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At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release (cancel or remission of debts).
- At the end of every seven years - The Jewish calendar as described in the Law was set up to revolve around several sets of seven units, which usually consisted of six units of labor followed by one of rest and freedom. This was exemplified in the ordinance to observe the seven-day week and Sabbath.
- Here, God further reveals that they were to handle the personal debt of their people by thinking of it in terms of seven-year periods as well; six of debt and one of freedom.
- If a Jewish citizen was for any reason forced to borrow money from one of their countrymen, they were to make payments on the debt during the time allotted, but the lender was to release the borrower from the debt at the end of seven years. This would have the effect of ensuring that not only was there no long-term debt oppressing the people of Israel, but also that no family in Israel would grow extremely rich at the expense of others. God demonstrated throughout the Law that He was very interested in the overall equality of His people Israel, rather than in some prospering and others falling into poverty.
2 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release (cancel) it; he shall not exact (require) it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD'S release.
- Because it is called the Lord's release - Money was always loaned with the understanding that every seventh year, debts would be canceled. So there was no long-term debt in this sense - money could never be borrowed, or owed, for more than six years.
- They were to honor this principle because it came directly from the heart of God to His people.
3 Of a foreigner thou mayest exact (require) it again: but that which is thine with thy brother (that which your brother owes to you) 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:
- No poor among you- If Israel were to remain obedient and faithful to God, He would bless them in such a way that there were no poor among them. Unfortunately, not all of God’s people obeyed The Lord, and for that reason, Moses informs them in verse 11 that they would always have some poor in the land.
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.
- They shall not reign over you - Again, these promises were conditional upon Israel's love, faithfulness, and obedience toward God. Because of Israel’s disobedience to God, they went into dispersion and were in servitude to other nations (Assyria, Babylon).
- However God will yet be faithful to them and fulfill promises He has made toward them, and Scripture teaches that when Jesus returns and rules the world from Jerusalem for 1,000 years, Israel will be the center of the world in many ways and will be the seat of power over all the other nations.
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:
- Your poor brother - It is noteworthy the time and attention God gives to ensuring that Israel knows fully His heart toward the poor. God condescends from Heaven to care for the poor and needy, and desires to see that heart reflected in the lifestyles of His people. Therefore, one cannot be a sincere follower of Jesus Christ and at the same time harden their heart toward the needy.
- 1John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely (wllingly) 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.
- Lest there be a wicked thought in your heart - The Lord knows the heart of men (John 2:23-25), and here He predicts the selfishness and miserliness that even His people will display in not wanting to give to the poor. God knows that as He gives them the ordinance of the seven-year release of debts, there will be many who will refuse to give to the needy if they know that the seven-year mark is soon approaching, as the debt would then be cancelled. The Lord clearly announces that He would consider that a sin, and that there would be an outcry against that kind of oppression.
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.
- For this thing the Lord will bless you - God's system of giving and receiving runs on faith. The children of Israel were to open their hands wide to the poor, knowing that they cannot "out-give" the Lord. He promises here to watch over them and take note of every act of giving, and to reward it with blessings that can only come from Him.
- In Matthew 6:1-4, He tells His disciples that we too are to give, as Jesus said, in secret; knowing that the Lord Who sees in secret will reward us openly.
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.
- Jesus affirms these words regarding the poor when He said, the poor you will always have with you (Mark 14:7).
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.
- Serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free - The Lord also ordained that the system of servitude in Israel was to revolve around sets of seven years. It is important to note that slavery in Israel was not like the slavery that most of us think of today. No Hebrew would ever be captured by force and made to serve a master against their will and at their own expense. Rather, selling one's self in servitude was an option available which could potentially get a person and/or their family out of an extremely difficult economic situation, as they had the choice of going to work for a wealthier individual who would in return pay off their debt and stave off their financial ruin.
- Furthermore, God declares here that no Hebrew was to remain a slave forever, but rather that they would serve for six years and be released to resume their former life on the seventh. This was, again, intended to prevent any one tribe or family in Israel from gaining too much wealth and power over others and creating the dismal situation of a nation having polarized upper and lower classes.
13 And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: 14 Thou shalt furnish (supply) 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 (slave) in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.
- You shall not let him go away empty handed - Again, the Lord demonstrates His heart of caring for the poor and oppressed, and in verses 13 and 14 He commands that a man being released from slavery would not be cast out onto the street with nothing in his hand. Rather, when he is released he is to be given ("liberally") from his former master's livestock and produce in order that he might rebuild his life again.
- One reason (v. 15) that the Lord gives them for accepting this ordinance is the memory of their own years of slavery in Egypt. Remembering that difficult period of their history should have the benefit of teaching them how to treat the poor, the strangers, and the enslaved of their own nation.
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.
- I will not go away from you - A person who has spent time in servitude may desire not to leave his master's house and return to his former life. The reasons may be varied: he may realize that he has no way to support himself outside of his former master's home and care, he may have grown attached to his master affectionately, or he may have married into the family of his master or his master's other servants. In either case, the Lord here provides an option for the servant to stay and remain in the master's house, by becoming a "bondservant."
- And so in verse 17, we read that the process of becoming a bondservant, involved the piercing of an ear upon the doorpost of the master's house.
- Jesus is the great fulfillment of this willing slave. Jesus said prophetically in Psalm 40:6: My ears You have opened, it speaks of this “opening” of the ear in the bond-slave ceremony. He was the willing bond-slave of God the Father. In Philippians 2:7, Paul even reveals that Jesus Himself took on the form of a bondservant to God the Father for our sakes; and exhorts us to have the same mind.
- The concept of the bondservant, or someone who lives for the will of The Master is picked up and used several times in the New Testament, as Paul the Apostle repeatedly names himself as a "bondservant of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:1).
- Pagans had a custom of branding the slave with the name or the sign of the owner; Paul refers to himself as just such a slave in Galatians 6:17: From now on, let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Paul was a slave for life to Jesus.
19 ¶ All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify (set apart) unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.
- All the firstborn males - Exodus 13:2 laid the foundation for the understanding that all of the firstborn animals in Israel were to considered as belonging to the Lord, and were not to be used for the normal purposes of labor but rather were to be used in sacrifice to Him.
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.
- You and your household shall eat it before the Lord your God: When the firstborn animal was brought to the tabernacle (or later, the temple) and given to the priests for sacrifice unto the Lord, a portion of the sacrifice went to the family that brought the animal. It was given so that they could eat a joyful ceremonial meal before the Lord.
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.
- If there is any defect in it - An animal which was blemished or could be considered defective in any way would not qualify to be a sacrifice unto God. It was only the best of their flock that they were to give to Him.
- This is a foreshadowing of Jesus, who was the only perfect, unblemished sacrifice that would qualify to take away the sins of the world (Rev. 5:2-7).
22 Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck (gazelle), and as the hart (deer). 23 Only thou shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water.
1 ¶ Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
- Keep the Passover - The Feast of Passover is the oldest continually observed holiday ("holy day") in history, having been observed continually for around 3,500 years wherever Jews have lived in the world. It was meant to commemorate the day that the death angel "passed over" the houses which had the blood of the sacrificial lamb painted on their doorposts.
- It was observed in "the month of Abib," which takes places in our Spring, either in March or April. More detail can be found on the observance of Passover in Exodus 12, Leviticus 23:5-8 and Numbers 28:16-25.
2 Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there.
- Sacrifice the Passover - "The Passover" here is meant to refer to the Passover sacrifice, the unblemished lamb which would be slain and eaten by the family.
- Where the Lord chooses to put His name - Up until this point, the Passover was celebrated by individual families in their own homes. Here however, God commands that when they enter into the Promised Land and He chooses the place where the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) was situated, they were to bring their Passover lambs to that one communal place and sacrifice them together as a nation.
- The Passover is a dramatic foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, who was the spotless Lamb slain so that those who will place themselves under the power of His blood would not taste eternal death.
3 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.
- Eat no unleavened bread - The day immediately following the Feast Of Passover was the beginning of the next Feast on the Jewish calendar, the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
- Unleavened bread was a reminder to them of the hasty departure they made from Egypt, and that they did not have time to make bread which would rise.
- Leaven is a picture of sin and corruption, because of the way a little leaven would influence a whole lump of dough, and also because of the way leaven would “puff up” the lump - even as pride and sin makes us “puffed up.”
- Prophetically, the feast of Unleavened Bread relates to the time of Jesus’ burial, after His perfect, sinless sacrifice on the cross, during which He was received by God the Father as holy and complete (the Holy One who would not see corruption, Acts 2:27), perfectly accomplishing our salvation.
4 And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning.
- For seven days - The children of Israel were required to thoroughly cleanse their homes of all traces of leaven, seven days before the Feast began. This was a reminder to them that the Passover represented not only a spotless, sinless sacrifice but also God's desire that His people follow suit and allow Him to deal with the sin in their own lives (1 Cor. 5:6-8).
5 Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee: 6 But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even (twilight), at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt. 7 And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents. 8 Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work therein.
- You shall do no work on it - The Feasts of Israel were considered Sabbaths, and just as on the weekly Sabbath they were to do no rest, on the Feast days they were prohibited from doing any typical labor. God desired to see His people set aside all of the everyday tasks which are associated with daily living and focus only on Him for that time.
9 Seven weeks shalt thou number (count) unto thee: begin to number (count) the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.
- Count seven weeks for yourself - The Feast of Weeks took place seven weeks after the Feast of First Fruits, a date by which they had put the sickle to their barley and harvested the first fruits of their crop. They would count out seven weeks, or seven sets of sevens, which added up to 49 days, and celebrate the Feast of Weeks on the fiftieth day.
- Thus the Feast became known in the Greek language as "Pentecost," which means "fiftieth day." The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, was the very same day that The Holy Spirit was sent to fill His church in Acts 2:1-4 as is was prophesied in Joel 2.
10 And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
- Freewill offering - The Feast of Weeks was meant to honor and thank God for the harvest which had fully come. The response to God on the Day of Pentecost was not done out of obligation to a particular law. It was the joyful heart-response of God’s people unto Him.
- Besides the sacrificial animals which were to be brought before the Lord (described in Leviticus 23:15-21) they were to bake two loaves of bread, baked with leaven, and bring them to the Tabernacle or Temple and waive them there before Him in thanksgiving for the harvest.
- As Weeks was later fulfilled in the Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, those two loaves are thought to represent (1) Jews and Gentiles who were being brought to God and saved together as one body in Yeshua (2) Leavened bread speaks of the remaining corruption of the life of the believer due to sin. Contrary to what some have taught over the history of the church age, there is no such thing as reaching sinless perfection this side of glory.
11And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there. 12 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes. 13 Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: 14 And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. 15 Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.16 Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:
- Observe the Feast of Tabernacles - Sometimes called the Feast of Ingathering or the Feast of Booths, Tabernacles was a Fall Feast which takes place in our months of September or October. More detailed information on the observance of Tabernacles is found in Exodus 23:16 and Leviticus 23:33-43.
- The Feast was meant to commemorate the years in which the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness and experienced miraculous provision from God.
- Leviticus 23:39 says of the Feast of Tabernacles, on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath rest.The Feast of Tabernacles began and ended in rest; it was all about celebration and rest and refreshment, remembering what God had done.
- As explained in verse 16, along with Unleavened Bread and Weeks, it was a "pilgrim Feast," or one for which all of the males in Israel were required to travel to Jerusalem to observe the holiday. There they would build leafy huts made out of tree branches in which to live for the seven days of the Feast, a reminder of the conditions in which they lived in the wilderness.
- Empty-handed - When traveling to Jerusalem for the three pilgrim feasts, the men were to bring something in their hand with which to celebrate. The Lord desired for these to be joyous occasions, and therefore not a time for meager provisions.
- Prophetically, the feast of Tabernacles speaks of the millennial rest of comfort of God for Israel and all of God’s people; it is all about peace and rest, from beginning to end. Tabernacles is specifically said to be celebrated during the millennium (Zechariah 14:16-19).
17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee.
- This is the principle that Paul refers to when he wrote, 2Co 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
- Appoint judges and officers in all your gates - Once Israel was firmly established in the Promised Land, every city was to have its own representative government, including local courts.
- The next few verses will establish the necessity of honesty and integrity among those making judgments, and the next chapter will describe a system of appeals to higher courts which was available to those unsatisfied with the rulings of the lower local courts.
19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment (pervert justice); thou shalt not respect persons (show partiality), neither take a gift (bribe): for a gift (bribe) doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert (twists) the words of the righteous. 20 That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. 21 Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee.
- Any tree as a wooden image - The pagans who had previously inherited Canaan planted groves of trees which they considered sacred, and under which they would worship their gods. They had also set up wooden images, much like "totem poles," to represent and honor their goddess Asherah.
- However the religion prescribed by God in His Word knows nothing of this, and therefore the Lord here prohibits the incorporation of pagan worship practices into His own.
22 Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the LORD thy God hateth.
- Image (sacred pillar) - The Canaanites also built stone pillars which were meant to represent male fertility. The children of Israel were repeatedly forbidden to incorporate such idolatry into their own lives or religions.