(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.
For the Lord thy God shall greatly bless thee.—So in Acts 4:33, “Great grace was upon them all.” The blessing need not be equal and universal prosperity, if those who have the good things of this world will always remember the poor to such an extent that no member of the community shall be left in want.
Thou Shalt lend.—The root of the word in Hebrew is closely connected with the word for “slave.” “The borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
Within any of thy gates.—“The poor of thine own city come before the poor of another city.”
Thou Shalt not harden.—“There are some men who ‘grieve’ (grudge) whether they give or not;” therefore it is said, “Thou shalt not harden thy heart; there are some who stretch out the hand (to give), and yet close it; therefore it is said, Thou shalt not shut thine hand.”
And shalt surely lend.—“If he does not like to take it as a gift, grant it to him as a loan.”
Sufficient for his need.—“But it is not thy duty to make him rich.”
In that which he wanteth.—“Even ahorse to ride on, and a slave to run before him.”
Him.—“Between thee and him alone.” (Comp. “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” in Matthew 6:3). I have thought it worth while to borrow the comments of Rashi on these verses (Deuteronomy 15:7-10) almost entire, to show how well the Jews have understood the true principles of Christian charity from the law of Moses. That people has always been remarkable for kindness to its own poor.
For this thing.—Literally, this word, or this promise. And Rashi observes, “Even when thou hast promised to give, thou wilt receive the reward of the promise as well as the reward of the deed;” and we may compare St. Paul. “If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” (2 Corinthians 8:12.)
Thy brother, thy poor, and thy needy.-According to Rashi, the word translated “needy” is stronger than the word for “poor.” The “poor” are in humble circumstances; the “needy” are actually in want. In commenting on this verse, Rashi asks a similar question to that of the lawyer in Luke 10:29, “Who is this brother? Thy poor man.” He might have added that “thy poor” and “thy needy” are expressions teaching the truth that we are “members one of another.” We may not pass by our poorer brethren, and say we have nothing to do with them. Jehovah calls them ours—“thy poor man,” and “thy needy man.” The words are both in the singular number in the Hebrew. We cannot shake off the relationship or the responsibility in any one case.
(12) In the seventh year.—This is to be understood of the Sabbatical year whenever it came. It would rarely happen that the Hebrew slave would serve for the full period of six years.
Therefore I command thee·—In Leviticus 25:42 the reason is given thus: “They are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as bondmen” (i.e., not for ever). The land was under the same restriction—it “shall not be sold for ever; for the land is mine” (Leviticus 25:16-17; Leviticus 25:23.
It must not be supposed that this contradicts Exodus 21:7, “She shall not go out as the menservants do.” She shall not go out according to the going of the men-servants (i.e., on the same principle). It is not said, She shall not go out at all. The exceptions are given in Exodus 21:8-11, which see. The general right of release is stated here. One difference (as stated by Rashi) is that women were not liable to be sold for theft like men, but might be sold by their parents in infancy. If the girl were not marriageable when the first Sabbatical year arrived, she would obtain her freedom absolutely, because the case contemplated in Exodus 21:8-10 could not possibly arise. And, generally, we may suppose that the rights of an unmarried female slave would be the same as those of a man, to go out free in the seventh year. (See Jeremiah 34:9.)