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800 to 400 BC

Economic principles of Judaism

The first books of the Bible, written between the 8th and 5th cen­turies BC, make numerous ref­er­ences to eco­nomic life in the com­munities they describe. They present earthly wealth, nor­mally acquired through labour, as a divine blessing, but one that places a number of responsib­il­ities on the wealthy, including an oblig­ation towards the poor.

Sacred Jewish texts also forbid the charging of interest rates on loans between members of the faith, no doubt in order to protect the poor but also to encourage the rich to take a step back from their wealth. The Bible states that debts should be for­given (and slaves freed) after a period of 7 or 50 years. Other pas­sages contain ethical rules for trade, such as what con­sti­tutes a fair price or a reas­onable level of profit.

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