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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Deuteronomy 15

 

 

Verses 1-23

SEVENTH YEAR RELEASE OF DEBTS

(vs.1-6)

Out of compassion for the poor God required creditors to release debtors from their debts at the end of seven years. This surely reminds us of the grace of God in forgiving our great debt of sin by means of the sacrifice of His beloved Son. This was evidently a general year of release, not a release of any particular debt after seven years (v.9). some people might take advantage of this to borrow money just before the time of release, but notice verse 9. Certainly one should not borrow money unless he is in need, and then he ought to be concerned to pay off his debts as soon as he can. The release however did not apply to foreigners who borrowed from Israelites (v.3).

The Lord would greatly bless Israel in the land to the point that there would be no poor among them. If this were the case, and in spite of this debts were incurred, verses 3 and 4 indicate that the release would not apply because the debt was not on account of poverty.

God's blessing in this way however would be dependent on Israel's carefully obeying the Lord, observing all His commandments (v.5). So that this was a conditional promise. Israel failed to keep the conditions, and poverty was not abolished, so that the Lord Jesus told His disciples, "The poor you have with you always" (John 12:8). This will change only after the Lord's judgment and His establishing Israel in the future blessings of the millennium.

God would allow Israel to lend to many nations, but told them not to borrow from the nations. Israel is certainly not blessed in this way now, for she is anxious to borrow huge sums from the United States, whose national debt is already so great that it appears impossible for her to ever pay it off. Though Israel was to rule over many nations, and will yet do so in the millennium (v.6), yet because of her disobedience to God, the situation has been the reverse; many nations have ruled over her, and she has suffered tragic debasement over centuries past.

CONSIDERATION OF THE POOR

(vs.7-11)

For whatever reason one might be poor, the Lord did not excuse Israel from the responsibility of helping with material support. Some have dared to say that if one is poor it is his own fault, but whether we think this way or not, it is our fault if we fail to give him help. This was true in Israel, and it is fully true in our dispensation of grace. The apostles were united in their urging this liberality (Galatians 2:10), and Paul devotes two chapters to this important matter (2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15).

So, in verse 8 Israelites are told to "open your hand wide," without the least grudging, to willingly lend a poor person whatever he needs. This was under law, and the person was responsible to pay it back if he was able, though the debt would be released in the seventh year. In the New Testament believers are encouraged to give, not merely to lend, for if we give as to the Lord, the Lord will take full account, as is seen even in Proverbs 19:17 : "He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay him back what he has given." Therefore, how good it is to gladly give with no strings attached. Faith can surely depend simply on the Lord.

If there were a case of genuine need, even though the year of release was near, this could not be an excuse for refusing help at the time (v.9), though it was then almost certain that the debt would never be repaid. But God always repays faith. Therefore, they should willingly give with a full heart, expecting nothing in faith. Therefore, they should willingly give with a full heart, expecting nothing in return, for when this is our attitude, God will always reward it in the most appropriate way.

The exception seen in verse 4, in case there were no poor in the land, is seen to be an impossibility in verse 11, which tells us, "the poor will never cease from the land," for the poor would cease only if Israel obeyed the law, which God knew they would not. Therefore, they should be willingly generous toward the poor.

THE LAW AS TO BONDSERVANTS

(vs.12-18)

It might be that a Hebrew became so poor as to sell himself as a slave to his countryman. If so, after six years of service his master was required to set him free (v.12). Yet more than this, he was to supply his slave liberally with produce that would enable him to live in some comfort (vs.13-14). This was a remarkable provision made by God, so that no one would be so reduced as to become homeless, as many are today in the U.S.A. So long as one was willing to work, he would thus find means of support.

The responsibility to care for slaves in this way was impressed on Israel with the reminder that Israel had been in slavery in Egypt and that the Lord had redeemed them from such bondage. Let them have the same attitude toward slaves as the Lord had shown toward them.

It might be that a slave had such respect for his master that he did not want to go free, but preferred to remain a slave to his master (v.16). If so, the master was told to thrust an awl through the servants ear into the door in token of a total committal to the service of his master (v.17), for his ear was now committed to hearing only the instruction of his master, while the door speaks of his master's glad reception of such service.

This is all beautifully of the perfect Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, because of love for His Master, God the Father, His love for the Church, and for every individual believer, has pledged Himself to a life of service forever. The pierced ear reminds us of His willing sacrifice of Calvary by which He has committed Himself to such willing service. As regards freeing a servant at the seventh year, Israel is told it must not seem hard to them to do so, for the slave had been worth double the value of a hired servant (v.18). Besides, the Lord would reward the willingness of a master in letting the servant go free.

AS TO FIRSTBORN MALE ANIMALS

(vs.19-23)

Israel also was required to observe God's rights as Creator in regard to the flocks and herds each individual might own. The firstborn males were to be set apart for the Lord. They were not to use the animal to work for them, nor were they even to shear the firstborn sheep (v.19). The Lord did not take these from them, but required that they bring them to the place of His choice (Jerusalem) and there eat them as before the Lord. These were peace offerings, offered to the Lord, with the Lord having a share, the priest also have his share, but the reminder eaten by the offerer and his household (v.20).

An exception was made in the case of an animal having any defect, for in this case it could not be offered to God (v.21), for the offering is typical of Christ in whom there is no spot or blemish. An animal with a blemish might be eaten at home, however (v.22). But again the eating of blood is expressly forbidden (v.23).

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/deuteronomy-15.html. 1897-1910.

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