Deuteronomy 23:15, 16
You shall not deliver to his master the servant which is escaped from his master to you:…
It is supposed that oppressive forms of slavery existed among the neighboring nations; and it might be anticipated that the oppressed would seek asylum among the people of God. The social atmosphere was to be that of healthful freedom, which is fatal to inhuman thraldom.
I. WE SEE SOCIAL RELATIONSHIP IN ITS EXTREME LIMITS. One is a master; one is a slave. One has risen to power; one has sunk into weakness. Humanity has immense capacity for rising and falling. Such abject dependence may be the result of external calamity, or it may be the effect of culpable folly.
II. THIS PROPRIETORSHIP IN MAN IS CAPABLE OF GREAT ABUSE. A slave-master must have great self-restraint if he does not abuse his purchased power. To no man ought irresponsible control over his fellows be entrusted. The temptation to encroach on human rights is too great to be put within any man's reach. Good men will use every position they occupy so as to do good to others; and even a slave-holder may be a source of large blessing. On the other hand, coarse and cruel men can turn the institution into a nest of villainy.
III. ABUSE OF SLAVERY MAY BECOME SELF-CURATIVE. A reflecting master will calculate that, if he injure his slave, he injures his property - he injures himself. But in moments when passion is dominant, a reckless slave-holder will think nothing about consequences. Yet his slave may flee. The common instincts of humanity will impel disinterested persons to aid the fugitive. And the successful flight of one will encourage others to make the attempt.
IV. THE OPPRESSED HAVE A CLAIM UPON OUR PRACTICAL SYMPATHY. The Hebrews could not easily discover the real merits of quarrel between a foreign slave and his master. But they would know that a slave would not leave his master and his home without sufficient cause. It was a precarious chance how an alien slave would find a livelihood. Therefore the refugee had a claim upon the Hebrews' sympathy. The oppressed of every laud have a large place in the heart of God, and every friend of God will strive to imitate his deeds. Emmanuel's land is to be the laud of liberty. Liberty may not suddenly be given to every man, in any condition of mind; yet liberty is man's birthright - his true inheritance; for this he is to prepare. A man is dwarfed, stunted, deformed, if he be not free. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: