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Deeper Commentary


Deu 15:1 At the end of every seven years you must make a release.

Deu 15:2 This is the method of the release: every creditor shall release that which he has lent to his neighbour. He must not demand it of his neighbour and his brother because Yahweh’s release has been proclaimed-
The Hebrew for "proclaimed" means 'to call out, to announce', and the idea of proclaiming release / forgiveness [s.w.] of legitimate debt is the idea alluded to in the great commission- we are to call out, to announce to the world, the radical forgiveness of debt.

The final release was in the death of Christ releasing us from all our sins, which are likened to debts in the New Testament. We are therefore not to “demand” recompense for sin from others because of the great release proclaimed. Jesus foresaw the difficulty of doing this, and urges us to pray constantly that we forgive or release our debtors (Mt. 6:12). The year of release was proclaimed on the day of atonement, in the same way as the cross has initiated a time of release from sin. The idea of ‘proclaiming’ this release or forgiveness is behind the language Luke uses to record the great commission, to proclaim this wonderful news to absolutely everybody- that their debt is cancelled.

The Lord's release- Because God released, men were to release. God's release / forgiveness and ours are related. We are to forgive because He forgives, and there seems a suggestion in Mt. 16:19; 18:18 that what we bind and unloose is somehow confirmed by God in Heaven- our forgiveness or lack thereof becomes His.

The very fact that Yahweh has released others means that we likewise ought to live in a spirit of releasing others from their debts to us: “The creditor shall release that which he hath lent… because the Lord’s release hath been proclaimed” (Dt. 15:2RV).

Exact- S.w. to be a taskmaster, used of the Egyptians treating Israel like this (Ex. 3:7; 5:6,10,13,14). Unforgiveness and even demanding of others what we legitimately could, is effectively treating God's people as the Egyptians did. Our experience of deliverance from Egypt should mean that we will never likewise afflict others, but show them the same deliverance by grace which we experienced. The word is more usually translated "oppressor". For a creditor to demand repayment hardly seems like 'oppression', but God's view of our debt to Him, and the depth of His release of us, is such that He considers we have no right to demand back any debt. Indeed, to do so is seen by Him as oppression and abuse. In secular life, this seems a foolish and weak position; only those who have personally felt the depth of their own debt to God and gracious release will be motivated to release others. The sense of true release from debt should be so great to us that we simply would never think of demanding back debt from others, in whatever form. The Lord taught the same in the parable of the two debtors; the forgiven man failed to dwell upon the wonder of His release, and therefore demanding debts back from his brother.


Deu 15:3 Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother you must release.
Deu 15:4 However there shall be no poor among you, for Yahweh will surely bless you in the land which Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance to possess it-
Moses knew that there would always be poor people in the land, even though if the Law was properly kept this would not be the case (:4, 11). Having reminded them that if they were obedient, “there shall be no poor among you; for Yahweh will surely bless you”, Moses goes on to comment that “the poor will never cease out of the land”- and he gives the legislation cognisant of this (:4,11). Moses realized by the time of Deuteronomy that they wouldn’t make it to the blessings which were potentially possible. And yet he speaks so positively of how they would inherit the Kingdom. God recognizes that His people won’t totally make it spiritually nor receive all the blessings they could, and yet this doesn’t mean they won’t be saved. This is a comfort for us in our spiritual incompleteness; and it also means that we shouldn’t expect the community of God’s people to be perfect. Even God doesn’t expect that, and the very structure of His own law foresaw that.

Save when there shall be no poor...
(AV)- This could be interpreted as meaning that Israelites could press for the restoration of debts when and if there were no poor within Israel. The implication could also be that by demanding the return of debts, the poor were driven into deeper poverty.
15:4- see on 4:42
Having reminded them that if they were obedient, “there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee”, Moses goes on to comment that “the poor shall never cease out of the land”- and he gives the legislation cognisant of this (Dt. 15:4,11). Moses realized by the time of Deuteronomy that they wouldn’t make it to the blessings which were potentially possible.
:4 The spirit of not demanding debts and writing them off every seven years would not lead to poverty. And that is why people demand the return of debts- they fear they will become poor otherwise. Here we have a totally counter-instinctive command- to not demand debts to be repaid because there should be no fear of poverty amongst those who are the blessed of the Lord. We may lose the extra we lent- but not descend into poverty. That assurance should be enough.

Deu 15:5 if only you diligently listen to the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe to do all this commandment which I command you this day-

Like Paul in his time of dying, Moses in Deuteronomy saw the importance of obedience, the harder side of God; yet he also saw in real depth the surpassing love of God, and the grace that was to come, beyond Law. This appreciation reflected Moses' mature grasp of the Name / characteristics of God. He uses the name "Yahweh" in Deuteronomy over 530 times, often with some possessive adjective, e.g. "Yahweh thy God" [AV- i.e. you singular], or "Yahweh our God". He saw the personal relationship between a man and his God. Jacob reached a like realization at his peak.

As Moses very intensely manifested God to the people, so he foreshadowed the supreme manifestation of the Father in the Son. The commands of Moses were those of God (Dt. 7:11; 11:13,18; and 12:32 concerning Moses' words is quoted in Rev. 22:18,19 concerning God's words); his voice was God's voice (Dt. 13;18; 15:5; 28:1), as with Christ. Israel were to show their love of God by keeping Moses' commands (Dt. 11:13); as the new Israel do in their response to the word of Christ. Indeed, the well known prophecy that God would raise up a prophet "like unto" Moses to whom Israel would listen (Dt. 18:18) is in the context of Israel saying they did not want to hear God's voice directly. Therefore God said that he would raise up Christ, who would be another Moses in the sense that he too would speak forth God's word.   

Deu 15:6 For Yahweh your God will bless you, as He promised you, and you will lend to many nations but you shall not borrow; and you will rule over many nations but they shall not rule over you-
 You shall lend
- We see God's utter grace in that this blessing has often come true of Israel, despite their disobedience.

Deu 15:7 If a poor man, one of your brothers, is with you within any of your gates in your land which Yahweh your God gives you, you must not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother-
Verse 4 has just predicted that if Israel were obedient, there would be no poor person. But as so often in Deuteronomy, there is the realistic acceptance that Israel will not be obedient, and an appropriate mechanism from God in dealing with even that situation. The context suggests therefore that the poor man was poor because of poor decisions and disobedience to God's word- but still there was to be generosity to him, without arguing that his poverty was his own fault. For we have all been saved by utter grace from the eternal consequence of our sins, and each sin was avoidable...

Deu 15:8 but you must surely open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, that which he lacks-
 His need
- s.w. Ps. 34:9 "there is no want to them that fear the Lord". Again, the point is that his need was perhaps due to his own poor behaviour. The same word is used in Proverbs to describe the need or want that comes to the lazy and unspiritual (Prov. 14:23; 21:5; 24:34). But still that need is to be responded to, as Proverbs also makes clear- the needy are to be helped. "He that gives to the poor [s.w.] shall not lack" (Prov. 28:27). That Proverb would appear a comment upon Dt. 15:8-10.

Deu 15:9 Beware that there is not a wicked thought in your heart saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand, and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing and he cries to Yahweh against you, it is sin to you-

Time and again, Moses speaks of the state of their heart. He warns them against allowing a bad state of heart to develop, he speaks often of how apostasy starts in the heart. Moses makes a total of 49 references to the heart / mind of Israel in Deuteronomy, compared to only 13 in the whole of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. This indicates the paramount importance which our Lord attaches to the state of our mind. This was perhaps his greatest wish as He faced death; that we should develop a spiritual mind and thereby manifest the Father and come to salvation. Moses likewise saw the state of our mind as the key to spiritual success. But do we share this perspective? Do we guard our minds against the media and influence of a mind-corrupting world? It's been observed that the phrase "The God of [somebody]", or similar, occurs 614 times in the Old Testament, of which 306 are in Deuteronomy. Our very personal relationship with God was therefore something else which Moses came to grasp in his spiritual maturity. Statistical analysis of the word "love" in the Pentateuch likewise reveals that "love" was a great theme of Moses at the end of his life (Moses uses it 16 times in Deuteronomy, and only four times in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers).

Deu 15:10 You must surely give to him, and your heart must not be grieved when you give to him, because for this Yahweh your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you put your hand to-
 Be grieved
- The Hebrew is usually translated 'evil'. To feel mean towards helping someone who is in a fault of their own making [according to the rest of Old Covenant teaching about 'need' and 'poverty'] is a great evil, but we will only perceive that if we perceive our own poverty before God and His grace toward us- see :15.

All you put your hand to- Note the connection with the usage of 'hand' in :8. If you open your hand wide, then whatever you put your hand to will be blessed. There is here the implication of an upward spiral- if we open our hand to others, in not demanding of them that which we could and being generous to the need [not only financial] of our poor brother, then the work of our hand will be blessed yet more.

Deu 15:11 For the poor will never cease out of the land, therefore I command you, saying, You must surely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and to your poor, in your land-
 Your poor... your needy
- They are "your" poor and "your" needy. Their issues and needs are yours. There's amazing psychological penetration here into the thought processes we have when we encounter need and poverty, in whatever sense. We so easily assume that firstly, it is 'their fault', and secondly, that someone else will respond- perhaps God directly. But the needs and poverty are ours. These two reasons are likely the most common reasons for our lack of response to others' need.

Deu 15:12 If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you must let him go free from you-
v. 12-14 The language of letting the servant go free, sending him away, but not letting him go empty but giving him of your good things- is all the language of the Egyptians sending the Israelites out of Egypt, but not "empty". And this is made explicit in :15. We are to treat others as we were treated by God when He redeemed us from Egypt. There are times and contexts in which we are effectively Egypt to others, having power over them- the power to forgive, for example.

These commands repeat those of Ex. 21:2-8, which were the mishpat with which the law of Moses opened. The Hebrew mishpat, "ordinances", has a wide range of meaning. The idea is of judgment, as if God and His Angels gave these laws as their considered judgment after considering the human condition, and Israel were to abide by them. But the word also the idea of a right or privilege; and that is how we should see God's laws. They are only felt as a burden because of human hardness of neck towards God's ways. His laws are not of themselves burdensome, but rather a privilege and blessing. The law was indeed "holy, just and good" (Rom. 7:12), designed to inculcate a holy, just and good life (Tit. 1:8), a way in which a man should "walk" in daily life (Lev. 18:4), a culture of kindness and grace to others which reflected God's grace to man. If we dwell upon the idea of "rights" carried within the word mishpat, we note that the law begins in Ex. 21:1,2 (also Dt. 15:12-18) with the rights of a slave- those considered to have no rights in the society of that day. The "rights" to be afforded by us to others are the essence of God's rightness / justice.  

Deu 15:13 When you let him go free from you, you must not let him go empty-
The same word for "empty-handed" is used of how Israel didn't leave slavery in Egypt empty-handed (Ex. 3:21); and of how Jacob likewise did not return to his land from his slavery "empty-handed" but wealthy (Gen. 31:42). Constantly they were bidden see how they were being dealt with as their God had previously treated their fathers. And they were to remember this by not sending any slave away from them "empty-handed". Always they were to live life under the deep impression of how they had been redeemed themselves, and were to reflect that grace to others in every context and situation of their lives. And the new Israel likewise.  

Deu 15:14 You must furnish him generously out of your flock, out of your threshing floor and out of your winepress; as Yahweh your God has blessed you, you shall give to him-
As noted on :13, this abundant provision was to reflect the huge wealth they had on leaving Israel, laden down with jewels.

Deu 15:15 You must remember that you were a bondservant in the land of Egypt and Yahweh your God redeemed you, therefore I command you this today-
Moses' frequent references in Deuteronomy to the way in which the Exodus had separated Israel from Egypt shows his concern that they were slipping back to Egypt / the world in their hearts (Dt. 13:5; 15:15; 16:12); as our Lord in his time of dying was so strongly aware of the way in which he was redeeming us from this present evil world. See on :13.

One of the most repeated themes of Moses in Deuteronomy is the way he keeps on telling them to "remember" all the great things which God had done for them on their wilderness journey, and especially the wonder of how He had redeemed them as children (his audience had been under twenty years old when they went through the Red Sea). Moses really wanted them to overcome the human tendency to forget the greatness of God as manifested earlier in our lives and spiritual experience. Our tendency as the new Israel is just the same- to forget the wonder of baptism, of how God reached out His arm to save us.

Deu 15:16 If he tells you I will not go out from you because he loves you and your house, because he is well with you,
Deu 15:17 then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise.
Deu 15:18 It must not seem hard to you, when you let him go free from you, for he was worth double the hire of a hireling; he has served you six years; and Yahweh your God will bless you in all that you do-
The phrase "let go" is often used of how God let Israel go from Egypt, overruling how the wicked Pharaoh refused to let the people go. The term is used later in the Mosaic legislation; the way Israel had been "let go" from Egypt was to determine how they "let go" others from slavery (Dt. 15:12,13,18); their own experience of redemption was to influence how they released others. Just as ours should. The letting go of the scapegoat into the wilderness was likewise to remind them of how they had been let go from Egypt into the wilderness without being slain for their sins- all by grace (Lev. 14:7,53; 16:10,21,22,26).

Deu 15:19 All the firstborn males that are born of your herd and of your flock you must sanctify to Yahweh your God; you must do no work with the firstborn of your herd, nor shear the firstborn of your flock.
Deu 15:20 You must eat it before Yahweh your God year by year in the place which Yahweh shall choose, you and your household.
Deu 15:21 If it has any blemish, is lame or blind or has any defect whatever, you must not sacrifice it to Yahweh your God-
A person who feels they are somehow a nice guy and worthy of invitation will be the one who tends to consider others as unworthy of invitation to the Kingdom. He or she who perceives their own desperation will eagerly invite even those they consider to be in the very pits of human society. The lame, blind etc. were not allowed to serve God under the law (Lev. 21:18), nor be offered as sacrifices (Dt. 15:21), nor come within the holy city (2 Sam. 5:6-8). The Lord purposefully healed multitudes of lame and blind (Mt. 15:30), and allowed them to come to Him in the temple (Mt. 21:14). His acted out message was clearly that those who were despised as unfit for God’s service were now being welcomed by Him into that service. The lame and blind were despised because they couldn’t work. They had to rely on the grace of others. Here again is a crucial teaching: those called are those who can’t do the works, but depend upon grace.

Deu 15:22 You must eat it within your gates. The unclean and the clean shall eat it alike, as the gazelle and as the hart.
Deu 15:23 Only you must not eat its blood. You must pour it out on the ground as water.