The Signs of the Times, vol. 28- Contents
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May 21, 1902
“Restoration from Babylon. The Fear of God against Unbrotherliness” The Signs of the Times 28, 21, pp. 4, 5.
THE time spent in the building of the wall of Jerusalem after the coming of Nehemiah, noted in the preceding study, was so far only about a month. Nehemiah’s attention had been so engaged in the work of pushing forward the work on the wall, and in warding off the schemes of the enemies, that he had not had time or opportunity to look into the individual and social conduct and condition of the people. And now there came to his knowledge that which was almost as surprising to him as was to Ezra the knowledge of the mixed marriages.SITI May 21, 1902, page 4.1
In the thirteen years that had elapsed between the coming of Ezra and that of Nehemiah to Jerusalem, tho the evil of the mixed marriages had been largely corrected, other wrong and weakening things had been indulged. And Nehemiah was surprised and greatly offended by “a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. for there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many; therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat and live.” That is, they had put to pledge the honor of their children, for the grain which, in food, they and their children must eat. “Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute [the State taxes], and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and [some] of our daughters are brought unto bondage [already]: neither [is it] in our power [to redeem them]; for other men have our lands and vineyards.”SITI May 21, 1902, page 4.2
Thus on the part of many there was the spirit and practise of speculating on the necessities of their brethren; for this money was not simply loaned, but loaned at interest and profit. This spirit, in the nature of things, only increased the natural selfishness of the heart, and cultivated hardness and oppressiveness of brother to brother. It really destroyed all true brotherliness, and supplanted it with the spirit of sordid gain; the whole thought became not, How can I do most to help my brother? but, How can I make most off of him? not, What can I do most to help him? but, What can I do most to help myself through his necessities?SITI May 21, 1902, page 4.3
For these reasons, this that they were doing was plainly forbidden by the Lord; and in it all they were going directly contrary to the Scriptures which they professed to obey. In the Word of the Lord it was plainly written to all: “If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him; yea, tho he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no money 1USURY.—From Latin nias—to use. A premium paid, or stipulated to be paid, for the use of money; interest—The practise of taking interest.”—Webster.
“USURY.—Originally, any premium paid, or stipulated to be paid, for the use of money; interest. The practise of lending money at interest, or of taking interest for money lent.”—Century.
“USURY.—A using; benefit interest. Now usually exorbitant interests, in the A. V. [the Bible] interest of money at any rate.”—Smith,” Dictionary of the Bible.”
“USURY.—Is used in ... in the Old-English sense of interest for money loaned, and not necessarily in the odious and later signification, an unlawful contract for the loan of money.”—McClintock and Strong, “Biblical Cyclopedia.”
“USURY.—The practise of requiring, in repayment of money lent anything more than the amount lent, was formerly thought to be a great moral wrong; and the greater, the more was taken.”—American Cyclopedia.
“‘Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother, usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of anything thyat is lent upon usury. Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury; that the Lord thy God may bless thee.” . In this sentence we find interest of all kinds blended together, and the natural economic tendencies directly counteracted by the moral and religious law.”—Encyclopedia Britannica, “Usury.”) of him for increase; but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon money, nor lend him thy victuals for increase. I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God. And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant; but as a hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee.” . “Thou shall not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of anything that is lent upon usury. Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.” . “If thou lend money to any of My people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.” . “Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?—He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.... He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent.” . “If a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right.... and hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; he that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, hath walked in My statutes, and hath kept My judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord.” . And among the “abominations” that had destroyed “the bloody city,” Jerusalem, and taken the people captive to Babylon, was this: “In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by extortion, and hast forgotten Me, saith the Lord.” .SITI May 21, 1902, page 4.4
All this was written in the Scriptures which these very people professed to believe, and in which they even boasted; and yet they disregarded it all, and made the poverty and necessity of their brethren only opportunity for traffic in loaning money and victuals for usury and increase! No wonder that the righteous Nehemiah declares, “I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.” And, “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 set a great assembly against them. 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.”SITI May 21, 1902, page 4.5
“Also I 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? I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury. Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them. Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest.SITI May 21, 1902, page 4.6
“Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise. Also I shook my lap, and said, So 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. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise.”SITI May 21, 1902, page 4.7
Nehemiah could safely and consistently appeal to all the people upon this issue; for, tho he was an exceedingly rich man, and had the best of opportunities to lend money at big interest, and make gain of the people, he not only did nothing of the kind as a speculator, but he did not use nor even collect what was his due as governor. For twelve years he supported himself and his whole household and retinue as governor, also a hundred and fifty Jews and rulers, besides others, at his own expense from his own personal funds. And he says: “From the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor. But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God. Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work. Moreover there were at my table an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that are about us. Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine: yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people.”SITI May 21, 1902, page 4.8
With such an example as this of mercy and brotherly kindness ever before them, those who had been trading upon the bondage and necessities of the people were enabled to keep their promise to quit it all, and to deal with their brethren as tho they were brethren indeed. This reform was a success. Nehemiah, because of the fear of God, had from the heart manifested the very spirit and essence of the divine principle. “All thing whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Also in the same fear of God he could pray, “Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.” And that prayer ... and will be certainly answered to the soul, because it is also a divine principle that “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”SITI May 21, 1902, page 4.9