1 Then there was a great outcry from the people and their wives against their countrymen the Jews.
2 Some said: »We with our sons and our daughters are a great number. Let us get grain, so that we may have food for our needs.«
3 There were some who said: »We are giving our fields and our vine-gardens and our houses for debt. Let us get grain because we are in need.«
4 Yet others said: »We have given up our fields and our vine-gardens to get money for the king's taxes.
5 »But our flesh is the same as the flesh of our countrymen, and our children as their children. Now we give our sons and daughters into the hands of others, to be their servants. Some of our daughters are servants even now. We have no power to stop this. For other men have our fields and our vine-gardens.«
6 On hearing their outcry and what they said I was very angry.
7 After giving it much thought, I made a protest to the chiefs and the rulers, and said to them: »Everyone of you is collecting interest from his brothers.« I organized a big meeting of protest.
8 I said to them: »We have given whatever we were able to give, to make our brothers the Jews free. They were servants and prisoners of the nations. Would you now give up your brothers for a price? Are they to become our property?« They said nothing. They answered not a word!
9 I said: »What you are doing is not good. Is it not necessary for you to walk out of respect for our God, because of the shame the nations put on us?
10 »Even I and my servants have been collecting interest Usury for the money and the grain we have let them have. So now, let us give this up.
11 »Give back to them this very day their fields, their vine-gardens, their olive-gardens, and their houses, as well as a hundredth part of the money and the grain and the wine and the oil that you have taken from them.«
12 They said: »We will give them back, and take nothing for them. We will do as you say.« Then I sent for the priests and made them take an oath that they would keep this agreement.
13 Shaking out the folds of my robe, I said: »So, may God send out from his house and his work every man who does not keep this agreement. Even so let him be sent out and made as nothing.« All the people said: »Amen!« They praised Jehovah. The people did as they said.
14 From the time when I was made ruler of the people in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year till the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, for twelve years, my servants and I have never taken the food that was the right of the ruler.
15 Earlier rulers who came before me made the people responsible for their upkeep, and took from them bread and wine at the rate of forty shekels of silver. Even their servants were lords over the people. But I did not do so, out of reverence for God.
16 I kept on with the work of this wall. We got no land for ourselves. All my servants helped with the work.
17 There is more, a hundred and fifty of the Jews and the rulers were guests at my table, in addition to those who came to us from the nations nearby.
18 The food for one day included: one bull and six fat sheep, as well as fowls; and once in ten days a store of all sorts of wine. All the same, I did not take the food to which the ruler had a right, because the people were crushed under a hard yoke.
19 Keep in mind, O my God, for my good, all I have done for this people.