The laws of this chapter provide,
I. For the preserving of the purity and honour of the families of
Israel, by excluding such as would be a disgrace to them,
II. For the preserving of the purity and honour of the camp of Israel
when it was abroad,
III. For the encouraging and entertaining of slaves who fled to them,
IV. Against whoredom,
V. Against usury,
IV. Against the breach of vows,
VII. What liberty a man might take in his neighbour's field and
vineyard, and what not,
|Laws of Separation.
||B. C. 1451.|
1 He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member
cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
2 A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD;
even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the
congregation of the LORD.
3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation
of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter
into the congregation of the LORD for ever:
4 Because they met you not with bread and with water in the
way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired
against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to
5 Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam;
but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee,
because the LORD thy God loved thee.
6 Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy
days for ever.
7 Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother:
thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in
8 The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the
congregation of the LORD in their third generation.
Interpreters are not agreed what is here meant by entering into the
congregation of the Lord, which is here forbidden to eunuchs and to
bastards, Ammonites and Moabites, for ever, but to Edomites and
Egyptians only till the third generation.
1. Some think they are hereby excluded from communicating with the
people of God in their religious services. Though eunuchs and bastards
were owned as members of the church, and the Ammonites and Moabites
might be circumcised and proselyted to the Jewish religion, yet they
and their families must lie for some time under marks of disgrace,
remembering the rock whence they were hewn, and must not come so near
the sanctuary as others might, nor have so free a communion with
2. Others think they are hereby excluded from bearing office in the
congregation: none of these must be elders or judges, lest the honour
of the magistracy should thereby be stained.
3. Others think they are excluded only from marrying with Israelites.
Thus the learned bishop Patrick inclines to understand it; yet we find
that when this law was put in execution after the captivity they
separated from Israel, not only the strange wives, but all the mixed
With the daughters of these nations (though out of the nations of
Canaan), it should seem, the men of Israel might marry, if they were
completely proselyted to the Jewish religion; but with the men of these
nations the daughters of Israel might not marry, nor could the men be
naturalized otherwise than as here provided.
It is plain, in general, that disgrace is here put,
I. Upon bastards and eunuchs,
By bastards here the Jewish writers understand, not all that were born
of fornication, or out of marriage, but all the issue of those
incestuous mixtures which are forbidden,
And, though it was not the fault of the issue, yet, to deter people
from those unlawful marriages and unlawful lusts, it was very
convenient that their posterity should thus be made infamous. By this
rule Jephthah, though the son of a harlot, a strange woman
yet was not a bastard in the sense of this law. And as for the eunuchs,
though by this law they seemed to be cast out of the vineyard as dry
trees, which they complain of
yet it is here promised
that if they took care of their duty to God, as far as they were
admitted, by keeping his sabbaths and choosing the things that pleased
him, the want of this privilege should be made up to them with such
spiritual blessings as would entitle them to an everlasting name.
II. Upon Ammonites and Moabites, the posterity of Lot, who, for his
outward convenience, had separated himself from Abraham,
And we do not find that he or his ever joined themselves again to the
children of the covenant. They are here cut off to the tenth
generation, that is, (as some think it is explained), for ever.
The reason of this quarrel which Israel must have with them, so as not
to seek their peace
is because of the unkindness they had now lately done to the camp of
Israel, notwithstanding the orders God had given not to distress or vex
1. It was bad enough that they did not meet them with bread and
water in the way
that they did not as allies, or at least as neutral states, bring
victuals into their camp, which they should have been duly paid for. It
was well that God's Israel did not need their kindness, God himself
following them with bread and water. However this omission of the
Ammonites should be remembered against their nation in future ages.
Note, God will certainly reckon, not only with those that oppose his
people, but with those that do not help and further them, when it is in
the power of their hand to do it. The charge at the great day is for an
omission: I was hungry, and you gave me no meat.
2. The Moabites had done worse, they hired Balaam to curse Israel,
It is true God turned the curse into a blessing
not only changing the word in Balaam's mouth, but making that really
turn to the honour and advantage of Israel which was designed for their
ruin. But though the design was defeated, and overruled for good, the
Moabites' wickedness was not the less provoking. God will deal with
sinners, but according to their endeavours,
III. The Edomites and Egyptians had not so deep a mark of displeasure
put upon them as the Moabites and Ammonites had. If an Edomite or
Egyptian turned proselyte, his grand-children should be looked upon as
members of the congregation of the Lord to all intents and purposes,
We should think that the Edomites had been more injurious to the
Israelites than the Ammonites, and deserved as little favour from them
and yet "Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite, as thou must an
Ammonite, for he is thy brother." Note, The unkindness of near
relations, though by many worst taken, yet should with us, for that
reason, because of the relation, be first forgiven. And then, as to the
Egyptians, here is a strange reason given why they must not be
abhorred: "Thou wast a stranger in their land, and therefore,
though hardly used there, be civil to them, for old acquaintance'
sake." They must not remember their bondage in Egypt for the keeping up
of any ill will to the Egyptians, but only for the magnifying of Gods
power and goodness in their deliverance.
|Moral and Ceremonial Purity Enjoined.
||B. C. 1451.|
9 When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep
thee from every wicked thing.
10 If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason
of uncleanness that chanceth him by night, then shall he go
abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp:
11 But it shall be, when evening cometh on, he shall wash
himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come
into the camp again.
12 Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou
shalt go forth abroad:
13 And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall
be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith,
and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:
14 For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to
deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore
shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and
turn away from thee.
Israel was now encamped, and this vast army was just entering upon
action, which was likely to keep them together for a long time, and
therefore it was fit to give them particular directions for the good
ordering of their camp. And the charge is in one word to be
clean. They must take care to keep their camp pure from moral,
ceremonial, and natural pollution.
I. From moral pollution
When the host goes forth against thy enemy then look upon
thyself as in a special manner engaged to keep thyself from every
1. The soldiers themselves must take heed of sin, for sin takes off the
edge of valour; guilt makes men cowards. Those that put their lives in
their hands are concerned to make and keep their peace with God, and
preserve a conscience void of offence; then may they look death in the
face without terror. Soldiers, in executing their commission, must keep
themselves from gratifying the lusts of malice, covetousness, or
uncleanness, for these are wicked things--must keep themselves from the
idols, or accursed things, they found in the camps they plundered.
2. Even those that tarried at home, the body of the people, and every
particular person, must at that time especially keep from every wicked
thing, lest by sin they provoke God to withdraw his presence from the
host, and give victory to the enemy for the correcting of his own
people. Times of war should be times of reformation, else how can we
expect God should hear and answer our prayers for success?
1 Samuel 7:3.
II. From ceremonial pollution, which might befal a person when
unconscious of it, for which he was bound to wash his flesh in water,
and look upon himself as unclean until the evening,
A soldier, notwithstanding the constant service and duty he had to do
in the camp, must be so far from looking upon himself as discharged
from the observance of this ceremony that more was required from him
than at another time; had he been at his own house, he needed only to
wash his flesh, but, being in the army, he must go abroad out of the
camp, as one concerned to keep it pure and ashamed of his own impurity,
and not return till after sunset,
By this trouble and reproach, which even involuntary pollutions exposed
men to, they were taught to keep up a very great dread of all fleshly
lusts. It were well if military men would consider this.
III. From natural pollution; the camp of the Lord must have nothing
offensive in it,
It is strange that the divine law, or at least the solemn order and
direction of Moses, should extend to a thing of this nature; but the
design of it was to teach them,
1. Modesty and decorum; nature itself teaches them thus to distinguish
themselves from beasts that know no shame.
2. Cleanliness, and, though not niceness, yet neatness, even in their
camp. Filthiness is offensive to the senses God has endued us with,
prejudicial to the health, a wrong to the comfort of human life, and an
evidence of a careless slothful temper of mind.
3. Purity from the pollutions of sin; if there must be this care taken
to preserve the body clean and sweet, much more should we be solicitous
to keep the mind so.
4. A reverence of the divine majesty. This is the reason here given:
For the Lord thy God walketh by his ark, the special token of
his presence, in the midst of thy camp; with respect to that
external symbol this external purity is required, which (though not
insisted on in the letter when that reason ceases) teaches us to
preserve inward purity of soul, in consideration of the eye of God,
which is always upon us. By this expression of respect to the presence
of God among them, they were taught both to fortify themselves against
sin and to encourage themselves against their enemies with the
consideration of that presence.
5. A regard one to another. The filthiness of one is noisome to many;
this law of cleanliness therefore teaches us not to do that which will
be justly offensive to our brethren and grieve them. It is a law
|Protection of Fugitives; The Law Concerning Usury.
||B. C. 1451.|
15 Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is
escaped from his master unto thee:
16 He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place
which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him
best: thou shalt not oppress him.
17 There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a
sodomite of the sons of Israel.
18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a
dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even
both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
19 Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of
money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon
20 Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy
brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may
bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land
whither thou goest to possess it.
21 When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt
not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it
of thee; and it would be sin in thee.
22 But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in
23 That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and
perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed
unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.
24 When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard, then thou
mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure; but thou shalt
not put any in thy vessel.
25 When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour,
then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt
not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's standing corn.
Orders are here given about five several things which have no relation
one to another:--
I. The land of Israel is here made a sanctuary, or city of refuge, for
servants that were wronged and abused by their masters, and fled
thither for shelter from the neighbouring countries,
We cannot suppose that they were hereby obliged to give entertainment
to all the unprincipled men that ran from service; Israel needed not
(as Rome at first did) to be thus peopled. But,
1. They must not deliver up the trembling servant to his enraged
master, till upon trial it appeared that the servant has wronged his
master and was justly liable to punishment. Note, It is an honourable
thing to shelter and protect the weak, provided they be not wicked. God
allows his people to patronise the oppressed. The angel bid Hagar
return to her mistress, and Paul sent Onesimus back to his master
Philemon, because they had neither of them any cause to go away, nor
was either of them exposed to any danger in returning. But the servant
here is supposed to escape, that is, to run for his life, to the people
of Israel, of whom he had heard (as Benhadad of the kings of Israel,
1 Kings 20:31)
that they were a merciful people, to save himself from the fury of a
tyrant; and in that case to deliver him up is to throw a lamb into the
mouth of a lion.
2. If it appeared that the servant was abused, they must not only
protect him, but, supposing him willing to embrace their religion, they
must give him all the encouragement that might be to settle among them.
Care is taken both that he should not be imposed up on in the place of
his settlement--let it be that which he shall choose and
where it liketh him best, and that he should not exchange one
hard master for many--thou shalt not oppress him. Thus would he
soon find a comfortable difference between the land of Israel and other
lands, and would choose it to be his rest for ever. Note, Proselytes
and converts to the truth should be treated with particular tenderness,
that they may have no temptation to return.
II. The land of Israel must be no shelter for the unclean; no whore, no
Sodomite, must be suffered to live among them
neither a whore nor a whoremonger. No houses of uncleanness must be
kept either by men or women. Here is,
1. A good reason intimated why there should be no such wickedness
tolerated among them: they were Israelites. This seems to have an
emphasis laid upon it. For a daughter of Israel to be a whore, or a son
of Israel a whoremaster, is to reproach the stock they are come of, the
people they belong to, and the God they worship. It is bad in any, but
worst in Israelites, a holy nation,
2 Samuel 13:12.
2. A just mark of displeasure put upon this wickedness, that the hire
of a whore, that is, the money she gets by her whoring, and the price
of a dog, that is, of the Sodomite, pimp, or whoremaster (so I incline
to understand it, for such are called dogs,
the money he gets by his lewd and villainous practices, no part of it
shall be brought into the house of the Lord (as the hire of
prostitutes among the Gentiles was into their temples) for any
vow. This intimates,
(1.) That God would not accept of any offering at all from such wicked
people; they had nothing to bring an offering of but what they got by
their wickedness, and therefore their sacrifice could not but be an
abomination to the Lord,
(2.) That they should not think, by making and paying vows, and
bringing offerings to the Lord, to obtain leave to go on in this sin,
as (it should seem) some that followed that trade suggested to
themselves, when their offerings were admitted.
This day have I paid my vows, therefore came I forth to meet
thee. Nothing should be accepted in commutation of penance.
(3.) That we cannot honour God with our substance unless it be honestly
and honourably come by. It must not only be considered what we give,
but how we got it; God hates robbery for burnt-offerings, and
III. The matter of usury is here settled,
(1.) They must not lend upon usury to an Israelite. They had and held
their estates immediately from and under God, who, while he
distinguished them from all other people, might have ordered, had he so
pleased, that they should have all things in common among themselves;
but instead of that, and in token of their joint interest in the good
land he had given them, he only appointed them, as there was occasion,
to lend to one another without interest, which among them would be
little or no loss to the lender, because their land was so divided,
their estates were so settled, and there was so little of merchandise
among them, that it was seldom or never that they had occasion to
borrow any great sums, only what was necessary for the subsistence of
their families when the fruits of their ground had met with any
disaster, or the like; and, in such a case, for a small matter to
insist upon usury would have been very barbarous. Where the borrower
gets, or hopes to get, it is just that the lender should share in the
gain; but to him that borrows for his necessary food pity must be
shown, and we must lend, hoping for nothing again, if we have
wherewithal to do it,
(2.) They might lend upon usury to a stranger, who was supposed to live
by trade, and (as we say) by turning the penny, and therefore got by
what he borrowed, and came among them in hopes to do so. By this it
appears that usury is not in itself oppressive; for they must not
oppress a stranger, and yet might exact usury from him.
IV. The performance of the vows wherewith we have bound our souls is
here required; and it is a branch of the law of nature,
(1.) We are here left at our liberty whether we will make vows or no:
If thou shalt forbear to vow (some particular sacrifice and
offering, more than was commanded by the law), it shall be no sin to
thee. God had already signified his readiness to accept a free-will
offering thus vowed, though it were but a little fine flour
which was encouragement enough to those who were so inclined. But lest
the priests, who had the largest share of those vows and voluntary
offerings, should sponge upon the people, by pressing it upon them as
their duty to make such vows, beyond their ability and inclination,
they are here expressly told that it should not be reckoned a sin in
them if they did not make any such vows, as it would be if they omitted
any of the sacrifices that God had particularly required. For (as
bishop Patrick well expresses it) God would have men to be easy in his
service, and all their offerings to be free and cheerful.
(2.) We are here laid under the highest obligations, when we have made
a vow, to perform it, and to perform it speedily: "Thou shalt not be
slack to pay it, lest if it be delayed beyond the first opportunity
the zeal abate, the vow be forgotten, or something happen to disable
thee for the performance of it. That which has gone out of thy
lips as a solemn and deliberate vow must not be recalled, but
thou shalt keep and perform it, punctually and fully." The rule
of the gospel goes somewhat further than this.
2 Corinthians 9:7,
Every one, according as he purposeth in his heart, though it
have not gone out of his lips, so let him give. Here is a good
reason why we should pay our vows, that if we do not God will
require it of us, will surely and severely reckon with us, not only
for lying, but for going about to mock him, who cannot be mocked. See
V. Allowance is here given, when they passed through a cornfield or
vineyard, to pluck and eat of the corn or grapes that grew by the
road-side, whether it was done for necessity or delight, only they must
carry none away with them,
Therefore the disciples were not censured for plucking the ears of corn
(it was well enough known that the law allowed it), but for doing it on
the sabbath day, which the tradition of the elders had forbidden. Now,
1. This law intimated to them what great plenty of corn and wine they
should have in Canaan, so much that a little would not be missed out of
their fruits: they should have enough for themselves and all their
2. It provided for the support of poor travellers, to relieve the
fatigue of their journey, and teaches us to be kind to such. The Jews
say, "This law was chiefly intended in favour of labourers, who were
employed in gathering in their harvest and vintage; their mouths must
not be muzzled any more than that of the ox when he treads out the
3. It teaches us not to insist upon property in a small matter, of
which it is easy to say, What is that between me and thee? It
was true the grapes which the passenger ate were none of his own, nor
did the proprietor give them to him; but the thing was of so small
value that he had reason to think were he present, he would not deny
them to him, anymore than he himself would grudge the like courtesy,
and therefore it was no theft to take them.
4. It used them to hospitality, and teaches us to be ready to
distribute, willing to communicate, and not to think every thing lost
that is given away. Yet,
5. It forbids us to abuse the kindness of our friends, and to take the
advantage of fair concessions to make unreasonable encroachments: we
must not draw an ell from those that give but an inch. They may eat of
their neighbour's grapes; but it does not therefore follow that they
may carry away.