Deuteronomy 23:15 MEANING

Deuteronomy 23:15
Deuteronomy 23:15-16.--REFUGEES.

Thou shalt not deliver . . . the servant.--Even on Israelitish ground the escaped slave was free. Rashi adds, "Even a Canaanitish slave who has escaped from abroad into the land of Israel."

Verses 15, 16. - A slave that had escaped from his master was not to be given up, but allowed to dwell in the land, in whatever part he might choose. The reference is to a foreign slave who had fled from the harsh treatment of his master to seek refuge in Israel, as is evident from the expression, בְאַחַד שְׁעָרֵיך, "in one of thy gates," i.e. in any part of thy land. Onkelos, עֲבִד עַמְמִין, "a slave of the Gentiles." His master; the word used is the plural adonim, masters. The use of this for a human master or lord is peculiar to the Pentateuch (cf. Genesis 24:9, 51; Genesis 39:2; Genesis 40:1; Exodus 21:4, 6, 32, etc.). In this use of the term there is no reference to severity of rule, as if this were a plural intensive.

23:15-25 It is honourable to shelter and protect the weak, provided they are not wicked. Proselytes and converts to the truth, should be treated with particular tenderness, that they may have no temptation to return to the world. We cannot honour God with our substance, unless it be honestly and honourably come by. It must not only be considered what we give, but how we got it. Where the borrower gets, or hopes to get, it is just that the lender should share the gain; but to him that borrows for necessary food, pity must be showed. That which is gone out of thy lips, as a solemn and deliberate vow, must not be recalled, but thou shalt keep and perform it punctually and fully. They were allowed to pluck and eat of the corn or grapes that grew by the road side; only they must not carry any away. This law intimated what great plenty of corn and wine they should have in Canaan. It provided for the support of poor travellers, and teaches us to be kind to such, teaches us to be ready to distribute, and not to think every thing lost that is given away. Yet it forbids us to abuse the kindness of friends, or to take advantage of what is allowed. Faithfulness to their engagements should mark the people of God; and they should never encroach upon others.Thou shall not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee. That is, one that has been used ill by a cruel and tyrannical master, and was in danger of his life with him, or of being lamed by him, and therefore obliged to make his escape from him on that account; such an one, when he fell into the hands of an Israelite, was not to be taken and bound, and sent back to his master again, but was to be retained till his master's anger subsided; or however until inquiry could be made into the cause of the difference between him and his master, and matters be made up between them to mutual satisfaction; or if it appeared that the flight of the servant was just, and it was not safe for him to return to his master, then he was to be used as hereafter directed; for it cannot be thought that this law was made to encourage and protect every idle, disobedient, and fugitive servant, which would be very sinful and unjust: the Jewish writers generally understand it of the servants of idolaters fleeing for the sake of religion; Onkelos renders it,"a servant of the people,''of Heathen people; the Targum of Jonathan is,"thou shalt not deliver a stranger (i.e. a proselyte of righteousness, as Maimonides (w) calls this servant) into the hands of those that worship idols, but he shall be delivered by you, that he may be under the shadow of my Shechinah, because that he fled from the worship of his idol.''Jarchi makes mention of another sense; that it may be understood of"a Canaanitish servant of an Israelite that flees (from his master) without the land, where he was not obliged to go with him, and serve him against his will; but I suppose a proselyte is meant;''and much more then will this hold good of an Hebrew servant in such circumstances. Aben Ezra interprets this of a servant not an Israelite, who, in time of war, flees from his master, not an Israelite also, unto the camp of Israel, and that for the glory of the divine name which is called upon Israel; such an one, though a servant, might not be delivered to his master.

(w) Hilchot Abadim, c. 8. sect. 11.

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