And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field…
In the earlier portion of this chapter purity of worship, with its associated reverence for the authority of God, in his representatives, viz. natural parents, and his institutions, as the sabbath, are enjoined. In the verses following our duties towards our fellows come more prominently before us, and in the text that class of those duties whose spirit is kindliness. Charity is sister to piety. We have here enjoined -
I. A GENEROUS CONSIDERATION FOR THE POOR.
1. The needs of the gleaner are to be respected.
(1) In reaping the harvest, owners are instructed to spare the corners of their crops for the poor. What fails from the hand of the reaper is not to be gathered up again, but left to the gleaner. So in gleaning the vintage, the loose branches must be left to the poor and the stranger.
(2) We must not consider that to be wasted which goes to the poor.
(3) The harvest and vintage are seasons of joy. Such seasons should be seasons also of charity. Kindliness purifies and so heightens joy.
2. The authority of God must be remembered.
(1) "I am Jehovah thy Elohim." This gives the poor and the stranger a Divine right in the gleanings, which now to disregard becomes impiety and injustice. Those who refuse their rights to the poor will have to answer for it to God (Psalm 9:18; Psalm 12:5; Psalm 82.; Isaiah 10:1-4).
(2) The Divine example should inspire and guide us. "He openeth his hand, and satisfieth every living thing." Man must not attempt to close the hand of God by refusing to the poor their due.
(3) The blessing of God is promised to those who consider the poor (see Deuteronomy 24:19; Psalm 41:1; Proverbs 14:21).
II. A CAREFUL AVOIDANCE OF INJUSTICE.
1. Wrong must not be practiced stealthily.
(1) "Ye shall not steal" - ye shall not injure your neighbour in a concealed way. To reap the harvest too narrowly would be to filch from the poor his due.
(2) "Neither shall ye deal falsely." Thus there must be no concealing of faults in articles offered for sale. There must be no false representation of values either in vending or purchasing.
2. Lies must not be uttered.
(1) "Neither lie one to another." When a lie is acted in false dealing, the next thing is to utter a lie to cover the wrong. One falsehood calls up another to keep it in countenance.
(2) "And ye shall not swear by my Name falsely." Upon the principle that lies are called in to countenance the concealment of a wrong, oaths are suborned to countenance lies. Thus sin begets sin; and sin, in its offspring, becomes increasingly degenerate.
(3) This last is frightful wickedness. "Neither shalt thou profane the Name of thy God." It is appealing to the God of truth to confirm a lie!
3. Nor must wrong be openly perpetrated.
(1) "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him." Power must not be abused in oppression. Many of the forms in which this was done are described by Job (chapter 24).
(2) "The wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning." It is the means of his living; and once earned, no more belongs to the employer than does the property of any other person. Huge injustice is practiced by those who take long credit from tradesmen, who thereby are put to the utmost straits to meet their business claims and those of their families.
III. A TENDER RESPECT FOR THE CONDITION OF THE AFFLICTED.
1. "Thou shalt not curse the deaf."
(1) Thou shalt not be enraged should a deaf man be unable to render the service of one who has his hearing. So it is unreasonable to blame for not having rendered service those who were not informed that such service was expected.
(2) Thou shalt not curse, in his presence, a man that is deaf, because he is deaf and cannot hear it. So neither in his absence must a man be cursed, who is in the same case with the deaf, and cannot defend himself.
2. "Nor put a stumblingblock before the blind."
(1) To do this literally would be a wanton cruelty.
(2) Traps must not be laid for the unwary to their hurt, viz. in things material or in things spiritual (see Romans 14:13).
3. "But thou shalt fear thy God."
(1) Afflictions do not spring from the dust. They come from God or are permitted by him. To take advantage of them or to trifle with them is therefore to tempt the Lord.
(2) The tear of the retributive justice of Heaven should restrain (see Luke 17:1). Biblical history abundantly proves that the law of retaliation is a law of God. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.