Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.11. The Year of Release and Liberation of Hebrew Slaves
1. The year of release (Deuteronomy 15:1-11)
2. The liberation of the Hebrew slaves (Deuteronomy 15:12-18)
The poor and those who have no possession were to be remembered in kindness and have a share in the blessings. Linked with this law are the laws not to force and oppress the poor, the year of release and the liberation of the slaves. The great Sabbatic year, the seventh, brought the release. See Exodus 23:10 and Leviticus 25:2-7. Here we have an enlarged exposition of the previously given law. The debtor not to be pressed then for what he owed and nothing was to be exacted from him. While the land rested all debts and obligations had also to rest. It does therefore not mean a complete remission of all debts forever. And linked with this merciful institution is the promise of blessing. Obedience to these gracious laws would bring to them great blessing. Especially interesting is verse 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.” Even today in their blindness and dispersion this promise is being fulfilled. Who does not know that the Jews are the money lenders of the nations? Kings and princes have borrowed from this wonderful people. Some day when the time of our fulness and blessing comes, this promise will be fully accomplished and Israel will reign over the nations, be the head and no longer the tail.
The poor were also to be treated in great kindness. What grace and love breathes in verses 7-11! Twice we read “thou shalt open thine hand wide.” “Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient.” “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.” Throughout the Word of God the poor are mentioned to be remembered in kindness and some most blessed promises are given to those who obey these gracious words. See Proverbs 14:21; Proverbs 19:17; Proverbs 22:9; Proverbs 28:8; Proverbs 28:27; Psalm 41:1. Oppression of the poor is a sin, which God specially marks. See Isaiah 3:14-15; Isaiah 10:2; Ezekiel 18:11-13; Amos 2:6; Amos 4:1; Amos 5:11; James 2:6. When the Lord comes He will remember the poor and deliver them. See Psalm 72:2; Psalm 72:4; Psalm 72:12-13; Psalm 113:7; Psalm 132:15; Isaiah 11:4.
The teaching of some, who say that we are not under the law but under grace, and therefore do not need to pay any attention whatever to these gracious words, which Jehovah bound upon the hearts of Israel, is fatally wrong. “Under grace” is often used to cover a selfish life. The grace, which has saved us, which pledges our eternal security in Christ, demands of us that we be followers of God. This is learned from the exhortations of the New Testament. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). “But to do good and communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver” because “He giveth to all and upbraideth not.” “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The liberation of the slave is also stated in Exodus 21, to which we refer the reader. The Hebrew woman is mentioned here. In Exodus 21 only the male slave is spoken of. But why is it given here again? Is it a mere repetition? It is not. The Lord gives through Moses the mode in which this law is to be kept. His loving kindness shines out once more in the gracious addition made here. “And when thou sendest him out free, thou shalt not let him go away empty.” This verse and verses 14-15 are not found in Exodus 21. How blessedly He cared for the poor slaves. They were set free, laden down with the riches of the flock, the floor and the winepress. Other lessons connected with this we must leave untouched.
All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.12. The Firstlings and the Three Feasts
1. Concerning the firstlings (Deuteronomy 15:19-23)
2. Passover (Deuteronomy 16:1-8)
3. Feast of weeks (Deuteronomy 16:9-12)
4. Feast of tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:13-17)
What is said in the closing verses of chapter 15 is supplementary to the law given concerning the first-born in Exodus 13:2; Exodus 13:12 and Numbers 18. They were not to be worked or sheared. “Before the Lord thy God shalt thou eat it, year after year, in the place which the Lord shall choose, thou and thy household.” Nothing which had a blemish, was lame or blind could be sacrificed. The spotless Lamb of God is here in view once more and the type is given how we are to feed on Him in the presence of God, in the sanctuary.
The feasts were mentioned in Exodus 12; Leviticus 23; Numbers 28-29. Here only the Passover, the feast of weeks and the feast of tabernacles are given. The critics claim that there is contradiction between this chapter and the laws concerning the feasts in the previous books of the Pentateuch. Such contradiction, however, does not exist. That only these three feasts are mentioned here is in full harmony with the character and message of Deuteronomy.
Obedience, as we have repeatedly learned from the study of past chapters, is the demand of Jehovah from His people. The three prominent feasts were absolutely obligatory. Three times in a year all the males were commanded to appear before the Lord to keep these three feasts. No such demand was made in keeping the feast of trumpets and the day of atonement. Because these three feasts were to be obeyed, they are mentioned in Deuteronomy. The objections of the critics spring (as all other objections and criticisms) from the lack of spiritual discernment. The contradiction they see is only another evidence of the perfection of His Word. “The place, which Jehovah thy God will choose” occurs six times in this chapter. This was not mentioned in Exodus, Leviticus or Numbers. This again is characteristic of the book. Over twenty-five times mention is made of the place which Jehovah will choose, the gathering place of His people in His presence, and this demands obedience. What these feasts mean typically and dispensationally may be learned by consulting the annotations of Leviticus 23. The fact is also to be remembered that they came out of Egypt (verses 3 and 12). They are commanded to rejoice on the feast of weeks (Pentecost) and on the feast of tabernacles (typical of the time of joy and blessing in the coming age); but the statement “thou shalt rejoice” is omitted in connection with Passover. Redemption is typified in that feast. This calls forth gratitude and praise to God. The solemnity of the death of the Lamb of God and the judgment our Lord had to pass through, must be the reason why the command to rejoice is absent.