Debt (נשַׁי, neshi', 2Ki 4:7; מִשָּׁאָה, mashshaah', Pr 22:26; נשֶׁא, noshe', a creditor, 1Sa 22:2; elsewhere, יָר, hand, Ne 10:31; δάνειον, loan, never debt, Mt 18:27; ὀφειλή, Mt 18:22, a due, as rendered Ro 13:7; ὀφείλημα, something owed, Mt 6:12; Ro 4:4). The Mosaic law very strongly recommended willingness to loan (De 15:7 sq.; comp. Ps 37:26; Mt 5:42). Interest (נֶּשֶׁך, "usury"), however, could only be exacted by capitalists from foreigners, not at all from Israelites as co-religionists (in Ne 5:11, a percentage is mentioned; but it does not appear whether this was in money, Heineccii Antiq. Rom. 2:15, 19, as generally among the Romans, or a yearly rental; comp. Appian, Civ. 1:54); also a vendue of loaned natural products (see, however; Baba Mezia, v. 1) was forbidden (Ex 22:25; Le 25:37 sq.; De 23:20). The agrarian regulation of the state, secured each one, in the last resort, from the rapacity of the creditor; probably by this very arrangement moneyed men were restrained from depending upon loaned money for a subsistence, and were. thus induced to turn their attention to agriculture or other useful occupations. See LAND. In this way, however, wholesale business, which was incompatible with the isolation-system of the Jewish law-giver, was rendered rare, or rather impossible (see Michaelis, Syntagm. commentt. 2:1 sq.; Mos. Recht, 3, 87 sq.; Jahn, Bibl. Archeol. II, 2:325 sq.; on the Talmudic prescriptions, see Selden, Jus. Hebr. 6:9). Usury incurred the deepest scorn (Pr 28:8; Eze 18:8,13,17; Eze 22:12; Jer 15:10; Ps 15:5; Ps 109:11), but no other civil penalty was annexed to it (according to the Talmud, it involved a forfeiture of redress; on the whole subject, see Marezoll, De usuraria pravitate, Lips. 1837). Written notes of obligation (χειρόγραφα, signatures; Gesenius, Thesaurus, p. 921, finds such evidences of debt in the מִשָּׁאיָד or מִשֵּׁהיד, q. d. note of hand, De 15:2: the Talmudic precepts on such paper are given in the Mishna, Baba Bathra, c. 10) were, at least in the post-exilian period, regularly in vogue (Tobit 1:17; Josephus, Ant. 16:10, 8; War, 2:17, 6; comp. 18:6, 3; Lu 16:6 sq.). Distraint was allowed, but under certain restrictions (Ex 22:16 sq.; De 24:6,10 sq.). See PLEDGE. Severity against debtors being regarded as imperious among the Israelites (comp. Job 22:6; Job 24:3), especially in the collection of debts, the law scarcely enjoined anything directly on the treatment of bankrupts; it is merely indicated (Le 15:33) that he who was totally insolvent might be sold into temporary bondage in order to satisfy the debt by his wages. (On the rigor towards this class among the Romans, see Heineccius, Antig. jur. Rom. 3, 30, 2. They were often subjected to the harshest usage as slaves, Livy, 2:23; 6:36; Gell. 20:1, 19; Appul. Ital. 9, p. 40, ed. Schweigh. In Athens, before Solon's time, the creditor could even lay claim to the person of his debtor, Plutarch, Vit. Sol. c. 15; later, there prevailed a summary process of seizure, which the creditor himself was authorized to execute [see Schlager, De delictore, etc. Helmstadt, 1741]. Yet certain mitigations, not unlike the Mosaic, existed; see Heffter, Athen.
Gerichtsverf. p. 455 sq. On the Egyptian legislation, see Diod. Sic. 1:79; Wilkinson, 2:49 sq.) This rule was often still further exercised in practice with such hard-heartedness as to involve wife and children in the poor debtor's fate (2Ki 4:1; Ne 5:5; Isa 1; Isa 1; Mt 18:25); nay, the sureties likewise were exposed to the same mode of reparation (Pr 20:16; Pr 22:26 sq.; 27:13). Debtors were liable to punishment by imprisonment (Mt 5:26; Mt 18:30), probably a Roman usage. The Talmudic rules concerning debt are mild (Baba Mezia, 9:13). On the Sabbatical year (q.v.) all pecuniary obligations were cancelled (De 15:1 sq., 9). SEE LOAN; SEE DEBTOR; SEE USURY; SEE CREDITOR, etc.