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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 15

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-23

The Fourth Command

Deuteronomy 15:1 to Deuteronomy 16:17

Deuteronomy 15:1-23

1, 2 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner [word] of the release [what is said therein]: Every creditor that lendeth aught unto his neighbour1 shall release it; he shall not exact [press his, sq.] it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called [for called is] the Lord’s release. 3Of a foreigner thou mayest exact [urge, press] it again: but that which Isaiah 4:0 thine with thy brother thine hand shall release: Save when [Only that]2 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: 5Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all these commandments [this commandment] which I command thee this day. 6For the Lord thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee. 7If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any [one] of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother. 8But thou shalt open thine hand wide [cheerfully]3 unto him, and shalt surely [richly] lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. 9Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart [a word in thy heart, worthlessness] saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against [over concerning] thee, and it be sin unto thee. 10Thou shalt surely4 give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved [and not evil shall thine heart be] when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto [the reaching forth of thine hand]. 11For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide [ever again] unto 12thy brother, to thy poor [bowed, distressed] and to thy needy, in thy land. 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. 13And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: 14Thou shalt furnish him liberally [Thou shalt load him, lay upon his neck richly] out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine-press: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. 15And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bond-man in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing [word] to-day. 16And 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: 17Then thou shalt take an awl and thrust [give, it in] it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant forever. And also unto thy maid-servant thou shalt do likewise. 18It 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 [double of the wages of the hireling has he served thee six years], in serving thee six years: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest. 19All the firstling males that come [are born] 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. 20Thou shalt eat it before the Lord thy God year by year in the place which the Lord shall choose, thou and thy household. 21And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the Lord thy God. 22Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart. 23Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water.

Deuteronomy 16:1 to Deuteronomy 17:1 Observe [Keep] the month of Abib, and keep [make, celebrate] the passover unto the Lord thy God: for in the month of Abib the Lord thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night. 2Thou shalt therefore sacrifice [kill] the passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord shall choose to place [cause his name to dwell] his name there. 3Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; (for thou earnest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste): that thou mayest remember the day when thou earnest forth out of the land of Egypt, all the days of thy life. 4And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coasts seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst [didst kill] the first day at even, remain all night until the morning. 5Thou mayest not sacrifice [kill, as margin] the passover within 6any of thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee: But at [to] the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice [kill] the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season [time] that thou earnest forth out of Egypt. 7And thou shalt roast [cook] and eat it in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents. 8Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread;5 and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work therein. 9Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. 10And thou shalt keep [make] the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God with a tribute [measure] of a free-will-offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God,6 according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee: 11And thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place his name. 12And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bond-man in Egypt: and 13thou shalt observe and do these statutes. Thou shalt observe [make to thee] the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn, and thy wine.7 14And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates: 15Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because [for] the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase [inbringing, produce] and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice. 16Three times in a year shall all thy males appear [be seen] before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles; and they 17shall not appear before the Lord empty: Every man shall give as he is able [according to the gift of his hand] according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee.


1. As the third command closes with the number three, Deuteronomy 14:28, so the fourth command, defined through the sacred number seven, has its commencement numerically with that number. Theologically this chapter connects itself with that which precedes, in this way, that as in the tithes the whole fulness of the earthly goods was recognized as Jehovah’s, as His blessing, belonging to Him, and for which He is to be praised; so with the seven days the whole period of life generally was regarded as sanctified to Jehovah, because He will complete it in His holy and blessed rest. Ethically and practically the transition is from the tithe of the poor at the close of the 14th chap., to 1) the poor debtor, Deuteronomy 15:1-11; Deuteronomy 2:0) the Hebrew slaves, male and female, 12–18.

2.Deuteronomy 15:1-11.Deuteronomy 15:1. At the end, sq., i.e. at the expiration of the septennate; thus in general the Sabbatical year. With the presupposition of this institution from Exodus 23:10 sq.; Leviticus 25:2 sq. (comp. upon these passages, and the article in Herzog’sEncykl. XIII. 205; Bræm., Wanderings of Israel, p. 381; [also article on Sabbatical Year in SmithBib. Dict.—A. G.], there is a completion, but at the same time a genuine exposition and application of the Sabbath-law, according to Mark 2:27. As שְׁמִטָּה תַּעֲשֶׂה (Deuteronomy 15:1) refers to שָׁמַט, Exodus 23:11, to leave, let lie, then the land, and indeed with reference to the poor; here with a like reference to the poor, to whom a loan has been made—the loan. The connection also of שָׁמוֹט, Deuteronomy 15:2, with יָדוֹ, that every creditor should permit his hand to rest with reference to that which he had lent, brings out the same thing; only that with every such interpretation as to the sowing and the harvest (Exodus 23:10), there must be a regard also to Leviticus 25:4-5. Reference to the latter passage is the more in place here; for the debtor relation lies, in the highest measure, at the foundation of the statement, Leviticus 25:0 Jehovah there gives Israel the land, as here the בַּעַל מַשֵּׁה is either: the master of the lending, having the object in the relative clause: which he will lend or: the idea of the master is defined from the connection, and מַשֵּׁה is the object—lends the loan to his neighbor. Canaan is a good loaned. Jehovah is the only proprietor and creditor in the land; this is especially the supposition for the sabbatical year, Leviticus 25:2. But if all are debtors to Jehovah, the relation of debtor between man and man can only be relative, and must be carried out according to Matthew 6:12. Thus passing over from the tithe to the Sabbath idea, the sabbatical year (שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן), the rest of the divine loan, namely of the land, a שבת ליהוה (Leviticus 25:4; Leviticus 25:2), becomes in Deuteronomy a release also of every human loan. All Israelites are moreover brethren, which is insisted upon, Deuteronomy 15:2-3, etc. Israel pays no tithe to Jehovah from his loan during the sabbatical year. Jehovah Himself cares for the personæ miserabiles in His enlarged blessing upon the seventh year (Leviticus 25:6 sq.), through which the master appears as placed alike with his servants, thus—although there is no express mention of the widow, fatherless, poor, comp. however Deuteronomy 24:14—fed upon divine alms, as they are usually through the blessing of God upon their toil. It agrees well with this detailed explanation to understand שְׁמִּטָּה, Deuteronomy 15:1, as the leaving the debtor in rest for the seventh year, as the clause: thou shalt not exact (press), more fully describes, and one who is also אָחִיו. The usual Jewish interpretation is that there should be an entire release of the debt, Luke 6:34-35. [The clear reference to the land-rest or release, which was for the year, and the force of the Hebrew word rendered exact, more correctly urge or press, and the whole spirit of the Mosaic law, which was not to destroy obligations of this kind, but to guard the poor and unfortunate against undue severity or oppression, are all in favor of the interpretation which regards the release as for the year. This interpretation is now almost universally accepted. The Bib. Com. adds also: “it seems further clear that the release had reference only to loans, and to loans lent because of poverty, not to debts contracted in the purchase of goods.” A. G.]—Called, sq.; an official proclamation, although not precisely as Leviticus 25:9-10 (Deuteronomy 23:2; Deuteronomy 23:4). Probably at the beginning in the seventh month (10. Tisri) at the day of atonement. לַיהוֹה, as Leviticus 25:2 (Exodus 20:10). This reference to the Sabbath Year gives the reasons for the release of the debtor. Deuteronomy 15:3. Comp. Deuteronomy 14:21 (Deuteronomy 23:21). The foreigner was not in the condition of those who had no harvest this year, and therefore could not pay.—Which is thine, what thou hast of thine in thy brother’s hand as a loan. The hand, because it must rest, keep festal time, in reference to the field, etc., would perhaps be busy with reference to the debtor. But we cannot serve God and mammon. Deuteronomy 15:4. Only(will I say to you still) that, sq., equivalent to but, nevertheless (in the promised rich and sure blessing of God), there shall be no אֶבְיוֹן (literally straitened, wretched) in Israel, to whom one shall have to lend. Not that Israel should be charged to take care that there be no poor (Schultz, Keil), but to hold before him the idea of his blessed national condition as willed by God (Deuteronomy 15:6). In every possible mercy or kindness of Israel, Jehovah has thus been before him. Comp. further Deuteronomy 4:21; Deuteronomy 4:38. From this ideal stand-point the earnest exhortation (Deuteronomy 15:5) introduces the transition to the relations, not as they should be, but as they are and will be. Deuteronomy 15:6. בֵּרַכְךָ. The blessing is a complete, spoken, established thing. As it is here explained, so it must be understood in Deuteronomy 15:4 (against Keil and Schultz). עַכַט in Hiph.: to take from any one a pledge for security, to oblige one, thus to lend upon security; in Kal.: to bind one’s self by a pledge; hence, to borrow from one. Such independence is surely a dominion in the world. Deuteronomy 15:7. The actual relations at first hypothetically stated. Comp. Deuteronomy 2:30. אָמֵץ, Piel: to draw together, hence make firm, spoken against such an unnatural state, which truly the closed hand follows in a natural way, as a door which is shut before the needy brother. Deuteronomy 15:8. Obliges them to do much more than to leave the hardened, closed heart.—For his need.—דֵּי is the construct st. of דַי (דָיָה), abundance, sufficient, enough to cover what was wanting to him. Deuteronomy 15:9. The application to the Sabbatical Year. Comp. Deuteronomy 8:5; Deuteronomy 13:14. It would be shameful to represent to himself the obligation of the seventh year, and anticipate it with an evil eye with respect to his needy brother. Since the year is one proclaimed as ליהוה, Deuteronomy 15:2, the loud or mute cry of the poor becomes intelligible (James 2:15 sq.; 1 John 3:17; James 4:17). Deuteronomy 15:10. According to the connection, it concerns especially the loan which he asks (2 Corinthians 9:5 sq.). Comp. further Deuteronomy 12:7. Finally Deuteronomy 15:11 presents the entire sad and actual condition (Matthew 26:11), as on account of sin, as its consequence, guilt, punishment, which condition, however, must be met with brotherly kindness and mercy (1 Peter 4:8). The whole arrangement of the seventh year rests upon the supposition of this never-ceasing relation of the subjective inward (עני) and objective outward wretchedness. [It is questionable whether the statement: the poor shall never cease, sq., is to be regarded as a penalty for sin. There is nothing in the passage which would lead us to suppose this; and there is no necessity for the supposition in order to reconcile these words with Deuteronomy 15:4 : there shall be no poor among you. There was the same necessity then as now for these diversities in human condition. Each class needed the other for their mutual good. The promise in Deuteronomy 15:4 is not absolute, nor merely conditional, as suspended upon Israel’s obedience or disobedience. The promise was that there should be no abject poor, no crushed, wretched ones. There should be poor, those needing aid; but they should be relieved. This whole provision of the year of release, and laws similar in spirit and tendency respecting inheritance are to guard against the total ruin of the unfortunate and needy; to prevent the poor from sinking into hopeless poverty.—A. G.].

3.Deuteronomy 15:12-18. There is no reference here to the Sabbatical year; but the Sabbatical principle and number are still retained. The connection with the tithe for the poor in the previous chapter is still in force, but not so “that the poverty which makes it necessary that the Hebrew should sell himself for a slave, forms the transition to the following provisions” (Keil), for there is a different way in regard to servitude, Exodus 21:2. The generosity towards the enfranchised, which is commanded in Deuteronomy, gives much more the point of union with the foregoing precepts. Further it is the fundamental idea of the fourth command, the Sabbath idea, which as it was made availing in the year of release before, so now, and still more essentially, in the seven years of servitude. Israel is a servant, ליהוה; hence also whatever has part in the covenant-relation (the number seven) consequently the Israelitish slave: thus his time must be sanctified to Jehovah. This is brought into distinct consciousness in the seven years’ service, and indeed is conformed through the injunction, thou shalt not let him go away empty, to the blessing which God placed upon the Sabbath, Exodus 20:11. In this sense the Sabbath Year forms the transition from the foregoing to what follows. Deuteronomy 15:12. Be sold unto thee, or sell himself to thee.—Thy brother points him—the one sold—out as an Israelite. עִבְרִי designates either: one from the other side with respect to the land, the other side of the Euphrates, or: עֵבֶר, the stem-father (Genesis 10:21), the drawing together, union, people, and indeed the people simply, so that the adjective here is equivalent to one of the grand nation, as the French love to call themselves, a landsman, in distinction from a foreign slave.—Or an Hebrew woman, an addition to Exodus 21:0. What is there evident in the case itself is here expressed, comp. Deuteronomy 15:17, on account of the special case, Exodus 21:7 sq., because in what follows it is the relation of servant generally which is spoken of. Comp. on those passages.—In the seventh year, thus commonly, as in an extraordinary manner in the fiftieth or jubilee year, Leviticus 25:39. Since Israel is redeemed out of the house of bondage (Exodus 20:2), and is the servant of the Lord forever (Leviticus 25:42; Leviticus 25:55), there is no prolonged human bondage here. Deuteronomy 15:13. Comp. Genesis 31:42 (Luke 1:53). Deuteronomy 15:14. Repeated servitude through poverty or want should be prevented. No mere empty freedom! So much as he can take, carry with him, perhaps, also, pressed upon him. Comp. further Deuteronomy 15:6; Deuteronomy 12:7. Not send him away empty, but give him; it reaches to this, especially where they had received such blessings to give. A genuine Deuteronomic supplement. Deuteronomy 15:15. Comp. Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 13:6. Deuteronomy 15:16. Comp. upon Exodus 21:5 sq. The public announcement and declaration of the servant pre-supposes the legal proceedings. In Deuteronomy, and according to the connection here, it is the private domestic act only which comes into view.—Andthine house includes the wife and the children of the servant, who, according to Exodus 21:4, would remain in the house.—Well with thee. The Hebrew servant was generally no slave (Leviticus 25:43). See the excellent article by Oehler in Herzog’sEncyclop. XIV. 464 sq. Deuteronomy 15:17. The symbol of that cleaving to the body (probably the right ear), thus of constant obedience (Psalms 40:6 does not belong here) and of ever-enduring bondage to the house.—[“Bored ears were made a badge of slavery, and so became ignominious,” Bib. Com.; and thus show that the Hebrew servant was in many respects regarded as a slave, although his condition was greatly modified by the beneficent regulations here laid down.—A. G.]. Enduring servitude has thus its disgrace in whatever moral motives it has its origin; it is not merely a resolution which has to do with it. עוֹלָם, according to the Jewish tradition, reaches only to the Year of Jubilee, or until the death of the master.—Also unto thy maid-servant, scarcely as Deuteronomy 15:14, according to the Jewish tradition, but as is said above of the servant. It related to the elder women, to whom the direction in Exodus 21:7 could have no application. Deuteronomy 15:18 explains why this prominent precept again recurs. As the presumed public procedure excludes any gross violence, so Deuteronomy 15:18 meets and opposes the more subtle, by persuasion; the servant may and ought actually to be free. Moses meets the apparent hardness (Jeremiah 34:8 sq.), practically for the calculating selfishness, with the consideration, that the service of the servant in question was worth double that of a hired servant, if one had labored in his room; for him there was barely support, not even wages nor account; the servant had saved twice the cost, was also at every time ready for service. Isaiah 16:14 belongs as little here as Isaiah 21:16; at most only so far as with hired servants, there must be an exact reckoning. For the rest comp. Deuteronomy 15:6; as much as to say: thou wilt never be the loser, for the blessing of God is with thee.

4.Deuteronomy 15:19-23. Comp. Introd. § 4, i. 19. Although the first-born have been named already, Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 14:23, with the tithe, partly in the summary statement, and partly on account of what was common to all, still it is now first preeminently the subject of discourse. The reason is because the first-born belong to the exposition of the fourth command. While the tithe is the acknowledgment of Jehovah, as peculiarly the proprietor of the land, so with respect to the first-born, since birth leads into life, and over against the dead first-born of Egypt (Exodus 13:15) the first-born of Israel were kept alive (Numbers 3:13; Numbers 8:17), it symbolizes naturally and historically the sanctification of the whole life to Jehovah (Keil, Arch. I. 340). But that is the idea of the Sabbath. As to the peculiar institution in Israel with respect to the first-born, comp. upon Exodus 13:0; Numbers 18:0. In reference to the Sabbath, it is said, Deuteronomy 15:19 : thou shalt sanctify to Jehovah, Deuteronomy 5:12, Hence also עבד as in the fourth command. They are neither to profit by their labor, nor through the usual natural usufruct, i.e. they are treated as a sacrifice. Deuteronomy 15:20. Comp. Deuteronomy 14:23.—Eat, namely with the priests, to whom the first-born belonged, Numbers 18:18. (Hengstenberg: The eating of the first-born was granted to the offerer as such (Exodus 13:15), because the first-born belonged to the שְׁלָמִים.—Authen. II. 406 sq. Others: the discourse treats of the female first-born. Others: of a second first-born (!). Others: of the young animal, the best, the youngest.)—[The apparent inconsistency between this passage, which not only allows, but directs, that the offerers should partake of the victims, and that in Numbers 18:18, which assigns the firstling to the priests, is discussed in the introduction. If the firstlings were only partly given to the priests, then of course there would be no inconsistency, since the offerer would have the remaining portions. But if, as the words in Numbers 18:18 seem to imply, the whole was assigned to the priests, then the right here given to the offerer is grounded in the force of a custom which was originally provided for in the ritual of the sacrifice, especially of the passover sacrifice, which had gradually grown up to become a law, and which now receives the sanction of the law-giver. The right here bestowed may not have been alluded to in Numbers, just because it was well understood, but was here expressed in accordance with the very nature of Deuteronomy, in which the popular rights are fixed and guarded for all the future. If we keep in view the different circumstances, both of the law-giver and the people, in which these directions were given, it seems clear that the one is the natural and historical complement of the other, that what was needless, and therefore not expressly stated in the earlier, finds its appropriate place in the later legislation.—A. G.]

Deuteronomy 15:21 is explained from the sacrificial character of the first-born (comp. Leviticus 22:19-20); hence also: thou shalt not sacrifice (kill) to Jehovah, on account of the sacred meals, that they might not be profaned with them. Deuteronomy 15:22. Comp. Deuteronomy 12:15; Deuteronomy 12:21-22. Upon Deuteronomy 15:23 comp. Deuteronomy 12:16; Deuteronomy 12:23-24.

5. Chap. 16, Deuteronomy 16:1-17. The reference to one sanctuary is generally deuteronomic; the special ground for what follows appears rather in the fourth command, hence this passage treats simply of “the feasts which are for the most part sabbatical.” Schultz. 1). The passover-feast, 1–8, with which, as already through the previous first-born institution (comp. also Deuteronomy 5:15), the Sabbath-idea now gains more expressly its greater depth in the redemption first begun truly (out of Egypt), but pointing onward typically and far more widely. Deuteronomy 16:1. Comp. Deuteronomy 5:12.—חֹדֶש, literally the breaking dawn, the first day, upon which the moon is again visible, hence month, which began with the new moon. But by no means the new moon of Abib (Hitzig) in opposition to Exodus 12:6; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 9:2 sq., which are all here supposed as well known. אָבִיב (the ear, green ears) is not a proper name, as indeed all the months were designated in the Pentateuch by numbers (Herzog’sReal Encyl.), but appellative (Exodus 9:31; Leviticus 2:14). The designation ear-month connects itself always with the exodus from Egypt, as also the required feast-observance is here grounded in it (Hengst., Authen. II. 361). The later name is Nisan, our April. פֶסַח, from the passing by or over, sparing, comp. Exodus 12:13; Exodus 12:23; Exodus 12:27. May it be with reference to the “breaking through,” the new shooting forth in spring, as the redemption in nature, at which time it was observed, similarly as our Easter? The passover-feast observance commanded, is emphasized here through the verifying לָיְלָה, historically as the eating of the well-known passover lamb, comp. upon Exodus 12:8; Leviticus 23:5; as the passover meal pre-supposes the slaying of the lamb as completed, the direction, Deuteronomy 16:2, is either to be understood in reference to the place where the remaining sacrifices should be brought, including also the passover-sacrifice (Leviticus 23:8; Numbers 28:19-26), Hengstenberg, or to make prominent the end of the wider meals, marking them all with this character of the passover, the offering of all kinds, slain and thank (Exodus 23:15; Leviticus 23:38) as one passover-feast (Hertzog XI., p. 145; Schultz, Keil). The connection favors the latter view. This is the accepted view. The Jews not only desiguated the whole service as the passover, but the word is used in the New Testament, John 18:28, in this wide sense. The seven days make it clear that it is so used here. “The passover-lamb was to be consumed on the first evening, and that with which they were to eat unleavened bread was the passover in the wider sense. The direction here therefore is no variation of the ordinary name, Exodus 12:5. The rite of the paschal lamb is pre-supposed throughout, and the command of the present passage relates to the paschal offerings.” Bib. Com.—A. G.]—Thus to the tone of joyful festivity impressed upon it (by the sacrificial meals) follows now, Deuteronomy 16:3, the other feature equally prominent and in itself predominantly earnest, solemn character of the passover-feast. Thus the eating, עָלָיו, if in the first case it may be referred to the passover-lamb, it cannot certainly in the second case—since it was continued seven days, and must therefore be generally with respect to the passover-feast or upon it. Some refer it to the offerings of the flock and the herd, Deuteronomy 16:2. The careful impressive negation of leavened bread must be understood, as the immediately following position of מַצּוֹת (fundamentally, to extend, thus flat, dried, extended, not previously cooked), intimates, with reference to the historical and not symbolical motive; for in haste, anxious haste—(חָפַז, to concentrate, in anxiety, in order to flee, Exodus 12:11 sq.) as the arrangement foreseen and prescribed by God, Exodus 12:8; Exodus 12:15 sq., was entirely completed under the pressure of the circumstances at the time, Exodus 12:33-34; Exodus 12:39 (Hengst., Auth. II. 367). What was symbolized by the leaven, beyond this signification of the historical relations (that thou mayest remember), comp. Kurtz, Hist. II. 127, does not come into view here. The מַצּוֹת is explained by לֶחֶם עֹנִי, and would certainly call to mind the oppression, affliction and poverty (Kurtz).

But the prominence of the number seven is to be observed with reference to the Sabbath-idea, which rules in this section: seven days shalt thou, sq., and the life-long remembrance is manifestly a sanctification of the whole life. On account of the grave, earnest recollections connected with the passover, to which the other aspect evidently serves as a relief, Moses has before, Deuteronomy 16:2, so expressly mentioned the other meals, in order to elevate the feast into the character of the Sabbath-feast, as a feast of a redemption which should come to its rest, as also the name of the Lord, in Canaan. (Deuteronomy 16:2. Comp. Deuteronomy 12:11.) Deuteronomy 16:4 repudiates again any existence of שְׂאר, i.e. leaven (the שָׂאַר, causes to boil up), during the seven days, and indeed in the most comprehensive way. Comp. Exodus 12:15; Exodus 12:19; Exodus 13:7. לְךָ, belonging to thee. That nothing of the flesh of the passover-lamb should be left until the morning, but in that case should be burned with fire, rests upon Exodus 12:10. The historical feature of haste also clings to the feast, and thus the passover was a night-meal, with whose food the succeeding morning had nothing to do. בָּעֶרֶב (not in the transition sense, not the twilight, but from עָבַר, to fold together; in the turning, sinking of day to night), at the 14th of Nisan. According to Exodus 12:6 : between, הָעַרְבָּיִם, dual, i.e. the double turning before and after sunset; comp. below, Deuteronomy 16:6. Thus the slaying of the passover would be between the fifth and seventh hour.—The first day, equivalent to the day before, i.e. before that, with the 15th of Nisan beginning seven days’ feast of unleavened bread. Deuteronomy 16:5-6. A modification of Exodus 12:7; Exodus 12:46, with respect to Canaan and out of the sacrificial nature of the passover. Comp. Numbers 9:7; Numbers 9:13; Exodus 12:17; Exodus 34:18; Exodus 34:24. Thus at the sanctuary. Comp. however Kurtz II., p. 342. In any case the distinction in the expression: in the place, with reference to the cooking and the eating, from that in Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:18, is worthy of notice; this could occur at the dwelling, the night-quarters of each one in the place of the sanctuary. [The modification as to the one place from Exodus 12:7; Exodus 12:46, is certainly a modification contemplated and provided for in the original institution, is alluded to in Exodus 34:24, and finds express utterance here naturally and in full accordance with the spirit of Deuteronomy.—A. G.]—To thy tents is thus, after the conclusion of the whole feast, to their respective homes (John 7:53; John 7:37).—Roast, cook, with reference to the passover-lamb, not in water, but over the fire, 2 Chronicles 35:13.—[Our version is here rather an interpretation than a translation. But every Jew would understand at once how it was to be cooked.—A. G.]

Deuteronomy 16:7 bears throughout a very general character, as of the sacrificial meals, which still find a place here according to Deuteronomy 16:2, with which also the closing direction, to go to their homes, spoken with respect to the pilgrimages to the sanctuary, which Schultz, Keil, understand of a return to their booths or lodges, well agrees. Deuteronomy 16:8 involves no difficulty; on the contrary it explains the return to their homes as occurring first after the seven days, since as upon the 15th, so also upon the 21st Nisan (Exodus 12:16), there was to be abstinence from the leavened bread and from every kind of business (Exodus 16:29); comp. Deuteronomy 5:13. Thus a Sabbath! עֲצֶרֶת from עָצַר, either: to restrain, thus to cease from ordinary labor, hence a sabbatical assembly, or to hold fast, firm; thence a closed society, feast-assembly, or to close; and thence the close of the feast.—2) The feast of weeks, Deuteronomy 16:9-12.Deuteronomy 16:9. Seven weeks, sq.—The number seven makes the Sabbath-idea prominent at once.—From the beginning of the sickle (Leviticus 23:15 sq.) is the same as from the second day of the passover, when with the presentation of the sheaf of the first-fruits, the grain-harvest began (16 Nisan). קָמָה, that which rises up, ascends, stalk, more definitely, wheat.—Seven sevens, and in Deuteronomy 16:10 the feast of the sevens.—For the harvest-feast (Exodus 23:16) is the ethical side of the destination to Jehovah with true free will and bountifulness, and without a special precept. מִסַּת, const. of מִסָּה (from מָסַם, to separate, divide, measure), only used here, related to מִדָּה, measure. Sept: καθότι, καθώς. But the blessing of God should also make joyful, Deuteronomy 16:11; comp. Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 14:29. It is said of God Himself in regard to the Sabbath, Exodus 31:17 (Deuteronomy 23:12). Deuteronomy 16:12, as (Deuteronomy 15:15.—3.) The feast of tabernacles, Deuteronomy 16:13-17. It fell upon the seventh month, and lasted seven days. Deuteronomy 16:13. Comp. Leviticus 23:33 sq. סַכָּה, from סָכַךְ (סךְ) to make a covering, to cover, to screen; generally: shelter (Keil, Arch. I. 412 sq.). The side of this feast which relates to the leading through the wilderness is thus sufficiently intimated and supposed, and the other side, the predominant side with respect to Canaan, and at the same time so directly inciting to thankful joy, the ingathering of the threshing-floor and wine-press into granary and cellar, as truly deuteronomic as it is suited to the connection, can alone be presented. Observe the progress: the rescuing of life (Passover)—the customary support of life by means of bread (feast of weeks)—out of threshing-floor and wine-press, the full, joyful enjoyment of life (feast of tabernacles). אסף, summarily used of the fruit; oil and wine harvest. But in all, sanctification to the Lord, the Sabbath-idea of life. Deuteronomy 16:14, as Deuteronomy 16:11.—In (it) thy feast, a phrase through which the destination even of the Sabbath to be for man comes out more clearly than through the ־לךְ Deuteronomy 16:9, or the לךָ, Deuteronomy 16:13. The blessing of God in every way in the increase and toil, Deuteronomy 16:15, will provide for the completion of the joy. אךְ, not as, therefore, but wholly, throughout, perfectly (John 16:24). To the closing feast of the year, there is appropriately added, Deuteronomy 16:16-17, the three yearly feasts collectively, at the same time closing the exposition of the Sabbath-command as a final notice from Exodus 23:17; Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:23, with the express reference to Jehovah (אֶת־פני), before whom what is both subjectively and objectively accomplished, Deuteronomy 16:17, is of more avail than לֹא רֵיקָם, Deuteronomy 15:13.—[The view of those who hold that the thread of this part of the discourse is rather the oneness of the sanctuary than the Sabbath-idea, which Schroeder so ingeniously carries out, is thus stated in the Bib. Com: “The cardinal point here is the concentration of the religious services of the people round one common sanctuary. The prohibition against observing these great feasts at home and in private is reiterated in Deuteronomy 16:2; Deuteronomy 16:6-7; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:15-16. Hence it is easy to see why nothing is here said of the other holy days. No doubt the great day of atonement (Leviticus 23:26 sq.) and the feast of trumpets (Leviticus 23:23 sq.) are as positively enjoined by Moses as are the three feasts mentioned here; but it was no part of either of these observances that all the males should “appear before the Lord.” Those days might be observed by the faithful without going to the central sanctuary for the purpose.” But it does not appear that the topic of a national and visible unity in faith and worship holds such a leading place in Deuteronomy as this view supposes. It is clearly one object aimed at; but it gives too narrow a view of the scope and end of Moses in this book to assign it this leading and controlling place. Having once established it, as it came up in the natural progress of his discourse, it is assumed, rather than inculcated over and over, as he passes on to other topics.—A. G.]


1. The unfolding of the Sabbath-thought, according to its ascending stages, is the nerve of the section. Keil correctly designates “the rest or suspension of every business” only as “a means” of the sanctification of the Sabbath, as “the condition without which it could not be truly sanctified to the Lord,” and therewith meets us, Deuteronomy 15:1-11, the first characteristic feature from which all the rest proceeds. The sanctification of the Sabbath, since it is to Jehovah, represents the covenant which God has with Israel, through which it should appear free from servitude in toil or care of this life, and this is the second characteristic or stage, Deuteronomy 15:12-18. The third, Deuteronomy 15:19-23, is, that with the consecration of days, months, years—thus ever of definite periods of time—the consecration of the whole life generally, is in truth symbolized and exemplified. As now the rest upon the Sabbath is based upon the rest of God after the creation of the world, so the freedom of Israel for such rest, was grounded in the redemption out of the Egyptian bondage, which fact through the passover feast has an everlasting celebration; a fourth stage (Deuteronomy 16:1-8) intimating at the same time how the Sabbath solemnity would have its completion. (Matthew 26:2; Matthew 26:18-19; Matthew 26:26 sq.; Luke 22:15 sq.; Hebrews 4:9). But this completion is the perfection of the creation, fallen with the humanity, as through God so in God; the good pleasure of God again in His work, becomes the blessedness of men; hence the joy, the fifth sabbatical characteristic, Deuteronomy 16:9-12. Finally this joy becomes only joy, i.e., as entirely perfected, set before us in the last feast of the year. “That which is prophetic,” remarks Schultz, “in the Sabbath solemnity, lies especially near here. He who has willed this completion in the lapse of the year, must will it also in the lapse of greater periods of time, at the end indeed of all time. Zechariah 14:16 sq.” The sixth stage of the Sabbath thought, Deuteronomy 16:13-17, shows the redemption (through which the Sabbath comes to its completion) as one again in the Sabbath first having its final perfection. Thus time in its widest development is limited and bounded by the Sabbath; thus generally the world time of humanity closes in a Sabbath. Comp. upon the pilgrimages to the three feasts, even in Canaan still, the beautiful explanation of Keil, Arch., I. 417, as also Psalms 84:0.

2. It is peculiarly deuteronomic to bring out clearly the ideality of the people of God, without forgetting its real relations, e.g., Deuteronomy 2:25; Deuteronomy 4:30. Baumgarten well says: “Just as no sickness cleaves to the people of Jehovah, (Exodus 15:26; Exodus 23:25; Deuteronomy 7:15) so Israel cannot be struggling with any want, but lives in abundance and wealth (Deuteronomy 8:9). Jehovah has prepared the land from the beginning for His people, Deuteronomy 11:10-12. This is the cutting severity in the poverty of an Israelite, that in it the disobedience of Israel and the wrath of Jehovah are revealed. In the necessities of its individual members, therefore, Israel should learn to see its own naked actual condition and truth, according to which it is tainted with its natural stiff-neckedness and disobedience against the law of its God,” etc.


Deuteronomy 15:1-2. Richter: “The year of release was a figure of the gospel, in which the acceptable year of the Lord was proclaimed.” Deuteronomy 15:3. Berl. Bib.: “So also Galatians 6:10; but 2 Peter 1:7, the universal love appears as the highest round, as also Christ praises love towards an enemy, and thus towards all men, as perfection, Matthew 5:43-48.” Deuteronomy 15:4. Richter: “Observe the distinction between beggars and the poor generally. Liberality to these, and careful laws, should prevent begging, which fearfully corrupts the poor. Comp. Psalms 37:21.” Deuteronomy 15:5-6. J. Gerhardt: “These earthly riches are a type of the spiritual in the N. T., since no gracious gift shall be wanting to the pious, (1 Corinthians 1:7) since indeed they should impart to others, and thus spiritually lend, and also should have dominion over Satan, sin, death, and hell.” Berl. Bib.: “Usually men seek the smallest coin in order to give to the poor, and give even that unwillingly.” Deuteronomy 15:7-11. Baumgarten: “What a sensitive inward character prevails here.” Schultz: “That one should inflict violence upon his heart, as it were, shows how censurable hard-heartedness is, while the mere natural kindness has no moral worth.” Osiander: “Although the poor should not revile the rich, yet their cries against the unmercifulness of the rich come up before God.” [Deuteronomy 15:11. Wordsworth: “Our Lord adds the reason that ye may do them good, and thus exercise the divine grace of love, and so promote your own salvation and theirs. God will judge you according to your treatment of them, Matthew 25:40. Thy poor brother is his brother.”—A. G.]. Deuteronomy 15:15. Baumgarten: “This is not merely a recollection of the past, but in every Israelitish servant, the servitude of Israel should be recognized as still enduring, since it points to the redemption as not yet perfected.” Deuteronomy 15:16-17. The image of our eternal bondage to the Lord; condition under which; the manner and method how. Deuteronomy 1:0 : A free, clear acknowledgment to the Lord, grounded in love to him and his house, having its deepest ground in the blessed condition, flowing out of the love of God to us; 2. pain, shame, obedience (absolute dependence) but also eternally belonging to him. Deuteronomy 16:1-2. Berl. Bib: “The Spirit of God truly demands from us that with the remembrance of the death of Christ, who is our passover Lamb, we should offer our spiritual sacrifices, and should ourselves be such, (Romans 8:36); but all our service which we offer, presupposes the sacrifice of the Lamb, and has its virtue and strength from the sacrifice of Christ.” Deuteronomy 15:3. Richter: “We also, as redeemed, should remember our wretched state before our redemption, especially at the holy supper.” 1 Corinthians 5:6 sq. Starke: “It is not sufficient to know when the great feasts occur, but we must celebrate them in a manner well-pleasing to God.” Deuteronomy 15:4. Friedlib: “Christ should be dearer to-day, than to be enjoyed on the morrow.” Deuteronomy 15:11. There is a joy before the Lord, which the world willingly refuses, the true joy of communion with Him.—Calvin: “God will do more for us than we have for Him. The world laughs, but will at last wail and gnash its teeth.” Deuteronomy 15:13. Luther: “We observe every day the feast of tabernacles, if we learn and perceive that we are strangers in the world, until our tabernacles are laid aside. Thus we rejoice also in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, i.e., in the food of the pure gospel, and in the life of the Spirit, without toys and ornaments, etc.” Schultz: “The feasts in the N. T. refer to that which is completed, and need only to be appreciated; they are not sabbatical, but Sunday feasts. Your highest (?—most joyful) feast is not at the end, but lies at the beginning; the incarnation is the greatest joy-feast.” Parallel feasts: Passover and Easter, Feast of Weeks and Pentecost, Tabernacles and Christmas. Deuteronomy 15:16. Calvin: “He spares the tender women, and the children under twenty. The father of the family includes wife and children. According to an old custom no one could appear before the king without a present. Thus God wills a mark of subjection from every one.


[1][Deuteronomy 15:2. Schroeder, lit., every master lending his hand, which he will lend to his neighbor. See Exegetical Note.—A. G.].

[2][Deuteronomy 15:4. Margin, to the end that there may be, etc. Bib. Com. renders no poor with thee in the transaction. But the rendering which is allowable seems liable to the objection that the idea so expressed is forced into the text.—A. G.].

[3][Deuteronomy 15:8. Opening thou shalt open—both widely and cheerfully.—A. G.].

[4][Deuteronomy 15:10. Cheerfully, richly. See above on Deuteronomy 15:8.—A. G.].

[5][Deuteronomy 15:8. Restraint, as if from labor, although etymologically possible, does not meet the case here. Schroeder transfers the Hebrew word to the text. But our version is here preferable.—A. G.].

[6][Deuteronomy 15:10. The italic words are needless.—A. G.].

[7][Deuteronomy 15:13. Lit., In thy gathering from thy floor and thy wine-press.—A. G.].

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/deuteronomy-15.html. 1857-84.
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