Thursday, February 4, 2010


Chapter 15
Summary:Moses' speech continues:
"At the end of every seven* years, you are to make a release - a release where every creditor that has lent something to his neighbor shall cancel their debt of his neighbor, or of his brother, because it has been called the Lord's release. To a foreigner, you may exact the debt again, but towards your fellow Israelites, you are to release them from their debt. This shall prevent any amongst you from becoming poor, for the Lord shall greatly bless you in the land which the Lord your God has given you as an inheritance to possess - only if you carefully heed the words of the Lord your God, and to observe and obey all of the commandments which I give to you on this day. For the Lord your God will bless you, as promised, and you will become a lender to many other nations - not a borrower, and you shall reign over many other nations - but they shall not reign over you.

"If there is amongst you a poor man whom is one of your brethren, living amongst your city, in the land that the Lord your God has given you, you are not to harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother; but you are to open your hand wide to him, and are to lend to him as much as he needs and what he wants. Beware that you do not form the thought in your wicked heart and refuse to give him a loan because the seventh year, the year of release, is at hand, for when he cries out to the Lord against you, it will be a sin upon you. You are to loan to him without question or grievances, because for this act, the Lord your God will bless you in all your works, and all that you do. There will always be poor amongst you, therefore I command you to open your hand to your brother and to the poor and needy in the land.

"When your Hebrew brothers or sisters are sold to you into slavery, and serve you for six years, in the seventh year you are to set them free. When you set them free, you are not to let them walk away empty handed. You shall furnish them liberally from your flock, your olive press, and your winepress; of what the Lord your God has blessed unto you, you shall give a portion unto them. You shall remember your own slavery in the land of Egypt, and how the Lord redeemed you.

"If your Hebrew slave however tells you that he will not leave because he loves his servitude to you and your house, and because he is well with you; then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear, and that person will be your slave forever. To a female Hebrew slave shall you do likewise.

"You must not feel bad when you send your slaves away after serving you for six years, for your slave has cost you less than half of what the wages of a hired man would have cost you, and by releasing your slave, the Lord shall bless you in all that you do.

"All the firstborn males born in your herds and flocks are to be sanctified for the Lord your God; you shall not use the firstling of your bull to work your fields, nor shall you shear the firstling of your sheep. Instead, you and your household shall eat them before the Lord your God each year at the sanctuary which the Lord your God has chosen in the land. If the animal has any blemish, if it is lame, blind, or any defect, you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God. Instead you shall eat it at your home, and the clean and unclean may eat it alike, just as if you were eating a roebuck or a hart. Only you are not to consume the animal's blood; you are to pour it upon the ground as you would water."
Notes:1.) Another reference of the mystical significance of the number seven in the bible.
Thoughts:Moses begins this chapter by declaring that every seven years (there's that number again) the Israelites are to cancel all debts owed to them by their fellow Israelites. Debts owed by foreigners are still valid, but fellow Israelites are to be released from debt every seven years. Moses states that this is to either ensure that no Israelite goes poor, yet the overall theme of this chapter is how to deal with the poor. Moses states that the nation of Israelis to become a lender - and not a borrower - to other nations, as to allow the nation to reign over all others, and not be reigned over themselves.

He then tells the Israelites that if there is a poor person amongst them that they are not to "harden their heart[s]" towards them and they are to lend him as much as he wants and needs. Moses warns the Israelites not to refuse to make a loan simply because the "Year of Release" is at hand, because it would be "sin" upon the person refusing to make the loan. Moses instructs that the Israelites are to loan without question or grievances, and that God will bless them for their generosity.

Moses next moves on to recount a few points on Hebrew slavery that he commanded in Exodus: Chapter 21. Unlike typical slaves, a Hebrew that has sold himself into slavery is to regain his or her freedom after six years and is to be freed at the start of the seventh. In this sense, the Hebrews are more like what we'd consider "indentured servants" than what we would consider true slavery. However, this only applies to other Hebrews and not foreign slaves. Moses adds to this, that when a Hebrew is freed from his/her slavery that they are not to be left empty handed. The newly freed Hebrew slave is to be furnished with a generous portion of their master's flock, crops, and wine. Moses reminds the Israelites that they are to remember how God saved them from their own past slavery in the land of Egypt.

Moses then adds the provision that if a Hebrew slave chooses not to leave his life in slavery and opts to remain with his master, then one can bore the slave's ear with an awl, and he will from then on out become branded as a slave forever. While on the surface this may appear to be a completely harmless voluntary agreement, Exodus: Chapter 21 lays out a strong motivating factor as to why a Hebrew slave might opt to forgo his emancipation - if his master gives him a wife while he is a slave, then the slave's wife and children they have borne will belong to the master, and not the slave. Therefore if the slave wishes to keep his family together, he must remain a slave. Essentially this is clever way to entice a Hebrew slave into forfeiting his freedom. Even if the slave insists upon his freedom, the slave master wins out and keeps the slave's wife and children, It's a veritable win-win situation for the slave owner to provide his slave with a wife. Moses adds that this "voluntary" permanent enslavement for life can also apply to female Hebrew slaves as well, so it's probable that making her a concubine and getting her pregnant could have served as an effective method for coaxing "voluntary" permanent enslavement as well.

Moses points out that if the slave opts not for "voluntary" permanent enslavement, but chooses their freedom instead, the slave master is not be upset about this but is to remember that he got six years of work from his slave for less than half the price he would have had to pay a hired man.

Moses ends the chapter by reminding the Israelites that the firstborn of their flocks and herd belong to God and are never to be used to work in the fields, or are firstborn sheep to be shorn. These animals are to be eaten each year at God's sanctuary - except if the animal in question has any defects, blemishes, or is lame or blind; then the animal is to be eaten at one's home. An animal with such defects eaten at home may be eaten by all in the household, "clean" and "unclean" alike, just as if they were eating a deer for dinner. The only stipulation, Moses adds, is that they are not to consume the animal's blood - it is to be poured upon the ground like water.

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