Usury In The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Usury features many times in the Hebrew Bible (which Christians tend to call the Old Testament). Some condemnations of usury are unequivocal. Psalm 15 speaks of “Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right”. They stand out because they speak truth, stand by their promises and do not take bribes or “lend money at interest”. Ezekiel contains a similar list, speaking of someone who avoids idolatry and adultery, gives food to the hungry and “takes no advance or accrued interest” (Ezekiel 18,14-17).

Passages on usury in the Pentateuch (the five Books of Moses, or Torah) are less straightforward. Most condemn lending at interest to “my people” (Exodus 22,25) or “a countryman” (Leviticus 25,35). Deuteronomy, generally thought to have been written later, makes the point more explicitly: “On loans to a foreigner you may charge interest, but on loans to another Israelite, you may not charge interest” (Deuteronomy 23,20).

Usury is also condemned by the scriptures of many other religions. The Qur’an frequently links charity towards the poor with a rejection of usury. For example, “those who believe and do good works and establish worship and pay the poor-due…  you shall observe God and refrain from all kinds of usury”.