Leviticus 25:39
And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(39) And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor.—Better, And if thy brother be waxen poor by thee, that is, after supporting his tottering hand, as prescribed in Leviticus 25:35-38, and making all the charitable efforts to help him, they fail, and he still finds himself in extreme poverty, and unable to obtain a livelihood.

And be sold unto thee.—The voluntary disposal of his own liberty for a money consideration the Israelite could only effect by stress of poverty.

Thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant.—Under these circumstances he is not to be treated like heathen slaves who are either purchased or captured, and made to do the menial service which these Gentile slaves have to perform. The authorities during the second Temple adduce the following as degrading work which the Israelite bondman is not to be put to: He must not attend his master at his bath, nor tie up or undo the latchets of his sandals, &c., &c.

Leviticus 25:39. To serve as a bond-servant — Neither for the time, for ever, nor for the manner, with the hardest and vilest kinds of service, rigorously and severely exacted.

25:39-55 A native Israelite, if sold for debt, or for a crime, was to serve but six years, and to go out the seventh. If he sold himself, through poverty, both his work and his usage must be such as were fitting for a son of Abraham. Masters are required to give to their servants that which is just and equal, Col 4:1. At the year of jubilee the servant should go out free, he and his children, and should return to his own family. This typified redemption from the service of sin and Satan, by the grace of God in Christ, whose truth makes us free, Joh 8:32. We cannot ransom our fellow-sinners, but we may point out Christ to them; while by his grace our lives may adorn his gospel, express our love, show our gratitude, and glorify his holy name.The law here appears harmoniously to supplement the earlier one in Exodus 21:1-6. It was another check applied periodically to the tyranny of the rich. Compare Jeremiah 34:8-17. 39-46. if thy brother … be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant—An Israelite might be compelled, through misfortune, not only to mortgage his inheritance, but himself. In the event of his being reduced to this distress, he was to be treated not as a slave, but a hired servant whose engagement was temporary, and who might, through the friendly aid of a relative, be redeemed at any time before the Jubilee. The ransom money was determined on a most equitable principle. Taking account of the number of years from the proposal to redeem and the Jubilee, of the current wages of labor for that time, and multiplying the remaining years by that sum, the amount was to be paid to the master for his redemption. But if no such friendly interposition was made for a Hebrew slave, he continued in servitude till the year of Jubilee, when, as a matter of course, he regained his liberty, as well as his inheritance. Viewed in the various aspects in which it is presented in this chapter, the Jubilee was an admirable institution, and subservient in an eminent degree to uphold the interests of religion, social order, and freedom among the Israelites. Neither for the time, for ever, nor for the manner, with the hardest and vilest kinds of service, rigorously and severely exacted from him.

And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor,.... The above laws and instructions seem designed to prevent such extreme poverty as obliged to what follows, namely, a brother being sold either to an Israelite or to a stranger, by relieving his wants or lending him money; but when these were insufficient to support him, and keep him from sinking into the lowest state of distress and misery, then he was obliged to be sold, as follows:

and be sold unto thee; either by himself, being ready to starve and perish, or by the sanhedrim, having stolen something, as Aben Ezra observes; in such a case the civil magistrate had a power of selling a man, Exodus 22:3,

thou shall not compel him to serve as a bondservant; such as were Heathens, and bought of them, or taken in war and made slaves of; but an Israelite sold was not to serve as they, either with respect to matter or manner, or time of service; such as were bondmen were put to the hardest service, the greatest drudgery, as well as what was mean and reproachful, and were used in the most rigorous and despotic manner, and were obliged to serve for ever, and were never released; but a brother, an Israelite, sold to another through extreme poverty, was not to be put to any low, mean, base, and disgraceful service, by which it would be known that he was a servant, as Jarchi notes; such as to carry his master's vessels or instruments after him to the bath, or to unloose his shoes; but, as the same writer observes, he was to be employed in the business of the farm, or in some handicraft work, and was to be kindly and gently used, rather as a brother than a servant, and to be freed in the year of jubilee.

And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
39–46. Prohibition of permanent servitude of one Israelite to another (H and P mixed, the former probably preponderating)

This case was to be subject to the operation of the law of Jubile, Moreover, the Israelite so bought shall not be compelled to work as a slave, but only under such conditions as befit a sojourner or hired servant. Leviticus 25:42 adds the reason (cp. Leviticus 25:13; Leviticus 25:55). On the other hand slaves bought from persons of other nations, or from foreigners sojourning in the land, were to be bondservants in the strictest sense of the word. For the differences between the law on these subjects and that in Exodus 21:2 ff.; Deuteronomy 15:12-18, see ICC Deut.; p. 185, and Intr. to pent. p. 123.

Verses 39-42. - We see the way in which a poor Israelite might become a slave in the case of the sons of the widow whose oil was multiplied by Elisha. "Thy servant my husband is dead; (and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord:) and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen" (2 Kings 4:1). And in the time of Nehemiah, "Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.... And, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards" (Nehemiah 5:3-5). But the fact that an Israelite could not be kept in slavery for more than six years (Exodus 21:2), and that the period of his service had to be still shorter if the jubilee fell before the seventh year, and the further fact that at the time of the jubilee he would not only he free, but recover any ancestral property that he had forfeited, so that he might become once more on an equality with his master, would have made his position totally different from the hopeless, helpless state of the Greek or Roman slave, even without the positive command that he was to be treated, not as a bondservant: but as an hired servant, and as a sojourner. All alike, master and bondsman, were the slaves of God, and therefore not only were they, so far, on an equality one with another, but the master would be encroaching on the right of God if he claimed God's slaves for his own inalienably. Leviticus 25:39If he borrowed money, they were not to demand interest; or if food, they were not to demand any addition, any larger quantity, when it was returned (cf. Exodus 22:24; Deuteronomy 23:20-21), from fear of God, who had redeemed Israel out of bondage, to give them the land of Canaan. In Leviticus 25:37 וחי is an abbreviation of וחי, which only occurs here. - From Leviticus 25:39 onwards there follow the laws relating to the bondage of the Israelite, who had been obliged to sell himself from poverty. Leviticus 25:36-46 relate to his service in bondage to an (other) Israelite. The man to whom he had sold himself as servant was not to have slave-labour performed by him (Exodus 1:14), but to keep him as a day-labourer and sojourner, and let him serve with him till the year of jubilee. He was then to go out free with his children, and return to his family and the possession of his fathers (his patrimony). This regulation is a supplement to the laws relating to the rights of Israel (Exodus 21:2-6), though without a contradiction arising, as Knobel maintains, between the different rules laid down. In Exodus 21 nothing at all is determined respecting the treatment of an Israelitish servant; it is simply stated that in the seventh year of his service he was to recover his liberty. This limit is not mentioned here, because the chapter before us simply treats of the influence of the year of jubilee upon the bondage of the Israelites. On this point it is decided, that the year of jubilee was to bring freedom even to the Israelite who had been brought into slavery by his poverty, - of course only to the man who was still in slavery when it commenced and had not served seven full years, provided, that is to say, that he had not renounced his claim to be set free at the end of his seven years' service, according to Exodus 21:5-6. We have no right to expect this exception to be expressly mentioned here, because it did not interfere with the idea of the year of jubilee. For whoever voluntarily renounced the claim to be set free, whether because the year of jubilee was still so far off that he did not expect to live to see it, or because he had found a better lot with his master than he could secure for himself in a state of freedom, had thereby made a voluntary renunciation of the liberty which the year of jubilee might have brought to him (see Oehler's art. in Herzog's Cycl., where the different views on this subject are given).
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