Be ye. Hebrew, “you are,” &c. It may be connected with the preceding chapter. — Cut, as the barbarians and infidels do, who have no hope, 1 Thessalonians iv. 12., and Leviticus xix. 29. — Dead idols, Adonis, &c. The Arabs and Saracens cut the hair on the forepart of the head only, and so did the ancient Scotch monks, in imitation, as they pretended, of St. John. The Egyptians cut off the hair of their head and eye-brows when they were initiated in the mysteries of Isis, (St. Ambrose, ep. 58,) to testify that they partook in her sorrow for the death of her husband, Osiris. Hence it is probable that Moses forbids any conformity in such superstitious practices; particularly as the Israelites were consecrated to the service of the living God. (Calmet)
Deu_14:21.Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself. The eating of any carcase, or of flesh torn by wild beasts, is reckoned among the causes of defilement; but we must understand it to be the carcase of an animal which has died of hunger or disease, for, from the nature of its death, it contracted impurity, although in itself it were otherwise pure. The end of the precept is gathered from the reason which is immediately subjoined, “for thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God,” and from the ablution which is prescribed in the passage from Leviticus. The same thing is, secondly, enjoined respecting flesh that has been torn, as before with regard to the carcase, for the deformity of its laceration is counted as uncleanness. The holiness of the people is again referred to, that they may more diligently beware of defilements. Hence it follows that those were contaminated who should eat of torn flesh. Therefore, in the third passage, he confirms it that the Jews were to abstain, and were prohibited from the eating of a carcase or the flesh of an animal torn by beasts, lest they should pollute themselves. Nor is it an objection that the eating of carrion and of blood are here prohibited in conjunction with each other; for we know that Moses does not always arrange his precepts in order, but promiscuously adduces such as appertain to different classes. Therefore, I have thought it well to separate these two prohibitions which have distinct objects, and whose dissimilarity manifestly appears from the difference of their punishment. He who shall have eaten blood shall be cut off from the people; whereas he who shall have eaten carrion, shall wash himself and be unclean till the evening. A question might again arise respecting torn or lacerated flesh; but it seems in my judgment to be plain enough from the context, that flesh torn by beasts is counted amongst unclean meats; for the reason of the law is expressed, viz., because those who were chosen to be a holy people should keep themselves pure and incorrupt. Nor would God command that meat intended for man should be thrown to dogs, unless it were infected with a contagion, which would pollute His holy ones. As to the command, in the first passage, to give it to a stranger, or to sell it to an alien, that he might eat it, it does not appear reasonable, since that would be to supply the materials for sin, as though one should offer a sword to a madman, or transfer illicit goods to others. But the solution of this difficulty is easy: for the Gentiles were permitted to eat indifferently of all sorts of food, since no distinctions were placed between them; but the prohibition of certain meats was a mark of separation between them and the elect people of God. A more difficult question arises from a kind of contradiction, because Moses in another passage binds both the stranger and the home-born by the same law, and declares them to be alike unclean if they shall have tasted of carrion. But we must bear in mind that he sometimes calls those strangers who, although born of heathen parents, had embraced the Law. Circumcision, therefore, connected them with God, just as if they had derived their origin from Abraham; whilst there were other strangers, whom uncircumcision separated from the children of Abraham as profane and excomnmnicate. The sum is, that whosoever allege God’s name, and boast themselves to be His people, are called to cultivate holiness, and to keep themselves pure from every stain.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself — (See on Lev_17:15; see on Lev_22:8).
thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates — not a proselyte, for he, as well as an Israelite, was subject to this law; but a heathen traveler or sojourner.
Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk — This is the third place in which the prohibition is repeated [Exo_23:19; Exo_34:26]. It was pointed against an annual pagan ceremony (see on Exo_23:19; Exo_34:26).
cf. Lev_17:15 Exo_23:19 Exo_34:26. The stranger that is in thy gates. “The uncircumcised stranger that is in thy cities” (Targum), i.e. “a heathen who takes upon him that he will serve no idol, with the residue of the commandments which were commanded to the sons of Noah, but is not circumcised nor baptized (Maimonides, “Issure Biah,” Deuteronomy 14. (Ainsworth). Alien; a foreigner, one not resident in the land of Israel.
Seething a kid in its mother”s milk.
This precept, several times repeated in the Law, (Exo_23:16 Exo_34:25) may be connected with magical superstitions, but it is equally probable that the act was condemned as an outrage on the connection naturally subsisting between parent and offspring. It is thus related to the commands forbidding the killing of a cow and a calf on the same day, (Lev_22:28) or the taking a bird with its young, (Deu_22:6) and to the precepts enjoining a scrupulous regard for natural distinctions not sowing a field with mingled seed, etc.. (Lev_19:19) It suggests
I THE DUTY OF CHERISHING THE FINER INSTINCTS OF OUR NATURE. The act here forbidden could hardly be called cruelty, the kid being dead, but it was unnatural. It argued a blunted state of the sympathies. A finer instinct, alive to the tenderness of the relation between parent and offspring, would have disallowed it. It is beautiful to see the ancient Law inculcating this rare and delicate fineness of feeling this considerateness and sympathy even for dead animals. The lesson is that everything is to be avoided which would tend to blunt our moral sensibilities. The act has its analogue in higher relations. Not infrequently has the affection of a parent been used by the ingenuity of cruelty to inflict keener tortures on a child; or, conversely, a child has been betrayed into disclosures afterwards used to injure the parent.
II THE DUTY OF CONSIDERATION IN DEALING WITH IRRATIONAL CREATURES.
1. It is right that irrational creatures should be treated kindly. And if the Law required that this delicate consideration should be shown towards dead animals, how much more does it require of us kindly treatment of them while living!
2. Our behavior towards irrational creatures, as seen above, reacts upon ourselves. In certain cases, this is readily perceived. Most people would shrink from the wanton mutilation of a dead animal, even in sport, and would admit the reactive effect of such an action in deadening humane instincts in him who did it. But it is the same with all cruelty and unfeelingness. Any action which, in human relationships, would be condemned as unsympathetic, will be found, if performed to animals, to have a blunting effect on the sensibilities of the agent. A man”s dog is more to him than a brute. He is a friend. We can carry into our behavior towards the irrational creatures many of the feelings which actuate us in our personal relations, and the more we do it, the better for ourselves. J.O.
22.Thou shalt truly tithe. He repeats in general terms the law before enacted, whereby he claims for God the tithe of all the fruit. He does not, however, immediately declare to whom they are to be paid, but inserts some provisions respecting other offerings, which I have elsewhere explained. But when, soon afterwards, in verse 27, he recommends the Levites to them, he shews what is the proper use to which they are to be applied. He signifies that it would be cruel to defraud the Levites of them, and that they would be wicked and unjust if they were grudgingly to pay them the tithes, which were theirs by hereditary right, since their tribe possessed no inheritance in land.
Thou shalt truly tithe – Meaning the second tithe which themselves were to eat, Deu_14:23, for there was a first tithe that was given to the Levites, out of which they paid a tenth part to the priests, Num_18:24-28; Neh_10:37, Neh_10:38. Then of that which remained, the owners separated a second tithe, which they ate before the Lord the first and second year; and in the third year it was given to the Levites and to the poor, Deu_14:28, Deu_14:29. In the fourth and fifth years it was eaten again by the owners, and in the sixth year was given to the poor. The seventh year was a Sabbath to the land, and then all things were common, Exo_23:10, Exo_23:11, where see the notes, Exo_23:11 (note), and see Ainsworth on this verse.
Keil and Delitzsch
As the Israelites were to sanctify their food, on the one hand, positively by abstinence from everything unclean, so were they, on the other hand, to do so negatively by delivering the tithes and firstlings at the place where the Lord would cause His name to dwell, and by holding festal meals on the occasion, and rejoicing there before Jehovah their God. This law is introduced with the general precept, “Thou shalt tithe all the produce of thy seed which groweth out of the field (יָצָא construes with an accusative, as in Gen_9:10, etc.) year by year” (שָׁנָה שָׁנָה, i.e., every year; cf. Ewald, §313, a.), which recalls the earlier laws concerning the tithe (Lev_27:30, and Num_18:21, Num_18:26.), without repeating them one by one, for the purpose of linking on the injunction to celebrate sacrificial meals at the sanctuary from the tithes and firstlings. Moses had already directed (Deu_12:6.) that all the sacrificial meals should take place at the sanctuary, and had then alluded to the sacrificial meals to be prepared from the tithes, though only causally, because he intended to speak of them more fully afterwards. This he does here, and includes the firstlings also, inasmuch as the presentation of them was generally associated with that of the tithes, though only causally, as he intends to revert to the firstlings again, which he does in Deu_15:19. The connection between the tithes of the fruits of the ground and the firstlings of the cattle which were devoted to the sacrificial meals, and the tithes and first-fruits which were to be delivered to the Levites and priests, we have already discussed at Deut 12. The sacrificial meals were to be held before the Lord, in the place where He caused His name to dwell (see at Deu_12:5), that Israel might learn to fear Jehovah its God always; not, however, as Schultz supposes, that by the confession of its dependence upon Him it might accustom itself more and more to the feeling of dependence. For the fear of the Lord is not merely a feeling of dependence upon Him, but also includes the notion of divine blessedness, which is the predominant idea here, as the sacrificial meals were to furnish the occasion and object of the rejoicing before the Lord. The true meaning therefore is, that Israel might rejoice with holy reverence in the fellowship of its God.
23.And thou shalt eat before the Lord. He again commands the victims to be brought into the place of the sanctuary; although by the place which God shall choose, he designates Jerusalem, as has been said in the above commentary on chap. 12; for the Ark of the Covenant had no settled resting-place until the time of David, but was received as it were in temporary lodgings. Moses, therefore, now commands, that when God shall have so greatly honored a particular place, and shall have chosen a perpetual rest, in which His name shall dwell, thither are the offerings to be brought. But we know that this place was Jerusalem; and all the oblations were restricted to this one place, lest any corruption should creep in to destroy the unity of the faith. For all strange inventions, as has already been sufficiently seen, are so many profanations of God’s worship. But, whereas in chap. 12, Moses had promiscuously joined the tithes with the firstlings, and had made the same appointment with respect to both, he now relaxes the stringency of that law, by adding an exception, viz, that if the way should be too long, a commutation might be made, and money might be paid instead of corn. He does not, indeed, speak only of the tithes, but unites with them the vows and free-gifts; nay, he refers properly to these alone. But, since as to the latter there is no question, let us only consider whether it was consistent that the tithes should be paid in one place alone. They were given to the Levites for their maintenance, who, as is well known, were dispersed throughout the whole land; either then their residence must have been fixed at Jerusalem, or they must not be deprived of their subsistence, wherever they might dwell. The command, therefore, appears to be absurd, that all the tithes of the whole land should be brought to Jerusalem, for that would have amounted to nothing less than to destroy the poor Levites by famine. This absurdity has compelled the commentators to fabricate a doubtful conjecture; viz., that the people voluntarily set apart certain tithes, which they might carry to Jerusalem at the festivals; but it is not probable that so heavy a burden was imposed upon them, as that they should only keep at home what remained of the fifth part. But a nearer approach to probability would be, that the tithes of the neighboring country, as convenience offered, were carried to Jerusalem; whilst those which were collected in more distant places were set aside there; but that they were accounted for at Jerusalem, so that upon a calculation of the number of their families, an equal distribution might be made to the Levites. Certainly it is by no means probable that the respective tillers of the soil carried up to Jerusalem what the Levites, having received there, were compelled to take back again for the maintenance of their families; for what would have been the advantage of all this expense and trouble of carrying them backwards and forwards? Besides, it would have been useless to command the Levites, and that too with the addition of severe threats, to pay the priests faithfully, if the tithes had been first deposited with the priests themselves, who might easily have provided against all deception, since they had the whole quantity of corn in their own hands. I have, therefore, no doubt but that the Levites collected the tithes each in their own neighborhood, but that another tithing, of which mention will be made presently, was carried up to the sanctuary as a sacred offering, and a profession of service to God. For we have lately seen, that after that part had been withdrawn, the nine parts which remained were assigned to the Levites, as if they had been grown on their own ground. But because it was a subject which might cause complaints, that the first-fruits and other tithes should be collected into one place, God would anticipate this by showing the advantage of it to the whole people, in that there might be food enough for all who should come to the celebration of the festivals; for this is the meaning of the words, “thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God;” as if it had been said, that the place should be sacred to God, to which the worshippers of God might come from the whole land. Yet He commands, in the meanwhile, the pure observation of His worship; lest a diversity of places might draw away the people in various directions to false superstitions.
7.If there be among you a poor man The same word אביון, ebyon, is used, which we have seen just above, verse 4; nor is there any contradiction when He commands them to relieve beggars, whom He had before forbidden to exist among His people; for the object of the prohibition was, that if any were reduced to beggary, they should not be cast out and forsaken. Now, however, He explains the mode of preventing this, viz., that the hands of the rich should be open to assist them. In order to incline them to compassion, he again reminds them of their common brotherhood, and sets before them, as its token and pledge, the land in which by God’s goodness they dwell together. Again, that they may be willing and prompt in their humanity, He forbids them to harden their heart, thereby signifying that avarice is always cruel. Finally, He applies this instruction to the year of release, viz., that they should straightway relieve their poor brethren towards the beginning of that year, just as if they would receive back in a few days the money which the poor man would retain to its end.
Keil and Delitzsch
And in general Israel was to be ready to lend to the poor among its brethren, not to harden its heart, to be hard-hearted, but to lend to the poor brother מַחְסֹרֹו דֵּי, “the sufficiency of his need,” whatever he might need to relieve his wants.
Vers. 7-11. The reference to the release leads to a prescription regarding readiness to lend to the poor. They were not to harden their hearts against their poorer brethren, nor were they, in the prospect of the year of release, to refuse to lend them what was necessary for their uses, but, on the contrary, were to open their heart and their hand to them according to their need, lest the poor should appeal against them to God, and sin should lie upon them.
Harden thine heart; literally, maize strong, so as to suppress natural compassion and sympathy.
Vers. 7-11. The duty of kindness to the poor.
There seems to be at first sight a discrepancy between the phrase in ver. 4 and that in ver. 11. The former is, “Save when there shall be no poor among you;” the latter, “The poor shall never cease out of the land.” The first phrase is, however, a reason assigned for the injunction which had been given: it is equivalent to, “Simply, that there be no poor among you,” i.e. this or that was an appointment in Israel, in order that the number ofthe poor might be reduced to a minimum, and that those who were poor might not become abjectly so. But no such external law could ever prevent some from falling back in the race. As long as men”s constitutions, capacities, and characters were widely different, so would their measure of success be. A leveling of circumstances could be brought about only through a leveling of men, after all had been brought to a uniform starting-point. Such genial enactments as the one in vers. 1-6 might prevent beggary, but would not do away with poverty. “The poor shall never cease out of the land.” This phrase is not to be regarded as indicating a Divine appointment that it should he so, but as a Divine declaration that it would he so. As long as men are what they are, and the varied features of temperament and ability continue as they are, so long will there be abundant scope for the exercise of sympathy and of kindly help. The points noticeable in this paragraph are five.
1. Year after year fresh claims on the kindly help of the prosperous would be presented by their poorer brethren (ver. 11).
2. These claims were to be generously and even gladly met, as if it were a delight. We need not charge the writer with ministering to idleness and beggary (see reference to Michaelis, in previous Homily). The word for, yea, even the conception of, a beggar, as we now understand it, is entirely absent from the Mosaic statutes. Honest and diligent work is supposed to be universal; though it might not be uniformly skilful or successful.
3. The desire to evade any obligation thus presented, was a wicked violation of the spirit of the Law (ver. 9).
4. The cry of the neglected or oppressed poor would rise up to God, and be heard.
5. The Lord would remember the, sin of cruel neglect and unkindness, or of haughty coldness.
Now, this chapter generally, and therefore this paragraph as a part of it, may be viewed in one of two aspects: either as a section of the Mosaic code of jurisprudence, or as an inculcation of social duty. It would be obviously beyond or beside our province to deal with it in the former aspect; we are concerned solely with the latter. We need not ask whether, in our New Testament standard, kindness to the poor is enjoined? That is understood. Our one query is this
NOW THAT WE ARE UNDER CHRIST, AS OUR LEADER, HOW IS THE DUTY OF KINDNESS TO THE POOR PUT AND ENFORCED?
1. That duty which Moses enjoined as the leader and legislator of Jehovah”s people, our Lord Jesus Christ set on the ground of his own sovereign right, and enforced by his own example. In that wondrous chapter of John”s Gospel, the thirteenth, we are told that, when our Savior had washed his disciples” feet, he told them that he had given them an example that they should do as he had done to them, and also said, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master,” etc. We cannot suppose that this one act of kindness and condescension was merely meant to be literally followed. It must have been a kind of representative deed, in which our Lord virtually said, “In whatever way you may comfort or soothe a worn and weary brother by ministering to his wants, do not shrink from doing it, even though it may involve many a lowly, self-sacrificing act.” Surely this covers the ground indicated in this paragraph, and includes the duty of giving to the poor and helping the needy, whatsoever their need may be.
2. Our Lord regards the poor and needy as his poor: all, generally, because he died for them; some, especially, because he lives in them. Hence, whoever would act towards them so as to show them the power and glory of a living Savior”s sympathy, must let the poor feel through him the warm touch era tender Savior”s love. Our Lord said in his intercessory prayer, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” Thus believers are to act in the world in the name and on the behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the friends and benefactors of men.
3. Our Lord reckons a kindness shown to men for his sake, as if it were done to him. Even in the Old Testament we get a thought akin to this. (Isa_63:9) But in the New Testament the truth is more clearly defined (cf. Act_9:4, where it is presented to us in connection with the reverse of kindness) in Mat_25:31 it is shown us more strikingly still. Christ and his people are one; and a kindness done to men, out of love to him, is done to him. Is there not a wondrous touch of nature here? Would not a mother feel a kindness shown to her son, for her sake, as if it were shown to her? If the mother were in England and the son in New Zealand, she would feel the same. And if the son were even base and unworthy, and love did cling to him for the mother”s sake, she could not feel the kindness the less. And we are permitted to take this thought up into the heavenly region, and to read the amazing words, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these ye have done it unto me.
1. Of so much importance is this kindness to the poor for Christ”s sake to be reckoned by us, that we are to watch for and seize opportunities of doing “good unto all men, specially to them that are of the household of faith;” yea, so laboring, we are even to support the weak, recalling those priceless words which an apostle was mercifully led to save from the peril of unrecorded sayings, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Whenever and wherever there is presented to us a case of genuine need, there is an opportunity for honoring our Savior which we must not suffer to pass by unimproved.
2. There are New Testament warnings against the neglect of the poor, which are not only not less severe than any in the Old Testaments they are even more so. We may arrange them in three classes, giving one specimen under each.
1Jn_3:17: If a man can knowingly neglect the poor, God”s love isnot in his heart. Where love dwells in the heart, there will be corresponding words on the tongue, and corresponding blessings in the hand.
Jam_2:5-9 Jam_5:1-4: The Apostle James declares that to neglect ordespise the poor is sin against God; and that the cries of oppressed poverty will be heard in heaven.
Mat_25:31-46: Our Lord has explicitly told us that in the dayof judgment, the one test which will be applied to men, and by which their destiny will be decided, will be that of kindness to the poor for his sake! Where that has been, penitence and faith have wrought out in love. Where that has not been, there has been no love, and, consequently, neither faith nor penitent obedience. It is not necessary to be openly wicked and profane, in order to incur rejection by the Great Judge at last. There may have been not a single vice which shocked society or violated outward propriety. Be it so. Even then the absence of the activities of love will be a man”s ruin. He who has not lived to save his brother will not himself be saved. A piety that is known only by negatives will be disowned by our sovereign Lord; while genuine, active, unselfish love, though it may have had but a limited sphere for service, oft shedding a tear that it could do no more, will meet with the holy Master”s loving recognition, and will receive his gracious reward!
Vers. 7-11. Open-handedness.
Having inculcated the forgiveness of a brother”s debts during the sabbatic year, Moses now proceeds to speak of the open-handedness which should precede that year. It might be made a pretext for refusing a poor brother a helping hand that the year was almost on when the debt would be cancelled legally; but to make this a pretext for niggardliness would only betray wickedness of heart. The most beautiful consideration is thus inculcated for the poor; and as “the poor shall never cease out of the land,” there will be the call evermore for this open-handed-ness. Now this poor-law regulation is a most beautiful illustration of what God does for us; and something like it will yet supersede the hard-heartedness of our national systems.
I GENEROSITY SHOULD NOT BE TOO CALCULATING IN ITS TURN. Doubtless, often times it receives a noble return, but this should not be too much regarded, lest the speculative spirit mar the motive altogether. Nor again should we harden our hearts under the persuasion that our generosity is misspent, and that we shall never be repaid in any way. God has himself shown us true generosity in making his sun to shine on the evil as well as on the good, and in sending his rain upon the unjust as well as the just. And hence we are exhorted to “lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil”. (Luk_6:35) There is something noble in an uncalculating generosity.
II IT IS THE NEED OF THE POOR BROTHER WHICH WE ARE BOUND TO SUPPLY. That is, we are asked to supply him not with the luxuries or comforts of life, as if to these he had a right; but with his needs. The open-handedness will be considerate so far as not to encourage unworthy dependence. The brother will be helped in a brotherly way enabled to help himself, and having his needs only supplied. This principle has been urged in connection with our national poor-law system. If it is lost sight of, then a premium is paid to idleness, and the “ne”er-do-wells” become the favorites of fortune. Our Father in heaven acts in the same wholesome fashion. “He supplies all our need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” He supplies us with salvation because we cannot save ourselves; he supplies us with what enables us to help ourselves. He could keep the whole world in idleness, “ladies and gentlemen at large,” but he prefers to keep the whole world in work. Our reliance on God is for our need.
III OPEN-HANDEDNESS FOR GOD”S SAKE IS SURE OF ITS REWARD, “The liberal soul shall be made fat.” “He that watereth others shall be watered also himself.” “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth.” In this way the Lord showeth in both dispensations how “he loveth a cheerful giver.” When a religious man, acting on principle, lives an openhanded life, he has the finest business stimulus. He works that he may have the more to give, and thus be the more God-like. There is nothing so hallows business in all its ramifications as this desire to be able to help those in need.
IV IT IS A SOLEMN THOUGHT THAT THE POOR ARE NEVER TO CEASE OUT OF THE LAND IN THE PRESENT DISPENSATION. The unequal distribution of wealth, the improvident habits of many, and the pressure of population upon subsistence seem destined to keep the poor always with us. And in consequence our Savior stepped out of his rich condition in the bosom and home of the Father and became poor, that he might call every poor man a brother, and leave the poor his legatees after his departure. We need the spectacle of poverty to move our hard hearts to the generosity required. Were abundance the rule, and no human being wanted bread, the selfishness of the race would know no bounds. But the poor ones call for the sympathy which Jesus so abundantly deserves, and we can now sell our spikenard and give to them with all the careful calculation which a Judas once desired. (Joh 12:l-8)
Let our help to others be systematic, because conscientious, and then shall it prove a perennial rill, benefiting the lives of many as it wends its way down the vale of years to the ocean that engulfs us all. R.M.E.
Need of. The Rabbins understand this of giving freely without any prospect of receiving again, much less of any advantage by usury. They esteem themselves bound also, by the laws of humanity, to assist even idolaters, though they will not beg of such, in public. Some assert, that they never allow public beggars among themselves, and indeed such are seldom to be seen. Yet no law forbids it; and Juvenal (vi. 541,) upbraids them with begging slyly at Rome. Arcanum Judæa tremens mendicat in aurem. (Calmet) — If people be in extreme want, the law requires that necessaries should be given them; but if they be not so far reduced, but that they may be able to pay again in a little time, it may suffice to lend. (Haydock)
Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart – לבבך בליעל lebabecha beliyaal, thy belial heart, that is, thy good-for-nothing or unprofitable heart; See on Deu_13:13 (note).
And thine eye be evil – An evil eye signifies a covetous disposition. See the same form of expression used by our Lord in the same sense, Mat_6:23. If thine eye be evil – If thou be a covetous person. Evil eye is by our Lord opposed to single eye, i. e., a person of a liberal, benevolent mind. Covetousness darkens the soul; liberality and benevolence enlighten it.
And he cry unto the Lord against thee – What a consolation to the poor and the oppressed, that they have a sure friend in God, who will hear their cry and redress their grievances!
Keil and Delitzsch
Thus they were also to beware “that there was not a word in the heart, worthlessness,” i.e., that a worthless thought did not arise in their hearts (בְּלִיַּעַל is the predicate of the sentence, as the more precise definition of the word that was in the heart); so that one should say, “The seventh year is at hand, the year of release,” sc., when I shall not be able to demand what I have lent, and “that thine eye be evil towards thy poor brother,” i.e., that thou cherishest ill-will towards him (cf. Deu_28:54, Deu_28:56), “and givest him not, and he appeals to Jehovah against thee, and it becomes sin to thee,” sc., which brings down upon thee the wrath of God.
Thou shalt give him, and thy heart shall not become evil, i.e., discontented thereat (cf. 2Co_9:7), for Jehovah will bless thee for it (cf. Pro_22:9; Pro_28:27; Psa_41:2; Mat_6:4).
A thought in thy wicked heart; literally, a thing in thy heart worthlessness, i.e. a thing which is worthless and unworthy. The word used is belial (lYliB), which does not denote that which is wicked so much as that which is worthless. Thus, “a man of Belial” is a worthless fellow not necessarily a wicked man. (of Deu_13:13) And it be sin unto thee; i.e. entail guilt upon thee, and so expose thee to the Divine displeasure.
Thine heart shall not be grieved – That is, thou shalt give, not only with an open hand, but with a willing and chearful mind, without which thy very charity is uncharitable, and not accepted by God.
11.For the poor shall never cease out of the land. The notion of those is far fetched who suppose that there would be always poor men among them, because they would not keep the law, and consequently the land would be barren on account of their unrighteousness. I admit that this is true; but God does not here ascribe it to their sins that there would always be some beggars among them, but only reminds them that there would never be wanting matter for their generosity, because He would prove what was in their hearts by setting the poor before them. For, (as I have observed above,) this is why the rich and poor meet together, and the Lord is maker of them all; because otherwise the duties of charity would not be observed unless they put them into exercise by assisting each other. Wherefore God, to stir up the inactivity of the rich, declares that lie prescribes nothing but what continual necessity will require.
Needy. Hebrew expresses the order to be observed in giving alms, “open thy hand wide (give with profusion) to thy brother, (or relations,) to thy needy, (in extreme want,) and to thy poor in the land,” whoever they may be. (Calmet) — To exercise the charity of his people, God suffered some to be poor. (Worthington)
Keil and Delitzsch
For the poor will never cease in the land, even the land that is richly blessed, because poverty is not only the penalty of sin, but is ordained by God for punishment and discipline.
They were to open their hand wide to their poorer brethren, for there should always be such in the land. This statement is not inconsistent with that in ver. 4, for there it is the prevention of poverty by not dealing harshly with the poor that is spoken of; here it is the continuance of occasion for the relief of the poor that is referred to.
The poor in the land.: The meaning is that there will always be greater or less scope for the exercise of the virtues of kindness and liberality, that it is vain to hope for a Utopian condition of society in which there shall be absolutely no poor.
I THIS DOES NOT IMPLY:
1. That many existing causes of poverty cannot be permanently removed.
2. That every attempt ought not to be made to reduce poverty within its narrowest limits. The saying, “Ye have the poor always with you”, (Mat_26:11) is no utterance of fatalism. Much can be done to reduce poverty. With the growth of society, still more as a result of the spread of Christian principles, numbers of the causes of poverty now existing may be expected to disappear (idleness, intemperance, bad laws, merciless competition, class antagonisms, unfavorable sanitary conditions, etc.).
II IT DOES IMPLY:
1. That under the most favorable conditions of existence on earth a residuum of poverty is still to be looked for.
(1) There are diversities of talents. There will always be those whose abilities only fit them for the humblest positions in society. And these may be left friendless, or health may fail them, or they may live to old age, and become dependent.
(2) There are vicissitudes of fortune. These come to the most fortunate of men, reducing them oftentimes to great straits. And it is too much to expect that, even under millennial conditions, the causes of such vicissitudes will altogether cease to operate.
2. That while poverty lasts, it is our duty to help to bear its burden. Poverty, in a state of society such as we anticipate as the goal of history, need never be the painful thing it is now. With loving hearts, and hands ready to help, its sting will be taken away. J.O.