Deuteronomy 15:1-3: The Year of Release

Verse 1:  At the end of (Ex. 21:2; 23:10, 11; Lev. 25:2, 4; Deut. 31:10; Jer. 34:14) every seven years thou shalt make a release.

[In the seventh year, מקֵּ֥ץ שֶֽׁבַע־שָׁנִ֖ים]  From the end (or, in the extremity [Vatablus]) of the seven years (Fagius, Vatablus, Oleaster).  [They take it variously.]  Some maintain that debts expired, not at the beginning of the seventh year, but at its end.  Thus Rabbi Moses de Kotzi[1] (Munster, thus certain interpreters in Gerhard).  They render it from the end, that is, after the end, as in Hosea 6:2, מִיֹּמָיִם, after two days[2] (Drusius).  2.  Others maintain that the remission was made at the beginning of the year (thus out of Ibn Ezra, Fagius, Vatablus, Drusius, Grotius, Oleaster, Ainsworth, Bonfrerius, Gerhard).  קֵץ/end is taken for the extremity, either at the front (as here), or at the back (Fagius, Vatablus).  Among the Hebrews the beginning is also called קֵץ:  and so the Greeks sometimes translate it, ἀρχήν/beginning (Grotius).  מִן/from is here put in the place of ב/in, as in Deuteronomy 33:2, מִסִּינַי , from/in Sinai; Psalm 68:29, מֵהֵיכָלֶךָ, from/in thy temple; and Psalm 72:16, מֵעִיר, from/in the city (Drusius).  Thus in Deuteronomy 14:28, from the end of three years,[3] that is, in the third year; in Jeremiah 34:14, in the end of seven years,[4] that is, when he has served thee for six years, as it follows there (Ainsworth).  And thus Moses explains himself here in verse 9 (Gerhard, Piscator).  See also in verse 12 (Ainsworth).  Thus to the Greeks that which is done in the third year is said to be done μετὰ τρία ἔτη, after three years[5] (Gerhard).  Some thus:  It is a synecdoche of member, of which sort is found in Jeremiah 34:14 (Piscator), with seven years finished, that is, six years and the beginning of the seventh.  To others, in the end of seven years is the same as at the end of those seven years (Gerhard).  It would be repugnant to the method of Sabbatism to exact debts still in the seventh year itself.  For the Sabbatism of days has this, that the debtor be not prosecuted, Isaiah 58:6 (Fagius).  Others render it, From the end of seven years thou shalt complete a remission, which began to be done at the beginning of the seventh year (certain interpreters in Malvenda).  The Septuagint renders it, δι᾽ ἑπτὰ ἐτῶν, that is, (not, throughout seven years, as the Royal and Roman codices have it, in a corrupt sense; but) after seven years:  as in Aristophanes, δι᾽ ἔτους πέμπτου ξυνάγειν, to gather in the fifth year also.  Thus in Herodotus, Plato, etc., διὰ πολλοῦ χρόνου, after much time (Bonfrerius).

[Thou shalt make a remission, שְׁמִטָּה[6]A discharge (Munster, Fagius), or, a release (Munster), a free discharge, that is, of what was borrowed (Malvenda).  There was at this time also a remission of fields; see Exodus 23:11:  although this is not touched upon here (Bonfrerius).  Question:  Whether the remission of debts was full and perfect? or was it lawful to exact them after the seventh year?  Responses:  1.  Some affirm the latter (thus Burgos[7] and Tossanus[8] and Piscator in Gerhard, Cajetan in Estius); because in that year they were gaining no fruits from the earth whence they might pay the debts (Malvenda on verse 4).  2.  Others think that the remission was full (thus the Hebrews in Drusius, Estius, Gerhard, Grotius on verse 2).  Thou art not able to demand again; not even with the year finished, unless a perpetuating clause is added to the contract (Grotius).  But this cannot be gathered from the words.  For this word is attributed to the land also, in Exodus 23:11, to which, nevertheless, the rest was only in that year (Ainsworth).  And this appears harsh (Cajetan in Estius), and is not agreeable to reason (Burgos, Drusius).  Response:  On the contrary, it is most equitable (Estius); for it was restricted unto those who did not have payment (Estius, similarly Lyra, Vatablus):  lest the Jews compel the poor to flee to the Gentiles, and thus to serve other gods (Lyra, Burgos in Gerhard).

At the end of every seven years:  i.e. In the last year of the seven, as is most evident from Deuteronomy 15:9; Exodus 21:2; Jeremiah 34:14.  So the like phrase is oft used, as Deuteronomy 14:28; Joshua 3:2;[9] Jeremiah 25:12; Luke 2:21; Acts 2:1.  And this year of release, as it is called below, verse 9, is the same with the sabbatical year, Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 25:4.


Verse 2:  And this is the manner of the release:  Every creditor (Heb. master of the lending of his hand[10]) that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD’S release.

[Which in this order, etc., וְזֶה֮ דְּבַ֣ר הַשְּׁמִטָּה֒]  This word (or, this method [Samaritan Text, Munster, Tigurinus], rule [Syriac, Vatablus], ordinance [Septuagint], statement [Arabic], matter [Oleaster, Dutch, Vatablus], this manner [Vatablus, Ainsworth]) of remission (Montanus).  This shall be the law of intermission (Junius and Tremellius).

[To whom anything is owed, etc., שָׁמ֗וֹט כָּל־בַּ֙עַל֙ מַשֵּׁ֣ה יָד֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר יַשֶּׁ֖ה בְּרֵעֵ֑הוּ]  That every creditor (or, lord of a debt [Arabic], or, of an exaction, or, of a thing borrowed of his hand [Dutch], or, of a loan of his hand [Montanus], or, who in the manner of a loan gave from his hand [Pagnine]) remit (Hebrew, to remit, in the place of, that he remit, or, remit ye [Gerhard]) his hand in those things which his friend owes (Arabic).  Or, that he remit…that which as a loan he gave to his friend (Pagnine).  Or, that he remit…that is, he who in the manner of a loan gave to his neighbor (Tigurinus, similarly Ainsworth, Dutch, Piscator).  The patron shall remit with respect to the loan of his hand:  it is a Hebraism for, who as a loan gave that which he gave; a creditor, that which he gave in credit (Vatablus).  Who lent, or expended, from his hand (Gerhard).  The lord of the lending of his hand, that is, of the thing given in loan (Ainsworth).  Every creditor shall intermit, having the right of exacting by his own hand that which he is going to exact from his neighbor (Junius and Tremellius), that is, unless the law of intermission hinder.  Hebrew:  the lord of the debt claiming with his own hand; that is, who would be able to recover his property by the imposing of his hand.  The verb נָשָׁה (from which is מַשֵּׁה/ loan), with a ב is to ask, or to receive, in loan; without a ב is to give in loan, Deuteronomy 24:10;[11] Isaiah 24:2;[12] Jeremiah 15:10[13] (Gerhard).  h#$%’ma is a Hiphil participle, but nearly all take it as a noun.  It properly signifies an imposition, burden, etc., and hence, an exaction, loan, usury, debt, etc. (Malvenda).

[He shall not be able to demand it again, לֹא־יִגֹּשׂ[14]He shalt not exact (Junius and Tremellius, Ainsworth, similarly the Samaritan Text, Syriac, Arabic); he shall not press (Montanus, Malvenda), namely, by exaction (Malvenda); he shall not compel (Malvenda, similarly Munster); let him not bear hard (Tigurinus).  See concerning this word on Exodus 3:7[15] (Malvenda).  He shall not demand again (Chaldean, Septuagint); he shall not claim again from his friend (Pagnine).

Shall release it; not absolutely and finally forgive it, but forbear it for that year, as may appear, 1.  Because the word doth not signify a total dismission or acquitting, but an intermission for a time, as Exodus 23:11.  He shall not exact it, as it here follows, i.e. force it from him by course of law or otherwise, to wit, that year, which is easily understood out of the whole context.  2.  Because the person releasing is called a creditor, and his communicating to him what he desires and needs is called lending here and in verse 8; whereas it were giving, and the person giving it were no creditor, but a donor, if it were to be wholly forgiven to him.  3.  Because the reason of this law is temporary and peculiar to that year, wherein there being no sowing nor reaping, they were not in a capacity to pay their debts.  4.  Because it seems unjust and unreasonable, and contrary to other scriptures, which require men to pay what they borrow, as Psalm 37:21.  Yet I deny not that in case of poverty the debt was to be forgiven; but that was not by virtue of this law, but of other commands of God.

[Of his neighbor and brotherBrother is set down exegetically; that is to say, from his neighbor, who is his brother (Ainsworth, Gerhard); namely, in the faith, so that he excludes foreigners.  And is often put for that is.  See on Genesis 13:15[16] (Ainsworth).  He speaks of a Jew (Menochius).  Others distinguish:  a brother is a kinsman; a friend is any Israelite.  But the former is simpler (Gerhard).

Or of his brother:  this is added to explain and limit the word neighbour, which is more general, unto a brother, to wit, in nation and religion; to an Israelite, who is opposed to a foreigner, verse 3, Heb. and a brother,[17] for that is a brother, the particle and being oft so used, as Genesis 13:15, etc.

[Because the year of remission, etc., כִּֽי־קָרָ֥א שְׁמִטָּ֖ה]  Because (or, when [Junius and Tremellius, Ainsworth]) he proclaimed (Vatablus, Ainsworth) (he called [Fagius, Malvenda, Chaldean, Oleaster, Montanus], promulgated [Fagius]), namely, either, a crier, or herald (Vatablus, Fagius, Piscator), or, neighbor (Malvenda, Oleaster), or, Magistrate (Targum Jerusalem in Ainsworth), or, God through the magistrate (Ainsworth).  [Others translate it passively.]  Thus the Septuagion, ἐπικέκληται, it was named, or called (Bonfrerius, similarly the Samaritan Text, Syriac).  Since it was declared, etc. (Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus); or, when it shall be proclaimed (Vatablus); since that year is called the remission of the Lord (Munster).  The Hebrews frequently make use of the third person impersonally (Fagius, Gerhard, Bonfrerius); which in the case of the word קָרָה, to call, is very common (Bonfrerius).

[Because the year of remission is the Lord’s, לַיהוָה]  The Lord’s (Tigurinus, Munster), or, before the Lord (Chaldean), or, to the Lord (Montanus, Oleaster, Gerhard, Ainsworth), that is, according to the ordination of God, and for His honor (Gerhard).

The Lord’s release; or, a release to or for the Lord, in obedience to his command, for his honour, and as an acknowledgment of his right in your estates, and of his kindness in giving and continuing them to you.  If you are unwilling to release this for your brother’s sake, yet do it for God’s sake, your Lord and the chief Creditor.


Verse 3:  (see Deut. 23:20) Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again:  but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release…

[From a foreigner, אֶת־הַנָּכְרִי]  From one foreign-born (Samaritan Text, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius, Ainsworth), from the sons of the peoples (Chaldean).  Even from proselytes (Bonfrerius, Gerhard out of Tostatus, Menochius).  For, 1.  those were not at that time freed from the personal debt of servitude, Leviticus 25:44; Deuteronomy 15:12; Jeremiah 34:14; therefore, not from their real debt.  2.  The word נָכְרִי is attributed to all foreigners, even proselytes, in Genesis 17:12;[18] Ruth 2:10.[19]  3.  They were not enjoying the immunities of the Jews.  See 1 Chronicles 22:2 and 2 Chronicles 2:17 (Gerhard).  See what things are on Exodus 23 (Bonfrerius).  נָכְרִי signifies, not an idolater, but one uncircumcised, living among the Israelites.  See on Exodus 12:43 and Leviticus 22:25.  To such inhabitants was owed on account of the relation of the human race those things that are of natural right, but not those things which are of the greater benevolence, like the corner of the field, the gleaning of grapes, the gleaning of corn, the remaining grapes,[20] the tithes; which that law maintains to be presented to their fellow citizens, and to circumcised proselytes, who were equal to citizens in this matter (Grotius).

A foreigner, or stranger, yea, though a proselyte.  For, 1.  They are oft called by this name, as Genesis 17:12; Ruth 2:10.  2.  Though proselytes were admitted to the church privileges of the Israelites, yet they were not admitted to all their civil immunities or privileges.  See 1 Chronicles 22:2; 2 Chronicles 2:17.  3.  Such were not then freed from their personal debt, to wit, of their service, Leviticus 25:44; Deuteronomy 15:12; Jeremiah 34:14, therefore not from their real debt.

[A citizen, etc., וַאֲשֶׁ֙ר יִהְיֶ֥ה לְךָ֛ אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ תַּשְׁמֵ֥ט יָדֶֽךָ׃]  And that which is thine with thy brother thy hand shall release (Montanus, Ainsworth, similarly Junius and Tremellius), that is, what thou lentest to thy brother (Piscator).  That which thou hast in the presence of thy brother release (Syriac).  But that which is thine thy hand shall remit to thy brother (Samaritan Text).

That which is thine, to wit, by right, though lent to him.

[1] Moses de Kotzi (thirteen century) was a French Jewish scholar.  He wrote Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, a work on the positive and negative commandments of the Law.

[2] Hosea 6:2:  “After two days (מִיֹּמָיִם, from two days) will he revive us:  in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.”

[3] Hebrew:  מִקְצֵ֣ה׀ שָׁלֹ֣שׁ שָׁנִ֗ים.

[4] Hebrew:  מִקֵּ֣ץ שֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֡ים.

[5] Thus Deuteronomy 14:28.

[6] שְׁמִטָּה/remission is derived from the verbal root שָׁמַט, to let drop.

[7] Paulus of Burgos, or Pablo de Santa   Maria (c. 1351-1435), was a Spanish Rabbi, and a Talmudic and Rabbinic scholar.  He converted to Roman Catholicism, took the degree of Doctor of Theology, and was made Archbishop of Burgos.  His reputation as an exegete was secured by his Additiones to Lyra’s Postilla.

[8] Daniel Tossanus (1541-1602) was a French Huguenot theologian.  He escaped the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and settled in Heidelberg, where he served as Professor of Theology and Rector.  He wrote annotations on the entire Bible.

[9] Joshua 3:2:  “And it came to pass after (מִקְצֵה, from the end of) three days, that the officers went through the host…”

[10] Hebrew:  בַּ֙עַל֙ מַשֵּׁ֣ה יָד֔וֹ.

[11] Deuteronomy 24:10:  “When thou dost lend (תַשֶּׁה) thy brother (ברֵעֲךָ) any thing, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge.”

[12] Isaiah 24:2b:  “…as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury (כַּנֹּשֶׁה), so with the giver of usury (נֹשֶׁא) to him (בוֹ).”

[13] Jeremiah 15:10b:  “I have neither lent on usury (לֹא־נָשִׁיתִי), nor men have lent on usury (וְלֹא־נָשׁוּ) to me (בִי); yet every one of them doth curse me.”

[14] Deuteronomy 15:2b:  “Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact (לֹא־יִגֹּשׂ) it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord’s release.”  נָגַשׂ signifies to press, or to exact.

[15] Exodus 3:7b:  “I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters (נֹגְשָׂיו)…”

[16] Genesis 13:15:  “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed (וּלְזַרְעֲךָ, or, that is, to thy seed) for ever.”

[17] Hebrew:  וְאֶת־אָחִיו.

[18] Genesis 17:12:  “And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger (בֶּן־נֵכָר), which is not of thy seed.”

[19] Ruth 2:10b:  “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger (נָכְרִיָּה)?”

[20] See Leviticus 19:9, 10; 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19.

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