Greed, Abuse and Poverty

The building of the wall continued, despite the oppositions plans to secretly attack the workers and slay them.  God had allowed their evil plots to become known and Nehemiah placed guards surrounding the workers and armed the workers.  He established a plan of notification to alert them; therefore, they continued to build the wall at God’s command and under His protection.  Then the whole project came to a screeching halt as the workers began to grumble. A revolt of sorts; because, they were in financial distress.  Not an unusual place to be when truly doing God’s work.  Yet, their distress had been worsened by the greed and abuse of their fellow Jews. Satan had thus far failed to stop the building by outside opposition, now he tried from within. There needed to be a spiritual cleansing from the inside before the work could continue.

Remember the Jewish people had been slaves, captives for 70 years prior to their return to the land.  They had rebuilt the temple and now they were building the wall.  Suddenly they remembered their own financial distress.  The wall would protect them from external tyranny; however, they suddenly remembered their own financial state.  Despite their return to the land, there wasn’t enough food to support their families. Over the course of time, while remaining subjects of Persia; they had to pay taxes on their land.  Furthermore, to make matters worse; famine hit their land due to drought.  To survive, most of the people were forced to borrow from the few Jewish people who had money.  This was necessary to survive; however, their own leaders placed high interest on the loans.

When they could not pay the interest, they were forced to hand over their land.  Some sold their children into slavery to their Jewish nobles.


With such greed and abuse within the leadership, suddenly the people realized that the wall would not help them overcome the dire poverty they faced.  So, what if the wall is finished? Even then, they could not live their lives in peace with so much poverty and financial distress.  They halted the work and voiced their distress to Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s first response was anger.

“I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.  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 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 (Nehemiah 5:6-8).

Caught, they had no answer.  The Jewish law in Exodus 22:25 forbade them from lending money to the poor to gain profit through interest: “If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him a usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury…and when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.”

How was it that after spending 70 years in exile for the nations sin, they could be breaking this law of God?


Note, Nehemiah consulted with himself.  In other words, he did not suddenly respond in anger.  Instead, he thought carefully about what he was going to say; then, he responded.  After beginning his rebuke, he did so with reminding them of God’s laws and his just nature.

And I also 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?… Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, the olive yards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil that ye exact of them (Nehemiah 5:11).

Nehemiah then had them all take an oath to return to the people all their possessions and the interest money that had been taken from them.  He then shook his garment to symbolize his “shaking off all who would not keep the promise.”    He then said, “God shake out every man from his house, and from his labor that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied” (Nehemiah 5:13).


The wall could protect the people from outside threats of tyranny; but, sin within must be purged.  We must be always seeking to follow God’s commands and live righteously.  God provides for His people all that they need; however, He does ask for obedience to His commands.  As much as we are able, we are to help our neighbors.  Not to gain ourselves; rather, to be gracious in the same manner God has been gracious to us.


If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior: I urge you to go to my page titled How to Be Saved by clicking on this link. Because there is nothing more important than this, I urge you to seek Him today.


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Through a study of Nahum, Habukkuk, and Zephaniah; I brought their message into our modern times.  Answering the questions of “Why, God?”

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©Effie Darlene Barba, 2017

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned except for my own books.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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