Bible Book List
Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 12–18
Verses 12–18

Here is, I. A repetition of the law that had been given concerning Hebrew servants who had sold themselves for servants, or were sold by their parents through extreme poverty, or were sold by the court of judgment for some crime committed. The law was, 1. That they should serve but six years, and in the seventh should go out free, Deut. 15:12. Compare Exod. 21:2. And, if the year of jubilee happened before they served out their time, that would be their discharge. God’s Israel were a free people, and must not be compelled to perpetual slavery; thus are God’s spiritual Israel called unto liberty. 2. That if, when their six years’ service had expired, they had no mind to go out free, but would rather continue in service, as having less care, though taking more pains, than their masters, in this case they must lay themselves under an obligation to serve for ever, that is, for life, by having their ears bored to the door-posts, Deut. 15:16, 17. Compare Exod. 21:6. If hereby a man disgraced himself with some, as of a mean and servile spirit, that had not a due sense of the honour and pleasure of liberty, yet, we may suppose, with others he got reputation, as of a quiet contented spirit, humble, and diligent, and loving, and not given to change.

II. Here is an addition to this law, requiring them to put some small stock into their servants’ hands to set up with for themselves, when they sent them out of their service, Deut. 15:13, 14. It was to be supposed that they had nothing of their own, and that their friends had little or nothing for them, else they else they would have been redeemed before they were discharged by law; they had no wages for their service, and all they got by their labour was their masters’, so that their liberty would do them little good, having nothing to begin the world with; therefore their masters are here commanded to furnish them liberally with corn and cattle. No certain measure is prescribed: that is left to the generosity of the master, who probably would have respect to the servant’s merit and necessity; but the Jewish writers say, “He could not give less than the value of thirty shekels of silver, but as much more as he pleased” The maid-servants, though they were not to have their ears bored if they were disposed to stay, yet, if they went out free, they were to have a gratuity given them; for to this those words refer, Unto thy maid-servant thou shalt do likewise, Deut. 15:17. The reasons for this are taken from the law of gratitude. They must do it, 1. In gratitude to God, who had not only brought them out of Egypt (Deut. 15:15), but brought them out greatly enriched with the spoils of the Egyptians. Let them not send their servants out empty, for they were not sent empty out of the house of bondage. God’s tender care of us and kindness to us oblige us to be careful of, and kind to, those that have a dependence upon us. Thus we must render according to the benefit done unto us. 2. In gratitude to their servants, Deut. 15:18. “Grudge not to give him a little out of thy abundance, for he has been worth a double hired servant unto thee. The days of the hireling at most were but three years (Isa. 16:14), but he has served thee six years, and, unlike the hired servant, without any wages.” Masters and landlords ought to consider what need they have of, and what ease and advantage they have by, their servants and tenants, and should not only be just but kind to them. To these reasons it is added, as before in this chapter (Deut. 15:4, 6, 10), The Lord they God shall bless thee. Then we may expect family blessings, the springs of family-prosperity, when we make conscience of our duty to our family-relations.