Deuteronomy 24:6
No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge: for he takes a man's life to pledge.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) The nether or the upper millstone.—Literally, the two millstones, or even the upper one.

A man’s life.—Literally, a soul. This word connects the two verses (6, 7).

Deuteronomy 24:6. Millstone — Used in their hand-mills. Under this he understands all other things necessary to get a livelihood, the taking away whereof is against the laws both of charity and prudence, seeing by those things alone he can be enabled both to subsist and to pay his debts. Life — His livelihood, the necessary support of his life.24:5-13 It is of great consequence that love be kept up between husband and wife; that they carefully avoid every thing which might make them strange one to another. Man-stealing was a capital crime, which could not be settled, as other thefts, by restitution. The laws concerning leprosy must be carefully observed. Thus all who feel their consciences under guilt and wrath, must not cover it, or endeavour to shake off their convictions; but by repentance, and prayer, and humble confession, take the way to peace and pardon. Some orders are given about pledges for money lent. This teaches us to consult the comfort and subsistence of others, as much as our own advantage. Let the poor debtor sleep in his own raiment, and praise God for thy kindness to him. Poor debtors ought to feel more than commonly they do, the goodness of creditors who do not take all the advantage of the law against them, nor should this ever be looked upon as weakness.Compare Exodus 22:25-26. 6. No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge—The "upper" stone being concave, covers the "nether" like a lid; and it has a small aperture, through which the corn is poured, as well as a handle by which it is turned. The propriety of the law was founded on the custom of grinding corn every morning for daily consumption. If either of the stones, therefore, which composed the handmill was wanting, a person would be deprived of his necessary provision. The nether or the upper millstone, used in their handmills; of which see Exodus 11:5 Numbers 11:8 Jeremiah 25:10. Under this one kind he understands all other things necessary to get a livelihood, the taking away whereof is against the laws both of charity and prudence, seeing by those things alone he can be enabled both to subsist and to pay his debts.

A man’s life, i.e. his livelihood, or the necessary supports of his life. No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge,.... The first word being of the dual number takes in both stones, wherefore Vatablus renders the words,"ye shall not take for a pledge both the millstones, nor indeed the uppermost;''which is the least; so far should they be from taking both, that they were not allowed to take the uppermost, which was the shortest, meanest, and lightest; and indeed if anyone of them was taken, the other became useless, so that neither was to be taken:

for he taketh a man's life to pledge; or with which his life is supported, and the life of his family; for if he has corn to supply them with, yet if his mill or millstones are pawned, he cannot grind his corn, and so he and his family must starve: and in those times and countries they did, as the Arabs do to this day, as Dr. Shaw (d) relates,"most families grind their wheat and barley at home, having two portable millstones for that purpose; the uppermost whereof is turned round by a small handle of wood or iron, that is placed in the rim;''and these millstones being portable, might be the more easily taken for pledges, which is here forbidden, for the above reason; and this takes in any other thing whatever, on which a man's living depends, or by which he gets his bread (e).

(d) Travels, p. 231. Edit. 2.((e) Misn. Bava Metzia, c. 9. sect. 13.

No man shall take the nether or the upper {d} millstone to pledge: for he taketh a man's life to pledge.

(d) Not anything by which a man gets his living.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. Mill or Upper Millstone not to be taken in Pledge. This would be to pledge life itself. Milling (as largely still in Palestine) was mainly domestic, the first indispensable duty of the day; the sound of the millstones as sure a sign of a living family as the light of the candle (Jeremiah 25:10, Revelation 18:22; see Jerus. i. 375 f.). The mill, like the Western ‘quern,’ consisted of two stones, as the dual form of the Heb. name indicates (reḥaim, cp. Ar. raḥâ, Baldensperger, PEFQ, 1904, 263), of which the upper, Heb. rçkeb, rider, LXX ἐπιμύλιον, was the lighter and more easily lifted (Jdg 9:53).

This law is peculiar to D, and related to the next but two (10–13), which however is in the direct form of address, as this is not, and uses ‘abat for pledge instead of ḥabal (lit. bind) as here. The position of the law is natural after the previous one. In Israel, lands, houses and children were mortgaged (Nehemiah 5:3; Nehemiah 5:5), in Babylonia and Assyria slaves, lands and houses (Johns, op. cit. ch. 24). Of such pledges there is nothing in D, but note the next law. ‘The ancient Common Law of England provides that no man be distrained by the utensils or instruments of his trade or profession … Cook (sic), I Inst., fo. 47.’ (M. Henry.)Verses 6-14. - Various prohibitions. Verse 6. - No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge; rather, the hand mill and the upper millstone (literally, the rider) shall not be taken (literally, one shall not take) in pledge. Neither the mill itself nor the upper millstone, the removal of which would render the mill useless, was to be taken. The upper millstone is still called the rider by the Arabs (Hebrew reehebh, Arabic rekkab). For he taketh a man's life to pledge; or for (thereby) life itself is pledged; if a man were deprived of that by which food for the sustaining of life could be prepared, his life itself would be imperiled (cf. Job 22:6; Proverbs 22:27; Amos 2:8). In the vineyard and cornfield of a neighbour they might eat at pleasure to still their hunger, but they were not to put anything into a vessel, or swing a sickle upon another's corn, that is to say, carry away any store of grapes or ears of corn. כּנפשׁך, according to thy desire, or appetite (cf. Deuteronomy 14:26). "Pluck the ears:" cf. Matthew 12:1; Luke 6:1. - The right of hungry persons, when passing through a field, to pluck ears of corn, and rub out the grains and eat, is still recognised among the Arabs (vid., Rob. Pal. ii. 192).
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