2 Esdras v.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Cry. Ven. Bede (iii. 21.) complains of some pastors who neglect the flock, but exacted revenues. May not the same complaint still be made? (Worthington)
Ver. 2. Very. Syriac, “and our brethren are too numerous” to find meat. — For, &c. Hebrew, Septuagint, &c., “by force.” (Abenezra, &c.) — Yet most people explain it in the sense of the Vulgate. It was permitted to sell children in extreme distress, Exodus xxi. 7. (Grotius) (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Let us. Protestants, “We have mortgaged.” — Famine, or “hunger.” (Haydock)
Ver. 4. Let us. Septuagint Mont.[Montanus?], “We have borrowed” on usury, contrary to Exodus xxii. 25. The Jews were still obliged to pay tribute.
Ver. 5. Brethren, who are still in captivity, or we are of the same nature as the rich, (Calmet) who so cruelly oppress us. (Menochius)
Ver. 7. Against them, as a private rebuke would not suffice. (Tirinus)
Ver. 8. Redeemed, by paying the ransom to the Babylonians, or by using all our endeavours to procure the releasement of our brethren. (Calmet) — For us. Protestants, “or shall they be sold unto us?” (Haydock) — A true pastor practises what he preaches to others. (Worthington)
Ver. 11. For them, to the Persian governors, ver. 14. (Haydock) — Nehemias remits this pension, which was before paid by the people, and exacted by the rich. (Wolphius) — Du Moulin asserts that there is no question of usury, which the Jews always abhorred, much less of that which the Romans called the 100th, (Calmet) consisting in the payment of 12 per cent, (Tirinus) or one every month. (Menochius) — Hebrew, “Give back to them, ” (Haydock) that they may enjoy those things.
Ver. 12. Oath of them. Priests, in private, (Menochius) who were not innocent; (Tirinus) or these were witnesses of the oath taken by the rich. (Piscator)
Ver. 13. Lap, or skirt of my robes. (Tirinus) — Such figurative actions were very common. Thus a Roman ambassador at Carthage, folding up his garment, said he brought peace or war. (Livy xxi. 18.) (Calmet) — Said. Behold how easily was that effected at Jerusalem, which the Romans could never perfectly bring about, after the most violent riots! (Tirinus)
Ver. 14. Not eat, out of pity for the poor. (Menochius) — He was supported by the king, (Calmet) or by his own patrimony. (Haydock) (Ver. 11.)
Ver. 16. Wall, pleading no exemption, but making my servants work. (Calmet) — Though no particular portion was assigned to him, he helped all. (Tirinus) — No land, as I might have done, on advantageous terms. (Haydock) — Rare example of disinterestedness! He praises himself without vanity, only to induce others to follow the same course. So Moses, David, St. Paul, and others acted, Numbers xii. 3., &c.
Ver. 17. Men, my brethren, not (Calmet) Persians. (Grotius) — Them; ambassadors. (Menochius) — If Nehemias behaved with such generosity for twelve years, he must have been very rich; or he received a great pension from the king, or voluntary and abundant contributions from the rich.
Ver. 18. Wines. This was only produced, in abundance, on extraordinary occasions; for the people of the East do not drink wine at every feast, Ecclesiasticus xxxi. 17. (Calmet) — Yearly. Septuagint, “Moreover, loaves of extortion I did not seek, because a hard servitude lay upon this people.” (Haydock)
Ver. 19. Good. A good conscience confidently hopeth for a reward. (Worthington)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Nehemias blameth the rich for their oppressing the poor. His exhortation, and bounty to his countrymen.
1 Now *there was a great cry of the people, and of their wives, against their brethren, the Jews.
2 And there were some that said: Our sons and our daughters are very many: Yet us take up corn for the price of them, and let us eat and live.
3 And there were some that said: Let us mortgage our lands, and our vineyards, and our houses, and let us take corn because of the famine.
4 And others said: Let us borrow money for the king’s tribute, and let us give up our fields and vineyards:
5 And now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren: and our children as their children. Behold we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters; and some of our daughters are bond-women already, neither have we wherewith to redeem them; and our fields and our vineyards other men possess.
6 And I was exceedingly angry, when I heard their cry according to these words.
7 And my heart thought with myself: and I rebuked the nobles and magistrates, and said to them: Do you every one exact usury of your brethren? And I gathered together a great assembly against them,
8 And I said to them: We, as you know, have redeemed, according to our ability, our brethren, the Jews, that were sold to the Gentiles: and will you then sell your brethren, for us to redeem them? And they held their peace, and found not what to answer.
9 And I said to them: The thing you do is not good: why walk you not in the fear of our God, that we be not exposed to the reproaches of the Gentiles, our enemies?
10 Both I and my brethren, and my servants, have lent money and corn to many: let us all agree not to call for it again; let us forgive the debt that is owing to us.
11 Restore ye to them this day their fields, and their vineyards, and their oliveyards, and their houses: and the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, which you were wont to exact of them, give it rather for them.
12 And they said: We will restore, and we will require nothing of them: and we will do as thou sayest. And I called the priests, and took an oath of them, to do according to what I had said.
13 Moreover, I shook my lap, and said: So may God shake every man that shall not accomplish this word, out of his house, and out of his labours: thus may he be shaken out, and become empty. And all the multitude said: Amen. And they praised God. And the people did according to what was said.
14 And from the day, in which the king commanded me to be governor in the land of Juda, from the twentieth year, even to the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes, the king, for twelve years, I and my brethren, did not eat the yearly allowance that was due to the governors.
15 But the former governors that had been before me, were chargeable to the people, and took of them, in bread, and wine, and in money, every day, forty sicles: and their officers also oppressed the people. But I did not so for the fear of God.
16 Moreover, I built in the work of the wall, and I bought no land, and all my servants were gathered together to the work.
17 The Jews also, and the magistrates, to the number of one hundred and fifty men, were at my table, besides them that came to us from among the nations that were round about us.
18 And there was prepared for me, day by day, one ox, and six choice rams, besides fowls, and once in ten days I gave store of divers wines, and many other things: yet I did not require my yearly allowance as governor: for the people were very much impoverished.
19 Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
1: Year of the World 3550.