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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Nehemiah 5

 

 

Verse 1

Nehemiah 5:1 And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.

Ver. 1. And there was a great cry] Such as seditious ones use to set up in their outrageous uproars; or such as is the expression of great grief and anguish of heart.

Of the people] The ignobile common people, a most dangerous and heady water, when once it is out.

And of their wives] Who being pinched with penury, made piteous outcries. Invalidum omne, natura querulum. Significat clamorem vel querulum, vel imperiosum, iracundum, minacem (Seneca).

Against their brethren the Jews] The richer sort, who oppressed them and drew them before the judgment seats, as St James hath it of the Jews of his time; for they were no changelings. Let the Philistines bind Samson, and he can bear it; but do not you lay hands on me, saith he to his countrymen. Scipio had rather Hannibal should eat his heart with salt than Laelius give him a cross word. Had it been mine enemy, saith David, I could have digested it. So could these poor creatures far better have borne the insolencies of strangers than the oppressions of fellow brethren. Tacitus tells us, that in his time the Jews were very merciful to those of their own nation, and cruel to all others, Misericordia in promptu apud suos, &c. But here their own complain, and this was doubtless a great grief to good Nehemiah.


Verse 2

Nehemiah 5:2 For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, [are] many: therefore we take up corn [for them], that we may eat, and live.

Ver. 2. We, our sons, and our daughters are many] That is a mercy, had we but keeping for them. Their wives were very fruitful; sed luctuosa faecunditate (as Jerome saith of Laeta); for they had more mouths than meat for them. Tho young children asked for bread, and no man brake it unto them, Lamentations 4:4.

Therefore we take up corn for them] Grain upon use, to keep us from starving; and that by pawning or selling our dear children to the rich creditors for servants; till we can redeem them, which we are never like to do, Nehemiah 5:5.

That we may eat and live] Merely to keep us alive; for else we would never have made our poor children bondslaves. But Necessitas durum telum, hunger is so pinching a pain, that a woman will eat her own child, as in the siege of Jerusalem, Samaria, Saguntum; yea, a man his own flesh, rather than die with hunger. Hitherto the poorest sort. Follows now another cry.


Verse 3

Nehemiah 5:3 [Some] also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.

Ver. 3. We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, &c.] Lands they had, but were little the better for them. Husbandry they had neglected to give attendance upon buildings; neither were they able to stock and store their grounds, and so are forced to part with them at an underrate price. This is many a poor man’s case among us, who yet are little pitied, or relieved, unless it be with a little mouth mercy, as in St James’s days, James 2:15-16. Oppressors will be but as friends at a sneeze; the most you can get of them is, God bless you; like they are (many of them) to Darius, who prayed God to help Daniel, but sent him to the lions’ den.


Verse 4

Nehemiah 5:4 There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, [and that upon] our lands and vineyards.

Ver. 4. There were also that said] Here was a third complaint to good Nehemiah; to whom whosoever lamented were sure to have redress and remedy, he did not serve these poor people as that merciless bishop of Mentz, in Germany, did; who, to rid his hands of them in a time of famine, in horreo conclusos iussit concremari, shut them up all together in a barn, and there burnt them (Hatto, Archiep. Mogunt. A. D. 923). He was afterwards eaten to death by rats, non sine maxima divinae vindictae suspicione, saith mine author, by a just hand of God upon him for his cruelty to those poor, whom he would not relieve with his grain, but let the rats eat it; and of whom he said, when they were burning in his barn, that they cried like a company of rats.

We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute] They did not deny payment, and rise up in arms, making poverty their captain, as the Suffolk men did here in Henry VIII’s time. Neither did they answer the king of Persia’s officers, as the men of Andros once did Themistocles. He, being sent by the Athenians to them for tribute, told them that he came unto them on that errand, accompanied with two goddesses, Eloquence, to persuade, and Violence, to enforce them. Their answer was, that they also had on their side two goddesses as strong; Necessity, for they had it not, and Impossibility, for they knew not how to raise it (Plutarch). These men pawn their lands to pay tribute; but it went to their hearts, and caused this complaint.


Verse 5

Nehemiah 5:5 Yet now our flesh [is] as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and [some] of our daughters are brought unto bondage [already]: neither [is it] in our power [to redeem them]; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

Ver. 5. Yet our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren] i.e. Nevertheless we are men as well as they, though poor men, and therefore slighted (but why should they hide their eyes from their own flesh? Isaiah 58:7. "Have we not all one Father?" Malachi 2:10). Yea, we are men of Israel, such as fear God, Acts 13:16. Hewn out of the same rock, digged out of the same pit, Isaiah 51:1, cut out of the same cloth, the shears only going between. What if God have given them more wealth (as the shepherd bestows a bell upon his bellwether), should they therefore insult and domineer over us, as if not worthy to breathe in the same air?

Our children as their children] viz. As dear to us, and as freeborn every way as theirs are; why then should their unmerciful dealing enslave them? He that oppresseth the poor, reproacheth his Maker; but he that honoureth him, hath mercy on the poor, Proverbs 15:31. There is a writ in England which beareth this name, Ne iniuste vexes, Vex not any man unjustly; but law without execution is like a bell without a clapper. It was done directly against law that is here complained of. See Leviticus 25:39, and therefore there is an Ecce Behold set upon it in the next words; And (lo) we bring into bondage, &c. These cruel cormorants thought to bear out and justify the most monstrous misdemeanor, because it was the fact of a noble, who could as easily break through the lattice of the laws as the bigger flies do through a spider web; as Anacharsis once said concerning his Scythians.

We bring into bondage our sons and our daughters] This went to the hearts of them, and well it might. For, 1. Our children are a chief part of ourselves, even the seed; as though now there were nothing left in us but the chaff. 2. Bondage is very grievous, as liberty exceeding sweet. Did we but live a while in Turkey (saith one), in Persia., yea, or but in France, a dram of that liberty we yet enjoy would be as precious to us as a drop of cold water would have been to the rich man in hell, when he lay broiling in those flames. 3. They were necessitated to do this with their own hands, We bring into bondage, &c., hard hunger driving us thereunto, though as ill-willing thereunto as ever Jacob was to part with his Benjamin into Egypt; he would not do it till there was no remedy. 4. They sold them for slaves, not to strangers, but to their own friends and countrymen, where we looked for more courtesy. But a man had as good a deal with a Cossack or Cannibal as with a truly covetous captive, and as much favour and fair dealing he shall find. For such a one respecteth neither friend nor foe; nor regards at all how he cometh by it, by hook or by crook, by right or by wrong, be it short or long.

And some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already] So that our complaints are neither false nor causeless; for that weaker sex is every way subject to more abuse, their chastity (which is their honour) was much hazarded, Castus, quasi, καστος ornatus.

Neither is it in our power to redeem them] Would we never so fain. What would not a tender hearted father give or do for the redemption of his dear child? To let go many other examples, Fredericus Barbarossa, emperor of Germany (when as in the wars between the pope and himself, his youngest son was taken prisoner by the Venetian fleet), Vehementi amore commotus erga filium captum, saith mine author, through an earnest desire of getting his son’s liberty, he concluded a peace upon most unequal terms, viz. that he should come in person to Venice, and there, prostrate at the pope’s feet (who trod upon the emperor’s neck), he should beg pardon; and then having settled peace in Italy, led his army into Asia against the Turk. All this he did for his son’s liberty.

For other men have our lands and vinevards] Even those men that so lately came out of captivity themselves, and know the misery of want and slavery. Those that partake now of so much liberty and liberality from the kings of Persia, and yet, behold, they pull up the bridge before us that themselves have gone over. Surely there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land, Hosea 4:1. Lo this was Vox oppressorum mercesque retenta laborum.


Verse 6

Nehemiah 5:6 And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.

Ver. 6. And I was very angry] Red-hot with anger, and not without cause. To be angry without cause is to be guilty of judgment, Matthew 5:22, but in case of God’s dishonour, and public prejudice, moderation is mopishness, toleration cowardice, &c. Nehemiah was a magistrate, that is, a mortal god; as God is an immortal magistrate. Therefore as God is angry at the oppressions of poor people (Lactantius hath written a book De Ira Dei), so should his lieutenants; and this holy anger should be cos fortitudinis, a means to encourage, or rather to enrage them against oppressors, who grind the faces of the poor, and take from them burdens of wheat, Amos 5:11. Yea, lands and vineyards, as here, eating bread baked with the tears of men, coining their money on their skins, and wringing their spunges into their own purses.

When I heard their cry] His anger then was mixed with grief, as was our Saviour’s, Mark 3:5: it was pure zeal, which is nothing else but an extreme (but regular) heat of all the affections.


Verse 7

Nehemiah 5:7 Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.

Ver. 7. Then I consulted with myself] As reason required; he was very angry, but yet he keeps within compass, and practiseth that rule, Be angry, and sin not: which, saith one, is the easiest charge under the hardest condition that can be. He who will be angry and not sin, let him be angry at nothing but at sin; and then see to it also that it become not a sin, by abandoning right reason, Nehemiah was not so angry but that he could consult with himself, and deliberate what was best to be done: his heart consulted within him, or wisely overruled him: so the Hebrew.

And I rebuked the nobles and the elders] Not in his passion, but upon serious deliberation; and having put himself into a fit frame, that he might neither over nor under do. Valete, quoniam vobis irascor, said Archytas to his servants that had offended him, I have nothing to say to you till mine anger is over (Plutarch).

And said unto them, Ye exact usury] This reproof was, as it should be, warm but not scalding. Words of reviling and disgrace do scald as it were. But words that tend to stir up the conscience to a due consideration of the fault these are duly warm, and tend to make the medicine work more kindly.

Every one of his brother] This was a presumptuous violation of the law, Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:36-37, and a sin that they had soundly smarted for, Ezekiel 22:12. Usurers are men eaters, Psalms 14:4, like pickerels in a pond, or sharks in the sea, that devour the lesser fishes. A.D. 1235, there were spread through England certain Roman usurers, called Caursini ( quasi capientes ursi, devouring bears, quoth Matthew Paris), who had entangled the king, nobles, and all others that had to deal in the court of Rome, in their cunning snares, under colour of supplying with money such as wanted present pay to the pope: so these, to the king of Persia.

And I set a great assembly against them] i.e. I reproved them, first privately, and then publicly: and he doth it severe et ad vivum, roughly and roundly, not going about the bush with them, though they were nobles and rulers. Reprehensiones personatae frigent; cooling rebuking the persons, such as was that of Jehoshaphat to Ahab, "Let not the king say so," 1 Kings 22:8. This is to do more harm than good.


Verse 8

Nehemiah 5:8 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 sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing [to answer].

8. And I said unto them, We after our ability] This he speaketh, not in a vain glorious vaunting way, or to curry favour with the people; but to convince the contrary minded of their inhumanity to their poor brethren. Good works, saith Chrysostom, are unanswerable syllogisms, invincible demonstrations to confute and convert those that do otherwise. "Let your works so shine before men," &c.

Which were sold unto the heathen] This they did in obedience to the law, Deuteronomy 28:47-48.

And will ye even sell your brethren?] There was no resisting of such a rational reproof, no whit imbittered (as the manner is) with wrath or spite; but carried on with so much modesty and moderation.

Or shall they be sold unto us?] He makes himself a party, because of the same body politic.

Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer] Such is the majesty of a reproof rightly administered; it even gags the offender, as Matthew 22:12, and renders him self condemned, Titus 3:11. Scipio, with his countenance only, quelled and quieted his seditious soldiers. Alexander the Great, and after him Augustus Caesar, and Severus the emperor, did the same, with a few quick words. Adrianus Boxsehafius, preacher of the word at Antwerp, hearing a certain monk railing at Luther out of the pulpit, Tell me, said he, thou perverse monk, and that openly before all this people, where, and when, and in what points Luther hath erred? The monk thus accosted, answered not a word, but got out of the pulpit, and fled away as fast as he could, and never came again into that country (Scultet. Annal.).


Verse 9

Nehemiah 5:9 Also I said, It [is] not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?

Ver. 9. Also I said, It is not good that ye do No oratory is so powerful as that of mildness. The drops that fall easily upon the corn ripen and fill the ear; when hasty showers lay all flat to the earth, without hope of recovery. Gregory hath observed, that they that could not be cured with strong potions have been recovered with warm water. Reprovers of others must deal warily, as bone-setters; and as we take a mote out of one’s eye.

Ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God] Which would have reined you in, and restrained you from such exorbitancies. Genesis 42:18, You need not fear me, said Joseph to his brethren, for I fear God, and therefore dare do you no hurt. Ye shall not oppress one another; "but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God," Leviticus 25:17. And "will ye not tremble at my presence?" saith the Lord, Jeremiah 5:22. "Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob," Psalms 114:7. Oppressors are called Canaanites, Hosea 12:7. He is Canaan that is a mere natural man, utterly void of God’s holy fear, Ezekiel 16:3, the balances of deceit are in his hand; be loveth to oppress. To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend (as it should have been to these poor Jews from their hard-hearted countrymen and kinsmen), but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty, and is therefore merciless.

Because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?] Who watch for our halting more earnestly than a dog doth for a bone, and will be glad of any occasion to speak evil of us and of our religion, with, These are your professors, &c. You see what tyrants and tigers they are one to another. Hereby the banks of blasphemy will be broken down in them, to speak evil with open mouth of the name of God. And will ye trample upon that dear and dread name?


Verse 10

Nehemiah 5:10 I likewise, [and] my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.

Ver. 10. I likewise, and my brethren … might exact money] To wit, for money we have lent them; or as a recompense of our public employments. But posse et nolle, nobile est to be able and willing is noble. (Seneca).

I pray you, leave off this usury] Who can resist this sweet and sovereign admonition? See Nehemiah 5:9. They had somewhat to say, no doubt, in defence of their usury; as also many have at this day. But let them consider, that usury is here and elsewhere cried down without distinction, Psalms 15:5, Ezekiel 18:8; Ezekiel 18:13. That the lender dealeth not as he would be dealt withal; that St Luke maketh him worse than other sinners, when he saith, Sinners lend to sinners to receive the like, but these to receive more, Luke 6:34. That heathens condemned usury, as Aristotle in his Ethics, and Agis, the general of the Athenians, Agesilaus, king of Spartans; who, when he saw the usurers’ bills and bonds set on fire by Agis, said, That he never saw a clearer fire burn (Plut. in Solone). And lastly, that at Rome itself usurers are excommunicated monthly.


Verse 11

Nehemiah 5:11 Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth [part] of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.

Ver. 11. Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day] While you are in a melting temper, and in a good mind, make restitution. Say not, This is a hard saying, who can brook it? But say rather, as the civilian saith, Perquam durum est; sed ita lex scripta est, ‘Tis hard to be done, but the law will have it so done; Aut faciendam, aut patiendum (Ulpian.). Either we must do it, or do worse. The law for restitution, see Leviticus 6:1; Leviticus 6:4, Numbers 5:6-7, &c. The wrong-doer must not only confess, but restore. The transgression was against God, but the trespass against man; and he must be satisfied, if the sin shall be pardoned. Samuel proffered to restore, if it might appear that he had wronged any, 1 Samuel 12:3. Micah, though an idolater did so, 17:2-3. So did Queen Mary she restored again all ecclesiastical livings asstoned to the crown. Her grandfather, Henry VII, in his last will and testament, devised and willed restitution should be forthwith made of all such monies as had been unjustly levied by the officers. Selimus, the Great Turk, did the like upon his death bed; so great is the force of natural conscience. Gravel in the kidneys will not grate so much as a little guilt in this kind. Restore your evil gotten goods, saith father Latimer, or else you will cough in hell, and the devils will laugh at you. He set this point so well home, that he wrought upon many; and particularly upon Master Bradford. Austin saith, that if a man be able to make actual restitution, and do it not, poenitentia non agitur, sed fingitur, his repentance is not right; if he have wasted all, and is not able to restore, he must desire pardon very humbly, and water the earth with his tears.

Also the hundredth part of the money] That is, all that they had received for interest, whether money, or else. It appeareth, by this text, that they took twelve in the hundred (for so much the hundredth part monthly amounteth to), as at this day in Italy, and elsewhere, the Jews are permitted to strain up their usury to eighteen in the hundred upon the Christian (for among themselves they now use it not), which causeth many of those Pseudo-Christians to use those Jews underhand, in improving their lawful rents to the utmost proportion. (Sandys’ Survey.)


Verse 12

Nehemiah 5:12 Then said they, We will restore [them], and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.

Ver. 12. Then said they, We will restore them] This was well said; and Nehemiah took course it should be as well done, ne dicta factis erubescerent, as Tertullian phraseth it; that their saying and doing might he alike.

And will require nothing of them] But be of those that lend, looking for nothing again, no, not the principal, Luke 6:35.

So will we do as thou sayest] Denying ourselves, and all worldly lusts, that we may get and keep a good conscience, that most precious jewel that ever the heart of man was acquainted with.

Then I called the priests] As fittest to tender so solemn an oath, and to bear witness in a case of that nature.

And took an oath of them] That is, of them that had promised restitution; that they might not start back, nor repent them of their good resolutions. Our hearts are deceitful, and must be by all good means held up to duty, Quo teneas vultus mutantem Protea nodo? else they will slip collar, as those slippery Jews, Jeremiah 34:10-11, retracted and repealed their vow. It was therefore well and wisely done of Nehemiah to bind them thus to the good behavior; as Asa and Josiah had done before him. An oath is a hedge which a man may not break; which yet that great deviate of Rome maketh a sport of. For when the cardinals meet to choose a new pope, they make him swear to certain articles. And Sleydan saith, that no sooner is he chosen but he breaks them all, and checks their insolencies, as if they went about to limit his power, to whom all power is given in heaven and earth. Is not this that ανομος, that lawless, yokeless, masterless monster St Paul speaketh of; 2 Thessalonians 2:8.


Verse 13

Nehemiah 5:13 Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise.

Ver. 13. Also I shook my lap] By this rite (running into their senses) this holy man runs with terrors into the eyes and hearts of all that should perfidiously forswear themselves, by a direful denunciation of divine vengeance, in all lawful oaths there is an imprecation, though it be not always expressed, Genesis 14:23; Heb. iii.

So God cast out every man from his house] See Zechariah 5:4-5, with the note.

And from his labour] i.e. From his laying up (the fruit of his labour), his lands and estate, got by a diligent hand. The Hebrew word signifieth labour even to lassitude and fainting.

And all the congregation said, Amen] In token of hearty assent and assurance.

And praised the Lord] There was a general joy, and many a humble, cheerful, and thankful heart lifted up to God for sin so redressed, and poor people relieved.

And the people did according to this promise] This was real thankfulness. It is not the fumbling out of a few good words (as, God, I thank thee, praised be God, &c.) that will pass. Thanksdoing is the proof of thanksgiving; and the good life of the thankful is the life of thankfulness. "Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High," Psalms 50:14.


Verse 14

Nehemiah 5:14 Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, [that is], twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor.

Ver. 14. From the time that I was appointed to be their governor] He was not ambitious of the office, nor usurped it; but was commanded to it (as the word signifieth) by the king of Persia, and clearly called to it by God Almighty. Otherwise he could have shrouded himself in willing secrecy, as good corn lieth in the bottom of the heap, and as good balsam sinketh to the bottom of the vessel.

I and my brethren have not eaten the bread, &c.] Rulers, as they are nursing fathers to the people, Isaiah 49:23, so by them they are to be nourished, and their state maintained. See 1 Kings 4:7. It is also observed, that although our Saviour Christ wrought many miracles; yet he never wrought any about honour or money, but that about tribute; rather than that should go undischarged, he commanded a fish to pay it. Hence also he saith not Date, Give, but Reddite; Give back, Give, but "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s," Matthew 22:21. And St Paul saith, ye pay tribute, as being a due debt, Romans 13:6. Nevertheless, in this great necessity Nehemiah lets go his own right, and leaveth it to others; like as the eagle is said, when she seeketh her prey, to leave a good part thereof to the birds that follow her, for the same end (Tostat. ex Plin.).


Verse 15

Nehemiah 5:15 But the former governors that [had been] before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God.

Ver. 15. But the former governors] Those that had been between Zerubbabel and Nehemiah; Ezra was no governor. These had been strict in exacting their five pounds a day; or, for the head of every family, so much; besides bread for necessity, and wine for delight. Not so Nehemiah, he would not use his power to over burden those poor whom these usurers oppressed. This he here instanceth for their further conviction.

Yea, even their servants bear rule over the people] Exacting what they please of them. This their masters should have seen to, and not suffered, for the servant’s sin is the master’s reproach. When Charles V resolved to lay down the empire, some of his courtiers and counsellors advised him to retain still the name and authority of emperor, and to govern the kingdom by his junior officers. His answer to them was, Ah, me praesente ita res administratis, &c., Alas, now that I am among you, things are so ill carried, that ye are complained of by all; what then would you do, if I should not have an eye upon you? and how would you domineer like so many Sultans (the word here used), and follow the administration of justice as a trade only, with an unquenchable and unconscionable desire of gain?

But so did not I, because of the fear of God] The best retentive from sin certainly; a spur to good, a curb from evil. Hence David calleth it a clean fear, Psalms 19:9; and the fear of the Lord is, to depart from evil, saith Solomon. And Aristotle hath this problem, Why are men credited more than other creatures? The answer is, οτι θεους νομιζειν μονον, because man alone holdeth and feareth God; therefore you may trust him. But where this fear is not, no good is to be expected, but the contrary, Genesis 20:11. {See Trapp on "Nehemiah 5:9"}


Verse 16

Nehemiah 5:16 Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants [were] gathered thither unto the work.

Ver. 16. Yea, also I continued in the work] He meaneth, saith Lyra, that he wrought with his own hands to draw on others the more, when they should see their governor himself so intent to the work. He was constant at it, and held out till all was finished. And this he recordeth, not out of ostentation, but to show that the love and fear of God constrained him; as it did afterwards Paul, that spiritual builder, who laboured more than they all, and denied himself to bring others to heaven, as himself setteth forth, 2 Corinthians 11:1-33. In praising ourselves, our end must be, that our light may be seen, not ourselves seen, Matthew 5:16. Men’s praise may be sought, modo tibi non quaeras, sed Christo, Seek not for yourself, but Christ. saith Aretius, so that Christ be thereby set up and served.

Neither bought we any land] As easily we might have done with the surplusage of our revenue; especially if we had exacted the utmost of our right. But public spirits mind not their own interests. Joshua divided the land to Israel, and left none to himself; and that portion that was given him, and he content with, was but a poor one in the barren mountains, as Jerome observes. The late victorious king of Sweden (a second Joshua), in his reprehensory speech to the German plunderers, hath this passage: I protest, before God, that I have not by all this war enriched myself so far as a pair of boots cometh to; yea, I had rather ride without boots than in the least degree enrich myself by the damage of poor people (Mr Clark, in his Life).


Verse 17

Nehemiah 5:17 Moreover [there were] at my table an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that [are] about us.

Ver. 17. Moreover there were at my table, &c.] He did not eat his morsels alone, as that Pamphagus Nabal; and as many misers today, who, like little children, though they have their hands full and their mouths full, yet will part with none.

Ecce Deo similis vir dapsilis, atque benignus - Palingen.

Beside those that came unto me from among the heathen] Either as state agents, or upon other occasions. Nehemiah entertained them, that they might not lie upon the public charge. And herein he trod in the footsteps of hospitable Abraham, whom Synesius calleth θεου εστιατορα, God’s host. The primitive Christians likewise won much upon the heathens by their hospitality towards all, as Julian, the apostate, confessed: all that he could say against them for it was, that they did it all in hypocrisy and vain glory; which was an envious and false charge ( πεπλασμενην κατα Aνδρονικ. Chrysost. in Joan. Epist.).


Verse 18

Nehemiah 5:18 Now [that] which was prepared [for me] daily [was] one ox [and] six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine: yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people.

Ver. 18. Now that which was prepared for me daily] A very great table he kept, at his own charge all, yet nothing so great as Solomon, 1 Kings 4:22-23, or as once Cardinal Wolsey here; who, besides all strangers that came, had four hundred of family, whereof one was an earl, nine barons, very many knights and esquires. But then he had more yearly revenue than all the bishops and deans in the land had, take them all together.

And once in ten days] Then he kept an extraordinary table, inviting guests, for whom he had store of the best wines. The Turkish bashaws feast foreign ambassadors with rice, and mutton, and fair water out of the river: wine is a forbidden ware with them; Mahomet, their prophet, having told them that in every grape there dwelt a devil.

Yet for all this I required not] This he did, and this he here recordeth; not for a name (as Crates, the philosopher, did, when he cast his goods into the sea merely to be talked of,) and is, therefore, worthily called by Jerome (Epist. ad Julian), gloriae animal, popularis aurae vile mancipium, a base slave to vain glory, but for better and higher ends. See Nehemiah 5:16.


Verse 19

Nehemiah 5:19 Think upon me, my God, for good, [according] to all that I have done for this people.

Ver. 19. Think upon me, my God, for good] i.e. Both of grace and glory, saith Lyra; a confluence of all comforts and contentments, especially spiritual blessings in heavenly things, Ephesians 1:3. He that first called riches goods was surely a better husband than divine, saith one. Ostendam tibi omne bonum, I will show thee all good, said God to Moses, when he gave him a glimpse of himself. Nil bonum absque summo Bone, saith Austin, There is no good without the chief Good. Say, therefore, with the Church, Hosea 14:2, Take away all iniquity, and do good; and as here, Remember me, O my God, for good.

According to all that I have done for this people] Here is nothing for merit mongers. It is mercy in God to set his love on them that keep his commandments, Exodus 20:6, to reward every man according to his works, Psalms 62:12. A poor gardener, presenting a ripe root, being the best gift he had at hand, to the duke of Burgundy, was by him bountifully rewarded. His steward, observing this, and hoping for the like recompense, presented him with a very fair horse. The duke ( ut perspicaci erat ingenio, saith mine author, being a witty man) perceived the craft; and, therefore, thought good to receive the horse, and to give him nothing again. Let those that dream of merit expect the like disappointment; and let them learn from Nehemiah, Nehemiah 13:22 (the best gloss upon this text), to urge, not their merits, with the Pharisee, but their miseries, with the publican, for obtaining mercy. So Psalms 25:11.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Nehemiah 5:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/nehemiah-5.html. 1865-1868.

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