Read Chapter IV - David and Solomon of Usury A Scriptural‚ Ethical and Economic View , free online book, by Calvin Elliott, on

Devout Hebrews during the period of the Judges obeyed the Mosaic prohibition of usury or interest. It was also recognized as binding and obeyed during the reigns of David and Solomon. This was a greatly prosperous period when commerce flourished and trade was extended to the ends of the earth.

David was weak before certain temptations and his falls were grievous, but his repentance was deep and his returns to God were sincere. He never failed to regard God as supreme over him and the bestower of all his blessings. He is called the man after God’s own heart, and it is also said that his heart was perfect before God. His spirit of devout worship has never been surpassed. His Psalms, in all the ages, have been accepted as expressing the true yearning after righteousness and a longing for closer communion with God.

David, in the fifteenth Psalm, expresses the thought of the earnest and reverent worshippers of his time. This Psalm declares the necessity of moral purity in those who would be citizens of Zion and dwellers in the holy hill.

“Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is condemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.”

The description, “He that putteth not out his money to usury,” is direct and unqualified. There could be no mistaking its meaning. Those who were guilty could not claim to be citizens of Zion. There is no qualifying clause behind which the usurer could take refuge and escape condemnation.

This Psalm, prepared by the king, was chanted in the great congregation, and was a prick to the consciences of the sinners and a public reproof of all the sins mentioned. He that putteth out his money to increase received thus a public reproof in the great worshipping assembly.

Solomon, endowed with unequaled wisdom and able so clearly to discern the right, places among his proverbs a direct denunciation of this sin.

Pro:8: “He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.”

In this proverb the gain of usury is classed with unjust gain that shall not bless the gatherer. This is in entire harmony with other proverbs in which those who practice injustice and oppression are declared to be wanting in true wisdom and receive no benefit themselves.

“The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.”

“As righteousness tendeth to life; so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.”

“Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit; but the upright shall have good things in possession.”

“Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: for the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.”

Usury and unjust gain are joined by Solomon as sins of the same nature. It is also implied that they are necessarily connected with want of sympathy and helpfulness toward the poor. They are presented as an oppression that shall not bless the oppressor.

This proverb does not confine the evil to the borrower like the proverb, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” The wrong is not confined to those of the poor to whom loans may be made. The oppression of usury is upon all the poor though they are not borrowers. They are the ultimate sufferers though the loan may be made by one rich man to another to enable him to engage in some business for profit. Usury is so bound up with injustice that its practice cannot fail to result in increasing the hard conditions of all the poor.

Solomon’s reign was brilliant, and the ships of his commerce entered every port in the known world, yet usury was not necessary and was not practiced in that prosperous age.