Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Are many - A slight emendation brings this verse into exact parallelism with the next, and gives the sense - "We have pledged our sons and our daughters, that we might get corn, and eat and live." Compare Neh 5:5.
The king's tribute - The tax payable to the Persian monarch (compare Ezr 4:13; Est 10:1). In ancient times, heavy taxation was often productive of debt and distress.
The power of a father to sell his daughter into slavery is expressly mentioned in the Law Exo 21:7. The power to sell a son appears from this passage. In either case, the sale held good for only six years, or until the next year of jubilee (see the marginal references).
Ye exact usury - The phrase is unique to Nehemiah, and is best explained by the context, which shows the practice of the rich Jews at the time to have been not so much to lend on usury as to lend on mortgage and pledge.
Nehemiah contrasts his own example with that of the rich Jews. He had spent money in redeeming some countrymen in servitude among the pagan; they were causing others to be sold into slavery among the Jews.
I ... might exact - Nehemiah had lent, but not upon pledge.
The hundredth part of the money ... - i. e. the interest. It is conjectured that the 100th part was payable monthly, or, in other words, that interest was taken at the rate of twelve per cent. The Law altogether disallowed the taking of interest from Israelites (see Exo 22:25; Lev 25:36, etc.).
I shook my lap - Compare the marginal references. By "lap" is meant a fold in the bosom of the dress, capable of serving as a pocket. Compare Isa 49:22 margin.
Have not eaten the bread of the governor - i. e. "have not, like other Persian governors, lived at the expense of the people under my government." See Ezr 4:14 note.
Forty shekels of silver - A daily sum from the entire province. For such a table as that kept by Nehemiah Neh 5:18, this would be a very moderate payment.
I continued ... land - i. e. - "I took my share in the work of the wall, as general superintendent. I did not take advantage of the general poverty to buy poor men's plots of ground."
Compare the far grander provision for Solomon's table (see the marginal reference).