And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And when ye reap.—Benevolent consideration for the poor is another means whereby the Israelite is to attain to that holiness which will enable him to reflect the holiness of God. As the Lord is merciful to all, and provides for the wants of every living creature (Psalm 145:15-16), the Israelite, too, is to regard the wants of the needy. By this injunction the Law moreover establishes the legal rights of the poor to a portion of the produce of the soul, and thus releases him from private charity, which, in its exercise, might have been capricious and tyrannical.
The harvest of your land.—The expression “harvest,” which is subject to this law, the administrators of the law during the second Temple defined to consist of the following produce of the soil (1) all edible and nutritious plants, but not those used for dyeing and colouring; (2) plants which are cultivated, but not those which grow wildly; (3) those which strictly belong to the soil, but not mushrooms, sponges, &c, since these are not so much dependent upon the soil for their growth, but upon humidity, and grow also upon wet wood, &c; (4) those which ripen at the same time of the year and are all gathered in at the same time, thus excluding figs and similar fruits of trees which are gathered later and gradually, and (5) the produce which is not for immediate consumption, but is garnered up, thus excluding vegetables.
Thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field.—The extent of the “corner” to be thus left for the poor, like that of filial duty and the study of the Divine law, has designedly been left undefined by the administrators of the law. It is among the things which have “no fixed measures.” But though the maximum is not given, the minimum is stated to be no less than the sixtieth part of the field. The corner was generally left at the end of the field, so that the poor could easily get at it. The time when the poor came was morning, noon, and at the evening sacrifice, which was about three o’clock in the afternoon. The morning was intended for the accommodation of those mothers who had young children, who were then asleep; the middle of the day to accommodate the nurses, whilst the evening suited the elderly people.
The gleanings of thy harvest.—The expression “gleaning” is defined by the authorities during the second Temple to be the ears which fall from the hand or from the sickle in the time of reaping, provided that the quantity which has thus dropped from the hand of the plucker or cutter does not exceed one or two ears. When these ears have thus been dropped they belong to the proprietor and not to the gleaner. If a wind arose after the corn had all been cut, and scattered the harvest over the gleanings, the field was measured, and a certain quantity was allotted as gleanings; if the owner had gathered in all the harvest without leaving any gleanings, he was obliged to give a certain portion to the poor, though the corn had been ground into flour and baked; and if the harvest was lost or burnt after he had thus gathered it without leaving the gleanings, he was beaten with stripes.Leviticus 19:9-10. Thou shalt not gather the gleanings of thy harvest — They were not to be exact in carrying all off, but were to leave some part to be gleaned and reaped by their poor neighbours, whether Israelites or Gentiles. And thou shall not glean thy vineyard — When they had cut off the great bunches, they were not to examine the vine over again for the scattered grapes or small clusters, but leave them for the poor and stranger. Strangers are joined with the poor, because they could have no possessions of land among the Hebrews, and therefore were often poor. I am the Lord your God — Who gave you all these things, with a reservation of my right in them, and with a charge of giving part of them to the poor. This, and many other laws which provide for the indigent, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, show the genius of the Jewish religion to have been much more humane than we are apt to conceive, from examining the lives of its narrow-minded professors.Deuteronomy 24:19-21. "Grape" signifies fallen fruit of any kind; and "vineyard" a fruit garden of any kind. Compare Deuteronomy 23:24.
thou shall not wholly reap the corner of the field; but a part was to be left for the poor. This follows upon the peace offerings: and, as Aben Ezra observes, as the fat of them was to be given to God, so somewhat of the harvest was to be given for the glory of God to the poor and stranger. In the Misnah is a whole treatise, called "Peah", which signifies "the corner", in which there are many decisions concerning this affair; and among the rest, whereas it is not fixed in the law how large the corner should be, what quantity should be left, how many ears of corn, or what a proportion of the field, this is there determined by the wise men, who say, they do not leave less than a sixtieth part; for though they say there is no measure (certain) for the corner, yet the whole is according to the largeness of the field, or according to the multitude of the poor, or according to the plenty of the increase (l), so that, as these were, more or less were left: and though the place to be left is called a corner, it was a matter indifferent in what part of the field it was; for so it follows, they give (or leave) the corner at the beginning of the field, or in the middle (m); and Ben Gersom observes, that the corner was at the end of the field, where the harvest is finished; and it is plain where the harvest is finished, he says, the corner should be left; for the law does not precisely determine, only that part of the corner should be left to the poor; and it is of no consequence to the poor whether it is in the middle of the field or in the end of it; but Maimonides (n) thinks it was to be left at the end of the field, that the poor might know where to come for it: and in the above treatise the times are also set when the poor should come and gather it, which they might not do at any time; and there were three times on a day they had leave to come, in the morning, in the middle of the day, and at the evening sacrifice (o), i.e. about three o'clock in the afternoon; the morning was appointed, as the commentators say (p), for the sake of women that had young children, who were then asleep, the middle of the day for the sake of nurses, and the evening for the sake of ancient persons:
neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest; ears of corn which fall from the hand or sickle of the reaper, or in gathering the reaps to bind up in sheaves. In the above treatise it is asked, what is a gleaning? that which falls in reaping; if the reaper reaps his handful, or plucks up an handful, and a thorn strikes him, and it falls out of his hand to the ground, lo, it is the owner's; but if out of the middle of his hand, or out of the middle of the sickle, it is the poor's; if from the further part of his hand, or of the sickle, it is the owner's; but if from the top of his hand (or tip of his fingers) or the point of the sickle, it is the poor's (q): and it is further said (r),"two ears are a gleaning, but three are not,''and so Jarchi on the text, that is, when three fall together; this is according to the school of Hillel, but according to the school of Shammai, if there were three ears that fell together, they were the poor's, if four they belonged to the owner.
(l) Misn. Peah, c. 1. sect. 2.((m) Ibid. sect. 3.((n) Hilchot Mattanot Anayim, c. 2. sect. 12. (o) Misn. Peah. c. 4. sect. 5. (p) Maimon & Bartenora in ib. (q) Ib. sect. 10. (r) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Peah, c. 6. sect. 5.And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9–11. Cp. Leviticus 23:22. The law of gleaning: a portion of the produce of the soil is to be left for the poor. A similar law is found in Deuteronomy 24:19-21. The word translated ‘the fallen fruit’ (‘every grape,’ A.V.) occurs only here in O.T., but is of common occurrence in Mishnaic Heb. to denote a particular object as distinguished from the general name of the class to which it belongs. The traditional interpretation is that the grapes were to be gathered in bunches, but a single grape was to be left, as well as those that fell to the ground during the gathering. The law is expressed in 2nd pers. sing. and in Leviticus 23:22.Verses 9, 10. - The injunction contained in these verses, to not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither... gather the gleanings of thy harvest, is twice afterwards repeated (Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-22). In Deuteronomy, the oliveyard is specified together with the harvest-field and the vineyard, and it is added that, if a sheaf be by chance left behind, it is to remain for the benefit of the poor. The object of this law is to inculcate a general spirit of mercy, which is willing to give up its own exact rights in kindness to others suffering from want. The word here used for vineyard covers also the oliveyard. The expression, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard, would be more literally rendered, neither shalt thou gather the scattering of thy vineyard, meaning the berries (grapes or olives)which had fallen or which were left singly on the boughs.
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