1. In the Old Testament:
The Hebrew law concerning exaction of interest upon loans was very humane. Hebrews were to lend to their brethren without interest (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36; Deuteronomy 23:19). This, however, did not apply to a stranger (Deuteronomy 23:20). Two stems are used in the Old Testament, rendered in the King James Version "usury," in the Revised Version (British and American) better rendered "interest":
(2) a stronger and more picturesque word, nashakh, "to bite," "to vex," and so "to lend on interest" (Deuteronomy 23:19,20); noun form neshekh (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36; Psalms 15:5; Proverbs 28:8; Ezekiel 18:8,13,17; 22:12).
It would be easy to go from a fair rate of interest to an unfair rate, as seen in the history of the word "usury," which has come to mean an exorbitant or unlawful interest. Abuses arose during the exile. Nehemiah forced the people after the return to-give back exactions of "one hundredth," or 1 percent monthly which they took from their brethren (Nehemiah 5:10; compare Ezekiel 22:12). A good citizen of Zion is one who did not put out his money to usury (Psalms 15:5). One who is guilty of this comes to disaster (Proverbs 28:8).
2. In the New Testament:
The Greek word is tokos, literally, "offspring," interest springing out of the principal. Money lenders were numerous among the Jews in Christ's day, and, in the parable of the Talents, He represents the lord of the unprofitable servant as rebuking the sloth in the words, "I should have received mine own with interest" (Matthew 25:27; Luke 19:23 the Revised Version (British and American)).
Edward Bagby Pollard
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