And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not make clean riddance of the corners of your field when you reap…
The benevolent provision made in our text for the poor and stranger proclaims its author: even God, whose tender mercies are over all His works, who is the Friend of the friendless, and has enjoined that even fragments are to be gathered, that nothing may be lost.
I. LET SUCH AS HAVE FIELDS TO GLEAN PAY ATTENTION TO THE LETTER AND THE SPIRIT OF THIS INJUNCTION, TOGETHER WITH THE MOTIVE ON WHICH OBEDIENCE IS ENFORCED.
1. The letter of this benevolent precept establishes the propriety of permitting persons to glean in your lands; but it does not prohibit clearing your fields of all the sheaves, and carrying them not only to a place of safety, but out of the way of temptation to the gleaners. Is not this evidently implied in the following explanatory directions of the law (Deuteronomy 24:19), where not taking away the entire crop is imputed to inadvertence, rather than intention. Neither does it forbid the judicious exercise of this permission as to the persons who may glean, as is clear from the history of Ruth. It rested with the proprietor or occupier of the land to grant or deny the privilege to certain individuals. Yet the command strictly enjoins the duty of leaving what is not thus carried for the poor and strangers, and frowns on the inhuman and selfish practice of turning cattle of any description into the fields until some reasonable time for the gleaning has been allowed to elapse. In some foreign countries the law specifies twenty-four hours after the crop has been carted, but circumstances and conscience must decide for each farmer.
2. We have, however, less to do with the letter than the spirit of this precept. Does it not breathe kindness to the poor, pity to the needy, and cherish the disposition to let fall purposely a few ears of corn rather than collect all with extreme exactitude? Right too rigid, hardens into wrong. The sentiment of this direction should transfuse itself into every part of our conduct, and pervade all our transactions with the poor.
3. The motive subjoined for your obedience: "I am the Lord your God" — God, who raiseth up one and putteth down another, who maketh the rich and the poor, who has borne with your ingratitude and rebellion, and who has, notwithstanding, given you another and an abundant crop — yes, He is your God whom you profess to obey, and whose authority you wish to regard.
4. Recollect that to obedience is the reward annexed (Deuteronomy 24:19).
II. ADVICE TO SUCH AS ARE GLEANERS. Remember that God, who has ordained this permission, and guarded it by His command, must be honoured by you in the enjoyment.
1. Unless you are poor, you neither might nor would glean: let me then guard you against those snares which always attend poverty. It is a temptation, when afar from human notice, to defraud: "lest I be poor and steal." Forget not the old proverb, "He that will steal a pin, will steal a greater thing." When opportunity and importunity press, the hand that loosed the band of a sheaf will not forbear to break through the barn and steal.
2. You go into the fields to glean: then do not idle away your time, or what was intended for your good will be an injury to you.
3. Persons generally glean in numbers; then pray avoid bad company and they will soon avoid you. Like always associates with its like — lions with lions, sheep with sheep — a man may be known by the company he keeps. Choose society in your work who will do you good rather than harm; better conversation will cheer you under the heat of the sun and the toil of out-door work, to which you may perhaps not be accustomed.
4. Let me caution you also against what is too common on these occasions — immodest behaviour. Indecent language and coarse manners are disgraceful and dangerous. Use your authority to prevent your children seeing or hearing what is so wrong and easily learnt and but seldom forgotten.
5. It is mentioned to the praise of a most excellent daughter and industrious but poor female that she came home early from gleaning. Be not the last to leave the fields; late hours in every station of life are injurious; works of darkness are always suspicious, often criminal. "Many love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil."
6. I wish you to notice that the Scriptures say that the stranger may glean. In some places the poor will not permit this. Are they right? Does not the same verse which permits you allow them? Moreover, perhaps your children, or remoter descendants, may be cast where they are not known, and have no settlement; and often God retributes in this life; as we have done to others He allows or disposes others to deal with us.Lessons:
1. From the whole of this subject, primarily, let us learn our obligation to God for His invaluable Word — a standard of unerring rectitude, and wherein is contained every thing necessary for life and godliness.
2. We may infer that if God has condescended to regulate smaller concerns, He will not overlook greater matters. Has He thus cared for your bodies and temporal interests, and will He be less provident about your immortal spirits?
3. Let us remember that the evening of our life draweth on; when, as she who gleaned in the fields of Boaz returned to her inquiring parent and reported her success, we shall return to the dust from whence we sprang; and must say to corruption, Thou art my mother. It shall then be asked of us, Were have ye gleaned to-day? where wroughtest thou? What reply shall we make?
Parallel VersesKJV: And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
WEB: "'When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap into the corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest: you shall leave them for the poor, and for the foreigner. I am Yahweh your God.'"