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Harmony of the Law - Volume 3
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Deuteronomy 24

Deuteronomy 24:14, 15

14. Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates:

14. Non opprimes mercenarium pauperem et egenum e fratribus tuis, et ex peregrinis tuis qui sunt in terra tua, intra portas tuas.

15. At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he ‘is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee.

15. Die suo reddes mercedem ejus, neque occumbet super eam sol: quia pauper est, et ea sustentat animam suam: ne clamet contra te ad Jehovam, et sit in te peccatum.

 

14. Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant. This precept is akin to the foregoing. Moses pronounces that he who has hired a poor person for wages oppresses him unless he gives him immediate recompense for his labor; since the two admonitions, “thou shalt; not; oppress,” and “thou shalt give him his hire,” are to be read in connection with each other. Hence it follows, that if a hireling suffers from want because we do not pay him what he has earned, we are by our very delay alone convicted of unrighteousness. The reason is now more clearly expressed, viz., because he sustains his life by his daily labors. 101101     The expression on which C. founds this statement is translated by himself “ea (i.e., mercede) sustentat animam suam;” in our A. V., “setteth his heart upon it;“ margin, “Heb., lifteth his soul unto it.” Dathe has, “eam anhelat;” Ainsworth, “and unto it he lifteth up his soul,” and his note is, “that is, hopeth for and desireth it for the maintenance of his life. So the Greek here translateth, he hath hope; and in. Jeremiah 22:27, and 44:14, the lifting up of the soul signifieth a desire; and the soul is often put for the life. Hereupon the Hebrews say, Whosoever with-holdeth the hireling’s wage, is as if he took away his soul (or life) from him” etc. Although, however, this provision only refers to the poor, lest they should suffer hunger from the negligence or pride of the rich, still humanity in general is enforced, lest, whilst the poor labor for our profit, we should arrogantly abuse them as if they were our slaves, or should be too illiberal and stingy towards them, since nothing can be more disgraceful than that, when they are in our service, they should not at least have enough to live upon frugally. Finally, Moses admonishes us that this tyranny on the part of the rich shall not be unpunished, if they do not supply their workmen with the means of subsistence, even although no account shall be rendered of it before the tribunals of men. Hence we infer that this law is not political, but altogether spiritual, and binding on our consciences before the judgment-seat of God; for although the poor man may not sue us at law, Moses teaches us that it is sufficient for him to appeal to the faithfulness of God. Wherefore, although the earthly judge may absolve us a hundred times over, let us not therefore think that we have escaped; since God will always require of us from heaven, whatever may have been unjustly excused us on earth. The question, however, here arises, whether, if he who has been oppressed should not cry out, the criminality will cease in consequence of his silence; for the words of Moses seem to imply this, when he says, that the rich will be guilty, if the poor cry unto God and make complaint of their wrongs. The reply’ is easy, that Moses had no other intention than to over-. throw the vain confidence of the despisers, whereby they arc, stimulated to greater audacity in sin, and are hardened in iniquity. He says, therefore, that although, as far as men are concerned, they may allow us to pillage and rob, still a more awful judgment is to be dreaded; for God hears the complaints of the poor, who find no protector or avenger on earth. And surely, the more patiently he who is despoiled shall bear his wrong, the more ready will God be to undertake his cause; nor is there any louder cry to Him than patient endurance. If, however, any should object that the cry here spoken of is at variance with Christ’s command, that we should pray for our enemies, we answer at once, that God does not always approve of the prayers which He nevertheless answers. The imprecation of Jotham, the son of Gideon, took effect upon the Shechemites, (Judges 9:20,) although it was plainly the offspring of immoderate anger. Besides, it sometimes happens that the miserable, although they endure their injuries with pious meekness, still cease not to lay their sorrows and their groans in the bosom of God. Nor is this a slight consolation for the poor, that if no one on earth relieves them because their condition is low and abject, still God will hereafter take cognizance of their cause.


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