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Deuteronomy 15

Deuteronomy 15:1-11

1. At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.

1. Septimo quoque anno facies remissionem.

2. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbor, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord’s release.

2. Haec autem est ratio remissionis, ut remittat omnis qui mutuum dederit manu sua, id quod mutuum dederit amico suo: non reposcet ab amico suo, aut a fratre suo, quia proclamata est remissio Jehovae.

3. Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;

3. Ab alienigena reposces, aut quod fuerit tibi apud fratrem tuum, remittet manus tua:

4. Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:

4. Nisi quia non sit (vel, prorsus certe non erit) in te mendicus: quia benedicendo benedicet tibi Jehova in terra quam ipse Deus tuus dat tibi in haereditatem ut possideas eam.

5. Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.

5. Sed ita duntaxat, si obediendo obedieris voci Jehovae Dei tui, ita ut custodias faciendo omne praeceptum istud quod ego praecipio tibi hodie.

6. For the Lord thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.

6. Nam Jehova Deus tuus benedixit tibi, quemadmodum dixit tibi: tum mutuo accepto pignore dabis gentibus multis, tu autem non accipies mutuo: et dominaberis gentibus multis, at tibi non dominabuntur.

7. If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates, in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother;

7. Si fuerit apud te mendicus quispiam e fratribus tuis, in una e portis tuis, in terra tua quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi: non indurabis cor tuum, neque claudes manum tuam a fratre tuo mendico.

8. But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.

8. Sed aperiendo aperies illi manum tuam, et mutuando mutuabis ei ad sufficientiam usque, id quo indiguerit.

9. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him naught, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.

9. Cave tibi ne sit quidpiam in corde tuo impium, dicendo, Propinquus est annus septimus, annus remissionis: et malignus sit oculus tuus in fratrem tuum mendicum, ita ut non des ei: clamet autem contra te ad Jehovam, et erit in te peccatum.

10. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.

10. Dando dabis ei, neque malignum erit cor tuum quum dederis ei: quia hujus rei gratia benedicet tibi Jehova Deus tuus in omnibus operibus tuis, et in omni expensione manuum tuarum.

11. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

11. Non enim deerit mendicus de medio terrae: idcirco praecipio tibi dicendo, Aperiendo aperies manum tuam fratri tuo, id est pauperi tuo et mendico tuo in terra tua.


1. At the end of every seven years. A special act of humanity towards each other is here prescribed to the Jews, that every seven years, brother should remit to brother whatever was owed him. But, although we are not bound by this law at present, and it would not be even expedient that it should be in use, still the object to which it tended ought still to be maintained, i e., that we should not be too rigid in exacting our debts, especially if we have to do with the needy, who are bowed down by the burden of poverty. The condition of the ancient people, as I have said, was different. They derived their origin from a single race; the land of Canaan was their common inheritance; fraternal association was to be mutually sustained among them, just as if they were one family: and, inasmuch as God had once enfranchised them, the best plan for preserving’ their liberty for ever was to maintain a condition of mediocrity, lest a few persons of immense wealth should oppress the general body. Since, therefore, the rich, if they had been permitted constantly to increase in wealth, would have tyrannized over the rest, God put by this law a restraint on immoderate power. Moreover, when rest was given to the land, and men reposed from its cultivation, it was just that the whole people, for whose sake the Sabbath was instituted, should enjoy some relaxation. Still the remission here spoken of was, in my opinion, merely temporary. Some, indeed, suppose that all debts were then entirely cancelled; 144144     “The Hebrews (says Ainsworth) for the most part hold the remission to be perpetual.” He, however, argues from the word שמטה, an intermission, and its use in that sense in Exodus 23:11, that C.’s interpretation is the correct one. So also Dathe, who quotes Jos. Meyer in his Treatise on the Festivals of the Jews, ch. 17 sec. 20; and Michaelis, in his Laws of Moses, P. 3. sec. 157. as if the Sabbatical year destroyed all debtor and creditor accounts; but this is refuted by the context, for when the Sabbatical year is at hand, God commands them to lend freely, whereas the contract would have been ridiculous, unless it had been lawful to seek repayment in due time. Surely, if no payment had ever followed, it would have been required simply to give: for what would the empty form of lending have availed if the money advanced was never to be returned to its owner? But God required all suits to cease for that year, so that no one should trouble his debtor: and, because in that year of freedom and immunity there was no hope of receiving back the money, God provides against the objection, and forbids them to be niggardly, although the delay might produce some inconvenience. First of all, therefore, He commands them to make a remission in the seventh year, i e., to abstain from exacting their debts, and to concede to the poor, as well as to the land, a truce, or vacation. On which ground Isaiah reproves the Jews for observing the Sabbath amiss, when they exact 145145     A. V., “all your labors;” margin, “things wherewith ye grieve others; Heb., griefs;” C.’s own version, “omnes facultates vestras exigitis.” their debts, and “fast for strife and debate.” (Isaiah 58:3, 4.) The form of remission is added, That no one should vex his neighbor in the year in which the release of God is proclaimed.

3. Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it. An exception follows, that it should be lawful to sue foreigners, and to compel them to pay; and this for a very good reason, because it was by no means just that despisers of the Law should enjoy the Sabbatical benefit, especially when God had conferred the privilege on His elect people alone. What follows in the next verse, “Unless because there shall be no beggar,” interpreters twist into various senses. Some translate it, Nevertheless (veruntamen,) let there be no beggar among thee; as if it were a prohibition, that they should not suffer their poor brethren to be overwhelmed with poverty, without assisting them; and, lest they should object that, if they should be so liberal in giving, they would soon exhaust themselves, God anticipates them, and bids them rely upon his blessing. Others, however, understand it as a promise, and connect it thus, That there should be no beggar among them, if only they keep the Law, since then God would bless them. Nor would this meaning be very unsuitable. What they mean who expound it, Insomuch that there should be no beggar with thee, I know not. Let my readers, however, consider whether 146146     S. M., However. A. V., Save when; or, in its margin, To the end that. S.M. refers to Jewish expositors as saying, “The meaning is, Thou shalt not fear that this law may do you an injury; for, if you be such zealous observers of my precepts, I will so bless you, and make all things needful for you to increase, that there shall be no poor man amongst you, to whom you need give what is lent. And if there be any person needing your assistance, and ye, for my sake, forgive his debt, as I have commanded, the man who doth thus shall not lose what was owed him, but shall receive from me a more abundant blessing.” The learned reader may find this expression further discussed in Noldii Concord. partic. Art., 509 of Annot and Vindic. — W. אפס כי, ephes ci, is not better rendered “unless because,” (nisi quod:) and then this clause would be read parenthetically, as if it were said, Whenever there shall be any poor among your brethren, an opportunity of doing them good is presented to you. Therefore the poverty of your brethren is to be relieved by you, in order that God may bless you. But, that the sentence may be clearer, I take the two words, אפס כי, ephes ci, exclusively, as if it were, On no account let there be a beggar: or, howsoever it. may be, suffer not that by your fault there should be any beggar amongst you; for He would put an end to all vain excuses, and, as necessity arose, would have them disposed to give assistance, lest the poor should sink under the pressure of want and distress, tie does not, therefore, mean generally all poor persons, but only those in extreme indigence; such as the Prophet Amos complains are “sold for a pair of shoes.” (Amos 2:6.) In order, then, that they may more cheerfully assist their distresses, He promises that His blessing shall be productive of greater abundance. And from hence Paul seems to have derived his exhortation to the Corinthians:

“He which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully. God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.: Now he that ministereth seed to the sower, shall both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness, that, being enriched in every thing, you may abound unto all bountifulness.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-11.)

In short, God would have them without carefulness, since He will abundantly recompense them with His blessing, if they have diminished their own stores by liberality to the poor.

6. For the Lord thy God blesseth thee. He confirms the foregoing declaration, but ascends from the particular to the general; for, after having taught that they might expect from God’s blessing much more than they have bestowed on the poor, he now recalls their attention to the Covenant itself, as much as to say, that whatever they have is derived from that original fountain of God’s grace, when He made them inheritors of the land of Canaan. God reminds them also that He then promised them abundant produce; and thus indicates that, if they were mean and niggardly, they would cause the land to be barren. When He says that they should lend to all nations, he speaks by way of amplification; and also in the next clause, that they should reign over the Gentiles; whence it follows, that if there were any in want among them, it would arise from the wickedness and depravity, of the people themselves.

7. If there be among you a poor man The same word אביון, ebyon, is used, which we have seen just above, verse 4; nor is there any contradiction when He commands them to relieve beggars, whom He had before forbidden to exist among His people; for the object of the prohibition was, that if any were reduced to beggary, they should not be cast out and forsaken. Now, however, He explains the mode of preventing this, viz., that the hands of the rich should be open to assist them. In order to incline them to compassion, he again reminds them of their common brotherhood, and sets before them, as its token and pledge, the land in which by God’s goodness they dwell together. Again, that they may be willing and prompt in their humanity, He forbids them to harden their heart, thereby signifying that avarice is always cruel. Finally, He applies this instruction to the year of release, viz., that they should straightway relieve their poor brethren towards the beginning of that year, just as if they would receive back in a few days the money which the poor man would retain to its end.

11. For the poor shall never cease out of the land. The notion 147147     “I know that ye will not obey me with a perfect heart, and therefore my blessing shall be lessened towards you, and there shall be poor among you.” Hebrew commentators quoted in Munster and Fagius. — Poole’s Syn. of those is far fetched who suppose that there would be always poor men among them, because they would not keep the law, and consequently the land would be barren on account of their unrighteousness. I admit that this is true; but God does not here ascribe it to their sins that there would always be some beggars among them, but only reminds them that there would never be wanting matter for their generosity, because He would prove what was in their hearts by setting the poor before them. For, (as I have observed above,) this is why the rich and poor meet together, and the Lord is maker of them all; because otherwise the duties of charity would not be observed unless they put them into exercise by assisting each other. Wherefore God, to stir up the inactivity of the rich, declares that lie prescribes nothing but what continual necessity will require.

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