on Psalms 15 :5
Putteth not out his money to usury -
10. As usury signifies unlawful interest, or that which is got by taking advantage of the necessity of a distressed neighbor, no man that fears God can be guilty of it. The word נשך neshech, which we translate usury, comes from nashach, to bite as a serpent; and here must signify that biting or devouring usury, which ruins the man who has it to pay. "The increase of usury is called נשך neshech, because it resembles the biting of a serpent. For as this is so small at first, as scarcely to be perceptible, but the venom soon spreads and diffuses itself till it reaches the vitals; so the increase of usury, which at first is not perceived nor felt, at length grows so much as by degrees to devour another's substance." Middoch's edition of Leigh's Critica Sacra, sub voce נשך.
The Jews ever were, and are still, remarkable for usury and usurious contracts; and a Jew that is saved from it is in the fair way, charity would suppose, to the kingdom of heaven. The Roman laws condemned the usurer to the forfeiture of four times the sum. Cato de Rust., lib. i.
Nor taketh reward against the innocent -
11. He neither gives nor receives a bribe in order to pervert justice or injure an innocent man in his cause. The lawyer, who sees a poor man opposed by a rich man, who, though he is convinced in his conscience that the poor man has justice and right on his side, yet takes the larger fee from the rich man to plead against the poor man, has in fact taken a bribe against the innocent, and without the most signal interposition of the mercy of God, is as sure of hell as if he were already there.
He that doeth these things - He in whose character all these excellences meet, though still much more is necessary under the Christian dispensation, shall never be moved - he shall stand fast for ever. He is an upright, honest man, and God will ever be his support.
Now we have the important question answered, Who shall go to heaven? The man who to faith in Christ Jesus adds those eleven moral excellences which have been already enumerated. And only such a character is fit for a place in the Church of Christ.
On this verse there is a singular reading in my old MS. Psalter, which I must notice. The clause, Qui pecuniam suam non dedit ad usuram, "who putteth not out his money to usury," is thus translated: He that gat nout his catel til oker. Now this intimates that the author had either read pecudem, Cattle, for pecuniam, Money; or that catel was the only money current in his time and country. And indeed it has long been the case, that the Scottish peasantry paid their rents in kind; so many cows or sheep given to the laird for the usufruct of the ground. That this is no mistake in the translation is evident enough from the paraphrase, where he repeats the words, with his gloss upon them: He that gaf nout his Catel till oker bodyly als covaytus men dos gastly: that he seke naght for his gude dede, na mede of this werld, bot anely of heven.
The very unusual word oker signifies produce of any kind, whether of cattle, land, money, or even the human offspring. It is found in the Anglo-Saxon, the Gothic, the German, and the Danish; in all which languages it signifies produce, fruit, offspring, usury, and the like. Dr. Jameson does not show the word in any of its forms, though it is evident that it existed in the ancient Scotttsh language.
The word catel may be used here for chattels, substance of any kind, moveable or immoveable; but this word itself was originally derived from cattle, which were from the beginning the principal substance or riches of the inhabitants of the country. Indeed the word pecunia, money, was derived from pecus, cattle, which were no longer used as a medium of commerce when silver and gold came into use. There is a passage in Chaucer where cattel catching seems to be used for getting money.
Speaking of the wicked priests of his time, he says: -
Some on her churches dwell
Apparailled poorely proud of porte;
The seven Sacramentes thei doen sell,
on Psalms 15 :5
He that putteth not out his money to usury - The word "usury" formerly denoted legal interest, or a premium for the use of money. In this sense the word is no longer used in our language, but it always now denotes unlawful interest; "a premium or compensation paid, or stipulated to be paid, for the use of money borrowed or retained, beyond the rate of interest established by law." "Webster." The Hebrew word used here - נשׁך neshek - means "interest," that is, a premium or compensation for the use of money in any manner, or to any extent. The reference is to the law of the Hebrews, which forbade such a loaning of money to the poor, and especially to poor Israelites, Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37. Although this was forbidden in respect to the Israelites, yet the lending of money on interest, or "usury" in a lawful sense, was allowed toward "strangers," or toward the people of other nations.
See Deuteronomy 23:19-20. The ground of the distinction was, that the Hebrews were regarded as a nation of brethren; that, as such, they should be willing to accommodate and aid each other; that they should not do anything that could be regarded as unbrotherly. In respect to other people it was allowed, not because it was proper to take advantage of their wants, and to oppress them, but because this special reason did not exist in regard to them. That might be improper "in a family," among brothers and sisters, which would be entirely proper toward those who did not sustain this special relation; and we may conceive of cases - such cases in fact often occur - when it would be unkind in the highest degree to exact interest of a brother, or an intimate friend, while it is perfectly proper to receive the ordinary allowance for the use of money in our business transactions (that is, the ordinary rate of interest) of those who do not sustain to us this special relation.
The fact that it was allowed to the Hebrews to take interest of the people of other nations, shows that there was nothing morally wrong in the thing itself; and, in fact, there can be no reason why a man, to whom it is an accommodation, should not pay for the use of money as well as for the use of any other property. The thing forbidden here, therefore, is not the taking of interest in any case, but the taking of interest in such a way as would be oppressive and hard - as of a Hebrew demanding it from his poor and needy brother; and, by consequence, it would forbid the exacting of unusual and unlawful rates of interest, or taking advantage of the necessities of others - by evading the provisions of law, and making their circumstances an occasion of extortion. In one word, the thing forbidden is a harsh, grasping, griping disposition; a disposition to take advantage of the embarrassments of others to increase our own gains. Kindness, and an accommodating spirit in business transactions, are as much demanded now by the principles of religion as they were when this psalm was written, or as they were under the law which forbade the taking of interest from a poor and needy brother.
Nor taketh reward against the innocent - Who does not take a bribe; that is, does not accept a pecuniary consideration, or any other consideration, to induce him to decide a cause against justice. He is not, in any way, to allow any such considerations to influence him, or to sway his judgment. The taking of bribes is often expressly forbidden in the Scriptures. See Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; Deuteronomy 27:25; Proverbs 17:23.
He that doeth these things shall never be moved - That is, in answer to the question in Psalm 15:1, he shall be permitted to "abide in the tabernacle" of God, and to "dwell in his holy hill." He shall have a solid foundation of hope; he is a friend of God, and shall enjoy his favor forever. In other words, these things constitute true religion; and he who has such a character will obtain eternal life. His foundation is sure; he will be safe in all the storms of life, and safe when the cold waves of death beat around him. Compare Matthew 7:24-25.
on Psalms 15 :5