Deuteronomy Chapter 15  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Deuteronomy 15
Deu 15:1

“At the end of every seven years you must make a release.‚Äč” In this context, the seventh year was a fixed time, and tracked by the priests. So as the year of release approached people were less likely to lend because they would be less likely to be fully repaid. While that makes monetary sense, it was not God’s heart and He reproves it. The poor need the money (or whatever they borrow) now, not in a couple years when a new cycle of seven begins, and God says He will bless Israel if they will take care of the people.

The seventh year was different for cases where a person was forced (often by debt) to serve another. In those cases, the guilty party did serve seven years (cp. Deut. 15:12).

Deu 15:2(top)
Deu 15:3(top)
Deu 15:4

“However there will be no poor among you.” This statement is based in the context of Israel obeying all the commands of God, which they never did. A few times in history they may have gotten close, but as a whole, they never did keep all the commands of God. So Deuteronomy 15:11, that there would always be poor people in the land, is much more realistic and is in fact what happened historically in Israel.

Deu 15:5(top)
Deu 15:6(top)
Deu 15:7

“close your hand.” An idiom meaning to be selfish to.

Deu 15:8

“open, yes, open...lend, yes, lend.” The Hebrew text emphasizes the fact that the richer person must be willing to lend to the poorer person by using the figure of speech polyptoton, where the same verb is repeated but in two different tenses (see commentary on Gen. 2:16).

[See figure of speech “polyptoton.”]

Deu 15:9

“the seventh year, the year of release.” According to the Law of Moses, every seventh year was a year of release. On the seventh year, slaves had to be released, and they could not be sent away empty-handed, they had to be given enough to start their life again (Exod. 21:2; Deut. 15:12-15), the land had to be released from its labor and not cultivated (Exod. 23:11; Lev. 25:4-7; Neh. 10:32), and any debt that was owed to a brother Israelite had to be forgiven (Deut. 15:1-3; Neh. 10:32).

The “seventh year” was fixed on the calendar. For example, if you lent money to someone, the “seventh year” was not seven years later, but when the “seventh year” came up, which might have been the very next year. Here in Deuteronomy 15:9 God warns the Israelites not to be stingy and have an “evil eye” against their fellow Israelite and to lend to the needy even if the year of release was near and the chances of being repaid were slim.

“your eye be evil.” The “evil eye” is a Semitic idiom for being greedy and stingy. God is telling people not to be stingy, but to give to their needy brother even if the year of release, the seventh year, is close and it does not look like the needy one will be able to pay you back before his debt is released. Biblically, an evil eye is greedy or stingy; while a “good eye,” or a “single eye,” is generous.

[For more on idioms involving the good eye, see commentary on Proverbs 22:9. For more on the idiom of the evil eye, see commentary on Proverbs 28:22.]

Deu 15:10

“give, yes, give.” The Hebrew text repeats the verb “give” twice, the first as an infinitive, the second as an imperfect. This is the figure of speech polyptoton, and emphasizes that the person is to give generously.

[For more on the figure polyptoton, see commentary on Genesis 2:16.]

Deu 15:11

“Because the poor.” The opening word is more properly, “for,” but here it has more the force of “because” (cp. NASB, and note the NIV).

Jesus also taught that there would be poor people among the more wealthy people (cp. Matt. 26:11; Mark 14:7; John 12:8). It is good to give to the poor, but that is all the Bible says to do—help them survive and get back on their feet. There is no justification for the idea that society is responsible to raise the poor up to the economic level of everyone else so everyone has the same things in life. There are many different reasons that the poor are poor, and trying to get them to be equal with everyone else in society only hurts the people in society who are diligent and plan and thus have enough and some to share, and taking their money from them by force of law only results in hurting the whole society. Note that whenever Jesus told a parable about people being given money and stewarding it, any money the person who hid or lost his money had left was taken from him and given to the one who had been the wisest with the money he had been given (cp. Matt. 25:28-29; Luke 11:20-24).

When it comes to helping the poor, the Bible sets some wonderful examples. First, Proverbs makes it clear that parents are to teach their children to plan ahead and plan for their future. Failure to do that can result in someone having a very difficult life, so parents need to be diligent about teaching their children to prepare for the future. Also, Proverbs says that godly parents and grandparents should plan their lives so they can leave an inheritance to their children, which can be a huge help to the children (Prov. 13:22). Then, after being helped and supported by the immediate family, God intended that the extended family was to watch out for each other and support each other in times of trouble. This was part of the idea behind the concept of the “kinsman-redeemer,” and we see that in cases such as when Boaz helped out Naomi and Ruth. God designed the family and clan to be the primary support system for people all through their lives, from babies to when people are elderly and in need of help.

Also, people are wise to be a part of a mutually loving community of believers who help and support each other. This is usually the Church, and being part of a loving congregation is very valuable. Acts 6:1 and 1 Timothy 5:16 are two verses that show the Church helping the poor among them, and many churches are very good about helping the poor and also the people in the church are often very helpful in helping and supporting one another. Church is to be more than a place to go to sing and worship God, it is a place to build friendships and community among the believers, who can then be mutually supportive of each other.

Christians are to also to realize that if they help the poor that God will reward them for it on Judgment Day. Proverbs 19:17 says that the person who shows favor to the poor lends to Yahweh and Yahweh will repay them for the help they give. That repayment might not happen in this life, but it certainly will in the next. So for a Christian to notice a poor person and extend some help to them is supposed to be part of every Christian’s life.

It is important to realize also, however, that there are things that poor people can do to help themselves, and God expects people to do what they can to support themselves. In biblical times people who could not work went to public places and begged, and God often blessed that effort. That may not be available or safe today, but that does not mean that there are not things that poor people can do for themselves to get back on their feet or get further ahead in life. James says that people have not because they ask not, and someone working to have enough or get out of poverty should be diligent to pray and to ask God for help and also for ideas as to how to get help.

“open, yes, open.” The Hebrew text repeats the verb “open” twice, the first as an infinitive, the second as an imperfect. This is the figure of speech polyptoton, and it emphasizes that the person is to give generously.

[For more on the figure polyptoton, see commentary on Genesis 2:16.]

Deu 15:12(top)
Deu 15:13(top)
Deu 15:14

“supply, yes, supply.” God wants people to give the ones who have served them a good chance to make it in the world and not end up back in debt, so He emphasizes that point by repeating the verb “supply” twice, an infinitive pared with an imperfect, and thus using the figure of speech polyptoton. In this case, the meaning of the figure is to supply him with plenty so he can get a good start.

[For more on polyptoton and how it is translated, see commentary on Genesis 2:16.]

[See figure of speech “polyptoton.”]

Deu 15:15

“you are to remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt.” The “you” and “slave” are singular. Each person is to remember the past, and the hardships Israel went through in Egypt.

Deu 15:16

“If he tells you.” The “he” is accurate. The men were set free in the seventh year (or at least they were supposed to be; some cruel masters would not release their slaves). In contrast, the women slaves who were single were married into the family and were therefore not released (cp. Exod. 21:7-11).

Deu 15:17

“and he will be your servant forever.” The word “forever” in this case means for a long time, because the servitude ended in the year of the Jubilee (Lev. 25:39-41).

“Also to your female servant you are to do likewise.” The women slaves who were not married did not go free like the men did, they became part of the household of the family they were sold to (cp. Exod. 21:7-11). So this must refer to female slaves who were married when they became slaves.

Deu 15:18

“for double of the hire of a hired hand he has served you six years.” If the master had hired a worker instead of having the slave for six years it would have cost him twice as much.

Deu 15:19

“All the firstborn males that are born of your herd and of your flock you are to dedicate to Yahweh your God.” The firstborn of the herd and flock would be clean animals and so they were able to be sacrificed to Yahweh. God said, “You are to dedicate them,” which in this case means dedicate them or “make them holy” by sacrificing them. So the firstborn male of every flock or herd animal was to be sacrificed to Yahweh, as Deuteronomy 15:19-23 makes clear. Note also, however, that blemished animals could not be sacrificed; and also, any time a firstborn animal was sacrificed, the family who brought it got to eat some of the meat.

Deu 15:20

“in the place that Yahweh will choose.” Here once again as has occurred a number of times in Deuteronomy, the people are to elevate God by going to where He is instead of just doing what they want wherever they are.

Deu 15:21(top)
Deu 15:22

“the unclean and the clean alike may eat it.” That is, people who are ceremonially clean and people who are not clean may eat of the firstborn animals that are sacrificed to Yahweh.

“as if it were a gazelle or a deer.” When someone hunted a gazelle or deer and the whole family or clan ate it, both the people who were ceremonially clean and the people who were “unclean” could eat it. Things that made people Levitically unclean in the eyes of God were having an issue of blood, having touched a dead body, and having had sex that day. So here in Deuteronomy 15:22, God says that the firstborn male of the herd or flock that is sacrificed to Him may be eaten by anyone, clean or unclean.

Deu 15:23(top)

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