|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
23:10-19 Every seventh year the land was to rest. They must not plough or sow it; what the earth produced of itself, should be eaten, and not laid up. This law seems to have been intended to teach dependence on Providence, and God's faithfulness in sending the larger increase while they kept his appointments. It was also typical of the heavenly rest, when all earthly labours, cares, and interests shall cease for ever. All respect to the gods of the heathen is strictly forbidden. Since idolatry was a sin to which the Israelites leaned, they must blot out the remembrance of the gods of the heathen. Solemn religious attendance on God, in the place which he should choose, is strictly required. They must come together before the Lord. What a good Master do we serve, who has made it our duty to rejoice before him! Let us devote with pleasure to the service of God that portion of our time which he requires, and count his sabbaths and ordinances to be a feast unto our souls. They were not to come empty-handed; so now, we must not come to worship God empty-hearted; our souls must be filled with holy desires toward him, and dedications of ourselves to him; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Verses 10, 11. - Law of the Sabbatical year. Days of rest, at regular or irregular intervals, were well known to the ancients and some regulations of the kind existed in most countries But entire years of rest were wholly unknown to any nation except the Israelites. and exposed them to the reproach of idleness. (See Tacit. Hist. 5:4: - "Septimo die otium placuisse ferunt, quia is finem laborum dedit; dein, blandiente inertia, septimum quoque annum ignaviae datum"). In a primitive condition of agriculture, when rotation of crops was unknown, artificial manure unemployed, and the need of letting even the best land sometimes lie fallow unrecognised, it may not have been an uneconomical arrangement to require an entire suspension of cultivation once in seven years. But great difficulty was probably experienced in enforcing the law. Just as there were persons who wished to gather manna on the seventh day (Exodus 16:27), so there would be many anxious to obtain in the seventh year something more from their fields than Nature would give them if left to herself. If the "seventy years" of the captivity were intended exactly to make up for omissions of the due observance of the sabbatical year, we must suppose that between the time of the exodus and the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the ordinance had been as often neglected as observed. (See 2 Chronicles 36:21.) The primary object of the requirement was, as stated in ver. 11, that the poor of thy people may eat, what the land brought forth of its own accord in the Sabbatical year being shared by them (Leviticus 25:6.). But no doubt it was also intended that the Sabbatical year should be one of increased religious observance, whereof the solemn reading of the law in the ears of the people at the Feast of Tabernacles "in the year of release" (Deuteronomy 31:10) was an indication and a part. That reading was properly preceded by a time of religious preparation (Nehemiah 8:1-15), and would naturally lead on to further acts of a religious character, which might occupy a considerable period (ibid. chs. 9. and 10.). Altogether, the year was a most solemn period, calling men to religious self-examination, to repentance, to the formation of holy habits, and tending to a general elevation among the people of the standard of holiness. What they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. There was to be no regular ingathering. The proprietor, his servants, the poor, and the stranger were to take what they needed; and the residue was to be for the cattle and for the beasts that were in the land (Deuteronomy 25:6, 7). Thy vineyard - thy oliveyard. Corn, wine, and oil were the only important products of Palestine; and this mention of the vineyard and the oliveyard shows that one and the same law was to hold good of all the lands in the country, however they might be cultivated. The whole land was to rest.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And six years thou shall sow thy land, The land of Canaan, given to their ancestors and to them, and which they were now going to inherit; and when they came into it they were to plant it with vines and olives; or rather, these being ready planted, they were to prune and dress them; and they were to till their land, and plough it, and sow it with various sorts of grain, for six years running, from the time of their possession of it:
and shall gather in the fruits thereof; corn and wine, and oil, into their own garners, treasuries, and cellars, as their own property, to dispose of as they pleased for their own use and profit.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
10. six years thou shalt sow thy land—intermitting the cultivation of the land every seventh year. But it appears that even then there was a spontaneous produce which the poor were permitted freely to gather for their use, and the beasts driven out fed on the remainder, the owners of fields not being allowed to reap or collect the fruits of the vineyard or oliveyard during the course of this sabbatical year. This was a regulation subservient to many excellent purposes; for, besides inculcating the general lesson of dependence on Providence, and of confidence in His faithfulness to His promise respecting the triple increase on the sixth year (Le 25:20, 21), it gave the Israelites a practical proof that they held their properties of the Lord as His tenants, and must conform to His rules on pain of forfeiting the lease of them.
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