You shall not deliver to his master the servant which is escaped from his master to you:…
No very close connection exists between the precepts in these verses, yet they are variously related, and suggest by their juxtaposition lessons of importance. We have -
I. A WORD SPOKEN IN THE INTERESTS OF LIBERTY. (Vers. 15, 16.)
1. The fugitive slave is not to be given back to his master. The case is that of a slave escaping from a heathen master. The spirit of the Mosaic Law is wholly opposed to slavery. This precept anticipates our own law, that a slave setting foot on British territory is free.
2. Every encouragement is to be given him to settle in the land. He is not to be oppressed or treated with unkindness, but is to be allowed to settle where he pleases. The holy land was thus a true asylum for the oppressed.
II. A BLOW STRUCK AT LEWDNESS. (Vers. 17, 18.) The lawgiver alone, so far as we know, among ancient nations, lays his axe at the root of this great evil. He refuses to it the least toleration. He is right. The prevalence of lewdness in a land blights and withers everything good. It saps the manhood of the nation, destroys its love of liberty (2 Peter 2:19), turns religion to hypocrisy (Matthew 23:25-29), kills humane feeling, dissolves domestic ties, and degrades the wretched victim of it to the lowest point of brutishness -
"It hardens a' within,
And petrifies the feeling!"
BURNS. The contrast between the noble severity of the Bible teaching on this subject, and the wretchedly low tone of the teaching of such writers as Bolingbroke, or even of Hume, is very noteworthy.
III. CHECKS IMPOSED ON COVETOUSNESS.
1. The lender is not permitted to exact usury from his brother (vers. 19, 20). That the taking of interest was not regarded as in itself sinful is plain from the permission to take usury from a stranger. But in the circumstances of the time, and in view of the design of the lawgiver to cheek rather than to encourage extensive commercial operations on the part of the Jews, the law was a wise one, and tended to repress covetousness in a form which would very readily have developed itself. Lending was to be free and cordial, and God's blessing, the best usury, was promised in return.
2. Vows were to be faithfully performed (vers. 21-23). This checked covetousness, so far as that might prompt the person vowing to grudge payment when the time for paying his vow arrived. The vow was in his own choice, but, if made, it was to be religiously performed (Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5). It is easier to vow than at the proper time to make the sacrifices which the vow demands. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: