BORROW, BORROWING. Several times in the OT the Hebrew word shā’al is translated by the verb “borrow.” This occurs three times in the context of the people of Israel “borrowing” extensively from the Egyptians (Exod.3.22; Exod.11.2; Exod.12.35). The fact is that the Egyptians, thoroughly cowed by the rigors of the ten plagues, were willing to give generously in order to get rid of their troublesome “guests”; and God, in his providence, allowed Israel to despoil the Egyptians (Exod.12.36) in order to provide gold and silver for the tabernacle that was to be constructed. “Surely your wrath against men brings you praise” (Ps.76.10).

The Law of Moses gives careful direction concerning the responsibility of those who borrow or who hold property in trust or who are criminally careless in regard to the property of another (Exod.22.1-Exod.22.15). Among the blessings promised Israel on condition of obedience is that they would be lenders, not borrowers (Deut.15.6; Deut.28.12). Also, Jesus instructed his followers to not turn away those who wanted to borrow from them (Matt.5.42). Generally the borrower is the servant of the lender (Prov.22.7), but God’s judgment can erase differences (Isa.24.2).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) In the Old Testament period loans were not of a commercial nature, i.e. they were not granted to enable a man to start or run a business. They were really a form of charity, and were made by the lender only to meet the pressure of poverty. To the borrower they were esteemed a form of misfortune (De 28:12 f), and by the lender a form of beneficence. Hence, the tone of the Mosaic legislation on the subject.

(2) Laying interest upon the poor of Israel was forbidden in all the codes (see Ex 22:25 (JE); De 23:19; Le 25:36 H), because it was looked upon as making unwarranted profit out of a brother’s distress: "If thou lend money to any of my people with thee that is poor, thou shalt not be to him as a creditor; neither shall ye lay upon him interest .... and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious."

George B. Eager