The ancient Hebrews were far from perfect people. For one thing, they owned slaves. And they worked those slaves hard.
But the one thing they were commanded not to do by God is take advantage of their fellow Hebrews.
For one thing, if a man (Yes, a man. They were not perfect. Women didn’t count.) If a man sells his house, he has the right, for a full year, to buy it back. So if a man needs some quick cash, he doesn’t necessarily have to sell off his own house forever (if he can raise the money to buy it back within a year.)
For another thing, if your fellow Hebrew falls on hard times, lend him money but don’t charge any interest! Suppose someone today walked into the Bank of Israel and said “My wife is sick and my kids don’t have enough to eat. Please lend me some money and don’t charge me any interest.” Would the Bank say yes?
And God underlines this commandment to be kind to the poor by reminding the Hebrews that “I am the Lord your God.”
Now, if any of your fellow Israelites falls on really hard times, you can take him on as a hired hand. But you can’t treat him as a slave. You can’t work him as hard as a slave. And he has to be set free in the Year of the Jubilee (which was once every fifty years.) If he has children, the children are to be set free also. Again, this only applies to Hebrews. You want to buy a foreign slave? Feel free.
On the other hand, if a rich foreigner buys a Hebrew as a slave, the Hebrew’s relatives have the right to buy him back. And in the meantime, the other Hebrews are to see to it that the guy who was bought is not treated harshly.
Food for Thought
If your friend was hurting for money, would you lend him your cash without expecting anything in return?