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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 15

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.

At the end of every seven years - during the last of the seven; i:e., the Sabbatical year (Exodus 21:2; Exodus 28:11; Leviticus 25:4; Jeremiah 34:14).

Verse 2

And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD's release.

Every creditor ... shall release it - not by an absolute discharge of the debt, but by passing over that year without exacting payment. The relief was temporary and special to that year, during which there was a total suspension of agricultural labour. He shall not exact it of his ... brother - i:e., an Israelite, fellow-countryman, so called in opposition to a stranger or foreigner.

The Lord's release. The reason for acquitting a debtor at that particular period proceeded from obedience to the command and a regal to the honour of God-an acknowledgment of holding their property of Him, and gratitude for His kindness.

Verse 3

Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;

Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it. Admission to all the religious privileges of the Israelites was freely granted to pagan proselytes, though this spiritual incorporation did not always imply an equal participation of civil rights and privileges (Leviticus 25:44; Jeremiah 34:14: cf. 1 Chronicles 22:2; 2 Chronicles 2:17).

Verse 4

Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:

Save when there shall be no poor among you - apparently a qualifying clause added to limit the application of the foregoing statement; so that borrower; whereas it is implied that if he were rich, the restoration of the loan might be demanded even during that year. But the words may properly be rendered (as on margin) to the end, in order that there may be no poor among you - i:e., that none be reduced to inconvenient straits and poverty by unseasonable exaction of debts, at a time when there was no labour and no produce, and that all may enjoy comfort and prosperity, which will be the case through the special blessing of God on the land, provided they are obedient.

Verses 5-6

Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 7-11

If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:

If there be ... a poor man ... thou shalt not harden thine heart. The constitutional principle of non-acceptance of interest from native Israelites, together with the septennial cancelling of debts, and the restoration of alienated land to the original proprietor, might in some cases operate to the disadvantage of the poor, by increasing the difficulties of obtaining relief under pressing difficulties. Lest the foregoing law, then, should prevent the Israelites lending to the poor, Moses here admonishes them against so mean and selfish a spirit, and exhorts them to give in a liberal spirit of charity and kindness, which will secure the divine blessing (Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 9:7).

Verse 11. For the poor shall never cease. Although every Israelite on the conquest of Canaan became the owner of property, yet, in the providence of God, who foresaw the event, it was permitted, partly as a punishment of disobedience, and partly for the exercise of benevolent and charitable feelings, that 'the poor should never cease out of the land.'

Verse 12

And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.

If thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold. The last extremity of an insolvent debtor, when his house or land was not sufficient to cancel his debt, was to be sold as a slave, with his family (Leviticus 25:39; 2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:1-13; Job 24:9; Matthew 18:25). The term of servitude could not last beyond six years: they obtained their freedom either after six years from the time of their sale, or before the end of the seventh year; and at the year of jubilee such slaves were emancipated although their six years of service were not completed.

The terms, "thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman," are special. "Thy brother" is applied to a stranger (Leviticus 25:35). Hebrew man and Hebrew woman indicates a person of foreign origin, not native Israelite-one who, by long residence in Canaan, was admitted to the ordinary rights and privileges of Hebrews, but belonged to a special and distinct class of servants-not connected with pagandom, and yet not to be regarded as proper Israelites; but born in a state of servitude, and constituting a middle class between the impoverished Israelites and the proper servants bought of pagan-the class to which would belong those descended from a maid-servant given in marriage by the master to his servant (Exodus 31:5).

Saalschutz further considers this case limited to an actual maid-servant-one who has been previously such, and whom her owner sells to another. It points to a foreign slave; and consequently the statute here is different from that in Exodus 21:7-16, which relates to a free Hebrew woman.

Michaelis ('Comment.,' 2:, sec. 88) pronounces the legal provision detailed in this passage as an improvement on the spirit of the Jewish code. But, on Saalschutz' hypothesis, this and the law in Exodus provide for persons in totally different circumstances.

Verse 13

And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty:

Thou shalt not let him go away empty - a seasonable and wise provision for enabling a poor unfortunate to regain his original status in society; and the motive urged for his kindness and humanity to the Hebrew slave was the remembrance that the whole nation was once a degraded and persecuted band of helots in Egypt. Thus, kindness toward their slaves, unparalleled elsewhere in those days, was inculcated by the Mosaic law; and in all their conduct towards persons in that reduced condition, leniency and gentleness were enforced by an appeal which no Israelite could resist.

Verses 14-15

Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 16

And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee;

If he say ... I will not go away. If they declined to avail themselves of the privilege of release, and chose to remain with their master, then, by a special form of ceremony, they became a party to the transaction, voluntarily sold themselves to their employer, and continued in his service until death.

'In this passage, where the symbolic indication of permanent servitude is again prescribed (see the notes at Ex 'In this passage, where the symbolic indication of permanent servitude is again prescribed (see the notes at Exodus 21:4-6), it is stated still more definitely that the ear is to be fastened by the awl to the door. The manifest dishonour which lies in this symbolic act agrees perfectly with the whole spirit of the law; for this seeks to protect personal freedom in every way, and always to re-establish it, and cannot, therefore, approve of one's giving himself over to perpetual servitude. It is true that in the case before us he had, in his love for his family, an apparently good reason for the deed. But who bade him at the outset enter into these relations, and take for his wife a maid in the ownership of her master?' (Barrow's Translation of Saalschutz 'On Hebrew Servitude.')

Verse 17

Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.

And also unto thy maid-servant thou shalt do likewise. - i:e., either dismiss her honourably, and with a sufficiency of provisions, or oblige her to life-servitude by observing the same rites.

Verse 18

It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.

Worth a double hired servant - i:e., he is entitled to double wages, because his service was more advantageous to you, being both without wages and for a length of time, whereas hired servants were engaged yearly (Leviticus 25:53), or at most for three years (Isaiah 16:14).

Verse 19

All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.

All the firstling males ... thou shalt sanctify - (see the note at Exodus 22:30.)

Thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock - i:e., the second firstlings (see the notes at Deuteronomy 12:17-18; Deuteronomy 14:23).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-15.html. 1871-8.
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