John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

11 (Leviticus 19:11)

Verse 11

God here explains somewhat more clearly His mind and design, for He enumerates as thefts eases in which either deceit or violence is employed. The two words, which we have translated to deny, and to lie, signify also to deceive; as also to lie, or to frustrate hope. (98) There is no question, then, but that God would restrain His people from all craft, or deceit, that they may deal sincerely and honestly with each other; even as Paul wisely explains the meaning of the Holy Spirit, when he exhorts believers to

“put away lying, and to speak every man truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25.)

In the second passage, God commands men to demean themselves meekly and temperately with their neighbors, so as to abstain from all unjust oppression. The meaning which Jerome (99) and others after him, have given to the word עשק gnashak, to calumniate, is incorrect altogether; for it is everywhere used for to oppress, despoil, rob, or lay hands on the goods of another. It is clear, therefore, that as Moses had previously provided against frauds, he now prohibits the iniquity of extorting from our neighbor what we have no right to. Still, violence, or open rapine, is better expressed by the other word גזל gezal; and these (100) two words are, ill my opinion, as it were, genus and species. After he had forbidden, therefore, that they should in any way oppress their brethren and possess themselves of their goods, he at the same time adds, that they should not use violence in despoiling them unjustly. Finally, he points out one mode of unjust oppression, when a person, who has hired himself as a laborer, is defrauded of his wages, and not only if he be sent away without payment, his wages being denied him, but if payment be deferred to the morrow. For we know that hirelings generally live from hand to mouth, and therefore, if there be ever so little delay, they must go without food. Consequently, if a rich man keeps a poor and wretched individual, whose labor he has abused, in suspense, he deprives him as it were of life, in depriving him of his daily food. The sum is, that humanity is so to be cultivated that none should be oppressed, or suffer loss from default of payment.

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible