As employed in our version of the Bible, means only interest. When our translation was made, the word usury had not assumed the bad sense which it now has. The Jews might require interest of foreigners, De 23:19-20, but were forbidden to receive it from each other, Ex 22:25; Ps 15:5; being instructed to lend money, etc., in a spirit of brotherly kindness, "hoping for nothing again," De 15:7-11; Lu 6:33-35. The exacting of usury is often rebuked, Ne 5:7,10; Pr 28:8; Eze 22:12-14. The Mosaic code was adapted to a non-commercial people, but its principles of equity and charity are of perpetual and universal obligation.
the sum paid for the use of money, hence interest; not, as in the modern sense, exorbitant interest. The Jews were forbidden to exact usury (Le 25:36-37), only, however, in their dealings with each other (De 23:19-20). The violation of this law was viewed as a great crime (Ps 15:5; Pr 28:8; Jer 15:10). After the Return, and later, this law was much neglected (Ne 5:7,10).
neshek, from a root "to devour." (See LOAN.) Any interest was forbidden to be exacted from an Israelite brother, but was permitted from a foreigner (Ex 22:25; Le 25:35-38; De 23:19-20). Israel was originally not a mercantile people, and the law aimed at an equal diffusion of wealth, not at enriching some while others were poor. Help was to be given by the rich to his embarrassed brother to raise him out of difficulties, without making a gain of his poverty (Ps 15:5; Pr 28:8; Jer 15:10; Eze 18:8,17).
Nehemiah (Ne 5:3-13) denounces the usurious exactions of some after the return from Babylon; he put a stop to the practice. They took one percent per month, i.e. 12 percent per annum (the Roman centesimae usurae). The spirit of the law still is obligatory, that we should give timely help in need and not take advantage of our brother's distress to lend at interest ruinous to him; but the letter is abrogated, as commerce requires the accommodation of loans at interest, and a loan at moderate interest is often of great service to the poor. Hence it is referred to by our Lord in parables, apparently as a lawful as well as recognized usage (Mt 25:27; Lu 19:23).
This word does not in scripture signify, as now, undue interest, but simply interest of any kind. The Israelites were forbidden to require interest from their brethren, always supposing the person having the loan to be poor, otherwise he would not need to borrow; to strangers, however, they were allowed to lend on interest. Ex 22:25; Le 25:35-38; De 23:19-20. On the return of the Jews, Nehemiah sharply rebuked the nobles and the rulers for taking interest of their poorer brethren. Ne 5:3-13. Scripture strictly enjoins the rich to help the poor. The only mention of usury in the N.T. is in the parables of the Talents and the Pounds, where the master blamed the servant for not putting the gifts into use, so that he might have received his own with interest, or increase. Mt 25:27; Lu 19:23.
(The word usury has come in modern English to mean excessive interest upon money loaned, either formally illegal or at least oppressive. In the Scriptures, however the word did not bear this sense, but meant simply interest of any kind upon money. The Jews were forbidden by the law of Moses to take interest from their brethren, but were permitted to take it from foreigners. The prohibition grew out of the agricultural status of the people, in which ordinary business loans were not needed. and loans as were required should be made only as to friends and brothers in need. --ED.) The practice of mortgaging land, sometimes at exorbitant interest, grew up among the Jews during the captivity, in direct violation of the law.
We find the rate reaching 1 in 100 per month, corresponding to the Roman centisimae usurae, or 12 per cent. per annum.
USURY, profit or gain from lending money or goods. Moses enacted a law to the effect that interest should not be taken from a poor person, neither for borrowed money, nor for articles of consumption, for instance, grain, which was borrowed with the expectation of being returned, Ex 22:25; Le 25:35-37. A difficulty arose in determining who was to be considered a poor person in a case of this kind; and the law was accordingly altered in De 23:20-21, and extended in its operation to all the Hebrews, whether they had more or less property; so that interest could be lawfully taken only of foreigners. As the system of the Jews went to secure every man's paternal inheritance to his own family, they could not exact it from their brethren, but only from strangers. As the law of nature does not forbid the receipt of moderate interest in the shape of rent, for the use of lands or houses, neither does it prohibit it for the loan of money or goods. When one man trades with the capital of another, and obtains a profit from it, he is bound in justice to return a part of it to his benefactor, who, in the hands of God, has been a second cause of "giving him power to get wealth." But should Divine Providence not favour the endeavours of some who have borrowed money, the duty of the lenders is to deal gently with them, and to be content with sharing in their losses, as they have been sharers in their gains. The Hebrews were therefore exhorted to lend money, &c, as a deed of mercy and brotherly kindness, De 15:7-11; 24:13. And hence it happens that we find encomiums every where bestowed upon those who were willing to lend without insisting upon interest for the use of the thing lent, Ps 15:5; 37:21,26; 112:5; Pr 19:17; Eze 18:8. This regulation in regard to taking interest was very well stated to the condition of a state that had been recently founded, and which had but very little mercantile dealings; and its principle, though not capable of being generally introduced into communities that are much engaged in commerce, may still be exercised toward those who stand toward us in the relation of brethren.