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©Laura Haverkamp

Chapter 5:14-19 (ESV)

Posted on November 01, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 5:14-19 (ESV) - Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

Question to consider: Why was it wrong for the former governors to charge for the ration of food?

Even though Nehemiah may have dramatically worn his grief on his face in front of the king to gain his permission to come to Jerusalem and help make sure the city was rebuilt, his grief was sincere. By his actions we can see the love that he had for God and the people of Israel. He sacrificed his time and income to alleviate the burden of the people who were already at their limits from working on the rebuilding project and trying to earn enough from their day jobs to tithe, feed their families and pay the king’s taxes.

He stated that he covered the cost of the food allowance out of his own pocket even though those who came before him required a stipend of 40 shekels of silver to get their daily rations of food. The reason he gave for doing this was the fear of God. He saw that it wasn’t right for the governors to put these people in a position where they had to put their lands on mortgage or family members into forced labor while the governors tried to profit off of them.

Instead, Nehemiah joined in the work along with his servants. Rather than using his resources to acquire land, he provided regular meals for 150 men (which I assume also covered the women and children associated with them). The whole incident reminds me of the apostle Paul’s work in Corinth. He took on a job building tents in order to pay his own way so as not to burden the church and thus hinder the spread of the gospel. The self-titled “super apostles” sought to profit off of the people like the governors described by Nehemiah, and yet Paul would rather the Corinthians use their money to help out the church in Jerusalem which was enduring hardship. In both of these cases, the men of God saw the work of God as being more important than personal comfort.

Nehemiah’s prayer at the end of this passage was in line with Leviticus 26. I mentioned that Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter one was a reference to God’s promise in that if Israel would confess their sins and turn back to Him, God would remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the same way Nehemiah desired for God to forget the sins of the people, he desired that God instead remember the good that was being done here.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for the examples of faithful men like Nehemiah and the apostle Paul. Please give us a heart for the gospel that exceeds our desires for the comforts of this world. Amen.