(1) In the Old Testament period loans were not of a commercial nature, i.e. they were not granted to enable a man to start or run a business. They were really a form of charity, and were made by the lender only to meet the pressure of poverty. To the borrower they were esteemed a form of misfortune (Deuteronomy 28:12), and by the lender a form of beneficence. Hence, the tone of the Mosaic legislation on the subject.
(2) Laying interest upon the poor of Israel was forbidden in all the codes (see Exodus 22:25 (JE); Deuteronomy 23:19; Leviticus 25:36 H), because it was looked upon as making unwarranted profit out of a brother's distress:
"If thou lend money to any of my people with thee that is poor, thou shalt not be to him as a creditor; neither shall ye lay upon him interest .... and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious."
(3) The Law, however, allowed interest to be taken of a foreigner, or non-Jew (Deuteronomy 23:20:
"Unto a foreigner thou mayest lend upon interest"; compare Deuteronomy 15:3); and even among Jews pledges were allowed under limitations, or taken against the law (Deuteronomy 24:10; compare Job 24:2,3 "There are that remove the landmarks .... they take the widow's ox for a pledge"). In Deuteronomy 15:1 there is a remarkable law providing a "release" by the creditor every "seven years," a "letting drop of loans" (see Driver in the place cited.). In Exodus 3:22, the King James Version "shall borrow" is rendered "shall ask" in the Revised Version (British and American).
George B. Eager
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