Charles Simeon Commentary - Deuteronomy 15:12 - 15:15

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Deuteronomy 15:12 - 15:15

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Deu_15:12-15. If thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine-press: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bond-man in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to-day.

BENEVOLENCE characterized the whole of the Jewish law; as well of that law which regulated the state, as of that which was to govern the souls of individuals. Some things indeed were tolerated under that dispensation which do not accord with the more sublime morality of the Gospel. Polygamy and divorce were suffered, on account of the hardness of the people’s hearts, and in order to prevent the still greater evils which would have resulted from the entire prohibition of them. Slavery also was permitted for the same reasons: but still there were restraints put upon men in relation to these things, and many regulations were framed, to counteract the abuses which were likely to flow from the licence afforded them. It was permitted to men to purchase slaves, and that even from among their brethren. But an express command was given, that no man should “rule over them with rigour;” that every slave should be liberated after six years of service; and that ample provision should be made for him on his dismission, in order that he might be able in future to support himself. It is of this ordinance that we are now to speak: and in it we may see,

I.       An encouraging emblem—

As the whole of the ceremonial law, so parts also of the judicial law, were of a typical nature. This appointment in particular emblematically represented two things;

1.       The redemption which God vouchsafes to his people—

[Both Scripture and experience attest, that all mankind are in a state of bondage. They are “tied and bound with the chain of their sins:” they are “led captive by the devil at his will”— — — But the time is come when we are permitted to assert our liberty. The Lord Jesus Christ has “proclaimed liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound:” and it must be by our own voluntary consent alone that we can be retained any longer in our former bondage. Whatever had been the occasion of the Hebrew servant’s bondage, whether he had sold himself through poverty, or been sold by a relentless creditor to pay his debts, or been sentenced to such a punishment by the civil magistrate for his crimes, he was equally free the very moment that the six years of his servitude were expired. Thus it is with us: there is no room to ask in desponding strains, “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered [Note: Isa_49:24-25.]?” for the truth now sounds in our ears, and “the truth shall make us free [Note: Joh_8:32.].” As surely as ever Moses was sent to the oppressd Israelites to deliver them, so surely are the tidings of salvation now sent to us: and though our tyrannical master may use his utmost efforts to keep us in subjection, he shall not prevail. The Lord Jesus Christ is come to deliver us; and “if the Son make us free, we shall be free indeed [Note: Joh_8:36.].”]

2.       The mercy which he exercises towards his redeemed—

[There was a direction given to Moses, that the people at their departure from Egypt should “borrow of their neighbours jewels of silver and jewels of gold, and that they should spoil the Egyptians;” “When ye go,” said God to them, “ye shall not go empty [Note: Exo_3:21-22.].” In like manner this injunction was given to the Hebrew master, at the time when he should be required to liberate his slave; “Thou shall not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine-press: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee, thou shalt give unto him.” And is it not thus that God deals with his redeemed people? “Does he require any man to go a warfare at his own charges?” True it is, he does not set up his people with a stock of grace, that they may afterwards live independent of him; but “he will supply all their need” out of the fulness which he has treasured up for them in Christ Jesus: and “out of that fulness they shall all receive, even grace for grace [Note: Col_1:19 with Joh_1:16.].” Yes assuredly, this picture shall be realized in all who assert their liberty: for “they that fear the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good.”]

But besides this emblematical representation, there is in the test,

II.      An instructive lesson—

The Hebrew masters were bidden to “remember, that they themselves were once bond-men in the land of Egypt,” and that on that very account God had given them this command in relation to their bond-slaves. From hence it appears, that we are to regard God’s mercies,

1.       As a pattern for our imitation—

[When Israel were groaning under their burthens in Egypt, God said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people; I know their sorrows:” and on another occasion we are told, “His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel [Note: Jdg_10:16.].” And when once they were liberated from their bondage, what incessant kindness did he shew them, administering to all their wants, and fulfilling all their desires! This was the conduct which the Hebrew masters were to imitate: and this tenderness, this compassion, this sympathy, this love, is to characterize his people to the end of time. Remarkable is that direction given us by the Apostle Paul; “Be ye followers (imitators [Note: ì é ì ç ô á é , Eph_5:1-2.]) of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ has loved us.” Here the same principle is established: we are to imitate God in all his imitable perfections, and especially in that which is the crown and summit of them all, unbounded love. We are, as far as it is possible for finite creatures to do it, to tread in the very steps of Christ himself, and to follow him even in that stupendous effort of love, his dying on the cross; for St. John, having spoken of his “love in laying down his life for us,” adds, “And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren [Note: 1Jn_3:16.].” What an object for our ambition is here! O that we might be satisfied with nothing short of this! that instead of admiring ourselves on account of more common exercises of love, we might rather see how defective we are even in our best duties; and might learn to overlook all past attainments as nothing, and to be pressing forward for higher degress of conformity to our God and Saviour [Note: Php_3:13-15.]!]

2.       As a motive for our exertion—

[The mercy vouchsafed to the Jewish nation was to operate on all of them as an incentive to obedience; and, as God has required acts of love to our brethren as the best evidence of our love to him, it is in that more especially that we must endeavour to requite the loving-kindness of our God. The man that grudges a few pence to a fellow-servant after having been forgiven by his Lord a debt of ten thousand talents, can expect nothing but indignation from the hands of God [Note: Mat_18:32-34.]. The true spirit of God’s redeemed people was well exemplified in the Apostle Paul, when he declared, “The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again.” If then we have any hope that we ourselves have been partakers of mercy, let us feel our obligations, and say with David, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits that he hath done unto me?” and, if we have in ourselves an evidence that God hath “bought us with a price,” let us strive to the uttermost to “glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his [Note: 1Co_6:20.].”]


1.       Those who are yet in bondage to sin and Satan—

[Why should you continue in bondage another day? May not the past rime suffice to have served such hard masters? and is not liberty at this moment proclaimed to you? “Behold, this is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation.” Think not of the difficulties that are in your way, but of the power that will enable you to surmount them. He who rescued Israel from Egypt, yet liveth: and “will shew himself strong in behalf of all who call upon him.” If you continue in your bondage. O think of the wages that you will receive! “the wages of sin is death:”—but if you assert your liberty, you shall be numbered among “the freemen of the Lord,” and have him for your portion in time and in eternity.]

2.       Those who profess to have been freed from their bondage—

[You have seen wherein you are to glorify your God. Remember, that it is in relative life especially you are to shew forth the power of divine grace. Let it be seen in your households, that you are enabled to walk worthy of your high calling. It is in your families that the truth and excellence of your principles is to be displayed. It is easy enough to be kind and liberal abroad: but look to it that these graces are exercised at home: let your wife, your children, your servants, reap the benefit of your conversion. Let liberality be in your hearts, and the law of kindness in your lips. Shew that religion is an operative principle: and that it is uniform in its operation: and know that a profession of religion without such an exhibition of its power, will be accounted no better than hypocrisy either by God or man. If you would be approved of God at last, you must “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”]