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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Deuteronomy 15

Verses 1-6

DEUTERONOMY - CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Verses 1-6:

This text provides for the regulation of debts. Just as there was a sabbath of rest for the land (Leviticus 25:1-7), so there was to be a rest for the doctor.

"Release," shemittah, from shamat, "to discontinue, to let rest." The cognate verb occurs in Exodus 23:11, where it is translated "let. . .rest." The meaning: the creditor was to leave the debt in the hand of the debtor, just as the land was to lie untilled.

"Creditor that lendeth," literally, "master of the lending of the hand," the owner of what one’s hand lends to another.

"Neighbor," in this case, a fellow-Israelite.

"Exact," nagas, also translated "oppress."

The law provides that the lender must not pressure for payment a fellow-Israelite during the sabbatical year. This does not mean that the debt was canceled; only that no payment was to be required during that year.

"Foreigner," nokri, "stranger, alien," of another nation. The term differs from the "stranger," ger, one from another nation, but who lived in Israel and who partook of Israel’s laws and customs and benevolence, see Exodus 12:19; Exodus 12:48-49, et. al. The creditor could demand payment of a debt from the "foreigner," nokri. Such an one was not under the law of the sabbatical year, so he would have his regular income during that time, and the repayment of his debt would work no hardship on him.

This law was not designed to provide a loophole to evade repayment of just debts. Its purpose was to prevent there being any poor in the land. Verse 6 is God’s promise of prosperity in the land, so the creditor would suffer no loss by not demanding payment the seventh year.

The blessing of prosperity and autonomy was contingent upon obedience to Jehovah God. The opposite would be true if they forsook and disobeyed Him.

Verses 7-11

Verses 7-11:

This statute provides for the relief of the poor and needy.

"Harden," lit., "make strong," in this instance, in resistance to the feeling of compassion toward the poor.

The command: to provide sufficiency for the needs of the poor, who lack the necessities of life.

"Wanteth," lacking or needing, and not, "desiring to have."

Verse 9: a warning that one is not to withhold from the poor what he needs because the time may be near the sabbatical year. This betrays a spirit of covetousness, which is a form of idolatry, Colossians 3:5.

Lending to the poor and needy should be an expression of joy that one has enough of this world’s goods to share with those in need. It should not be from a spirit of resentment, that one might not be repaid.

There is no conflict between verse 4 and verse 11. Verse 4 deals with the prevention of poverty. Verse 11 speaks of providing relief for one who is poor.

Jesus affirmed the truth of verse 11, in Matthew 16:11; Mr 14:7; John 12:8.

This text deals with provision for genuine needs. It does not mandate a welfare system to support those who will not work, see 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12.

Verses 12-18

Verses 12-18:

This is a repetition of the law stated in Exodus 21:1-6, and expanded in the present text, particularly verse 14.

If a slave insisted on his freedom, the master must let him go without grudge. His six years’ of servitude was double in value to a hired servant.

The reason for this provision: a reminder of Israel’s servitude as slaves in Egypt, and of their deliverance.

Verses 19-23

Verses 19-23:

This text is an explanation of the law of the firstborn, see Exodus 13:1-13; Leviticus 27:16; Numbers 8:16-17.

The firstborn belonged to Jehovah, and must be given to Him at the Temple (Tabernacle). The owner and his family might partake of the sacrificial meal at the Temple.

In the event there was a blemish of any kind in the firstling of the herds or flocks. It must not be sacrificed to God. It could be eaten at home, just as any other clean animal.

Verse 22: To eat the sacrificial meal at the Temple required that all partakers must be ceremonially clean. But if the meal were eaten at home, there was no such requirement.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/deuteronomy-15.html. 1985.