Exodus 23

Exodus 23:6

6. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him; thou shalt surely help with him.

6. Si videris asinum inimici tui decumbentem sub onere suo, et cessaveris ab auxiliando ei, auxiliaudo auxiliaberis cum eo.

Deuteronomy 22

Deuteronomy 22:4

4. Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them; thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.

4. Non videbis asinum fratris tui aut boves ejus jacentes in via, et abscondes te ab eis: erigendo eriges cum eo.


By this law also, God exhorts His people to exercise the duties of humanity towards brute animals, in order that they may be the more disposed to assist their brethren; for we must bear in memory what Paul teaches, where God commands oxen to be kindly treated, viz., that He does not care so much for them in this, as for mankind. (1 Corinthians 9:9.) God prescribes elsewhere, that if any should see the ox or ass of his brother, or even of his enemy, going astray, he should catch it, and restore it to its master, (Deuteronomy 22:1-3, and Exodus 23:4;) but here He had another intention, i.e., that believers should testify their forgiveness of their enemies, by being merciful to their animals. If it had been simply said, that our enemies were to be helped, and that we must contend with them by acts of kindness, to overcome their ill-will, all cruelty would have been sufficiently condemned; but when God commands us not only to succor our enemies, to point out their way to those who are straying, and to lift up those who are fallen, but would also have us exercise these kindnesses to their very beasts, He more emphatically and strongly expresses how very far removed from hatred and the desire of vengeance He desires His children to be. Wherefore we see that what Christ afterwards taught His disciples is taught also in the Law, that we should love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44.) Nor is it merely the desire of vengeance which is here restrained, but something more is required, viz., that believers should conquer the ill-will of their enemies by kindnesses: since to bring back a straying ox or ass is a proof of sincere affection. But, in these two passages, what relates to the Sixth Commandment is represented in a more striking manner, viz., that assistance should be rendered to an ox or an ass, weighed down by its burden. Interpreters1 are not agreed as to the meaning of the words, and Jerome has departed most widely from them. But others, who desire to translate them more accurately, read them interrogatively, -- If thou shall see an animal fall under its burden, etc., wilt thou hesitate to help? The other sense seems more appropriate, -- If thou shall; have seen and have hesitated to help, still do thou help: for in this way God anticipates a person, if, perchance, impelled at first by hatred, he should dislike to help his enemy: and then commands him to correct his guilty thought. The meaning, therefore, will be, -- if the sight of thine enemy should delay thee from aiding his beast, lay aside thine ill-will, and unite thyself with him, that you may together be humane and merciful to the wretched animal. Thus an opportunity was given to enemies for their mutual reconciliation. There is another difficulty in the word bzg,2 gnazab, which, although it means to leave, still, in my judgment, is used for to assist, or to give help: although it is not translated amiss, to let fro, or to loose: or, if it be preferred, to strengthen; in which sense it is sometimes found.

1 Margin A. V., Exodus 23:5, "Wilt thou cease to help him? or, and wouldest thou cease to leave thy business for him; thou shalt surely leave it to join with him." The Vulg. translation is, "Si videris asinum odientis te jacere sub onere, non pertransibis, sed sublevabis cum eo:" and this precisely accords with LXX., ouj parele>ush| aujto<.

2 Exodus 23:5. bze, in its primary and most usual sense, signifies to leave; but a thing may be left from dislike or weariness; hence it signifies (2) to forsake. On the other hand, it may be left, because it has been brought into that state, in which it needs no further help or security; and hence (3) it sometimes signifies to complete a defense, as Nehem. 3:8; 4:2; to relieve from a difficulty, as in this place -- W. The whole of this criticism is omitted, not only in the French translation, but also in the Latin edition of 1563, pp. 390, 391.