integrity also gave Nehemiah confidence in calling upon God for good, as the last verse of the chapter shows.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Nehemiah 5:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/nehemiah-5.html. 1947.

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