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©John Yerkes

Chapter 23:15-25 (ESV)

Posted on March 29, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 23:15-25 (ESV) - “You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him.

“None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.

“You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

“If you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.

“If you go into your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag. If you go into your neighbor's standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor's standing grain.

Question to consider: What was the LORD’s welfare program called?

If you remember back in chapters 14 and 15, I referred to the seven-year cycle of debt and land ownership known as the Shemitah. The LORD gave the land to Israel as an inheritance so this cycle ensured that the land could return to its rightful steward regardless of that person’s financial state. It also ensured that Israel would show particular love to their brothers, care for widows and orphans, and show hospitality to sojourners.

The laws given in today’s passage should be viewed in light of what God had provided to Israel. For instance, the escaped slave in this instance would not refer to a Hebrew who had sold himself or his family into servitude, for this still received a wage, and these servants were set free at the end of the Shemitah. The escaped slave in this situation was a foreign slave who escaped the cruelty of their master and was seeking sanctuary within Israel. Those who believe that God endorses slavery in scripture should reconsider their position in light of this passage which demonstrates His mercy to asylum-seekers.

Given that Israel was provided these avenues to borrow or sell land and receive it back at the Shemitah, and that the destitute still could provide for themselves through gleaning in the fields, there was no reason for them to sell their sons and daughters to pagan temples to prostitute their bodies for money. When someone faced difficult times, their response should have been to repent and turn to the LORD. It was an abomination to sell yourself to another god.

Loans to fellow Israelites were intended to get people back on their feet, and all debts were released at the end of the Shemitah. For a fellow Israelite to profit off of their brother’s misfortune was unloving. There was no such relationship with a foreigner because they had no promise in the land, and their need for a loan stemmed from their relationship with other gods. I would argue the best thing for an Israelite to do is to use this lending relationship to introduce the borrower to the LORD so that he may become a brother.

Violating an oath was a breaking of the Law to not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for it associated that name with a lie. Pharisees would try to make traditions that allowed for someone to make vows on earthly things in order to keep from violating this command, but Jesus argued that making a vow on the things of God was no different than making it on God Himself so it was better to just do what you say you will do without making a vow (Matthew 5:33-37).

The final law in this passage related to gleaning in the fields. The destitute, widow, orphan, and sojourner were given permission by the LORD to pick from the edges of the fields which were left unharvested or anything that had fallen to the ground or was not picked up in the harvest. Moses added that a hungry person could sample from the areas of the field which had not been harvested, but not reap from them. This would be like someone being able to try a grape in the grocery store but not “sample” an entire vine of grapes. Someone being able to glean was receiving mercy and should receive it with gratitude and not take advantage of their brother’s generosity.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for giving people a spirit of generosity. Please help those who are recipients of this generosity to receive it with gratitude. Whether giving or receiving, show us how to be righteous in our actions and attitudes. Amen.