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DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 15
The seventh year a year of release, Deuteronomy 15:1, to their brethren only, Deuteronomy 15:2,Deuteronomy 15:3.
God promiseth to bless them in the land of Canaan, Deuteronomy 15:4-6; and commandeth them to lend freely to the poor, Deuteronomy 15:7-18.
The firstlings to be sanctified and eaten before the Lord, Deuteronomy 15:19-23.
i.e. In the last year of the seven, as is most evident from Deuteronomy 15:9; Exodus 21:2; Jeremiah 34:14. So the like phrase is oft used, as Deuteronomy 14:28; Joshua 3:2; Jeremiah 25:12; Luke 2:21; Acts 2:1. And this year of release, as it is called below, Deuteronomy 15:9, is the same with the sabbatical year, Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 25:4.
Shall release it; not absolutely and finally forgive it, but forbear it for that year, as may appear,
1. Because the word doth not signify a total dismission or acquitting, but an intermission for a time, as Exodus 23:11. He shall not exact it, as it here follows, i.e. force it from him by course of law or otherwise, to wit, that year, which is easily understood out of the whole context.
2. Because the person releasing is called a creditor, and his communicating to him what he desires and needs is called lending here and Deuteronomy 15:8; whereas it were giving, and the person giving it were no creditor, but a donor, if it were to be wholly forgiven to him.
3. Because the reason of this law is temporary and peculiar to that year, wherein there being no sowing nor reaping, they were not in a capacity to pay their debts.
4. Because it seems unjust and unreasonable, and contrary to other scriptures, which require men to pay what they borrow, as Psalms 37:21. Yet I deny not that in case of poverty the debt was to be forgiven; but that was not by virtue of this law, but of other commands of God.
Or of his brother: this is added to explain and limit the word
neighbour, which is more general, unto a brother, to wit, in nation and religion; to an Israelite, who is opposed to a foreigner, Deuteronomy 15:3, Heb. and a brother, for that is a brother, the particle and being oft so used, as Genesis 13:15, &c.
The Lord’s release; or, a release to or for the Lord, in obedience to his command, for his honour, and as an acknowledgment of his right in your estates, and of his kindness in giving and continuing them to you. If you are unwilling to release this for your brother’s sake, yet do it for God’s sake, your Lord and the chief Creditor.
A foreigner, or stranger, yea, though a proselyte. For,
1. They are oft called by this name, as Genesis 17:12; Ruth 2:10.
2. Though proselytes were admitted to the church privileges of the Israelites, yet they were not admitted to all their civil immunities or privileges. See 1 Chronicles 22:2; 2 Chronicles 2:17.
3. Such were not then freed from their personal debt, to wit, of their service, Leviticus 25:44; Deuteronomy 15:12; Jeremiah 34:14, therefore not from their real debt.
That which is thine, to wit, by right, though lent to him.
When there shall be no poor: so the words are an exception to the foregoing clause, which they restrain to the poor, and imply that if his brother was rich, he might exact his debt of him in that year. And indeed this law seems to be chiefly, if not wholly, designed and given in favour to the poor and to the borrower, as is manifest from Deuteronomy 15:6-11. But the words are and may be rendered thus, as in the margin of our Bibles, To the end that there be no poor among you. And so they contain a reason of this law, to wit, that none be impoverished and ruined by a rigid and unseasonable exaction of debts. They may also be translated thus, Nevertheless of a truth, or assuredly, (as the particle chi is oft used,) there shall be no poor along you; and the sense may be this, Though I impose this law upon you, which may seem hard and grievous, yet the truth is, supposing your performance of the conditions of God’s covenant, you shall not have any great occasion to exercise your charity and kindness in this matter, for God will greatly bless you, &c., so as you shall be in a capacity of lending, and few or none of you will have need to borrow, and thereby to expose his brethren to the inconvenience and burden of this law. Thus the connexion is plain and easy, both with the foregoing and following words.
Object. It is said, the poor should never cease, Deuteronomy 15:11.
Answ. That also is true, and affirmed by God, because he foresaw they would not perform their duty, and therefore would bereave themselves of the promised blessing.
The Lord shall greatly bless thee; and therefore this will be no great inconvenience nor burden to thee.
Thou shalt lend unto many; thou shalt be rich and able to lend not only to thy poor brother, but even to strangers of other nations, yea, to many of them.
Open thine hand wide unto him, i.e. deal bountifully and liberally with him, giving him as it were by handfuls.
Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart; suppress the first risings and inward motions of such uncharitableness.
Thine eye be evil, i.e. envious, unmerciful, unkind, as this phrase is used, Proverbs 23:6; Matthew 20:15; as a good eye notes the contrary disposition, Proverbs 22:9.
It be sin, i.e. it be charged upon thee as a sin, and as a great sin, as the word sin sometimes signifies, as Proverbs 24:9; John 15:24; James 4:17.
Thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him, i.e. thou shalt give not only with an open hand, but with a willing and cheerful mind and heart, Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 9:9, without which thy very charity is uncharitable, and not accepted by God, who requires the heart in all his services.
In all that thou puttest thine hand unto, i.e. in all thy works, as before, for the hand is the great instrument of action.
The poor shall never cease out of the land; God by his providence will so order it, partly for the punishment of your disobedience, and partly for the trial and exercise of your obedience to me, and charity to your brother, both which are best discovered by your performance of costly duties.
If thy brother be sold unto thee. See Poole "Exodus 22:3".
Six years; to be computed, either,
1. From the year of release; as they gather from hence that personal and real debts were both released together. But that seems to be supposed rather than proved; nay, there is a manifest difference between them, for the release of real debts is expressly mentioned and required in the year of release, but so is not the release of the personal debt of servitude, either here or elsewhere. Or rather,
2. From the beginning of this servitude, which is every where limited unto the space of six years, as here and below, Deuteronomy 15:18; Exodus 21:2; Jeremiah 34:14. And it seems a strange and forced exposition, to take these six years for so much of the six years as remains until the year of release, which possibly might not be one quarter of a year, whereas a hired servant serves for a far longer time, and this is said to be worth a double-hired servant, in regard of the longer time of his service, Deuteronomy 15:18. Add to this, that it is mentioned as the peculiar privilege of the year of jubilee, that such servants were then freed, though their six years of service were not expired.
And the Lord thy God redeemed thee, and brought thee out with triumph and with riches, which because they would not, God did, give to thee as a just recompence for thy service, and therefore thou shalt follow his example, and send out thy servant furnished with all convenient provisions.
Because he is sensible that he fares well with thee. Or, because it is good, i.e. acceptable in his eyes, or pleasing to him, to be
For ever, i.e. all the time of his life, or, at least, till the year of jubilee. See on Exodus 21:6.
Unto thy maid-servant thou shalt do likewise, i.e. either dismiss her honourably, and with plenty of provisions; or engage her to perpetual servitude in the same manner, and by the same rites; whence it appears that this case differs from that Exodus 21:7, and that the maid-servant there was taken in upon other and better terms than this here.
He hath been worth a double-hired servant to thee; or, he deserves double wages to an hired servant, because he served thee upon better terms, both without wages, which hired servants require, and for a longer time, even for six years, as it here follows, whereas servants were ordinarily hired but from year to year, Leviticus 25:53, or at most but for three years, as they gather from this place and Isaiah 16:14.
With the firstling of thy bullock: this is meant, either,
1. Of the male firstlings; which, they say, is forbidden here, because some did plough with the firstlings of their oxen, and shear the firstlings of their sheep, before they were offered. But this seems absurd and incredible, because they were to be offered on the eighth day, Exodus 22:30, when they were very unfit for such uses. Or rather,
2. The second firstlings, of which see on Deuteronomy 12:17.
Thou shalt eat; either,
1. Thou, O priest. Or rather,
2. Thou, O Israelite. For it is evident that the same person who was forbidden to work with these, Deuteronomy 15:19, is here commanded to eat them, &c. Thou shalt eat it, together with the Levites, as it is to be understood from Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 14:27,Deuteronomy 14:29, where that is expressed in like cases.
Year by year, to wit, in the solemn feasts which returned upon them every year. See Deuteronomy 16:11,Deuteronomy 16:14.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany