“We belong to the same family as those who are wealthy, and our children are just like theirs. Yet we must sell our children into slavery just to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters, and we are helpless to do anything about it, for our fields and vineyards are already mortgaged to others.”
Nehemiah 5:5 NLT
Last time we listened in as some of the rebuilders shared how they had mortgaged fields to survive and borrowed money to pay taxes. We’ve come to the final group struggling with the economic distress: those made to sell their children into slavery to their fellow Jews. “If a man could not repay the loan and its interest, his daughters, his sons, his wife, or even the man himself could be sold into bondage. A Hebrew who fell into debt would serve his creditor as ‘a hired servant‘.” source
Remember, at this time the Jews in Jerusalem were not obeying all Yahweh had prescribed in His law. Therefore, though it said to not treat a fellow Jew like a slave in His compassionate commands, there was no guarantee that was how the daughters of these families were being treated. The word used for the phrase sold into slavery is kabash – to subdue, bring into bondage, trample underfoot.
Several other words underscore these men’s concern. In Hebrew the verse begins with hinneh – look! behold! see! As in, “Governor Nehemiah, this is what has become of our families.” And not only that but, “we are helpless to do anything about it.” Helpless is ayin a particle of negation -no, bereft, powerless. We have no power (el – God, mighty and yad – hand, powerful help alongside) because our fields and vineyards are mortgaged (acher – belong to another).
When cultures fall into chaos everyone suffers. But it is often hardest to watch children take the brunt of it. They have little control of how adults are managing affairs yet the consequences of adult management fall squarely on them. Not only in the present as children, but in the culture and its issues they inherit as they become adults.
In addition to children, those without economic means also struggle in times of chaos, becoming subservient to those with more. “In times of dire need the wealthy usually have enough stored up to feed themselves. It is the poor who suffer because of the huge rise in prices caused by scarcities.” (source)
Hmmm. Children and the poor. Both groups that are mightily defended by our God in Scripture.
Friends, we too live in a time of ignoring God’s laws, allowing our children to inherit a form of slavery and the poor among us suffering most. Fortunately we are not helpless to do anything about it, nor is our God powerless.
It is never too late to repent and turn as individuals, as the Body of Christ, as a nation. To choose to honor fellow image bearers rather than attack. To love one another and seek just laws. To pray for mercy and ask Him to use us as agents of His perfect justice and tenderhearted mercy.
This is our day, the time appointed to us. May we live as if we belong to the same family.