DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 15.
Concerning the Poor and Servants.
OF THE TREATMENT OF THE POOR — V.1. At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. At the end of every Sabbatic year, after the close of the harvest season, when the accounts mere cast up, every creditor was to remember that leniency was expected of him. V.2. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor, literally, “every lord or maker of a loan,” that lendeth aught unto his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbor or of his brother, because it is called the Lord’s release. Cp. Ex. 23, l0. 11; Lev. 25, 2-7. This does not imply that the debt was simply to be canceled, but that the creditor was not to insist upon its immediate payment in a harsh and legalistic spirit. V.3. Of a foreigner, a non-Israelite, thou mayest exact it again, in his case payment could be demanded, because he was not bound by the law which forbade the cultivation of the soil in the seventh year, and was therefore supposed to be in a position to pay, since he had had his usual income; but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release, of him the return of the loan should not be exacted, v.4. Save when there shall be no poor among you, literally, “in order that by no means there be among you needy ones,” namely, due to the oppression of the poorer ones, as here intimated; for the lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the lord, thy God, giveth thee for an in heritance to possess it, and therefore no creditor would need to fear want on account of the humaneness practiced by him; v.5. only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord, thy God, to observe all these commandments which I command thee this day, for obedience to God flowing out of true faith must be at the basis of all holy life. V.6. For the lord, thy God, blesseth thee as he promised thee, His blessing was not problematic and uncertain, but had begun even at this time, for the conquest of the land east of the Jordan was a guarantee of the final complete victory; and thou shalt lend unto many nations, let people of other nations have money upon security, but thou shalt not borrow, none of their nation would be obliged to bind himself by a pledge given as security for a loan: and thou shalt reign over many nations, have a position of superiority due to this economic independence, but they shall not reign over thee. V.7. 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, the entire context emphasizing the relation of intimacy which should exist between all the members of the nation, thou shalt not harden thine heart, draw it together with every evidence of coldness, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother; v.8. but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, show a cordial generosity, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth, to the extent in which he is in need. V.9. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, that the worthless heart should speak to the person, saying, the seventh year, the year of release, is at hand, in which the loan might not be returned; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, be filled with ill will and grudge against him, and thou givest him naught; and he cry unto the lord against thee, complaining of this lack of brotherly love, and it be sin unto thee and challenge the wrath of Jehovah. V.10. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him, be filled with ill will and resentment against the poorer neighbor, 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. Jehovah’s purpose in doing so was to enable every person to practice charity in the right spirit and in a liberal manner. V.11. For the poor shall never cease out of the land, Matt. 26, 11; therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in thy land. Note that he stresses the personal responsibility and obligation of every person toward the members of his people. The obligation of the Christians in this respect is stated very plainly by St. Paul: “Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith,” Gal. 6, 9. 10.
THE RELEASE OF HEBREW SERVANTS. — V.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. Ex. 21, 2-6. This was a form of serfdom, rather than slaver?, brought about by such a condition of poverty as to oblige a person to sell his services to his neighbor in order to live. V.13. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, having given him his liberty in the seventh year as God commanded, thou shalt not let him go away empty; v.14. thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock and out of thy floor, of the grain of the threshing-floor, and out of thy winepress; of that wherewith the Lord, thy God, hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him, lay it upon him in rich measure, as the opening words say. V.15. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord, thy God, redeemed thee; therefore I command thee this thing to-day. The continual remembrance of the redemption out of the house of bondage was to produce in every Israelite disposition to practice kindness and liberality. V.16. And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee, because he loveth thee and thine house, the entire household, including, perhaps, his own family, because he is well with thee, being fully satisfied to stay with his master, v.17. then thou shalt take an awl and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant forever. And also unto thy maid-servant thou shalt do likewise. Cp. Ex. 21, 5. 6. This covered all the cases in which freedom might have been a hardship to the servant concerned, because the latter might have been unable to find employment elsewhere and would therefore once more have been reduced to extreme poverty. V.18. It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee, in case the servant desires his freedom; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, for that was the result of his position in the household, where he was available for work at any time, day or night, in serving thee six years; and the Lord, thy God, shall bless thee in all that thou doest, as a reward for the kindness shown.
OF THE FIRSTLINGS. — V.19. All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the Lord, thy God, as a sacrifice or its equivalent; thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep, use the animals consecrated to Jehovah for earthly purposes. V.20. Thou shalt eat it before the Lord, thy God, year by year, in the place which the Lord shall choose, thou and thy household, as a sacrificial meal. Cp. chap. 12, 5-7; Ex. 13, 2; 34, 19. V.21. And if there be any blemish therein, as, if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, if it is not physically perfect, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the Lord, thy God, in order not to profane the sacred meals. V.22. Thou shalt eat it within thy gates, every Israelite in his own city; the (Levitically) unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck and as the hart, which were not sacrificial animals, but could be used for food, chap. 12, 15. 21. 22. V.23. Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water, chap. 12, 16. 23. 24. They were to be holy, undefiled, as the people consecrated to the Lord, a fact which is true also with regard to the spiritual condition of the Christians, who also are a chosen generation, 1 Pet. 2, 9.