A Handbook of Bible Law - Economic and monetary laws

Copyright 1991 by Charles A. Weisman. 2nd Edition: Aug., 1992; 3rd Edition: Dec., 1994

Economic and monetary laws

Comments: There is perhaps no other aspect of a nation or function of government that will affect the lives, prosperity and well being of a people more than the economic system and monetary principles of a nation. An economy of a nation is essentially the degree of freedom the people possess expressed in material terms.

The economy that operated upon the lives of those in biblical times was a type of free enterprise system, where each individual could accumulate, trade, sell and dispose of possessions as he chose.

Trade and commerce has been an economic necessity throughout time. Through such means a man exchanges the results of his labor for the results of the labor of others. Money was often used to represent a certain amount of labor and was exchanged for both labor or possessions.

While gold was on occasion used in monetary transactions, silver became the common form of money so that the word used for money was keceph (silver), as in Gen. 23:13 - I will give thee money (silver) for the field." Silver was thus money, a measure of value, and a medium of exchange, as the U.S. silver coins were. The word shekel (shaqal, 'to weigh'), it should be noted, was a weight and not a coin, as is also true of the English pound and American dollar.

All commodities traded and sold, as well as precious metals used as money, were required to be measured and weighed according to established standards. Their measure in length, capacity, volume, weight, and value all had prescribed units (e.g., shekel, bath, omer, ephah, cubit, gerah, dram, etc.), which no one was allowed to deviate from-"You shall not have differing weights and differing measures" (Deut. 25:13-14).

The use of usury or interest was severely condemned in Bible law. Usury was regarded as unjust gain (Prov. 28:8), and creates financial burdens (Neh. 5:4-10), as its use requires more to be paid back than what was borrowed. The repugnance the Bible conveys towards usury was carried over and adopted in the English Common Law:

"Usury was held in abhorrence in England at as early a date as the reign of Alfred (c. 875 A.D.), and the severest powers of the king and the church were exerted against the usurer" (Story, Law of Cont., 590).

Sir Edward Coke says, "it appears that, by the ancient laws of the realm, usury was unlawful and punishable" (Ibid.; citing, 3 Coke's Institutes 152). The Bible identifies usury as any amount of interest or increase derived from the loan of money. Usury thus signifies the illegal loan or rent of money. Martin Luther compared the taking of usury with theft and murder, as does the Scriptures.

While the Bible requires that we loan to a needy brother that which he needs, it also cautions us against borrowing and debt. Borrowing creates debt and debt -is nothing more than economic bondage. In order to prevent permanent financial burden by having unpayable debts accumulate, God's law requires a sabbatical "year of release" every seven years. On that year all obligations of debts and balances owing were to be canceled.

A canceling of all debts in the nation was thus to occur at an established time or year, according to the national cycle of seven years. If no period was established then the debt would last for only six years from the time it was incurred.


16A - Borrowing and Debt

  1. There shall be a cancellation of debt every seven years - a creditor can only hold a debt for 6 years and must release the obligation on the seventh year. Deut 15:1-2.
  2. Debts of foreigners may be continued beyond seven years. Deut. 15:3.
  3. Those who need to borrow from you are not to be turned away. Matt. 5:42.
  4. The borrower is servant to the lender. Prov. 22:7.
  5. You shall not think evil and withhold loaning to your brother in need because the Seventh Year, the year of release, is at hand. You shall surely give to him and the LORD will bless you in all your works. Deut. 15:9-10.
  6. It is wicked to borrow and not repay. Psa. 37:21; Prov. 3:27; Rom. 13:8.
  7. Lend to the poor and needy what is sufficient for his needs. Deut. 15:8.
  8. It is best to owe no man any thing. Rom. 13:8.
  9. Items necessary to sustain a livelihood are not to be given as a pledge (security) for a debt. Deut. 24:6; Job 24:3.
  10. You shall not take a widow's garment as a pledge. Deut 24:17.
  11. Warnings against giving sureties for debts of others. Prov. 6:1-3; Prov. 17:18; Prov. 22:26-27.
  12. He who is surety for a stranger will suffer for it, but one who hates being surety is secure. Prov. 11:15.
  13. Pledges given by the poor for debt are not to be retained overnight. Exod. 22:26; Deut. 24:12-13; Job 24:9-10.
  14. When you lend your brother anything you shall not go into his house to take his pledge, but rather he shall bring the pledge out to you. Deut 24:10-11.
  15. The righteous man restores to the debtor his pledge, but the unrighteous does not restore a pledge. Ezek. 18:5, 7, 12.

16B - Just Weights & Measures

  1. Produce, commodities, and money are to follow just weights and measures in their use and exchange. Lev. 19:35-36; Ezek. 45:10-14.
  2. A just weight and balance are of God's work. Prov. 16:11.
  3. Those who use unjust and deceitful weights are wicked. Mic. 6:10-11.
  4. You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight and measure. Deut. 25:13-15.
  5. A false balance and diverse weights and measures are an abomination to the LORD; but a just weight is His delight. Prov. 11:1; Prov. 20:10, 23.
  6. Punishments for not using just weights and measures. Amos. 8:5-8.

16C - Usury

  1. If you lend to any of your brethren in need, you are not to take or lay usury upon them. Exod. 22:25.
  2. No substance loaned or borrowed is to be repaid with increase or interest-no usury of money, or food, or of anything that is borrowed. Lev. 25:37; Deut. 23:19.
  3. You may charge usury to a foreigner. Deut. 23:20.
  4. Usury and the usurer are condemned. Neh. 5:7, 10; Psa. 15:1, 5; Prov. 28:8.
  5. If one of your brethren becomes poor, you shall exact no usury or interest from him; you shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. Lev. 25:36.
  6. Usury is regarded as dishonest profit. Prov. 28:8; Ezek. 22:12-13.
  7. Usury is an iniquity, for the righteous man does not lend money on interest or take increase. Ezek. 18:8-13.
  8. He who does not put out his money at usury may dwell in the LORD's holy nation. Psa. 15:1, 5.
  9. Sons are not to suffer punishment for usury exacted by their fathers. Ezek. 18:14-17.

16D - Buying and Selling

  1. You are not to deal dishonestly or falsely with others when you buy and sell. Lev. 19:11; 2 Kings 22:7; Acts 5:1-6.
  2. When you sell to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not oppress one another. Lev. 25:14-17.
  3. You shall not be unrighteous or have unjust gain in trading, selling or buying. Prov. 28:8; Isa. 33:15; Ezek. 28:4-8, 18.
  4. Free enterprise is recognized in trading and selling of all kinds of wares. Gen. 42:34; Neh. 13:20; Prov. 31:24; Isa. 23:8; Ezek. 27:12-24; Matt. 25:9, 16; Luke 22:36.
  5. Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice. Prov. 16:8.
  6. Ill-gotten gains do not profit. Prov. 10:2.
  7. Sale of goods. Gen. 41:57; Deut 2:6; Prov. 31:24; Ja. 4:13.

16E - Taxes and Revenue

  1. Taxes are paid for the support of godly governments. Rom. 13:6.
  2. A poll or head tax can be levied (which is to be of a small amount) according to a census taken on persons of a certain age. Exod. 30:12-15; Lev. 27:3-8; Num. 3:40-51.
  3. All men subject to a poll tax are to pay the same amount (the rich shall not pay more, and the poor less). Exod. 30:13-15.
  4. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessings God has given him (advalorern tax). Deut 16:17; 1 Cor. 16:1-2.
  5. Abusive and heavy taxation leads to rebellion by the people. 1 Kings 12:13-19; 2 Chron. 10:13-19.
  6. Abusive and heavy taxation causes an impoverished nation and burdensome debts. Neh. 5:1-5.
  7. Oppressive taxation is often due to the sins of the nation. Neh. 9:32-37.
  8. Tithes and offerings collected as taxes are to be put into the treasury. Neh. 10:38; Neh. 13:12-13.
  9. It is unlawful to impose a toll, tribute, or custom tax upon any priest or ministerial aide. Ezra 7:24.
  10. A tarriff or excise tax levied on the traffic of imported merchandise. 1 Kings 10:15, 28-29.

16F - Money

  1. Money is to be of a standard fixed weight of a precious metal (silver, gold, etc.). Gen. 23:15-16; Exod. 30:13; Deut 22:19; 1 Kings 10: 14; 2 Kings 5:22-23; 2 Kings 6:25; Neh. 5:15; Jer. 32:9-10.
  2. Money (silver) is used in the sale and purchase of land and commodities. Gen. 23:15-16; Deut. 2:6, 28; 2 Kings 4:7; 2 Sam. 24:24; Ezra 7:17; Jer. 32:9, 25:9, 44; Acts 4:34-37.
  3. Money is to be paid for work done and labor performed. 2 Kings 12:11-15; 2 Kings 22:4-6; 2 Chron. 24:11-13; 2 Chron. 34:9-11; Ezra 3:7.

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