15:1 At the end of every seven years you must declare a cancellation 1 of debts. 15:2 This is the nature of the cancellation: Every creditor must remit what he has loaned to another person; 2 he must not force payment from his fellow Israelite, 3 for it is to be recognized as “the Lord’s cancellation of debts.” 15:3 You may exact payment from a foreigner, but whatever your fellow Israelite 4 owes you, you must remit. 15:4 However, there should not be any poor among you, for the Lord 5 will surely bless 6 you in the land that he 7 is giving you as an inheritance, 8 15:5 if you carefully obey 9 him 10 by keeping 11 all these commandments that I am giving 12 you today. 15:6 For the Lord your God will bless you just as he has promised; you will lend to many nations but will not borrow from any, and you will rule over many nations but they will not rule over you.
15:7 If a fellow Israelite 13 from one of your villages 14 in the land that the Lord your God is giving you should be poor, you must not harden your heart or be insensitive 15 to his impoverished condition. 16 15:8 Instead, you must be sure to open your hand to him and generously lend 17 him whatever he needs. 18 15:9 Be careful lest you entertain the wicked thought that the seventh year, the year of cancellation of debts, has almost arrived, and your attitude 19 be wrong toward your impoverished fellow Israelite 20 and you do not lend 21 him anything; he will cry out to the Lord against you and you will be regarded as having sinned. 22 15:10 You must by all means lend 23 to him and not be upset by doing it, 24 for because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you attempt. 15:11 There will never cease to be some poor people in the land; therefore, I am commanding you to make sure you open 25 your hand to your fellow Israelites 26 who are needy and poor in your land.
15:12 If your fellow Hebrew 27 – whether male or female 28 – is sold to you and serves you for six years, then in the seventh year you must let that servant 29 go free. 30 15:13 If you set them free, you must not send them away empty-handed. 15:14 You must supply them generously 31 from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress – as the Lord your God has blessed you, you must give to them. 15:15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore, I am commanding you to do this thing today. 15:16 However, if the servant 32 says to you, “I do not want to leave 33 you,” because he loves you and your household, since he is well off with you, 15:17 you shall take an awl and pierce a hole through his ear to the door. 34 Then he will become your servant permanently (this applies to your female servant as well). 15:18 You should not consider it difficult to let him go free, for he will have served you for six years, twice 35 the time of a hired worker; the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.
15:19 You must set apart 36 for the Lord your God every firstborn male born to your herds and flocks. You must not work the firstborn of your bulls or shear the firstborn of your flocks. 15:20 You and your household must eat them annually before the Lord your God in the place he 37 chooses. 15:21 If they have any kind of blemish – lameness, blindness, or anything else 38 – you may not offer them as a sacrifice to the Lord your God. 15:22 You may eat it in your villages, 39 whether you are ritually impure or clean, 40 just as you would eat a gazelle or an ibex. 15:23 However, you must not eat its blood; you must pour it out on the ground like water.
[15:1] 1 tn The Hebrew term שְׁמִטָּת (shÿmittat), a derivative of the verb שָׁמַט (shamat, “to release; to relinquish”), refers to the cancellation of the debt and even pledges for the debt of a borrower by his creditor. This could be a full and final remission or, more likely, one for the seventh year only. See R. Wakely, NIDOTTE 4:155-60. Here the words “of debts” are not in the Hebrew text, but are implied. Cf. NAB “a relaxation of debts”; NASB, NRSV “a remission of debts.”
[15:2] 3 tn Heb “his neighbor and his brother.” The words “his brother” may be a scribal gloss identifying “his neighbor” (on this idiom, see the preceding note) as a fellow Israelite (cf. v. 3). In this case the conjunction before “his brother” does not introduce a second category, but rather has the force of “that is.”
[15:4] 6 tn The Hebrew text uses the infinitive absolute for emphasis, which the translation indicates with “surely.” Note however, that the use is rhetorical, for the next verse attaches a condition.
[15:5] 9 tn Heb “if listening you listen to the voice of.” The infinitive absolute is used for emphasis, which the translation indicates with “carefully.” The idiom “listen to the voice” means “obey.”
[15:10] 24 tc Heb “your heart must not be grieved in giving to him.” The LXX and Orig add, “you shall surely lend to him sufficient for his need,” a suggestion based on the same basic idea in v. 8. Such slavish adherence to stock phrases is without warrant in most cases, and certainly here.
[15:12] 27 sn Elsewhere in the OT, the Israelites are called “Hebrews” (עִבְרִי, ’ivriy) by outsiders, rarely by themselves (cf. Gen 14:13; 39:14, 17; 41:12; Exod 1:15, 16, 19; 2:6, 7, 11, 13; 1 Sam 4:6; Jonah 1:9). Thus, here and in the parallel passage in Exod 21:2-6 the term עִבְרִי may designate non-Israelites, specifically a people well-known throughout the ancient Near East as ’apiru or habiru. They lived a rather vagabond lifestyle, frequently hiring themselves out as laborers or mercenary soldiers. While accounting nicely for the surprising use of the term here in an Israelite law code, the suggestion has against it the unlikelihood that a set of laws would address such a marginal people so specifically (as opposed to simply calling them aliens or the like). More likely עִבְרִי is chosen as a term to remind Israel that when they were “Hebrews,” that is, when they were in Egypt, they were slaves. Now that they are free they must not keep their fellow Israelites in economic bondage. See v. 15.
[15:17] 34 sn When the bondslave’s ear was drilled through to the door, the door in question was that of the master’s house. In effect, the bondslave is declaring his undying and lifelong loyalty to his creditor. The scar (or even hole) in the earlobe would testify to the community that the slave had surrendered independence and personal rights. This may be what Paul had in mind when he said “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Gal 6:17).
[15:18] 35 tn The Hebrew term מִשְׁנֶה (mishneh, “twice”) could mean “equivalent to” (cf. NRSV) or, more likely, “double” (cf. NAB, NIV, NLT). The idea is that a hired worker would put in only so many hours per day whereas a bondslave was available around the clock.
[15:22] 40 tc The LXX adds ἐν σοί (en soi, “among you”) to make clear that the antecedent is the people and not the animals. That is, the people, whether ritually purified or not, may eat such defective animals.