D E U T E R O N O M Y
The laws of this chapter provide, I. For the preservation of charity and good neighbourship, in the care of strayed or fallen cattle, ver. 1-4. II. For the preservation of order and distinction, that men and women should not wear one another’s clothes (ver. 5), and that other needless mixtures should be avoided, ver. 9-11. III. For the preservation of birds, ver. 6, 7. IV. Of life, ver. 8. V. Of the commandments, ver. 12. VI. Of the reputation of a wife abused, if she were innocent (ver. 13-19), but for her punishment if guilty, ver. 20, 21. VII. For the preservation of the chastity of wives, ver. 22. Virgins betrothed (ver. 23-27), or not betrothed, ver. 28, 29. And, lastly, against incest, ver. 30.
B. C. 1451.
1 Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother. 2 And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again. 3 In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother’s, which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise: thou mayest not hide thyself. 4 Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.
The kindness that was commanded to be shown in reference to an enemy (Exod. 33:4, &c.) is here required to be much more done for a neighbour, though he were not an Israelite, for the law is consonant to natural equity.
1. That strayed cattle should be brought back, either to the owner or to the pasture out of which they had gone astray, v. 1, 2. This must be done in pity to the very cattle, which, while they wandered, were exposed; and in civility and respect to the owner, nay, and in justice to him, for it was doing as we would be done by, which is one of the fundamental laws of equity. Note, Religion teaches us to be neighbourly, and to be ready to do all good offices, as we have opportunity, to all men. In doing this,
(1.) They must not mind trouble, but, if they knew who the owner was, must take it back themselves; for, if they should only send notice to the owner to come and look after it himself, some mischief might befall it ere he could reach it.
(2.) They must not mind expense, but, if they knew not who the owner was, must take it home and feed it till the owner was found. If such care must be taken of a neighbour’s ox or ass going astray, much more of himself going astray from God and his duty; we should do our utmost to convert him (Jam. 5:19), and restore him, considering ourselves, Gal. 6:1.
2. That lost goods should be brought to the owner, v. 3. The Jews say, “He that found the lost goods was to give public notice of them by the common crier three or four times,” according to the usage with us; if the owner could not be found, he that found the goods might convert them to his own use; but (say some learned writers in this case) he would do very well to give the value of the goods to the poor.
3. That cattle in distress should be helped, v. 4. This must be done both in compassion to the brute-creatures (for a merciful man regardeth the life of a beast, though it be not his own) and in love and friendship to our neighbour, not knowing how soon we may have occasion for his help. If one member may say to another, “I have at present no need of thee,” it cannot say, “I never shall.”
– Matthew Henry Commentary