Deuteronomy 15

The Sabbatic Year

1 "1At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts.
2 "This is the manner of remission: every creditor * * shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD'S remission has been proclaimed.
3 "2From a foreigner you may exact it, but your hand shall release whatever of yours is with your brother.
4 "However, there will be no poor among you, since 3the LORD will surely bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess,
5 if only you listen obediently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today.
6 "4For the LORD your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.
7 "If there is 5a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, 6you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother;
8 but 7you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.
9 "Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, '8The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,' and 9your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he 10may cry to the LORD against you, and it will be a sin in you.
10 "You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because * 11for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.
11 "12For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore * I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'
12 "13If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free.
13 "When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed.
14 "You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you.
15 "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore * I command you this today.
16 "It shall come about 14if he says to you, 'I will not go out from you,' because he loves you and your household, since he fares well with you;
17 then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also you shall do likewise to your maidservant.
18 "It shall not seem hard to you when you set him free, for he has given you six years with double the service of a hired man; so the LORD your God will bless you in whatever * you do.
19 "15You shall consecrate to the LORD your God all the firstborn males that are born of your herd and of your flock; you shall not work with the firstborn of your herd, nor shear the firstborn of your flock.
20 "16You and your household shall eat it every year before the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses.
21 "17But if it has any defect, such as lameness or blindness, or any serious defect, you shall not sacrifice it to the LORD your God.
22 "You shall eat it within your gates; 18the unclean and the clean alike may eat it, as 19a gazelle or a deer.
23 "Only 20you shall not eat its blood; you are to pour it out on the ground like water.

Deuteronomy 15 Commentary

Chapter 15

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

Verses 1-11 This year of release typified the grace of the gospel, in which is proclaimed the acceptable year of the Lord; and by which we obtain the release of our debts, that is, the pardon of our sins. The law is spiritual, and lays restraints upon the thoughts of the heart. We mistake, if we think thoughts are free from God's knowledge and check. That is a wicked heart indeed, which raises evil thoughts from the good law of God, as theirs did, who, because God had obliged them to the charity of forgiving, denied the charity of giving. Those who would keep from the act of sin, must keep out of their minds the very thought of sin. It is a dreadful thing to have the cry of the poor justly against us. Grudge not a kindness to thy brother; distrust not the providence of God. What thou doest, do freely, ( 2 Corinthians. 9:7 )

Verses 12-18 Here the law concerning Hebrew servants is repeated. There is an addition, requiring the masters to put some small stock into their servants' hands to set up with for themselves, when sent out of their servitude, wherein they had received no wages. We may expect family blessings, the springs of family prosperity, when we make conscience of our duty to our family relations. We are to remember that we are debtors to Divine justice, and have nothing to pay with. That we are slaves, poor, and perishing. But the Lord Jesus Christ, by becoming poor, and by shedding his blood, has made a full and free provision for the payment of our debts, the ransom of our souls, and the supply of all our wants. When the gospel is clearly preached, the acceptable year of the Lord is proclaimed; the year of release of our debts, of the deliverance of our souls, and of obtaining rest in him. And as faith in Christ and love to him prevail, they will triumph over the selfishness of the heart, and over the unkindness of the world, doing away the excuses that rise from unbelief, distrust, and covetousness.

Verses 19-23 Here is a direction what to do with the firstlings. We are not now limited as the Israelites were; we make no difference between a first calf, or lamb, and the rest. Let us then look to the gospel meaning of this law, devoting ourselves and the first of our time and strength to God; and using all our comforts and enjoyments to his praise, and under the direction of his law, as we have them all by his gift.

Cross References 20

  • 1. Deuteronomy 31:10
  • 2. Deuteronomy 23:20
  • 3. Deuteronomy 28:8
  • 4. Deuteronomy 28:12, 13
  • 5. Leviticus 25:35; Deuteronomy 15:11
  • 6. 1 John 3:17
  • 7. Matthew 5:42; Luke 6:34; Galatians 2:10
  • 8. Deuteronomy 15:1
  • 9. Matthew 20:15
  • 10. Exodus 22:23; Deuteronomy 24:15; Job 34:28; Psalms 12:5; James 5:4
  • 11. Deuteronomy 14:29; Psalms 41:1; Proverbs 22:9
  • 12. Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7; John 12:8
  • 13. Exodus 21:2-6; Leviticus 25:39-43; Jeremiah 34:14
  • 14. Exodus 21:5, 6
  • 15. Exodus 13:2, 12
  • 16. Leviticus 7:15-18; Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 14:23
  • 17. Leviticus 22:19-25; Deuteronomy 17:1
  • 18. Deut 12:15, 16, 22
  • 19. Deut 12:15, 16, 22
  • 20. Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 7:26; Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16, 23

Footnotes 13

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO DEUTERONOMY 15

This chapter treats of a release of debts every seventh year, to which a blessing is promised if attended to, De 15:1-6, which seventh year of release should not hinder lending to a poor man in distress, even though it was nigh at hand, De 15:7-11 and of letting servants go free, whether manservant or maidservant, at the end of six years' servitude, De 15:12-15 but if unwilling to go, and desirous of staying, must have his ear bored through with an awl, and serve to the year of jubilee, De 15:16-18 and of sanctifying and eating the firstlings of the herd and flock where the Lord directs, De 15:19-23.

Deuteronomy 15 Commentaries