The law strictly forbade any interest to be taken for a loan to any poor person, and at first, as it seems, even in the case of a foreigner; but this prohibition was afterward limited to Hebrews only, from whom, of whatever rank, not only was no usury on any pretence to be exacted, but relief to the poor by way of loan was enjoined, and excuses for evading this duty were forbidden. (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35,37) As commerce increased, the practice of usury, and so also of suretyship, grew up; but the exaction of it from a Hebrew appears to have been regarded to a late period as discreditable. (Psalms 15:5; Proverbs 6:1,4; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26; Jeremiah 15:10; Ezekiel 18:13) Systematic breach of the law in this respect was corrected by Nehemiah after the return from captivity. (Nehemiah 5:1,13) The money-changers, who had seats and tables in the temple, where traders whose profits arose chiefly from the exchange of money with those who came to pay their annual half-shekel. The Jewish law did not forbid temporary bondage in the case of debtors, but it forbade a Hebrew debtor to be detained as a bondman longer than the seventh year, or at farthest the year of jubilee. (Exodus 21:2; Leviticus 25:39,42; 15:9)
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