In this chapter Moses instructs the people about canceling debts every seven years. Although I’m not expert on ancient near eastern cultures or religions, I have to believe this was completely unique, and I’m sure you don’t find it in the Greco-Roman world that knew nothing of mercy or grace, or Asian or Indian cultures either. Yet another reason I believe this is true revelation from God and not just something made up by the mind of man. Human nature just doesn’t work this way.
The chapter starts with this stark statement:
At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts.
Then they are given instructions of how to do this. First, this only applies among the Israelites. They may still require payment from foreigners. And why must they forgive these debts? So that there will be no poor among them because God will richly bless them and those who lend must share that blessing with those who borrow. And just because every seven years debts are to be forgiven, those who lend are not to be stingy the other six years. This is called a “wicked thought.”
God has a heart for the “poor and needy,” but this is qualified by “in your land.” Certainly we are to care for the poor and needy generally, but there is a difference between those of the household of faith and those that are not. This is true in the NT as well as the OT.
The Israelites are to free their servants every seven years as well, and this because they were once slaves themselves in Egypt and God set them free. One of the beauties of Biblical religion is that there is absolutely no room for self-righteousness because it is a religion not of works, but of grace and mercy, completely unique among the religions of the world.
Finally, the people are commanded to set apart the firstborn make of their herds and flocks, and only those that are perfect are to be sacrificed to the Lord. These must only be eaten in the place of God’s choosing, not their own towns. I assume this must be referring to wherever the tabernacle, or God’s holy temple is placed. Again and again, God calls the shots on how he is to be worshiped, and his blessings enjoyed.