Matthew Poole's Commentary
At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.The seventh year a year of release, Deu 15:1, to their brethren only, Deu 15:2,3. God promiseth to bless them in the land of Canaan, Deu 15:4-6; and commandeth them to lend freely to the poor, Deu 15:7-18. The firstlings to be sanctified and eaten before the Lord, Deu 15:19-23.
i.e. In the last year of the seven, as is most evident from Deu 15:9 Exodus 21:2 Jeremiah 34:14. So the like phrase is oft used, as Deu 14:28 Joshua 3:2 Jeremiah 25:12 Luke 2:21 Acts 2:1. And this year of release, as it is called below, Deu 15:9, is the same with the sabbatical year, Exodus 23:11 Leviticus 25:4.
And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD'S release.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 Deu 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 Psalm 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, Deu 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.
Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;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 Deu 15:12 Jeremiah 34:14, therefore not from their real debt.
That which is thine, to wit, by right, though lent to him.
Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it: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 Deu 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, Deu 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.
Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.No text from Poole on this verse.
For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over 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.
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, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:No text from Poole on this verse.
But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.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, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.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 Jam 4:17.
Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: 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.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.
For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.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.
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.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, Deu 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, Deu 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 when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty:No text from Poole on this verse.
Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.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.
And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee;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
Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.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.
It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.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.
All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.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 Deu 12:17.
Thou shalt eat it before the LORD thy God year by year in the place which the LORD shall choose, thou and thy household.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, Deu 15:19, is here commanded to eat them, &c. Thou shalt eat it, together with the Levites, as it is to be understood from Deu 12:18 14:27,29, where that is expressed in like cases.
Year by year, to wit, in the solemn feasts which returned upon them every year. See Deu 16:11,14.
And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the LORD thy God.No text from Poole on this verse.
Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart.No text from Poole on this verse.
Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water.No text from Poole on this verse.