Journey Through The Scriptures


Lesson 3: Help for the Poor

(Scripture to Read: Nehemiah 5:119)

Nehemiah revealed a different side of his character in this chapter, expressing a deep commitment to social justice among the people of Jerusalem. The building work on the walls, plus the dangers of going outside of the city due to lurking enemies, had no doubt prevented some of the people from cultivating their fields. The shortage of food is called a famine in verse 3. Some Jewish families had to sell everything they owned just to pay the taxes on their land, and their fellow Jews who loaned them money were charging exorbitant interest—a violation of the Law (Leviticus 25:36–37). Some Jewish families had even been forced to sell their children into slavery!

Nehemiah became “very angry” when he learned of these abuses, and called the officials together to remedy the situation. He knew that all of the efforts to rebuild Jerusalem would be useless if the people within the city were committing evil deeds. Nehemiah confronted the nobles with the charges against them—and they agreed to give back everything they had extorted from their fellow Jews and halt their unfair practices. Nehemiah bound these leaders with an oath to keep their word, and they followed through. Perhaps the most powerful part of Nehemiah’s argument was his personal example as governor, as he steadfastly refused to use even the legitimate benefits of his office.

Study Questions

  1. How does Nehemiah’s defense of the poor people in Jerusalem exhibit his worthiness to lead?
  2. Why were people being pushed into bankruptcy and sold as slaves to pay their debts?
  3. Why did the nobles and officials have no defense against Nehemiah’s accusations?
  4. Nehemiah pinpointed the heart of the problem in verse 9. Explain it in your own words.

Something to Think About

Sometimes we can become so engrossed in what we are doing that we fail to stop and think about helping others. That is why the example of Nehemiah stands out so strongly in this study. Having compassion on your fellow man is a true sign of a person who honors God.