The Poor and Unfortunate – Deuteronomy 24:19-20
I am continuing with my posts on the commands in the Mosaic Law regarding the poor and unfortunate. I am using the list of commands (mitzvots) on the poor and unfortunate I found at the Judaism 101 website. This week’s commands are numbers forty-nine and fifty from the Judaism 101 list:
49. Not to return to take a forgotten sheaf (Deut. 24:19) This applies to all fruit trees (Deut. 24:20) (negative) (CC10).
50. To leave the forgotten sheaves for the poor (Deut. 24:19-20) (affirmative) (CCI5).
It is kind of strange that I couldn’t find mitzvoth forty-nine in my copy of the Concise Book of Mitzvoth. I haven’t had any trouble with finding any of the other commands but this one didn’t show up where it was supposed to. I don’t know that this is too terrible since the command seems to be rather self-explanatory.
I am not really sure what to say about this week’s commands. They are very similar to previous commands on the poor and unfortunate. The crop being discussed in Deuteronomy 24:20 is fruit from trees which is different than wheat or grapes but other than that I don’t see a difference. I want to go through and make sure that I study each of the commands so I am going to post about these commands anyway. Repeating words of wisdom and grace is never a waste of time or effort.
Like usual, I am going to quote from the Concise Book of Mitzvoth and then I am going to provide Gary Kukis’ and Matthew Henry’s commentaries on this passage.
From the Concise Book of Mitzvoth:
Mitzvot 50 (CCI5)
5. It is a positive commandment to leave over a forgotten sheaf
as scripture says, and you have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the orphan and the widow, that Hashem your God may bless you (D’varim [Deuteronomy] 24:19). Its law is the same as for the unreaped part of the field, in the previous commandment. And just as there is the law on “forgotten ones” about sheaves, so is there a law on “forgotten ones” with standing grain and [the produce of] trees.
Gary Kukis (link here):
“When you reap your harvest in your field, and you forgot a sheaf in a field, you will not turn back to take it; to the temporary visitor, to the orphan and to the widow it belongs [lit., it is]; so that Yehowah your God will bless you in all the work of your hands. [Deut. 24:19]
Because we are in the devil’s world, even under an economy where God is in charge, there are the poor and the helpless. This is a function of their old sin natures as well as the function of the sin natures around them. This is also a result of living in the devil’s world. God continually looks out for those who need looking out for. He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes [to them] will have many curses (Prov. 28:27).
This verse is a repeat of Lev. 19:9–10 23:22. Much of Deuteronomy is a reiteration of the Law previously given. Books were not as common then as now, so the information which the Israelites went with came from their souls. They listened to Moses and obeyed the Law as given by him. We do not know the numbers as to how many of the early Israelites were literate and how many were not; therefore, this information had to be taught and re-taught. We don’t know if many of them were capable of taking notes or whether they even had the materials which would allow them to do so. Moses likely did a lot of teaching during those thirty-eight silent years as God wiped out gen X.
There are those, as I have mentioned, who do not believe that Moses was the author of Deuteronomy—that some author hundreds and hundreds of years later wrote this to get across his specific viewpoint. This is one of the hundreds of examples where what Moses taught here was in full agreement with the Law which had already been given. The fact that this was obeyed early in the history of Israel (Ruth 2), lends more credence to Mosaic authorship.
“When you beat your olive [tree], you will not examine the branch behind you—to the temporary visitor, to the orphan and to the widow it belongs [lit., it is]. [Deut. 24:20]
There were two ways of harvesting an olive tree. One way was to shake the branches until its fruit fell free (Isa. 17:6 24:13) and the other way was to beat the branches until the fruit fell to the ground. Here, the owner of the vineyard was to beat the branches but one time.
Imagine all of the businesses who squeeze the last bit of work out of their underpaid employees; God is appalled and those in charge will pay. “Nor will you glean your vineyard nor will you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you will leave them for the needy and for the alien; I am Yehowah your God.” (Lev. 19:10).
Matthew Henry (link here):
III. The rich are commanded to be kind and charitable to the poor. Many ways they are ordered to be so by the law of Moses. The particular instance of charity here prescribed is that they should not be greedy in gathering in their corn, and grapes, and olives, so as to be afraid of leaving any behind them, but be willing to overlook some, and let the poor have the gleanings, Deuteronomy 24:19-22. 1. “Say not, ‘It is all my own, and why should not I have it?’ But learn a generous contempt of property in small matters. One sheaf or two forgotten will make thee never the poorer at the year’s end, and it will do somebody good, if thou have it not.” 2. “Say not, ‘What I give I will give, and know whom I give it to, why should I leave it to be gathered by I know not whom, that will never thank me.’ But trust God’s providence with the disposal of thy charity, perhaps that will direct it to the most necessitous.” Or, “Thou mayest reasonably think it will come to the hands of the most industrious, that are forward to seek and gather that which this law provides for them.” 3. “Say not, ‘What should the poor do with grapes and olives? It is enough for them to have bread and water;’ for, since they have the same senses that the rich have, why should not they have so me little share of the delights of sense?” Boaz ordered handfuls of corn to be left on purpose for Ruth, and God blessed him. All that is left is not lost.