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Laws concerning the Sabbatical Year

15

Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts. 2And this is the manner of the remission: every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a neighbor who is a member of the community, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed. 3Of a foreigner you may exact it, but you must remit your claim on whatever any member of your community owes you. 4There will, however, be no one in need among you, because the Lord is sure to bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession to occupy, 5if only you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing this entire commandment that I command you today. 6When the Lord your God has blessed you, as he promised you, you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.

7 If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. 8You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. 9Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. 10Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”

12 If a member of your community, whether a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and works for you six years, in the seventh year you shall set that person free. 13And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. 14Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. 15Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today. 16But if he says to you, “I will not go out from you,” because he loves you and your household, since he is well off with you, 17then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his earlobe into the door, and he shall be your slave forever.

You shall do the same with regard to your female slave.

18 Do not consider it a hardship when you send them out from you free persons, because for six years they have given you services worth the wages of hired laborers; and the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do.

The Firstborn of Livestock

19 Every firstling male born of your herd and flock you shall consecrate to the Lord your God; you shall not do work with your firstling ox nor shear the firstling of your flock. 20You shall eat it, you together with your household, in the presence of the Lord your God year by year at the place that the Lord will choose. 21But if it has any defect—any serious defect, such as lameness or blindness—you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God; 22within your towns you may eat it, the unclean and the clean alike, as you would a gazelle or deer. 23Its blood, however, you must not eat; you shall pour it out on the ground like water.


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De 15:1-11. The Seventh Year, a Year of Release for the Poor.

1. At the end of every seven years—during the last of the seven, that is, the sabbatical year (Ex 21:2; 23:11; Le 25:4; Jer 34:14).

2. Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it—not by an absolute discharge of the debt, but by passing over that year without exacting payment. The relief was temporary and peculiar to that year during which there was a total suspension of agricultural labor.

he shall not exact it … of his brother—that is, an Israelite, so called in opposition to a stranger or foreigner.

because it is called the Lord's release—The reason for acquitting a debtor at that particular period proceeded from obedience to the command, and a regard for the honor, of God; an acknowledgment of holding their property of Him, and gratitude for His kindness.

3. Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again—Admission to all the religious privileges of the Israelites was freely granted to heathen proselytes, though this spiritual incorporation did not always imply an equal participation of civil rights and privileges (Le 25:44; Jer 34:14; compare 1Ch 22:2; 2Ch 2:17).

4. Save when there shall be no poor man among you—Apparently a qualifying clause added to limit the application of the foregoing statement [De 15:3]; so that "the brother" to be released pointed to a poor borrower, whereas it is implied that if he were rich, the restoration of the loan might be demanded even during that year. But the words may properly be rendered (as on the Margin) to the end, in order that there may be no poor among you—that is, that none be reduced to inconvenient straits and poverty by unseasonable exaction of debts at a time when there was no labor and no produce, and that all may enjoy comfort and prosperity, which will be the case through the special blessing of God on the land, provided they are obedient.

7-11. If there be among you a poor man … thou shalt not harden thine heart—Lest the foregoing law should prevent the Israelites lending to the poor, Moses here admonishes them against so mean and selfish a spirit and exhorts them to give in a liberal spirit of charity and kindness, which will secure the divine blessing (Ro 12:8; 2Co 9:7).

11. For the poor shall never cease out of the land—Although every Israelite on the conquest of Canaan became the owner of property, yet in the providence of God who foresaw the event, it was permitted, partly as a punishment of disobedience and partly for the exercise of benevolent and charitable feelings, that "the poor should never cease out of the land."

De 15:12-19. Hebrew Servants' Freedom.

12. if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee—The last extremity of an insolvent debtor, when his house or land was not sufficient to cancel his debt, was to be sold as a slave with his family (Le 25:39; 2Ki 4:1; Ne 5:1-13; Job 24:9; Mt 18:25). The term of servitude could not last beyond six years. They obtained their freedom either after six years from the time of their sale or before the end of the seventh year. At the year of jubilee, such slaves were emancipated even if their six years of service were not completed [see on Le 25:39].

13-15. thou shalt not let him go away empty—A seasonable and wise provision for enabling a poor unfortunate to regain his original status in society, and the motive urged for his kindness and humanity to the Hebrew slave was the remembrance that the whole nation was once a degraded and persecuted band of helots in Egypt. Thus, kindness towards their slaves, unparalleled elsewhere in those days, was inculcated by the Mosaic law; and in all their conduct towards persons in that reduced condition, leniency and gentleness were enforced by an appeal which no Israelite could resist.

16, 17. if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee—If they declined to avail themselves of the privilege of release and chose to remain with their master, then by a peculiar form of ceremony they became a party to the transaction, voluntarily sold themselves to their employer, and continued in his service till death.

18. he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee—that is, he is entitled to double wages because his service was more advantageous to you, being both without wages and for a length of time, whereas hired servants were engaged yearly (Le 25:53), or at most for three years (Isa 16:14).

19. All the firstling males of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the Lord thy God—[See on Ex 13:2]; see Ex 22:30).

thou shalt do not work with the firstling of thy bullock—that is, the second firstlings (see De 12:17, 18; 14:23).




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