New Defender's Study Bible Notes
5:1 a great cry of the people. For a long time, while the city’s walls and buildings were deteriorating, there had been a growing disparity between the prosperous and the poor among the Jewish exiles. This had been further aggravated by the two-month period of concentrating on the city’s wall repair and defense. Nehemiah had not really appreciated the gravity of the situation until the poor began complaining. Their property had been taken by the moneylenders and even their children sold into slavery.
5:6 very angry. Nehemiah’s anger was justified. As leader and governor of the Jews in Jerusalem, he had made great sacrifices for the people, both in his labors (Nehemiah 4:21-23) and in his finances (Nehemiah 5:14-18). Yet he was encountering not only fierce external opposition from the people of the land, but also internal profiteering by certain leaders of the Jews (Nehemiah 5:1-5) as well as attempted discouragement by those Jews who were either fearful or slothful (Nehemiah 4:10-12). Christian leaders in every age who have undertaken a vital and needed work for God have repeatedly encountered similar problems, both external and internal. Nehemiah’s persistence and courage under such circumstances could be their example and inspiration.
5:7 ye exact usury. It was forbidden by the Mosaic laws for Jews to require interest on loans to fellow Jews (Exodus 22:25).
5:8 sell your brethren? Although the law allowed family members sold into bondage to be redeemed, their families had become too poor to do this, because of the usurious practices of the rich, as well as the heavy taxes imposed on the people by their rulers.