The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Esdras or the Book of Nehemias
And now there was a great outcry of the common sort, men and women, against their richer neighbours, that were Jews too.
Poor folk, who had sons and daughters in great number, had bethought themselves of bartering these for the corn they must have if they would live;
some, in the great scarcity, had been ready to pledge lands, vineyards and house in return for corn;
some had offered vineyard or lands for a pledge when they would borrow money to pay the royal tribute.
And now they complained, These men are our brothers; of one race, they and we, of one race, their sons and ours; and here are we, with some of our daughters bondwomen already, giving up sons and daughters to slavery still, and no hope of ransoming them; here are lands and vineyards of ours given over to the enjoyment of others!
Great was my anger when I heard such cause of complaint was theirs.
I took deep thought over it, and then taxed nobles and rulers with their fault; would they play the usurer with their own brethren? Summoning a great assembly of the citizens to confront them,
I reminded them that we in Babylon had been at pains to ransom our Jewish brethren who were enslaved to the heathen; must we now ransom them anew, from masters of their own flesh and blood? At this, there was silence; nothing could they find to say.✻
Here are sorry doings, I told them. Have you no fear of God’s vengeance, of the reproach this will earn from our heathen neighbours?
You are not the only creditors; I myself, my kinsmen and my servants have been lending money and corn on all sides. Come, let us conspire to forgo our rights, let us all remit the debt due to us;
and do you restore, here and now, lands, vineyards, olive-yards and houses; restore, too, the interest charge you claim of a hundredth, for money and corn, wine and oil alike.
Restore it we will, they answered, and make no further claim; thy bidding shall be done. Thereupon I summoned the priests, and would have this undertaking secured by an oath.
I shook the dust, too, from the folds of my lap, and cried out: God give no gentler handling than this to the man who plays me false; sweep away house and lands, and leave him a beggar! Amen, answered the whole assembly, and gave praise to God. And loyally the agreement was kept.
For twelve years, ever since Artaxerxes gave me my commission in Juda (that is, from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of his reign) my kinsmen and I refused to take the allowance which was granted to the governors.
My predecessors, by accepting corn, wine, and money, at the rate of forty sicles a day, had been a burden to the people, who suffered also from the exactions of their servants. Not so I, God’s fear preventing me;
instead of buying lands, my care was to help build the wall, and there was no servant of mine but took his place among the workmen.
A hundred and fifty Jews, (the rulers,✻ and those) who came in to help us from the country round about, fed at my expense;
every day an ox and six fat rams, and fowls besides, were dressed for me, and every tenth day brought a fresh supply of various wines; yet for this and much else I would take no allowance as governor in return; to such straits had the men of Juda been brought.
Not unremembered, Lord, not unrewarded, be these services done to thy people.
The Holy Bible