Deuteronomy 15

 

מִקֵּץ שֶׁבַע־שָׁנִים תַּעֲשֶׂה שְׁמִטָּה   15:1

Deut. 15:1 “At the end of seven years you shall make a release;

וְזֶה דְּבַר הַשְּׁמִטָּה שָׁמֹוט כָּל־בַּעַל מַשֵּׁה יָדֹו אֲשֶׁר יַשֶּׁה בְּרֵעֵהוּ לֹא־יִגֹּשׂ אֶת־רֵעֵהוּ וְאֶת־אָחִיו   15:2

כִּי־קָרָא שְׁמִטָּה לַיהוָה

Deut. 15:2 and this is the manner of the release:  Every creditor is to release what he will have lent to his neighbor; he shall not oppress his neighbor or his brother, because it is proclaimed the Lord’s release.”

I take it, this means in the seventh year a lender loses what he has lent to his neighbor.  He may not retrieve it or cajole his neighbor to return it.  Doesn’t this entice the lender to not repay his debt as the seventh year draws near? 

אֶת־הַנָּכְרִי תִּגֹּשׂ וַאֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֶת־אָחִיךָ תַּשְׁמֵט יָדֶֽךָ   15:3

Deut. 15:3 “You may press the foreigner; but who will be yours, you shall release your brother of your share.”

אֶפֶס כִּי לֹא יִהְיֶה־בְּךָ אֶבְיֹון כִּי־בָרֵךְ יְבָרֶךְךָ יְהוָה בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן־לְךָ נַחֲלָהּ   15:4

לְרִשְׁתָּהּ

Deut. 15:4 “It may be unnecessary, for there should be no needy among you, because surely the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord, your God, will be giving you, an inheritance, to occupy it,

רַק אִם־שָׁמֹועַ תִּשְׁמַע בְּקֹול יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לִשְׁמֹר לַעֲשֹׂות אֶת־כָּל־הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ   15:5

הַיֹּום

Deut. 15:5 if only you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord, your God, observing to do this whole commandment that I am commanding you today.”

A mighty big if, if you ask me!  Is Moses being facetious here?  Incidentally, all the second-person pronouns in this chapter are singular.

כִּי־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בֵּרַךְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר־לָךְ וְהַעֲבַטְתָּ גֹּויִם רַבִּים וְאַתָּה לֹא תַעֲבֹט וּמָשַׁלְתָּ בְּגֹויִם   15:6

רַבִּים וּבְךָ לֹא יִמְשֹׁלוּ

Deut. 15:6 “For the Lord, your God, has blessed you as He promised you, and you will lend many nations but you will not borrow, and you will rule many nations but they will not rule you.”

Okay, so when will this prophecy come true?  Obviously, it hasn’t so far, except possibly during Solomon’s lifetime.

כִּי־יִהְיֶה בְךָ אֶבְיֹון מֵאַחַד אַחֶיךָ בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ בְּאַרְצְךָ אֲשֶׁר־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ לֹא תְאַמֵּץ    15:7

אֶת־לְבָבְךָ וְלֹא תִקְפֹּץ אֶת־יָדְךָ מֵאָחִיךָ הָאֶבְיֹון

Deut. 15:7 “When there will be a needy one among you from one of your brethren at one of your gates in your land that the Lord, your God, will be giving to you, you shall not harden your heart and you shall not withhold your hand from your needy brother,

כִּי־פָתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח אֶת־יָדְךָ לֹו וְהַעֲבֵט תַּעֲבִיטֶנּוּ דֵּי מַחְסֹרֹו אֲשֶׁר יֶחְסַר לֹו   15:8

Deut. 15:8 but you shall surely open your hand to him and you shall surely lend him enough of his need that will be lacking to him.”

Notwithstanding the premise Moses articulates in vss. 15:4 and 15:5, he apparently knows or suspects future reality, that there will always be poor among us.  Verses 15:7, 15:8, 15:11 below reveal his view.  Be aware that all the second-person pronouns (you, your) in these two verses 15:7 and 8, are singular.  According to me, they refer to the congregation as a whole or to appropriate organizations, not to individuals necessarily.

הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן־יִהְיֶה דָבָר עִם־לְבָבְךָ בְלִיַּעַל לֵאמֹר קָרְבָה שְׁנַת־הַשֶּׁבַע שְׁנַת הַשְּׁמִטָּה וְרָעָה עֵינְךָ   15:9

בְּאָחִיךָ הָאֶבְיֹון וְלֹא תִתֵּן לֹו וְקָרָא עָלֶיךָ אֶל־יְהוָה וְהָיָה בְךָ חֵטְא

Deut. 15:9 “Take heed to yourself lest there would be a wicked word with your heart saying, ‘The seventh year is coming soon, the year of release,’ and your eye would be evil toward your needy brother and you would give nothing to him and he will cry out against you to the Lord and it will be a sin with you.”

נָתֹון תִּתֵּן לֹו וְלֹא־יֵרַע לְבָבְךָ בְּתִתְּךָ לֹו כִּי בִּגְלַל הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה יְבָרֶךְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־מַעֲשֶׂךָ   15:10

וּבְכֹל מִשְׁלַח יָדֶךָ

Deut. 15:10 “You shall surely give to him and your heart shall not be grieved in your giving to him, for because of this thing the Lord, your God, will bless you in all your work and in every undertaking of your hand.”

כִּי לֹא־יֶחְדַּל אֶבְיֹון מִקֶּרֶב הָאָרֶץ עַל־כֵּן אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ לֵאמֹר פָּתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח אֶת־יָדְךָ לְאָחִיךָ לַעֲנִיֶּךָ   15:11

וּלְאֶבְיֹנְךָ בְּאַרְצֶךָ

Deut. 15:11 “For the poor will never cease from the midst of the land; therefore, I am commanding you saying, ‘You shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your lowly, and to your poor in your land.’”

See my remarks pertaining to vss. 15:4 and 15:5 following v. 15:8.

כִּי־יִמָּכֵר לְךָ אָחִיךָ הָעִבְרִי אֹו הָעִבְרִיָּה וַעֲבָדְךָ שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים וּבַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת תְּשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ חָפְשִׁיְ   15:12

מֵעִמָּךְ

Deut. 15:12 “When your kindred who is a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman will be sold to you, and will have served you six years, then in the seventh year you shall send him away from you free.”

This verse expands on commandment 40 (Exod. 21:2) to also apparently include a maidservant, although from the Hebrew wording it’s not certain that the woman partakes in the setting free.  Notice that the third-person objective pronoun near the end of the verse is “him,” not “them.”  The same treatment of third-person pronouns continues into the next few verses as well.  Without actually saying it, the scribe seems to be making it clear that the woman’s fate is not being dictated here.

וְכִי־תְשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ חָפְשִׁי מֵעִמָּךְ לֹא תְשַׁלְּחֶנּוּ רֵיקָם   15:13

Deut. 15:13 “And when you will send him away from you free, you shall not send him away empty handed.”

This verse (and the next) illuminates the same commandment 40 in that the commandment did not make clear what “without cost” means.  Here and in v. 15:14 Moses signifies that there is no cost to the slave, but there is to the owner.

הַעֲנֵיק תַּעֲנִיק לֹו מִצֹּאנְךָ וּמִגָּרְנְךָ וּמִיִּקְבֶךָ אֲשֶׁר בֵּרַךְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ תִּתֶּן־לֹו   15:14

Deut. 15:14 You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine press; you shall give him of what the Lord, your God, has blessed you.”

וְזָכַרְתָּ כִּי עֶבֶד הָיִיתָ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וַיִּפְדְּךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ עַל־כֵּן אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה הַיֹּום   15:15

Deut. 15:15 And you shall remember when you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord, your God, redeemed you; therefore I am commanding you this thing today.”

וְהָיָה כִּי־יֹאמַר אֵלֶיךָ לֹא אֵצֵא מֵעִמָּךְ כִּי אֲהֵבְךָ וְאֶת־בֵּיתֶךָ כִּי־טֹוב לֹו עִמָּךְ   15:16

Deut. 15:16 “So it shall be if he would say to you, ‘I will not go out from being with you,’ because he loves you and your house, for it is well for him with you,

וְלָקַחְתָּ אֶת־הַמַּרְצֵעַ וְנָתַתָּה בְאָזְנֹו וּבַדֶּלֶת וְהָיָה לְךָ עֶבֶד עֹולָם וְאַף לַאֲמָתְךָ תַּעֲשֶׂה־כֵּן   15:17

Deut. 15:17 then you shall take the awl and put it into his ear and into the door, and he shall be your bondman forever; and even to your maidservant you shall do the same.”

This verse adds something to commandment 43 (Exod. 21:5, 21:6) and explains why the slave is to be brought to the door.  It also adds that the same is to be done to a maidservant.  However, this says even more, because the maidservant is not to go free in the seventh year in any case (commandment 44, Exod. 21:7).  Thus presumably the awl is put in her ear to signify that she has been with her master more than six years.

לֹא־יִקְשֶׁה בְעֵינֶךָ בְּשַׁלֵּחֲךָ אֹתֹו חָפְשִׁי מֵעִמָּךְ כִּי מִשְׁנֶה שְׂכַר שָׂכִיר עֲבָדְךָ שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים וּבֵרַךְךָ יְהוָה   15:18

אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה

Deut. 15:18 “And it shall not be grievous in your eye because of your letting him go free from being with you, for he has served you double the benefit of a hireling six years, so the Lord, your God, will bless you in all that you will do.”

I imagine that the slave serves double the hireling because the hireling works only during the day while the slave can be called upon to work even in the night.

כָּל־הַבְּכֹור אֲשֶׁר יִוָּלֵד בִּבְקָרְךָ וּבְצֹאנְךָ הַזָּכָר תַּקְדִּישׁ לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא תַעֲבֹד בִּבְכֹר שֹׁורֶךָ    15:19

וְלֹא תָגֹז בְּכֹור צֹאנֶךָ

Deut. 15:19 “Every male firstling that will be born in your herd and in your flock you shall sanctify to the Lord, your God.  You shall do no work with a firstling of your ox and you shall not shear a firstling of your flock.”

A fairly rare occurrence in the prose of the bible is found in this verse; an et is missing near the end.  It should be inserted before the second-from-last word, making the noun firstling the direct object of shear.  The verb translated as shear is interpreted to be second-person masculine.  However, if the noun firstling, which is masculine, were instead feminine, the phrase which is translated as “... you shall not shear a firstling of your flock” could be translated differently as “... a firstling of your flock shall not be shorn.”  But the noun is indeed masculine and the given translation is proper, and thus an et is certainly missing.

לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ תֹאכֲלֶנּוּ שָׁנָה בְשָׁנָה בַּמָּקֹום אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַר יְהוָה אַתָּה וּבֵיתֶךָ   15:20

Deut. 15:20 “You shall eat it before the Lord, your God, year after year in the place which the Lord shall choose, you and your household.”

וְכִי־יִהְיֶה בֹו מוּם פִּסֵּחַ אֹו עִוֵּר כֹּל מוּם רָע לֹא תִזְבָּחֶנּוּ לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ   15:21

Deut. 15:21 “But when there will be a blemish in it, lameness, or blindness -- any ill defect -- you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord, your God.

Now this is interesting.  “… any ill defect!”  From this verse, it sounds like the animal does not have to be perfect, only free of any fairly major defect or sickness.  Such a defect would likely be something that would be apparent to even perhaps a casual observer.  An expert might not be required.

בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ תֹּאכֲלֶנּוּ הַטָּמֵא וְהַטָּהֹור יַחְדָּו כַּצְּבִי וְכָאַיָּל   15:22

Deut. 15:22 “You, the unclean and the clean alike, may eat it as the gazelle and the hart within your gates.”

רַק אֶת־דָּמֹו לֹא תֹאכֵל עַל־הָאָרֶץ תִּשְׁפְּכֶנּוּ כַּמָּיִם   15:23

Deut. 15:23 “Only you shall not eat its blood; you shall pour it out upon the earth like water.”

Torah Commandments in this Chapter

440. A lender shall release any loan to his neighbor in the seventh year.    V. 15:2

441. A lender shall not oppress his neighbor or relative for return of

        the loan.    V. 15:2

442. You shall not withhold giving to a poor Israelite.    V. 15:7

443. You shall not withhold a loan to a needy relative because the year

        of release is near.    V. 15:9

444. You shall give freely without regret whether or not the year of release

         is near.    V. 15:10

445. One who releases a manservant in the seventh year shall not

        send him away empty handed.    V. 15:13, 15:14

446. You shall remember when you were a slave in Egypt.    V. 15:15

447. If your manservant says he will not leave, you shall take the awl

        and put it into his ear and into the door    V. 15:16, 15:17

448. You shall do the same with your maidservant who

        refuses to leave.   V. 15:16, 15:17

449. You shall not work a dedicated animal.    V. 15:19

450. You shall not shear the fleece of a dedicated sheep.    V. 15:19

 

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