Six days thou shalt do thy work - Though they were thus bound to keep the sabbatical year, yet they must not neglect the seventh day's rest or weekly Sabbath; for that was of perpetual obligation, and was paramount to all others. That the sanctification of the Sabbath was of great consequence in the sight of God, we may learn from the various repetitions of this law; and we may observe that it has still for its object, not only the benefit of the soul, but the health and comfort of the body also. Doth God care for oxen? Yes; and he mentions them with tenderness, that thine ox and thine ass may rest. How criminal to employ the laboring cattle on the Sabbath, as well as upon the other days of the week! More cattle are destroyed in England than in any other part of the world, in proportion, by excessive and continued labor. The noble horse in general has no Sabbath! Does God look on this with an indifferent eye? Surely he does not. "England," said a foreigner, "is the paradise of women, the purgatory of servants, and the hell of horses.
The son of thy handmaid, and the stranger - be refreshed - ינפש yinnaphesh may be respirited or new-souled; have a complete renewal both of bodily and spiritual strength. The expression used by Moses here is very like that used by St. Paul, Acts 3:19; : "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing (καιροι αναψυξεως, the times of re-souling) shall come from the presence of the Lord;" alluding, probably, to those times of refreshing and rest for body and soul originally instituted under the law.
This is the first mention of the Sabbatical year; the law for it is given at length in Leviticus 25:2. Both the Sabbatical year and the weekly Sabbath are here spoken of exclusively in their relation to the poor, as bearing testimony to the equality of the people in their covenant with Yahweh. In the first of these institutions, the proprietor of the soil gave up his rights for the year to the whole community of living creatures, not excepting the beasts: in the latter, the master gave up his claim for the day to the services of his servants and cattle.
May be refreshed - Literally, “may take breath.”
The taking of usury from the poor was forbidden. A poor man's raiment or blanket taken as a pledge, must be restored to him at nightfall. He who was guilty of theft was required to restore double. Respect for magistrates and rulers was enjoined, and judges were warned against perverting judgment, aiding a false cause, or receiving bribes. Calumny and slander were prohibited, and acts of kindness enjoined, even toward personal enemies. PP 311.1
Again the people were reminded of the sacred obligation of the Sabbath. Yearly feasts were appointed, at which all the men of the nation were to assemble before the Lord, bringing to Him their offerings of gratitude and the first fruits of His bounties. The object of all these regulations was stated: they proceeded from no exercise of mere arbitrary sovereignty; all were given for the good of Israel. The Lord said, “Ye shall be holy men unto Me”—worthy to be acknowledged by a holy God. PP 311.2
These laws were to be recorded by Moses, and carefully treasured as the foundation of the national law, and, with the ten precepts which they were given to illustrate, the condition of the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel. PP 311.3
The message was now given them from Jehovah: “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him, and obey His voice, provoke Him not; for He will not pardon your transgressions: for My name is in Him. But if thou shalt indeed obey His voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.” During all the wanderings of Israel, Christ, in the pillar of cloud and of fire, was their Leader. While there were types pointing to a Saviour to come, there was also a present Saviour, who gave commands to Moses for the people, and who was set forth before them as the only channel of blessing. PP 311.4
Upon descending from the mountain, “Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.” This pledge, together with the words of the Lord which it bound them to obey, was written by Moses in a book. PP 311.5Read in context »