King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Deuteronomy 15

The year of release. (1-11) Concerning the release of servants. (12-18) Respecting the firstlings of cattle. (19-23)

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The year of release

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

2 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD’s release.

3 Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;

4 Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:

5 Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.

6 For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.

7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:

8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.

9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.

10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.

11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

Concerning the release of servants

12 And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.

13 And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty:

14 Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.

15 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.

16 And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee;

17 Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.

18 It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.

Respecting the firstlings of cattle

19 All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.

20 Thou shalt eat it before the LORD thy God year by year in the place which the LORD shall choose, thou and thy household.

21 And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the LORD thy God.

22 Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart.

23 Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. In the. Heb. “at the extremity of seven years,” which some erroneously refer to the end, though the original signify also the beginning. C.

Ver. 2. Again. Heb. does not mention friend. H. — “He shall not exact it, (or urge) his neighbour or his brother, because,” &c. Whence Cajetan gathers, that debts might be demanded after the expiration of the seventh year, on which the products of the earth did not enable the Jews to pay any thing. Grotius also asserts, that perpetual debts might be required; and Menoch, includes things lent under the same regulation. But all debts became extinct as soon as the seventh year commenced; (v. 9. C.) at least they could not be demanded till it was expired; though things merely lent, might be taken back. D.

Ver. 3. Stranger, who has not received circumcision. Such were entitled only to the common privileges of people in distress. They could not claim a share in the feasts, made out of the tithes of the Jews, &c. Grotius.

Ver. 4. There shall be no poor, &c. It is not to be understood as a promise, that there should be no poor in Israel, as appears from v. 11, where we learn that God’s people would never be at a loss to find objects for their charity: but it is an ordinance that all should do their best endeavours to prevent any of their brethren from suffering the hardships of poverty and want. Ch. — Beggar, is not expressed, though it be implied in Heb. or the Sept. which connect this with the preceding verse, (H.) “because (or save when) there shall be no poor among you;” as if the rich could not derive the benefit from the remission of debts. Vatable. — God had made abundant provision for the poor. He might have prevented any from falling into distress. C. — But he suffered this sometimes to take place, to try the dispositions both of the rich and of the poor. H. — If they had faithfully complied with his laws, he would not have permitted them to fall into the last degree of misery. C. — He allows no public begging, which all well regulated nations discountenance. M. — The Jews carefully relieve their brethren. They gather alms, and one of the judges distributes what may be sufficient for the ensuing week. Leo, p. i. c. 14. — Those who refused to give according to their abilities, were formerly ordered by the Sanhedrim to be scourged, till they had complied with their duty; and sometimes, things were taken forcibly from their houses. Maimon. — They relieve the distressed in proportion to their former condition. Seld. Jur. vi. 6.

Ver. 6. Lend. The Jews give a wrong interpretation to this passage, to authorize usury with regard to strangers. But God can never sanction injustice. He promises such riches to his people, if they be faithful, that they shall be in a condition to lend to many, without wanting themselves. C. — Over thee. Hence the Jews submitted to a foreign yoke with so much reluctance. But they should have remembered to keep God’s law. H.

Ver. 8. Need of. The Rabbins understand this of giving freely without any prospect of receiving again, much less of any advantage by usury. They esteem themselves bound also, by the laws of humanity, to assist even idolaters, though they will not beg of such, in public. Some assert, that they never allow public beggars among themselves, and indeed such are seldom to be seen. Yet no law forbids it; and Juvenal (vi. 541,) upbraids them with begging slyly at Rome. Arcanum Jud├Ža tremens mendicat in aurem. C. — If people be in extreme want, the law requires that necessaries should be given them; but if they be not so far reduced, but that they may be able to pay again in a little time, it may suffice to lend. H.

Ver. 9. Eyes. Heb. “and thy eye be evil against,” &c. This expression denotes one who is a prey to the base passions of avarice, jealousy, envy, &c. C. xxviii. 54. Mat. xx. 15. C. — A sin, or draw on punishment. M. — “If thou hast not fed, thou hast killed” thy neighbour in extreme want. S. Amb. Off. ii. 7. W.

Ver. 10. Neither. Heb. “thy heart shall not be evil in giving: for to this end the Lord…hath blessed thee.” Imitate his clemency. — Hand, in all thy undertakings and possessions.

Ver. 11. Needy. Heb. expresses the order to be observed in giving alms, “open thy hand wide (give with profusion) to thy brother, (or relations,) to thy needy, (in extreme want,) and to thy poor in the land,” whoever they may be. C. — To exercise the charity of his people, God suffered some to be poor. W.

Ver. 12. Free. The Hebrews might sell themselves only to their own countrymen; and the judges might condemn those who had committed a theft, and had not wherewith to make restitution, to be sold to their brethren. See Ex. xxi. 2.

Ver. 14. Way. Heb. lit. “Thou shalt put round his neck, (or furnish him abundantly) out of thy flock,” &c. This is not specified in the Book of Exodus.

Ver. 17. House, before a judge. It is supposed that this law regarded only those who had sold themselves, or had been condemned to be slaves. Fagius. — For ever; that is, till the year of jubilee. — Also, not by piercing her ear, as some have thought, but by setting her at liberty, and giving her something, v. 14.

Ver. 18. Hireling. His freedom is due to him, as much as wages are due to the hireling. He is alse entitled to a decent provision, for which he has laboured. Heb. “he hath been worth twice as much to thee as a hired servant,” by his greater diligence, labour, and fidelity. Servitude has also rendered his worth doubly severe. C.

Ver. 19. Firstlings. Some belonged to the priests. Others, of which Moses speaks here, might be disposed of by the owners. C. xii. 17. C. — Thus females, which came first, belonged to them, but they could not work with them; (M.) with such at least as were the best, and fattened for a religious feast. Sheep designed for this purpose were not to be shorn; or, as the original term means, their wool was not to be “torn away.” Bellon observes, that this is still the custom in some parts of the East, as it was formerly in Italy, according to Varro. Plin. (viii. 48,) also remarks, that fleece was torn off in some places, (C.) and the same method is said to prevail still in Shetland. H.

Ver. 22. Unclean. This shews, that they could not be peace-offerings. M. C. xiii. 15. C.