Deuteronomy 15:1 At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 2This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you.

Why would any Israelite lend anything to any Israelite at all?

  • Because this taught Israelites to be compassionate and generous! It also taught Israelites not to borrow money. This has served them well.
    – Dottard
    Jun 16 at 22:23

There is a raft of rules about lending money to Israelites:

  • Ex 22:25, Lev 25:37, Deut 23:19 - charge no interest. See also Neh 5:10, Ps 15:5, Eze 18:13, 17, etc.
  • Israelites were to lend freely, Ps 112:5, Deut 15:7, etc.
  • The poor did not need to put up security or a pledge, Deut 24:6, 10, 17, etc.
  • Debts were cancelled every seventh year, Deut 15:1-6.

The effect of these laws was to care for the poor by effectively giving extra money when they needed it. It made the Israelites generous to each other. Note especially the specific law recorded in Deut 15:7, 8 -

If there is a poor man among your brothers within any of the gates in the land that the LORD your God is giving you, then you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him whatever he needs.

This is worthy model to emulate.


If full erasure of debt is meant, it would simply and severely limit the terms when a loan was made 'late in the season'. If I applied for a loan in year 5, the payments would be over a 2-year period. Anyone who took advantage and didn't make regular payments likely became 'marked' by a 'credit reporting agency' of the times.

Calvin offers a different perspective. [Paragraphs and bold added.]


Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

  1. At the end of every seven years. A special act of humanity towards each other is here prescribed to the Jews, that every seven years, brother should remit to brother whatever was owed him. But, although we are not bound by this law at present, and it would not be even expedient that it should be in use, still the object to which it tended ought still to be maintained, i e. , that we should not be too rigid in exacting our debts, especially if we have to do with the needy, who are bowed down by the burden of poverty.

The condition of the ancient people, as I have said, was different. They derived their origin from a single race; the land of Canaan was their common inheritance; fraternal association was to be mutually sustained among them, just as if they were one family: and, inasmuch as God had once enfranchised them, the best plan for preserving’ their liberty for ever was to maintain a condition of mediocrity, lest a few persons of immense wealth should oppress the general body. Since, therefore, the rich, if they had been permitted constantly to increase in wealth, would have tyrannized over the rest, God put by this law a restraint on immoderate power.

Moreover, when rest was given to the land, and men reposed from its cultivation, it was just that the whole people, for whose sake the Sabbath was instituted, should enjoy some relaxation. Still the remission here spoken of was, in my opinion, merely temporary. Some, indeed, suppose that all debts were then entirely cancelled; (144) as if the Sabbatical year destroyed all debtor and creditor accounts; but this is refuted by the context, for when the Sabbatical year is at hand, God commands them to lend freely, whereas the contract would have been ridiculous, unless it had been lawful to seek repayment in due time. Surely, if no payment had ever followed, it would have been required simply to give: for what would the empty form of lending have availed if the money advanced was never to be returned to its owner?

But God required all suits to cease for that year, so that no one should trouble his debtor: and, because in that year of freedom and immunity there was no hope of receiving back the money, God provides against the objection, and forbids them to be miserly, although the delay might produce some inconvenience.

First of all, therefore, He commands them to make a remission in the seventh year, i e., to abstain from exacting their debts, and to concede to the poor, as well as to the land, a truce, or vacation. On which ground Isaiah reproves the Jews for observing the Sabbath amiss, when they exact (145) their debts, and “fast for strife and debate.” (Isaiah 58:3.) The form of remission is added, That no one should vex his neighbor in the year in which the release of God is proclaimed.

(144) “The Hebrews (says Ainsworth) for the most part hold the remission to be perpetual.” He, however, argues from the word שמטה, an intermission, and its use in that sense in Exodus 23:11, that C.’s interpretation is the correct one. So also Dathe, who quotes Jos. Meyer in his Treatise on the Festivals of the Jews, ch. 17 sec. 20; and Michaelis, in his Laws of Moses, P. 3. sec. 157.

(145) A. V., “all your labors;” margin, “things wherewith ye grieve others; Heb., griefs;” C.’s own version, “omnes facultates vestras exigitis.”

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.