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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Deuteronomy 15:1

 

 

"At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts.

Adam Clarke Commentary

At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release - For an explanation of many things in this chapter, see the notes on Exodus 21 (note), Exodus 23 (note), and Leviticus 25 (note).


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/deuteronomy-15.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. Not of servants, for they were not to be dismissed from their service until they had served six years, as is directed to in a following law; for if they were to be set free whenever a sabbatical year came, they might be discharged when they had not served more than a year, or than half a year, or than a month or two. Indeed when the year of jubilee intervened, they were released be it at what time it would; but not in a sabbatical year, which was a year of release of debts, as the following verses show, as well as there was, then a rest of the land from tillage, Leviticus 25:2. Now this was done at the end or extremity of every seventh year; not at the latter end or extremity of it, for if the debt of a poor man might be exacted of him in the year, and until the end of it, it would not in this respect have been a sabbatical year, or a year of rest and quiet; but this was done at the first extremity of it, at the beginning of it, as Aben Ezra and Ben Melech observe; though MaimonidesF2Hilchot Shemittah & Yobel, c. 9. sect. 4. asserts it to be after the seven years were ended; for he says,"the seventh year releaseth not monies but at the end of it,'according to Deuteronomy 15:1 that as in Deuteronomy 31:10 after seven years is meant, so the release of monies is after seven years.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/deuteronomy-15.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Deuteronomy 15:1-11. The seventh year, a year of release for the poor.

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


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/deuteronomy-15.html. 1871-8.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

CONTENTS

We have in this Chapter a continuation of Moses' discourse. Here are contained, the order for the release of debtors every seventh year: cautions to the people not to withhold lending to their needy brethren, on account of the year of release being at hand: some particularities respecting the Hebrew servant, and concerning the offering of the firstlings of their cattle to GOD.


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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/deuteronomy-15.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

At the end — That is, in the last year of the seven, as is, most evident from Deuteronomy 15:9. And this year of release, as it is, called below, Deuteronomy 15:9, is the same with the sabbatical year, Exodus 23:11.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/deuteronomy-15.html. 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

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; (144) 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 (145) their debts, and “fast for strife and debate.” (Isaiah 58:3.) The form of remission is added, That no one should vex his neighbor in the year in which the release of God is proclaimed.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/deuteronomy-15.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Deuteronomy 15:1 At the end of [every] seven years thou shalt make a release.

Ver. 1. At the end of every.] This Sabbatical year signified the year of grace, the kingdom of Christ, wherein all Israelites indeed are discharged of their debts. [Matthew 6:12] {See Trapp on "Matthew 6:12"}


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/deuteronomy-15.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 15

The seventh year a year of release, Deuteronomy 15:1, to their brethren only, Deuteronomy 15:2,3. God promiseth to bless them in the land of Canaan, Deuteronomy 15:4-6; and commandeth them to lend freely to the poor, Deuteronomy 15:7-18. The firstlings to be sanctified and eaten before the Lord, Deuteronomy 15:19-23.

i.e. In the last year of the seven, as is most evident from Deuteronomy 15:9 Exodus 21:2 Jeremiah 34:14. So the like phrase is oft used, as Deuteronomy 14:28 Joshua 3:2 Jeremiah 25:12 Luke 2:21 Acts 2:1. And this year of release, as it is called below, Deuteronomy 15:9, is the same with the sabbatical year, Exodus 23:11 Leviticus 25:4.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/deuteronomy-15.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

THE YEAR OF RELEASE, THE EMANCIPATION OF HEBREW SLAVES, AND THE APPROPRIATION OF THE FIRSTBORN OF THEIR CATTLE TO SACRED AND CHARITABLE PURPOSES.

1. Every seven years… a release — This was the same as the sabbatical rear of the earlier books. See Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 25:4.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/deuteronomy-15.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Chapter 15 The Generosity Required To Those In Extreme Poverty and to Bondsmen Being Released, and The Requirement For Compassion In All Relationships.

Moses would expect that his reference to this three year cycle in Deuteronomy 14:28 would bring to mind the Israelite way of considering the passage of time and therefore the provisions of the sabbath of rest for the land in the seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-7), and with this in mind he continues with the theme of helping the poorest in the land (Deuteronomy 14:28). In Deuteronomy 14:28 he had declared that in the third year and the sixth year provision would be made through the tithe for the poor and needy, as symbolised by the fatherless, the widow and the resident alien (the last of whom would often be a refugee and in poverty, compare Deuteronomy 23:15). Here he declares that in the seventh year, in the general year of release when the land was released from needing to be economically productive so that the poor may benefit from it (Exodus 23:11), there was also to be a ‘year of release’ for those who were in debt. The two go together. We must not read this reference to debt in the light of modern conditions. The expectation would be that when the people had entered the land and had been given land by Yahweh they would only need to borrow long term in cases of extreme need. Such borrowing would thus indicate real poverty. It is not thinking of someone borrowing in a commercial world.

And the main aim behind the provision was the relief of poverty, not in order to be a means of avoiding what was in honour due. It would be expected that most creditors would, in honour, honour their debts. It was those who could not do so who are in mind here. Thus not only was the seventh year to be a year in which the land could rest, and in which all could enjoy the fruits of the land because it was Yahweh’s land and Yahweh’s dispensation, but it was also to be a year of release for all in extreme poverty who were burdened with debt.

There is, in fact, a dispute as to whether the ‘release’ (‘a letting go’) mentioned here is a permanent release or simply a postponement, covering the seventh year. Some argue that during the seventh year, due to the rest given to the land (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:2-7) there would be no produce from the land and no wages for working on other people’s land. They therefore suggest that the point here is that to have to repay a loan in that year would be difficult. Therefore postponement would be required. They point out that it would be different for a foreigner (in contrast with the resident alien) for he was not affected by the year of rest for the land. Thus a postponement was to be allowed to fellow-Israelites.

However in our view that is to miss the whole point of the passage which is to deal with extreme poverty. The mention of such a delay would have made sense in the midst of a general discussion of the seven year rest, or in a context dealing specifically with debt and how to deal with it, but not as such a forthright statement, standing on its own, as we have here in a context where poverty is stressed. The major point being dealt with here is the incompatibility of poverty with Yahweh’s giving of the land. A slight delay in repayment would hardly have much impact on that. But either way it is provided that lenders must not allow it to affect their attitude to needy borrowers (Deuteronomy 15:7).

He next goes on to deal with the special need for generosity to ‘Hebrew bondsmen and women’ when they come to the end of their seven year contracts. There is the twofold connection here with what has gone before in the chapter, of generosity to the needy and a period of seven years in the seventh year of which would come release, although the seven year period is on a different basis. And he then finishes the chapter dealing with the question of the firstlings. This helps to bring his previous points home by reminding them how they themselves had been delivered from such poverty and bondage in Egypt, for their firstlings were Yahweh’s precisely because He had delivered them from bondage and spared their firstborn sons - Exodus 13:11-16). At the same time it puts all in the context of chapter 12 where their rejoicing before Yahweh in the place where he had chosen to dwell, because all was going well with them, included the consumption of the firstlings.

Thus it was because of their own deliverance from poverty and bondage that they were to consider those more unfortunate than themselves, and treat them well. Reference is also made to the fact that the firstlings too must be well treated and not put to labour prior to their being dedicated to Yahweh and passed over to the priests, although the major reason for that was really so that nothing could be taken from them prior to their presentation to Yahweh.

So the chapter reveals that the Israelite must show compassion to the needy debtor, to the Hebrew bondsman and woman, and to the firstlings, although as we have said the latter provision possibly more has in mind that the firstling shall be at its best for Yahweh, with nothing taken from it.

This reference to firstlings connects back to the reference to tithes in Deuteronomy 14, which with the firstlings are connected with the feasting before Yahweh at the place which He has chosen for Himself in Deuteronomy 12, thus connecting all in Deuteronomy 14-15 to Deuteronomy 12 and the worship at the sanctuary. These provisions are thus to be seen as sacred and necessary of fulfilment so that they can feast before Yahweh in His presence with a clear conscience.

Release From Debt For The Poor Of The Land (Deuteronomy 15:1-11).

(This whole chapter is ‘thou’).

Deuteronomy 15:1

At the end of every seven years you (thou) shall make a release (literally ‘a letting go’; some translate ‘a postponement’).’

It is unfortunate that our chapter divisions hide the full sequence in which this verse comes. It is not the opening sentence to a new concept, but a continuation from Deuteronomy 14:28. ‘At the end of every three years you shall --- at the end of every seven years you shall ---.’

So the provision for the poor and needy every three years is now added to. It should be noted that this verse is not primarily an attempt to refer to the legislation about the seven year sabbath, as though this was some new announcement of something previously unheard of. The stress is not on the seventh year as such, but on relief available to the poor in that seventh year, which is on top of the provision available to the poor in the third and sixth year. That is why the detail of the seven year sabbath is not gone into, it is assumed. As we have pointed out already, the problem with commencing a new chapter here is that we tend to see it as commencing a new subject. But Deuteronomy 14:28 to Deuteronomy 15:1 should be read together. It should be seen as reading, ‘at the end of three years you shall -- at the end of every seven years you shall --.’ (And the chiasmus confirms it). It is the idea of looking after the poor and needy which is being spoken of and continued.

It was not even intended to deal with general debt. Rather it was seeking to deal with the problem of debt for the poorest in the land. As with the three years it was a new announcement made on the verge of entering the land, making provision for the poor to be released from debt, for it was only when they had entered the land that men might find themselves in real hardship through debt. In the wilderness it was probably not such a problem.

But Moses recognised that the ownership of land, and the obligations and necessities connected with it, could bring problems with them, especially in times of shortage, which could put people into debt simply in trying to deal with them. So in the seventh year there was to be a ‘release’ (a ‘letting go’) from debt for those who were finding it hard to cope. Such freeing from debt and from debt-slavery at the behest of a king was known elsewhere and Hammurabi for one appears to have sought to legalise such freedom after three years service.

“At the end of seven years.” That is in the seventh year of the seven year cycle into which time for Israel was divided (as with the seven day cycle ending in the Sabbath, all was in sevens).

(It is clear that each ‘third year’ has to take the seventh year into account or there could have come a seventh year which coincided with a third year resulting in no tithes of grain for the poor. It is unlikely that that was intended. Thus ‘at the end of the third year’ probably signifies that the third and sixth year in each seven year cycle is in mind).

“You shall make a release.” There are a number of arguments for seeing this as indicating a permanent release.

1) In Deuteronomy 31:10 ‘the year of release’ is considered to be a sufficiently distinctive occasion to be referred to, whereas postponement of a debt for one year was hardly that, however much it might seem so to the debtor. It was simply a minor disadvantage to the creditor.

2) In Deuteronomy 15:9 it is seen as a disincentive to lending. But a year’s postponement could be taken into the reckoning from the start, and would surely not be seen to be quite such a disincentive to lending as the impression given here.

3) Consider also the words of Jesus, ‘if you lend hoping to receive, what desert have you?’ (Luke 6:34). It is quite likely that there He has this year of release in mind, especially as His statement was intended to distinguish those who were true sons of the Most High. For in this context in Deuteronomy reference has been made to Israel as the sons of Yahweh in Deuteronomy 14:1.

4) Further support may be seen in the total release of land without cost back to its original owner in the year of Yubile. There the position in mind was of an irreversible situation. The same principle may be seen as occurring here. It was permanent release. The situation would be taken into account in agreements.

5) In the example that follows here in Deuteronomy 15:12-18 the Hebrew bondsman was being completely set free in the seventh year. That would parallel a seven year full release here.

6) The fact that the statement stands starkly on its own would point to a significant release, rather than a temporary one. Had it been in a context of the seven year rest for the land, as an added feature, it might have been different. But the context here is one of extreme poverty and the need for relief.

It must be recognised at once that this coming release did not signify that no loans need ever be repaid. Most honest borrowers would in honour wish to repay their loan regardless of this Law. No doubt the poor man would wish he could repay it. It was more a provision for the extreme hardship of someone who through misfortune could not possibly repay it, whom Yahweh did not want burdened with it until it destroyed him.

In support of a reference to ‘postponement only’ is the significance of the seventh year elsewhere. There it was a year of rest from something (Leviticus 25:3-7; Exodus 23:10-11) which would recommence again in the following year. But that is a very different thing from the situation of a man in poverty. There the land would be properly rested and start again afresh. The debtor would not start again afresh, he would simply dread the end of the seventh year. Against the idea of postponement is the better parallel of the year of Yubile where the land was completely released back to its original owner.

It could be argued that reference to a mere postponement would also make more commercial sense. However the latter is no strong argument for in Israel borrowing and lending was not to be seen as commercial. No interest was to be charged. It was to be a goodwill gesture to those in need. And the attitude of commercialism is specifically guarded against (Deuteronomy 15:9).

The unwillingness of people to lend if they knew that they would not receive it back might be a better argument, but that is actually what Deuteronomy 15:9 is all about. It declares that Israelites must be willing to lend even in spite of this release and the danger of losing their silver, because of what Yahweh would otherwise think about a man in destitution, left unaided, a position that would be a major slight on Him. It is difficult to see how a mere year’s delay could cause such unwillingness to lend. (Someone who felt such reluctance about a mere delay would be doing their best not to have to lend it anyway).

Nor was the release necessarily of the full debt. It could well be that the borrower had already provided some service to the lender for the privilege of borrowing, such as free part time labour or a portion of produce or some other service. That would be at least some recompense. And the idea is then that the remainder was to be cancelled out of charitable considerations and because Yahweh would be pleased. They were to be satisfied with receiving but a part rather than the whole.

However, the context clearly does suggest that this is a major concession, and is made because of unexpected poverty in the land, which should not be there, and that the lender therefore has the assurance that God will recompense him as the debtor cannot. This points beyond a mere postponement. It would seem to point to full release. The stress is really on the eradication of poverty rather than mere release from debt.


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Bibliography
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/deuteronomy-15.html. 2013.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Deuteronomy 15:1. At the end of every seven years — When the seventh year comes, which is the end or last of the seven, Deuteronomy 15:9; Deuteronomy 15:12. This termed here the year of release, was the sabbatical year spoken of Exodus 23:11;

Leviticus 25:4. The wisdom of the Hebrew constitution provided for a release of all debts and servitudes every seventh year, that the Jewish nation might not moulder away from so great a number of free subjects into the condition of slaves: see on Leviticus 25.


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Bibliography
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/deuteronomy-15.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

In the. Hebrew, "at the extremity of seven years," which some erroneously refer to the end, though the original signify also the beginning. (Calmet)


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/deuteronomy-15.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

seven years = when the seventh year has arrived. Compare Exodus 23:10, Exodus 23:11. Leviticus 25:3, Leviticus 25:4.

release. Compare Exodus 23:10, Exodus 23:11. Leviticus 25:6, Leviticus 25:7. In Ex. and Lev. rest for the land. In Deut, release for the debtor. The noun, shamat, only here and Deuteronomy 31:10. The verb, only in Exodus 23:11 = to let lie down.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/deuteronomy-15.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

At the end of every seven years - during the last of the seven; i:e., the Sabbatical year (Exodus 21:2; Exodus 28:11; Leviticus 25:4; Jeremiah 34:14).


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/deuteronomy-15.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

XV.

(1) At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.—The Law in this place is an extension of that which we find in Exodus 21:2, &c, and Leviticus 25:3, &c., There was not only to be a manumission of Hebrew slaves and a Sabbath for the land in the seventh year, but also a release of debts, of which all the Israelites must have the benefit.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/deuteronomy-15.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
31:10; Exodus 21:2; 23:10,11; Leviticus 25:2-4; Isaiah 61:1-3; Jeremiah 36:8-18; Luke 4:18,19

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 15:1". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/deuteronomy-15.html.

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