on 2-kings 4 :1
Now there cried a certain woman - This woman, according to the Chaldee, Jarchi, and the rabbins, was the wife of Obadiah.
Sons of the prophets - תלמידי נבייא talmidey nebiyaiya, "disciples of the prophets:" so the Targum here, and in all other places where the words occur, and properly too.
The creditor is come - This, says Jarchi, was Jehoram son of Ahab, who lent money on usury to Obadiah, because he had in the days of Ahab fed the Lord's prophets. The Targum says he borrowed money to feed these prophets, because he would not support them out of the property of Ahab.
To take unto him my two sons to be bondmen - Children, according to the laws of the Hebrews, were considered the property of their parents, who had a right to dispose of them for the payment of their debts. And in cases of poverty, the law permitted them, expressly, to sell both themselves and their children; Exodus 21:7, and Leviticus 25:39. It was by an extension of this law, and by virtue of another, which authorized them to sell the thief who could not make restitution, Exodus 22:3, that creditors were permitted to take the children of their debtors in payment. Although the law has not determined any thing precisely on this point, we see by this passage, and by several others, that this custom was common among the Hebrews. Isaiah refers to it very evidently, where he says, Which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves; Isaiah 50:1. And our Lord alludes to it, Matthew 18:25, where he mentions the case of an insolvent debtor, Forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded Him to be Sold, and his Wife and Children, and all that he had; which shows that the custom continued among the Jews to the very end of their republic. The Romans, Athenians, and Asiatics in general had the same authority over their children as the Hebrews had: they sold them in time of poverty; and their creditors seized them as they would a sheep or an ox, or any household goods. Romulus gave the Romans an absolute power over their children which extended through the whole course of their lives, let them be in whatever situation they might. They could cast them into prison, beat, employ them as slaves in agriculture, sell them for slaves, or even take away their lives! - Dionys. Halicarn. lib. ii., pp. 96, 97.
Numa Pompilius first moderated this law, by enacting, that if a son married with the consent of his father, he should no longer have power to sell him for debt.
The emperors Diocletian and Maximilian forbade freemen to be sold on account of debt:
Ob aes alienum servire liberos creditoribus, jura non patiuntur.
- Vid. Lib. ob. aes C. de obligat.
The ancient Athenians had the same right over their children as the Romans; but Solon reformed this barbarous custom. - Vid. Plutarch in Solone.
The people of Asia had the same custom, which Lucullus endeavored to check, by moderating the laws respecting usury.
The Georgians may alienate their children; and their creditors have a right to sell the wives and children of their debtors, and thus exact the uttermost farthing of their debt. - Tavernier, lib. iii., c. 9. And we have reason to believe that this custom long prevailed among the inhabitants of the British isles. See Calmet here.
In short, it appears to have been the custom of all the inhabitants of the earth. We have some remains of it yet in this country, in the senseless and pernicious custom of throwing a man into prison for debt, though his own industry and labor be absolutely necessary to discharge it, and these cannot be exercised within the loathsome and contagious walls of a prison.
on 2-kings 4 :1
The creditor is come ... - The Law of Moses, like the Athenian and the Roman law, recognized servitude for debt, and allowed that pledging of the debtor's person, which, in a rude state of society, is regarded as the safest and the most natural security (see the marginal reference). In the present case it would seem that, so long as the debtor lived, the creditor had not enforced his right over his sons, but now on his death he claimed their services, to which he was by law entitled.
on 2-kings 4 :1