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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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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, Exodus 22:25 ; Leviticus 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 Deuteronomy 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, Deuteronomy 15:7-11 ; Deuteronomy 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, Psalm 15:15; 37:21, 26; 112:5; Proverbs 19:17 ; Ezekiel 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.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Usury'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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