From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]


1. In OT. Loans in the OT period were not of a commercial nature. They were not granted to enable a man to start or extend his business, but to meet the pressure of poverty. To the borrower they were a misfortune (  Deuteronomy 28:12;   Deuteronomy 28:44 ); to the lender a form of charity. Hence the tone of legislation on the subject.

Usury is forbidden in all three codes ( Exodus 22:25 [JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] ],   Deuteronomy 23:19 ,   Leviticus 25:36 [H [Note: Law of Holiness.] ]); it was making a profit out of a brother’s distress. In Dt. it may be taken from a foreigner. Pledges were allowed, but under strict limitations (  Deuteronomy 24:10 ,   Job 24:3 ). In   Deuteronomy 15:1-23 is a remarkable law providing for the ‘letting drop’ of loans every seventh year (see Driver, ad loc. ). Its relation to the law of the Sabbatical year in   Exodus 23:10 (JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] ),   Leviticus 25:1 (H [Note: Law of Holiness.] ) is not clear, but the cessation of agriculture would obviously lead to serious financial difficulties, and debtors might reasonably look for some relief. This consideration makes for the modern view, that the passage implies only the suspension for a year of the creditor’s right to demand payment. It must be admitted, however, that apart from a priori considerations the obvious interpretation is a total remission of debts (so the older, and Jewish commentators). Foreigners do not come under the law. The other codes have no parallel, except where the debt may have led to the bondage of the debtor’s person.

Historically the legislation seems to have been largely ignored. In  2 Kings 4:1-7 a small debt involves the bondage of a widow’s two sons (cf.   Isaiah 50:1 ,   Matthew 18:23 ), and Elisha helps her not by invoking the law, but by a miracle. In   Nehemiah 5:1-19 mortgaged lands and interest are restored under the pressure of an economic crisis. Nehemiah himself has been a creditor and taken usury. There is an apparent reference to   Deuteronomy 15:1-23 in   Nehemiah 10:31 . In later times the strictness of the law was evaded by various legal fictions: Hillel introduced a system of ‘contracting out.’ That loans played a large part in social life is shown by frequent references in the Prophets, Psalms, and Proverbs (  Isaiah 24:2 ,   Psalms 15:5;   Psalms 37:21 ,   Proverbs 19:17;   Proverbs 28:8 ).   Jeremiah 15:10 shows that the relation between debtor and creditor was proverbially an unpleasant one. In   Psalms 37:21 it is part of the misfortune of the wicked that he shall be unable to pay his debts; there is no reference to dishonesty.   Proverbs 22:7 , Sir 18:33 warn against borrowing, and Sir 29:1-28 has some delightful common-sense advice on the whole subject.

2. In NT. Loans are assumed by our Lord as a normal factor in social life (  Matthew 25:27 ,   Luke 16:5;   Luke 19:23 ).   Luke 6:34-35 suggests that the Christian will not always stand on his rights in this respect. Debt is used as a synonym for sin in   Matthew 6:12 (cf. the two parables   Matthew 18:23 ,   Luke 7:41; and   Colossians 2:14 ). The context of these passages is a sufficient warning against the external and legalistic view of sin which might be suggested by the word itself. Christ does not imply that it is a debt which can be paid by any amount of good deeds or retributive suffering. The word is chosen to emphasize our duty of forgiveness, and it has a wide meaning, including all we owe to God. The metaphor of the money payment has ceased to be prominent, except where it is implied by the context.

C. W. Emmet.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [2]

1: Ὀφειλή (Strong'S #3782 — Noun Feminine — opheile — of-i-lay' )

"that which is owned" (see Note, below), is translated "debt" in  Matthew 18:32; in the plural, "dues,"  Romans 13:7; "(her) due,"  1—Corinthians 7:3 , of conjugal duty: some texts here have opheilomenen (eunoian) "due (benevolence)," AV; the context confirms the RV. See Due.

2: Ὀφείλημα (Strong'S #3783 — Noun Neuter — opheilema — of-i'-lay-mah )

a longer form of No. 1, expressing a "debt" more concretely, is used (a) literally, of that which is legally due,  Romans 4:4; (b) metaphorically, of sin as a "debt," because it demands expiation, and thus payment by way of punishment,  Matthew 6:12 .

3: Δάνειον (Strong'S #1156 — Noun Neuter — daneion — dan'-i-on )

"a loan" (akin to danos, "a gift"), is translated "debt" in  Matthew 18:27 (RV, marg., "loan"), of the ten thousand talents debtor. Cp. daneizo, "to lend," and daneistes, "a money-lender, a creditor."

 Matthew 18:30Due.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

Because debts place a person under obligation to his creditors, Paul sometimes used the word ‘debt’ to refer to a person’s spiritual obligations. Paul considered that his obligation to preach the gospel was a debt he owed to people everywhere ( Romans 1:14;  1 Corinthians 9:16). He believed also that Gentile Christians, having received the gospel by way of the Jews, owed a debt to their Jewish brothers. The Gentiles had an obligation to help the Jews in their poverty ( Romans 15:27).

More frequently, however, the Bible uses the illustration of debt to refer to something bad, such as sin in general ( Matthew 6:12;  Matthew 18:32-35) or bondage to the sinful human nature ( Romans 8:12). Debt in this sense is a reminder of the difficulties of life in the everyday world, where debts can easily bring a person to ruin. The poor can easily be exploited, and for this reason Israelite law aimed at protecting them from greedy money-lenders. (For details see Lending .)

Webster's Dictionary [4]

(1): ( n.) An action at law to recover a certain specified sum of money alleged to be due.

(2): ( n.) That which is due from one person to another, whether money, goods, or services; that which one person is bound to pay to another, or to perform for his benefit; thing owed; obligation; liability.

(3): ( n.) A duty neglected or violated; a fault; a sin; a trespass.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [5]

 Deuteronomy 15:7 Psalm 37:26 Matthew 5:42 Proverbs 28:8 Ezekiel 18:8,13,17 22:12 Psalm 15:5 Deuteronomy 15:1-11

King James Dictionary [6]

DEBT, n. det. L. debitum, contracted.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [7]

( נְשַׁי , neshi',  2 Kings 4:7; מִשָּׁאָה , Mashshaah ,  Proverbs 22:26; נשֶׁא , Noshe , a creditor,  1 Samuel 22:2; elsewhere, יָר , hand,  Nehemiah 10:31; Δάνειον , loan, never debt,  Matthew 18:27; Ὀφειλή ,  Matthew 18:22, a due, as rendered  Romans 13:7; Ὀφείλημα , something owed,  Matthew 6:12;  Romans 4:4). The Mosaic law very strongly recommended willingness to loan ( Deuteronomy 15:7 sq.; comp.  Psalms 37:26;  Matthew 5:42). Interest ( נֶּשֶׁךְ , "usury"), however, could only be exacted by capitalists from foreigners, not at all from Israelites as co-religionists (in  Nehemiah 5:11, a percentage is mentioned; but it does not appear whether this was in money, Heineccii Antiq.  Romans 2:15;  Romans 2:19, 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 ( Exodus 22:25;  Leviticus 25:37 sq.;  Deuteronomy 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.  Hebrews 6:9). Usury incurred the deepest scorn ( Proverbs 28:8;  Ezekiel 18:8;  Ezekiel 18:13;  Ezekiel 18:17;  Ezekiel 22:12;  Jeremiah 15:10;  Psalms 15:5;  Psalms 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,  Deuteronomy 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;  Luke 16:6 sq.). Distraint was allowed, but under certain restrictions ( Exodus 22:16 sq.;  Deuteronomy 24:6;  Deuteronomy 24:10 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 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 ( 2 Kings 4:1;  Nehemiah 5:5; Isaiah 1, 1;  Matthew 18:25); nay, the sureties likewise were exposed to the same mode of reparation ( Proverbs 20:16;  Proverbs 22:26 sq.;  Proverbs 27:13). Debtors were liable to punishment by imprisonment ( Matthew 5:26;  Matthew 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 ( Deuteronomy 15:1; Deuteronomy cf., 9). (See Loan); (See Debtor); (See Usury); (See Creditor), etc.