17. Aristocracy, and the way of living under it, is the best constitution: and may you never have any inclination to any other form of government; and may you always love that form, and have the laws for your governors, and govern all your actions according to them; for you need no supreme governor but God. But if you shall desire a king, let him be one of your own nation; let him be always careful of justice and other virtues perpetually; let him submit to the laws, and esteem God's commands to be his highest wisdom; but let him do nothing without the high priest and the votes of the senators: let him not have a great number of wives, nor pursue after abundance of riches, nor a multitude of horses, whereby he may grow too proud to submit to the laws. And if he affect any such things, let him be restrained, lest he become so potent that his state be inconsistent with your welfare.
18. Let it not be esteemed lawful to remove boundaries, neither our own, nor of those with whom we are at peace. Have a care you do not take those landmarks away which are, as it were, a divine and unshaken limitation of rights made by God himself, to last for ever; since this going beyond limits, and gaining ground upon others, is the occasion of wars and seditions; for those that remove boundaries are not far off an attempt to subvert the laws.
19. He that plants a piece of land, the trees of which produce fruits before the fourth year, is not to bring thence any first-fruits to God, nor is he to make use of that fruit himself, for it is not produced in its proper season; for when nature has a force put upon her at an unseasonable time, the fruit is not proper for God, nor for the master's use; but let the owner gather all that is grown on the fourth year, for then it is in its proper season. And let him that has gathered it carry it to the holy city, and spend that, together with the tithe of his other fruits, in feasting with his friends, with the orphans, and the widows. But on the fifth year the fruit is his own, and he may use it as he pleases.
20. You are not to sow with seed a piece of land which is planted with vines, for it is enough that it supply nourishment to that plant, and be not harassed by ploughing also. You are to plough your land with oxen, and not to oblige other animals to come under the same yoke with them; but to till your land with those beasts that are of the same kind with each other. The seeds are also to be pure, and without mixture, and not to be compounded of two or three sorts, since nature does not rejoice in the union of things that are not in their own nature alike; nor are you to permit beasts of different kinds to gender together, for there is reason to fear that this unnatural abuse may extend from beasts of different kinds to men, though it takes its first rise from evil practices about such smaller things. Nor is any thing to be allowed, by imitation whereof any degree of subversion may creep into the constitution. Nor do the laws neglect small matters, but provide that even those may be managed after an unblamable manner.
21. Let not those that reap, and gather in the corn that is reaped, gather in the gleanings also; but let them rather leave some handfuls for those that are in want of the necessaries of life, that it may be a support and a supply to them, in order to their subsistence. In like manner when they gather their grapes, let them leave some smaller bunches for the poor, and let them pass over some of the fruits of the olive-trees, when they gather them, and leave them to be partaken of by those that have none of their own; for the advantage arising from the exact collection of all, will not be so considerable to the owners as will arise from the gratitude of the poor. And God will provide that the land shall more willingly produce what shall be for the nourishment of its fruits, in case you do not merely take care of your own advantage, but have regard to the support of others also. Nor are you to muzzle the mouths of the oxen when they tread the ears of corn in the thrashing-floor; for it is not just to restrain our fellow-laboring animals, and those that work in order to its production, of this fruit of their labors. Nor are you to prohibit those that pass by at the time when your fruits are ripe to touch them, but to give them leave to fill themselves full of what you have; and this whether they be of your own country or strangers,—as being glad of the opportunity of giving them some part of your fruits when they are ripe; but let it not be esteemed lawful for them to carry any away. Nor let those that gather the grapes, and carry them to the wine-presses, restrain those whom they meet from eating of them; for it is unjust, out of envy, to hinder those that desire it, to partake of the good things that come into the world according to God's will, and this while the season is at the height, and is hastening away as it pleases God. Nay, if some, out of bashfulness, are unwilling to touch these fruits, let them be encouraged to take of them [I mean, those that are Israelites] as if they were themselves the owners and lords, on account of the kindred there is between them. Nay, let them desire men that come from other countries, to partake of these tokens of friendship which God has given in their proper season; for that is not to be deemed as idly spent, which any one out of kindness communicates to another, since God bestows plenty of good things on men, not only for themselves to reap the advantage, but also to give to others in a way of generosity; and he is desirous, by this means, to make known to others his peculiar kindness to the people of Israel, and how freely he communicates happiness to them, while they abundantly communicate out of their great superfluities to even these foreigners also. But for him that acts contrary to this law, let him be beaten with forty stripes save one 22 by the public executioner; let him undergo this punishment, which is a most ignominious one for a free-man, and this because he was such a slave to gain as to lay a blot upon his dignity; for it is proper for you who have had the experience of the afflictions in Egypt, and of those in the wilderness, to make provision for those that are in the like circumstances; and while you have now obtained plenty yourselves, through the mercy and providence of God, to distribute of the same plenty, by the like sympathy, to such as stand in need of it.
22. Besides those two tithes, which I have already said you are to pay every year, the one for the Levites, the other for the festivals, you are to bring every third year a third tithe to be distributed to those that want;to women also that are widows, and to children that are orphans. But as to the ripe fruits, let them carry that which is ripe first of all into the temple; and when they have blessed God for that land which bare them, and which he had given them for a possession, when they have also offered those sacrifices which the law has commanded them to bring, let them give the first-fruits to the priests. But when any one hath done this, and hath brought the tithe of all that he hath, together with those first-fruits that are for the Levites, and for the festivals, and when he is about to go home, let him stand before the holy house, and return thanks to God, that he hath delivered them from the injurious treatment they had in Egypt, and hath given them a good land, and a large, and lets them enjoy the fruits thereof; and when he hath openly testified that he hath fully paid the tithes [and other dues] according to the laws of Moses, let him entreat God that he will be ever merciful and gracious to him, and continue so to be to all the Hebrews, both by preserving the good things which he hath already given them, and by adding what it is still in his power to bestow upon them.
23. Let the Hebrews marry, at the age fit for it, virgins that are free, and born of good parents. And he that does not marry a virgin, let him not corrupt another man's wife, and marry her, nor grieve her former husband. Nor let free men marry slaves, although their affections should strongly bias any of them so to do; for it is decent, and for the dignity of the persons themselves, to govern those their affections. And further, no one ought to marry a harlot, whose matrimonial oblations, arising from the prostitution of her body, God will not receive; for by these means the dispositions of the children will be liberal and virtuous; I mean, when they are not born of base parents, and of the lustful conjunction of such as marry women that are not free. If any one has been espoused to a woman as to a virgin, and does not afterward find her so to be, let him bring his action, and accuse her, and let him make use of such indications 24 to prove his accusation as he is furnished withal; and let the father or the brother of the damsel, or some one that is after them nearest of kin to her, defend her If the damsel obtain a sentence in her favor, that she had not been guilty, let her live with her husband that accused her; and let him not have any further power at all to put her away, unless she give him very great occasions of suspicion, and such as can be no way contradicted. But for him that brings an accusation and calumny against his wife in an impudent and rash manner, let him be punished by receiving forty stripes save one, and let him pay fifty shekels to her father: but if the damsel be convicted, as having been corrupted, and is one of the common people, let her be stoned, because she did not preserve her virginity till she were lawfully married; but if she were the daughter of a priest, let her be burnt alive. If any one has two wives, and if he greatly respect and be kind to one of them, either out of his affection to her, or for her beauty, or for some other reason, while the other is of less esteem with him; and if the son of her that is beloved be the younger by birth than another born of the other wife, but endeavors to obtain the right of primogeniture from his father's kindness to his mother, and would thereby obtain a double portion of his father's substance, for that double portion is what I have allotted him in the laws,—let not this be permitted; for it is unjust that he who is the elder by birth should be deprived of what is due to him, on the father's disposition of his estate, because his mother was not equally regarded by him. He that hath corrupted a damsel espoused to another man, in case he had her consent, let both him and her be put to death, for they are both equally guilty; the man, because he persuaded the woman willingly to submit to a most impure action, and to prefer it to lawful wedlock; the woman, because she was persuaded to yield herself to be corrupted, either for pleasure or for gain. However, if a man light on a woman when she is alone, and forces her, where nobody was present to come to her assistance, let him only be put to death. Let him that hath corrupted a virgin not yet espoused marry her; but if the father of the damsel be not willing that she should be his wife, let him pay fifty shekels as the price of her prostitution. He that desires to be divorced from his wife for any cause whatsoever, [and many such causes happen among men,] let him in writing give assurance that he will never use her as his wife any more; for by this means she may be at liberty to marry another husband, although before this bill of divorce be given, she is not to be permitted so to do: but if she be misused by him also, or if, when he is dead, her first husband would marry her again, it shall not be lawful for her to return to him. If a woman's husband die, and leave her without children, let his brother marry her, and let him call the son that is born to him by his brother's name, and educate him as the heir of his inheritance, for this procedure will be for the benefit of the public, because thereby families will not fail, and the estate will continue among the kindred; and this will be for the solace of wives under their affliction, that they are to be married to the next relation of their former husbands. But if the brother will not marry her, let the woman come before the senate, and protest openly that this brother will not admit her for his wife, but will injure the memory of his deceased brother, while she is willing to continue in the family, and to hear him children. And when the senate have inquired of him for what reason it is that he is averse to this marriage, whether he gives a bad or a good reason, the matter must come to this issue, That the woman shall loose the sandals of the brother, and shall spit in his face, and say, He deserves this reproachful treatment from her, as having injured the memory of the deceased. And then let him go away out of the senate, and bear this reproach upon him all his life long; and let her marry to whom she pleases, of such as seek her in marriage. But now, if any man take captive, either a virgin, or one that hath been married, 26 and has a mind to marry her, let him not be allowed to bring her to bed to him, or to live with her as his wife, before she hath her head shaven, and hath put on her mourning habit, and lamented her relations and friends that were slain in the battle, that by this means she may give vent to her sorrow for them, and after that may betake herself to feasting and matrimony; for it is good for him that takes a woman, in order to have children by her, to be complaisant to her inclinations, and not merely to pursue his own pleasure, while he hath no regard to what is agreeable to her. But when thirty days are past, as the time of mourning, for so many are sufficient to prudent persons for lamenting the dearest friends, then let them proceed to the marriage; but in case when he hath satisfied his lust, he be too proud to retain her for his wife, let him not have it in his power to make her a slave, but let her go away whither she pleases, and have that privilege of a free woman.
24. As to those young men that despise their parents, and do not pay them honor, but offer them affronts, either because they are ashamed of them or think themselves wiser than they,—in the first place, let their parents admonish them in words, [for they are by nature of authority sufficient for becoming their judges,] and let them say thus to them:—That they cohabited together, not for the sake of pleasure, nor for the augmentation of their riches, by joining both their stocks together, but that they might have children to take care of them in their old age, and might by them have what they then should want. And say further to him, "That when thou wast born, we took thee up with gladness, and gave God the greatest thanks for thee, and brought time up with great care, and spared for nothing that appeared useful for thy preservation, and for thy instruction in what was most excellent. And now, since it is reasonable to forgive the sins of those that are young, let it suffice thee to have given so many indications Of thy contempt of us; reform thyself, and act more wisely for the time to come; considering that God is displeased with those that are insolent towards their parents, because he is himself the Father of the whole race of mankind, and seems to bear part of that dishonor which falls upon those that have the same name, when they do not meet with dire returns from their children. And on such the law inflicts inexorable punishment; of which punishment mayst thou never have the experience." Now if the insolence of young men be thus cured, let them escape the reproach which their former errors deserved; for by this means the lawgiver will appear to be good, and parents happy, while they never behold either a son or a daughter brought to punishment. But if it happen that these words and instructions, conveyed by them in order to reclaim the man, appear to be useless, then the offender renders the laws implacable enemies to the insolence he has offered his parents; let him therefore be brought forthby these very parents out of the city, with a multitude following him, and there let him be stoned; and when he has continued there for one whole day, that all the people may see him, let him be buried in the night. And thus it is that we bury all whom the laws condemn to die, upon any account whatsoever. Let our enemies that fall in battle be also buried; nor let any one dead body lie above the ground, or suffer a punishment beyond what justice requires.
25. Let no one lend to any one of the Hebrews upon usury, neither usury of what is eaten or what is drunken, for it is not just to make advantage of the misfortunes of one of thy own countrymen; but when thou hast been assistant to his necessities, think it thy gain if thou obtainest their gratitude to thee; and withal that reward which will come to thee from God, for thy humanity towards him.
26. Those who have borrowed either silver or any sort of fruits, whether dry or wet, [I mean this, when the Jewish affairs shall, by the blessing of God, be to their own mind,] let the borrowers bring them again, and restore them with pleasure to those who lent them, laying them up, as it were, in their own treasuries, and justly expecting to receive them thence, if they shall want them again. But if they be without shame, and do not restore it, let not the lender go to the borrower's house, and take a pledge himself, before judgment be given concerning it; but let him require the pledge, and let the debtor bring it of himself, without the least opposition to him that comes upon him under the protection of the law. And if he that gave the pledge be rich, let the creditor retain it till what he lent be paid him again; but if he be poor, let him that takes it return it before the going down of the sun, especially if the pledge be a garment, that the debtor may have it for a covering in his sleep, God himself naturally showing mercy to the poor. It is also not lawful to take a millstone, nor any utensil thereto belonging, for a pledge, that the debtor, may not be deprived of instruments to get their food withal, and lest they be undone by their necessity.
27. Let death be the punishment for stealing a man; but he that hath purloined gold or silver, let him pay double. If any one kill a man that is stealing something out of his house, let him be esteemed guiltless, although the man were only breaking in at the wall. Let him that hath stolen cattle pay fourfold what is lost, excepting the case of an ox, for which let the thief pay fivefold. Let him that is so poor that he cannot pay what mulet is laid upon him, be his servant to whom he was adjudged to pay it.
28. If any one be sold to one of his own nation, let him serve him six years, and on the seventh let him go free. But if he have a son by a woman servant in his purchaser's house, and if, on account of his good-will to his master, and his natural affection to his wife and children, he will be his servant still, let him be set free only at the coming of the year of jubilee, which is the fiftieth year, and let him then take away with him his children and wife, and let them be free also.
29. If any one find gold or silver on the road, let him inquire after him that lost it, and make proclamation of the place where he found it, and then restore it to him again, as not thinking it right to make his own profit by the loss of another. And the same rule is to be observed in cattle found to have wandered away into a lonely place. If the owner be not presently discovered, let him that is the finder keep it with himself, and appeal to God that he has not purloined what belongs to another.
30. It is not lawful to pass by any beast that is in distress, when in a storm it is fallen down in the mire, but to endeavor to preserve it, as having a sympathy with it in its pain.
31. It is also a duty to show the roads to those who do not know them, and not to esteem it a matter for sport, when we hinder others' advantages, by setting them in a wrong way.
32. In like manner, let no one revile a person blind or dumb.