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Lending at Interest in the Old Testament. A Look on Biblical Legal Texts in the Context of Ancient Israel’s Legislation

Subject and Keywords:

commercial loans   ancient Israel   oral tradition   nokrî   monarchy   interest


The article discusses Deut 23,20–21 in the context of the nature of ancient Israel’s legislation and wider biblical and cultural contexts. It points that linguistic studies concerning the etymology and meaning of crucial Hebrew terms in the passage remain inconclusive. In turn, it proposes that the proper research on the issue of business and commercial loans among the Israelites should take into consideration a wider biblical (non-legislative) and cultural context of later monarchy. It also indicates that laws concerning loans expressed in the Torah were incomplete and that probably there was a fuller oral legal tradition behind the written laws. The article shows that there is an alternative way of reading the noun nokrî, as referring to economical status of an Israelite rather than to the ethnical distinctions between the Israeli and foreign peoples. Finally, it is proposed that two texts, one from OT sapiential literature (Proverbs 22:7), and the other from a narrative describing post-exilic situation (Nehemiah 5:1–5), support the thesis that Israelites customarily expected interest on all kinds of loans given to their fellow inhabitants, although their God commanded them not to charge interest from the needy poor people. It is concluded that Deut 23,20–21 stands in line with the earlier texts of Ex 22:24 and Lev 25:35–37 and that the Israelite might have lent at interest to his compatriots as business and commercial loans.


Pracownia Badań nad Tradycją Oralną

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ISSN 2449–8181



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Copyright by Instytut Studiów Klasycznych, Sródziemnomorskich i Orientalnych, Pracowania Badan nad Tradycja Oralna, 2016