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1 He that is wounded. What is here delivered respecting those who are mutilated, and who are bastards, has a similar object; lest the Church of God should be onctaminate by foul stains, and thus religion should lose its honor. Moses rejects from the congregation of the faithful two sorts of men, viz, eunuchs and bastards. But, before we treat of the subject itself, the definition of the words is to be considered. The first question is, that it is to enter into the congregation; the second, what it is to be wounded in the stones; the third, who are the ממזרים, mamzerim, which we have translated bastards, ( spurios ). Many understand that both are rejected from the church, lest they should undertake any public office in it; others, lest they should marry wives of the seed of Abraham; because it would not be fair that women should be thrown away upon bastards, ( Lat, mamzeris ;) and it would be absurd that those who were created to multiply God’s people, should marry impotent persons, ( effoeminatis ). But both these opinions appear to me to be tame. For what is afterwards added respecting certain foreign nations cannot be so taken, that no government or dignity should be entrusted to them; besides, by “the congregation of the Lord,” the purity and holiness of religion is sufficiently expressed. I do not doubt, then, but that Moses prohibits those who are defiled by these two stains from communicating in the sacrifices. For although they were circumcised as well as the rest of the chosen people, still God would have them bear this mark of their disgrace, that they might be an example to others, and that the people might be more diligent in preserving themselves from all pollution. This, then, is to be concluded that the privilege which was peculiar to the legitimate Israelites, was to be denied them of being participators and associates (19) in the sacrifices. As to the wounded testicles, the Jews dispute more curiously, in my opinion, that the subject warrants, and after all miss the right meaning. For God intended nothing else than to exclude from the congregation of His people, wherever holy assemblies were held, those who were mutilated or defective in the genital organs; although by synecdoche, He comprehends more than are specified. Finally, by condemning this external bodily defect He commends the excellency of His people that they may remember themselves to be His chosen property, not that they should pride themselves upon it (20) but that the holiness of their life may correspond with such high nobility.
(19) “ Et d’entrer au parvis pour faire service solennel a Dieu;” and to enter into the court to perform solemn service to God — Fr.
(20) “ Mais afin de se maintenir en sa grace par sainetete de vie;” but that they might keep themselves in His favor by holiness of life— Fr.
2. A bastard shall not enter. All agree that by the word ממזר, mamzer, a bastard is signified, who is born of an uncertain father; but they take it in different ways, For some extend it to all bastards who spring from fornication, whilst others imagine that it refers to those only whose origin is doubtful, and who are called vulgo geniti; viz, whose mothers, in their base and common prostitution of themselves, have brought it about by their gross licentiousness, that their children should be born from this monstrous medley, as it were. This second opinion I approve of most. But, by this symbol God would admonish the seed of Abraham how exalted was its dignity, as being separate from the polluted heathen. Meanwhile, He would not altogether exclude these unhappy persons from the hope of salvation, although, by no fault of their own, they were unable to give the name of their father; but He only humbled them by a temporal punishment, and desired that their example should be profitable to others.
3. An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter. As God has lately prohibited His people from all connection and alliance with the Canaanitish nations, so He now distinguishes between the aliens, and shews upon what conditions, and whom they might admit (into the Church. (305)) The Moabites and Ammonites He altogether rejects; because they not only refused the common rites of humanity to the people, but also took arms against them, and even hired Balaam to curse them. They were the descendants of Lot, and ought to have embraced the children of Abraham as brethren. It was, then, inexcusable barbarity in them to make a violent attack upon those who had voluntarily offered them peace; who had promised by their messengers that they would make their way without injury or wrong; and who finally had besought that a passage might be granted them, provided they honestly paid the price of bread and water; although doubtless God took vengeance rather on their impiety than their cruelty, since they had not only endeavored to make His goodness of none effect, but also to annihilate His faithfulness. Since, therefore, it was not their fault that the Church did not perish, and the effect of His promise fail, whereon the salvation of man was based, and this they had done knowingly and wilfully, no wonder that they were excluded from the Church.
(305) Added from Fr.
4. And because he hired. (306) Although there was a common reason why both nations should not be admitted, yet the number of the verb seems to be changed designedly, because Balac king of Moab hired Balaam; yet, inasmuch as they conspired together, the same crime is justly imputed to the Ammonites. Herein indeed their detestable impiety especially betrayed itself, that by hiring a mercenary man, to launch the thunders of his curse against the people, they sought to overwhelm God by magical incantations. Nor did they err through ignorance, since they obstinately persevered in their madness until Balaam was confounded from heaven. And on this ground it is expressly stated that he was not “hearkend unto,” but that rather his curses and prayers were “turned into a blessing.” Hence it appears how awful is the vengeance which awaits all who of deliberate malice oppose God’s grace and the welfare of the Church. Thus now-a-days no stone is left unturned by the defenders of the Papacy, whereby they may disturb the course of heavenly doctrine, nay, whereby they may altogether silence the Gospel if they could.
Since another reason for this rejection is plainly signified, it is foolish in some to attribute this sentence upon them to their origin, as if the Ammonites and Moabites were excluded from the Church because they sprang from an incestuous connection.
(306) A. V. “They hired.” Malvenda in Poole’s Syn. “ Hebrews et conduxit, nempe Moabita.” Ainsworth’s translation is, “because that they met you, etc., — and he hired, etc."
7. Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite. In order that the punishment denounced against the Moabites and Ammonites should be more strongly marked, he commands the Edomites and Egyptians to be admitted in the third generation; the former, because they derived their origin from the same ancestor, Isaac, since they were the descendants of Esau; the latter, because they had been their hosts. For hence it was manifest that the Ammonites and Moabites had been dis-honored on account of their guilt, when not even aliens were thus dealt with. Now, although Esau had cut himself off from the prerogative of believers, yet the door was again opened to his children, provided they returned to their source and origin, and in the humility of faith admitted the primogeniture of Jacob, who had been chosen when their father was passed by or degraded. But what is meant by this inequality of punishment, when the crime was identical? for Edom appeared in arms against Israel before Moab, and compelled them to take their journey by another way. It did not contend with hired imprecations for Israel’s destruction, but since, when humbly entreated on the score of their old relationship, it had not only refused them a passage, but had advanced against them with a great army, it should have been dealt with no less severity than Amalek or Ammon. Besides, being connected to them by a closer of blood, the Edomites were less excusable in their hostility. I find, then, no reason why God shewed greater clemency to them than the others whom He treated more severely; except that He wished to shew that it depends on His own will to chastise more lightly in some the same sins on which He takes more severe vengeance in others; and, inasmuch as all are deserving of utter destruction, He justly retains in His own hand the free right of sparing whom He will. We must here adore His judgments, into the depths of which we cannot penetrate. Nor is this inequality a ground for the noisy cavils of the ungodly, as if He were inconsistent with Himself, and acted in contradiction to the rules of His Law; since in so doing He does not judge in diverse ways, but, condemning all alike, indulges whom He pleases, or remits a part of their punishment. A question may also arise as to the Egyptians, why God lays His people under an obligation to them, because they sojourned in their land. For it was barbarous and inhospitable cruelty in them to oppress the wretched fugitives who had trusted to their good faith. But God here refers to their first reception; as in Isaiah 52:4, where, comparing the Egyptians with the Assyrians, He says that the latter oppressed them like robbers, whilst the former had ruled over them not without a cause, because the people had gone down thither of their own accord. Although, therefore, the Israelites had been unworthily oppressed by their fierce tyranny, still God would have their old kindness acknowledged; since their dearth and famine had been relieved, and the refugees were kindly received, when the inhabitants of Canaan were perishing of hunger.
9. When the host goeth forth. What he had taught with respect to the preservation of purity at home, and in time of peace, he now extends to times of war also, so that they might keep themselves clean from all defilement even in the midst of the clang of arms. We know how greatly laws are disregarded during war, when all things are under the control of violence rather than reason; and we know that much license is wont to be given to soldiers, which would be by no means tolerated in peace. God would remedy this evil by requiring the Israelites to aim at the same purity in war as in peace; for this is a special law which forbids their being dissolute and unruly in war-time, as He has before condemned all impurity in general, as if He had said, that under no pretext would they be excusable, if they neglect the duty of cultivating habits of purity. For He does not command them to be cautious in the army and in the camp, as if they might sin with impunity when at home, but admonishes them that God would by no means excuse them although they should allege the necessity of war. Much more would the crime be aggravated, if they should pollute themselves in peace and when their minds were calm. Whence we gather that it is vain to catch at empty excuses for the violation of God’s commands in any respect; for, however difficult the performance of duty may be, still God never resigns His rights. Now, if war, which seems to dispense with laws, does not excuse crime, much greater, as I have said, shall their guilt be accounted, who in a tranquil condition of life are licentiously carried away by sin.
10. If there be among you. He enumerates two kinds of pollution, whereby the Israelites may know what is meant by their keeping from the “wicked thing.” First, He pronounces to be unclean, and casts out of the camp those who may have had a filthy dream, until they shall have washed themselves in the evening. Secondly, He forbids them to defile the camp with what passes from the bowels; and not only this, but, even when they have gone outside the camp, He commands them to bury their excrement beneath the earth, lest any filthiness should appear. Yet it is probable that, by synecdoche, everything is referred to which rendered men unclean and polluted. But Moses, speaking as to soldiers, considered it sufficient to tell them briefly, that although they might be occupied with war, cleanliness must still be attended to. By “what chanceth at night, ” all are agreed in understanding a flow of semen; from whence we infer how greatly impurity defiles a man, since uncleanness is contracted even from foul dreams. As to the second part, some desire to appear quick and clever by attacking Moses, because he has introduced among the precepts of holiness, that none should relieve his bowels in the camp. Forsooth, they say, the smell might offend the nostrils of God! But their silly petulance is easily rebutted; for God would by such rudiments keep His ancient people in the way of duty, lest liberty even in the most trifling things should lead them onwards to audacity. If they had been permitted to defile every part of the camp, the people would presently have been hardened against filthiness of every sort. Thus they were held back by this rein, that they might more earnestly apply their minds to spiritual integrity. They also are mistaken who suppose that this was a sanitary precaution, lest the smell should produce diseases, and be injurious to their bodily health. For Moses plainly declares that he not only had regard to what was wholesome, or even to what was decent in the eyes of men; but rather that he would accustom the people to abhor uncleanness, and to keep themselves pure and unpolluted — for he adds, that God presided in the camp, to protect them from the power and assaults of their enemies; and that they should fear, lest, if they should contaminate the camp, He would be offended with their filthiness and forsake them. The sum is, that when they have need of God’s assistance, and are engaged in war against their enemies, the pursuit of holiness must not be omitted or neglected even in the midst of arms.
Although this Law has a tendency to humanity and kindness, it still does not appear to be altogether just. Since many masters oppressed their slaves with tyrannical arrogance, their wickedness rendered it necessary to afford some alleviation to the poor creatures. Thus slaves were permitted to take refuge in temples, and at Rome at the statues of the Caesars, so that if they proved themselves to have been treated with injustice and inhumanity, they might, when their case was proved, be transferred by sale to merciful masters. This, indeed, was endurable, but the refuge which is here granted to slaves defrauds their masters of their just right; since, without their case being heard, they have liberty given them to reside in the land of Canaan; thus, too, the law of nations is violated, since the land is opened to every fugitive. Besides, since runaway slaves are generally wicked and criminal, whatever place may be their asylum, it will be filled with many sources of infection. I know not whether there is sufficient foundation for the opinion of some who think that the slaves were exempted by privilege from their former servitude, (49) in order that they might give themselves up to God’s service, and that thus true religion might be propagated. It certainly does not seem consistent that filth and refuse of every sort should be received into the Church, because, in the end, it would have been filled with all kinds of corruptions; and besides, it was by no means decorous that whatever crime had been elsewhere committed should be sheltered under God’s name. For, suppose a thief, or an adulterer, or a murderer, should leave his master, and seek for an asylum in the Holy Land, what else would it have been to receive and protect such guests, but to overthrow law and justice, and to set up a state of foul barbarism? I think, therefore, that more is to be understood than the words express, viz., that, if it should be found that the slaves had not fled in consequence of their own evil doings, but on account of the excessive cruelty of their masters, the people should not drive them away, which would have been tantamount to giving them up to butchery. And, in fact, it may be inferred that judicial proceedings were to be instituted, because a choice is given as to the city in which they prefer to dwell.
Religion, indeed, stood them in some stead, because those who sought a place and home in the land of Canaan, were obliged to dedicate themselves to God, and to be initiated in His worship; still, God would never have allowed His name to be profaned by the reception of wicked persons without discrimination. Wherefore, as I briefly slated before, God inculcates humanity upon His people, lest, by the extradition of fugitive slaves, they should be necessary to the cruelty of others; because their masters would have been their executioners; and, since lie forbids the people from ill-treating them, He implies, by these words, that He only so far provides for the safety of these wretched beings, as to allow them to defend their innocence in a court of justice; wherefore I have thought fit to place this law amongst the Supplements of the Sixth Commandment.
(49) “The Chaldee addeth, a servant of the peoples, i. e. , of the Gentiles, who for the religion of God cometh from his master to the Church of Israel. This servant that fleeth to the land (of Israel) he is a righteous stranger, (that is, a proselyte come unto the faith and covenant of God,) saith Maimony.” — Ainsworth in loco.
This passage is akin to the foregoing; for in the first clause He forbids that girls should be prostituted. Some think that a whore is called in Hebrew קדשה, kedeshah, because she is exposed to, and prepared for sin; (66) but her pollution, the opposite of sanctity, seems rather to be expressed by antiphrasis. At any rate, a precept of chastity is given, that it should not be lawful for unmarried girls to have connection with men. In the second clause there is some ambiguity, “There shall be no קדש, kadesh, of the sons of Israel;” for in other passages it is clearly used for a catamite, or male harlot, but there is no reason why it should not be rendered a fornicator. In this sense the word seems to be used in the Book of Job: “The hypocrites shall die in youth, (or in the flower of their age,) and their life is among the קדשים, kedeshim, ” which is equivalent to their being infamous and shameful in life. ( Job 36:14.) But if it be preferred to apply it to sodomy, all impurity is condemned by synecdoche
(66) The Hebrew verb קדש has the double signification of sanctum esse and praeparare, (Taylor’s Concordance,) though only, it would appear, to prepare by sanctifying.
18. Thou shalt not bring the hire. This command has an affinity to the foregoing, for God, rejecting whatever is acquired by illicit and filthy traffic, teaches us that the utmost chastity is to be observed in sacred things; nor does He only refuse the hire of a whore, but also the price of a dog, lest the sanctity of the altar should be polluted by any impure oblation. Still the dog seems to be rejected in comparison with other animals out of contempt; for it was just as wrong to kill a pig as a dog, yet might the price of a pig be offered. The dog, therefore, is rejected not only as an unclean animal, but also as vile and contemptible. In sum, God would impress upon them the reverence due to His temple and altar.
From these passages we learn that it is not enough to refrain from taking the goods of another, unless we also constantly exercise humanity and mercy in the relief of the poor. Heathen authors also saw this, although not with sufficient clearness, (when they declared (109)) that, since all men are born for the sake of each other, human society is not properly maintained, except by an interchange of good offices. Wherefore, that we may not defraud our neighbors, and so be accounted thieves in God’s sight, let us learn, according to our several means, to be kind to those who need our help; for liberality is a part of righteousness, so that he must be deservedly held to be unrighteous who does not relieve the necessities of his brethren when he can. This is the tendency of Solomon’s exhortation, that“
we should drink waters out of our own cistern, (110) and that our fountains should be dispersed abroad amongst our neighbors,” (Proverbs 5:15;)
for, after he has enjoined us each to be contented with what is our own, without seeking to enrich ourselves by the loss of others, he adds that those who have abundance do not enjoy their possessions as they ought, unless they communicate them to the poor for the relief of their poverty. For this is the reason, as Solomon tells us elsewhere, why “the rich and the poor meet together; and the Lord is the maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22:2.)
(109) Added from Fr. “Atque ita placet Stoicis, quae in terris gignuntur ad usum hominum omnia creari, homines autem hominum causa esse generatos, ut ipsi inter se aliis alii prodesse possent.” — Cic. de Off. 1:7.
(110) It will be seen that these verses are abbreviated, and slightly paraphrased by C. His exposition of them, which is not the ordinary one, agrees with that of Junins in Poole’s Syn.
21. When thou shalt vow a vow. The rule of vowing also pertains to the keeping of the Third Commandment, since, by vowing, men exercise themselves in the sanctification of God’s name, and to promise anything to God is a kind of swearing. For what between men is called a covenant or agreement, with respect to God is a vow; and therefore it may be fitly called a sacred engagement, which not only is made with God as its witness, but which is contracted with God Himself. We have elsewhere cursorily touched upon certain oaths, such as that of the Nazarites; but since that consecration was a part of God’s worship, I have placed it under the First Commandment. Nor indeed did Moses there treat directly of the obligation itself of the vow, but of that exercise of piety which stimulated the people to the pursuit of purity, sanctity, and sobriety. I have followed the same course as to the free-will-offerings, which were certainly for the most part votive, but I have considered what was the main thing in them without much troubling myself as to what was accessory. But now under another head Moses confirms what he taught before, that God’s name was not to be taken in vain; therefore he commands them to pay their vows, by withholding which the glory of God’s name is diminished, whilst He is Himself defrauded of His right, and the promise ratified before Him is set at nought. Moreover, it is to be observed that all the vows which were ever acceptable to God were testimonies of gratitude, lest the recollection of His benefits should fail, forgetfulness of which is too apt to steal over us. When, therefore, the saints were conscious of tardiness or listlessness in proclaiming His goodness, they made use of this aid and spur, as it were, to correct their sloth. Thus, when they asked anything of importance from God, they were often accustomed to bind themselves by some promise as a manifestation of their thankfulness. Such are the vows which Moses commands to be solemnly and faithfully paid, that they might not cheat God when they had escaped from peril or had obtained what they wished, whereas in their anxiety they had been humbly suppliant. For we know with what facility or rather levity many are hurried into making vows, who afterwards, with the same fickleness, think little of breaking their promise.
On this point, then, God justly rescues His name from contempt, and to this end demands that what has been promised to Him should be paid. But inasmuch as superstitious persons apply this, or rather wrest it indiscriminately to all vows, their error must be refuted, so that we may understand the genuine meaning of Moses. The Papists would have all vows kept without exception, because it is written, “Thou shalt not slack to pay whatever hath passed your lips.” But a definition of vows must first be given, or at least we must see what vows are lawful and approved by God; for if all vows must be effectually kept, however rashly made, of old under the Law it would have been right to kill their sons and daughters, to erect altars to idols, and thus under this pretext the whole Law of God would have been entirely brought to nought. Wherefore a distinction between vows must be laid down, unless we wish to confound right and wrong. This then is the first point, that nothing can be properly vowed to God, except what we know to be pleasing to Him; for if “to obey is better than sacrifice,” (1 Samuel 15:22,) nothing surely can be more absurd than to indulge ourselves in the liberty of serving God, each according to his own fancy. If a Jew had vowed that he would sacrifice a dog, it would have been sacrilege to pay that vow, since it was forbidden by God’s Law. But inasmuch as there is an intermediate degree between that which God has expressly prescribed and forbidden, it might be objected that it was allowable to make a vow in respect to things which are called indifferent. My reply to this is, that since the principle ought always to be maintained by the godly, that nothing is to be done without faith, (Romans 14:23,)it must ever be considered whether a thing is agreeable to God’s word, otherwise our zeal is preposterous. (312)
God formerly did not forbid many things which He still was not willing to have offered to Him in worship; and so now-a-days, although it would be lawful not to taste meat all our lifelong, still if any one should vow perpetual abstinence with respect to it, he would act superstitiously; since he would inconsiderately obtrude upon God what we gather from His word that He does not approve. Wherefore if all our vows are not reduced to this rule, there will be nothing in them right and sure. Another very gross error in the Papists may also be condemned, viz., that they foolishly promise God more than they can pay. Assuredly it is more than blind arrogance, nay, diabolical madness, that a mortal man should wish to present as if it were his, what he has not received; as if any one should vow that he would not eat during his whole life, or should renounce sleep and the necessary supports of life, by common consent he would be convicted of madness. No gift, then, can be acceptable to God, except what He in His goodness has conferred upon us. But what is done in the Papacy? Monks, and nuns, and priests, bind themselves to perpetual celibacy, and do not consider that continency is a special gift; and thus whilst none of them has regard to the measure of his ability, they wretchedly abandon themselves to ruin, or envelop themselves in deadly snares. Besides, every one should consider his vocation. A monk will vow himself to his abbot, and throw off the paternal yoke: another, who was adapted for the transaction of public business, will abandon his children under cover of the monastic vow, and thus acquire immunity, Hence it appears, that whether a vow should be kept or not, is to be estimated from the character of him that vows. But a more gross and more common error is committed in respect to the object of vows. I said above that the godly never made vows to God, except in testimony of gratitude; whereas almost all the vows of the superstitious are so many fictitious acts of worship, having no other aim than to propitiate God by the expiation of sin, or to acquire favor meritoriously. I will not pursue at length those more detestable hallucinations whereby they defile themselves and their vows, when they substitute their idols in God’s place; as for instance, when a man vows (313) an altar to Christopher or Barbara. To sanction this barbarous impiety, this passage of Moses is alleged, which certainly contains something quite different, viz., that those who vow to any other being, pervert the worship of God; and in which also Moses takes it for granted that a vow is not accounted legitimate, except what is made to God Himself in accordance with the rules of religion and the prescription of the Law. Thus in this exordium the doctrine is laid down, that guilt is incurred unless what is promised is paid.
(312) “ Nos voeus sont pervers et esgarez.” — Fr.
(313) “ Une chapelle a sainct Christofle, ou a saincte Barbe.” — Fr.
22. But if thou shalt forbear to vow. He confirms what he said, that they would be guilty before God who have broken their promises to Him, because no necessity compelled them to promise, and consequently that their guilt was doubled, inasmuch as they chose rather to sin when it was at their option not to vow. Thus Peter, reproving the faithlessness of Ananias and Sapphira, says, (314)
"Who hath compelled you to lie to the Holy Ghost? was not the field your own, which you might have retained? but now to defraud God of part of the price, is impious hypocrisy.” (Acts 5:4.)
Meanwhile God indirectly inculcates sobriety in vowing, when He discharges them from it as a duty; as if He had reminded them, that there was no reason why they should incur guilt by idly promising what He does not require. And surely nothing is wiser than to be very sparing of vows; since those who run into them inconsiderately, either presently repent of them, or else pay them in a servile manner, as if it were a task to which they are driven by force, and not without annoyance and disgust, and thus destroy the grace of the act. As to the words, “that which is gone out of thy lips,” they do not refer to the ceremony, on which the Jew’s as usual too unscrupulously insist; but He puts a restraint by them on vowing, to which we are of ourselves but too much inclined. Whence it is said in Psalms 66:13,
"I will go into thy house with burnt-offerings; I will pay these my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble;"
although the Prophet intimates that in his sore straits he had always retained his composure and presence of mind, so as expressly to implore God’s help, and to manifest his constancy and confidence by making vows, still it is signified at the same time that he did not precipitately utter empty words, but spoke with serious reflection. And indeed since the tongue of many is too voluble, and goes before their heart, the main obligation of vows is not to be sought in the act of their utterance; but, to make them truly complete, a mutual agreement is required between the heart and tongue. The same expression will often occur again; and its repetition shews that it is meant to remove the scruples of the weak, lest (315) as soon as any desire to vow shall have entered their minds, they should fancy that it imposes a religious obligation. We know that among heathen nations, in the solemn dedication of their temples, a priest was appointed who should (316) first recite the words; by which ceremony they were reminded that nothing is duly offered to God except He Himself should dictate it, as it were. I allow that this reason was but little considered by them; nevertheless, by their example, God would condemn all levity, or inconsiderate fervor in sacred offerings.
(314) It will be seen that C. paraphrases, and does not quote literally the words of St. Peter.
(315) “ Afin qu’ils ne se forgent point un remors de conscience, si tost qu’il leur sera renu en fantaste de vouer;” lest they should conceive a remorse of conscience, as soon as they shall have taken a fancy to make a vow. — Fr.
(316) “ Pour dicter, et suggerer les mots;” to dictate and suggest the words. “ Mos erat, ut in exsecrationibus, et devotionibus, in foederibus, in dedicationibus, in votis, juramentis et aliis hujusmodi, certa verba adhiberentur (quod carmen dicebatur) a quibus ne minimum quidem licebat discedere. Itaque ne quo in verbo peccaretur, praesto erat pontilex, aut sacerdos, qui vel memoriter, vel de scripto dictabat, quae dicenda erant. Liv. 8:9; 31:17; Val. Max. 4:1, 10,” etc. — Facciolati in voce Praeco
Since God here concedes a great indulgence to the poor, some restrict it to the laborers in the harvest and vintage, (142) as if He permitted them to pluck the ears of corn and grapes with their hands for food alone, and not to carry away. I have no doubt, however, that it refers to all persons, and that no greater license is given than humanity demands. For we must not strain the words too precisely, but look to the intention of the Lawgiver. God forbids men to introduce a sickle into the harvest of another; now, if a man should pluck with his hands as many ears of corn as he could carry on his shoulders, or lay upon a horse, could he excuse himself by the puerile explanation that he had not used a sickle? But, if common sense itself repudiates such gross impudence, it is plain that the Law has another object, viz., that no one should touch even an ear of another man’s harvest, except for present use, which occurred to Christ’s disciples, when they were compelled by hunger to rub the ears of corn in their hands, lest they should faint by the way. (Matthew 12:1.) The same view must be taken as to grapes. If any man deliberately breaks into another’s vineyard and gorges himself there, whatever excuse he may make, he will be accounted a thief. Wherefore, there is no doubt but that this Law permits hungry travelers to refresh themselves by eating grapes, when they have not enough of other food. But although the liberty of eating to their fill is granted, still it was not. allowable oil this pretext to gorge themselves. Besides, vineyards were enclosed with hedges and guarded; whence it appears that the grapes were not exposed to every glutton. This, then, is the sum, that it is not accounted a theft, if a traveler, in order to relieve his hunger, should stretch forth his hand to the hanging fruit, (143) until he should arrive at his resting-place where he may buy bread and wine.
(142) “The Chaldee translateth, when thou art hired; and of such do the Hebrews understand this Law, that laborers hired to work in a vineyard are to eat of the fruit thereof.” — Ainsworth. So also Vatablus from the Chaldee and Arabic, in Poole’s Synopsis.
(143) “Cueille des espis, ou des raisins pour sa necessite,” should gather ears of corn or grapes for his necessary wants. — Fr.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 23". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent