LEVITICUS CHAPTER 25.
The Sabbath Years.
THE SEVENTH YEAR. - V.1. And the Lord spake unto Moses in Mount Sinai, while the children of Israel were still encamped in its vicinity, saying, v.2. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come in to the land which I give you, the certainty of this event being set forth time and again, then shall the land keep a Sabbath unto the Lord, the soil should be given periods of rest, in which the land should lie fallow. V.3. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; v.4. but in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land, a Sabbath for the Lord; thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. The earth was to be saved from the hand of man, lest its strength be exhausted for earthly purposes, and man was to be saved from the uninterrupted drudgery which tended to chain his thoughts to the soil and to the bitter labor in the sweat of his brow which was connected therewith. V.5. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest, the volunteer grain from the kernels that had dropped out at the last harvest, thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed, the grapes which grew in the vineyard without the attention of the husbandman; for it is a year of rest unto the land. V.6. And the Sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee and for thy servant and for thy maid, both male and female slaves being named, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee. So all the volunteer grain and the volunteer fruit was not to be harvested, but was to be eaten out of the field, as the need for food arose, this rule applying not only to men, but also to animals, both domestic and wild; v.7. and for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land shall all the increase thereof be meat, be used as food. The Sabbatical Pear was a civil year, which began after the harvest, in the late fall, for in the next fall, at the beginning of the eighth year, the cultivation of the land was resumed. God wanted to signify to the people of His covenant that He was well able to keep them, even without the labor of their hands, if they would strive to keep His covenant and he satisfied with His mercy.
THE YEAR OF JUBILEE. - V.8. And thou shalt number seven Sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. V.9. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, which formally opened this special Sabbatical Year; in the Day of Atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. After the solemn quiet of the day on which all the people afflicted their souls, and after the great rites of the annual propitiation had been completed, probably at the end of the evening sacrifices, the glad sounding of the trumpets proclaimed the Year of Jubilee. V.10. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. This proclamation of freedom from the toil and drudgery which came into the world as a consequence of sin was most fitting just after the great reconciliation of the people with the covenant God had been completed. Twice in every century two fallow years followed upon each other, and the land had an opportunity to recover its strength. It shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family, as the further ordinances prescribed. V.11. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you; ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed, as in the Sabbatical Year, v.4. V.12. For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy unto you; ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field, directly from the stalks, from the vine, from the trees, without harvesting or storing in granaries. V.13. In the year of this jubilee ye shall return every man unto his possession, to the land which had been in the possession of his family from the beginning. V.14. And if thou sell aught unto thy neighbor, or buyest aught of thy neighborís hand, ye shall not oppress one another, not overreach or practice fraud; v.15. according to the number of years after the jubilee thou shalt buy of thy neighbor, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee; v.16. according to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it; for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee. By this rule the price of the land was regulated according to the number of crops still remaining till the next Tear of Jubilee: if the buyer would get many crop, the prince was high; if the purchaser would get but a few crops until the land had to be restored to its original owner, the price was low. V.17. Ye shall not therefore oppress one another by overreaching contrary to this commandment; but thou shalt fear thy God; for I am the Lord, your God, whose punishment was sure to strike the offender. V.18. Wherefore ye shall do My statutes and keep My judgments, both the special precepts and those based upon the natural law of love, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety, securely, free from all care and worry. V.19. And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, not merely enough to sustain life, but a surplus, and dwell therein in safety. V.20. And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? Behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase. V.21. Then I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. The crop of the forty-eighth year would be sufficient for all their needs, not only during the forty-ninth, as a regular Sabbatical Tear, but also during the fiftieth, as the Jubilee Year, to the harvest of the fifty-first year, in fact. V.22. And ye shall sow the eighth year, at the time of the fall rains, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in, ye shall eat of the old store. V.23. The land shall not be sold forever, with a clear, absolute title to the purchaser; for the land is Mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me, the Lordís lessees in holding any real estate. No person could hold farm land absolutely, if he purchased it between years of jubilee, any purchase in reality being only a temporary lease for a number of years. V.24. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land; the seller was always to have the right of redeeming the land which he had sold, as shown in the regulations following to the end of the chapter. Christians mill also never lose sight of the fact that they are but strangers and pilgrims here on earth, that they hold their possessions only by the bounty of the Lord, and that their true home is above.
THE POOR AND FOR SLAVES. V.25. If thy
brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, land or
houses in the country, and if any of his
kin come to redeem it, the man upon whom this duty devolved, v.48, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold, buy it hack for
the former owner. V.26. And if the man, the
original owner, have none to redeem it,
and himself be able to redeem it, if he finds himself in a position that he
can buy back the land which he sold, v.27. then
let him count the years of the sale thereof, since the sale was made, and
restore the over-plus, whatever price had been paid for the crops still
remaining till the next Year of Jubilee, unto
the man to whom he sold it, that he may return unto his possession. V.28. But if he be not able to restore it to him, if he cannot raise the
money needed to regain possession of his land in this way, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought
it until the year of jubilee; and in the jubilee it shall go out, and he shall
return unto his possession, for the provision was that all leases, called
sales, should terminate in the Year of Jubilee. V.29. And
if a man sell a dwelling-house in a walled city, then he may redeem it, for
the purchase price, within a whole year
after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it. V.30. And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then
the house that is in the walled city shall be established forever to him that
bought it throughout his generations; it shall not go out in the Jubilee.
This was a distinct exception to the rule which applied to land in the open
country and in towns. V.31. But the
houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as
the fields of the country; they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the
Jubilee. V.32. Notwithstanding the
cities of the Levites and the houses of the cities of their possession may the
Levites redeem at any time. In their interest exceptions were always
permitted. V.33. And if a man purchase of
the Levites, then the house that was sold and the city of his possession,
that is, the house on its location in the city of the Levites, shall go out in the Year of Jubilee, be restored to the Levite, the
original owner, without cost to him; for
the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children
of Israel. V.34. But the field of the
suburbs of their cities, the open meadow-land surrounding their cities, used
for pasturing their cattle arid flocks, may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession, and community
property, at that. V.35. And if thy
brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, having failed entirely
in his business, then thou shalt relieve
him, - yea, though he be a stranger or a sojourner, - that he may live with
thee. Here provision is made for the second contingency, namely, that
connected with a manís having sold himself into bondage on account of poverty.
The paragraph is introduced with an admonition to help the poor brother who is
in need of financial assistance. V.36. Take thou no usury of him or increase, neither interest in the case
of money nor an added amount in the case of other necessaries of life; but
fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. V.37. Thou
shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
V.38. I am the Lord, your God, which
brought you forth out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to
be your God. Because the Land of Promise was to the Israelites a gift of
Godís merciful goodness, therefore they were not to forget kindness and mercy
in dealing with their poor brothers. V.39. And
if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor and be sold unto thee, thou
shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant, not treat him as a slave
nor have him perform the labor of a slave, v.40. but as an hired servant and as a sojourner, as a worker under
contract, he shall be with thee, and
shall serve thee unto the year of Jubilee; v.41. and then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him,
and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers
shall he return. This ordinance supplements Ex. 21, 2-6, for it would come
into effect both if the servant had not yet been with a master seven years, or
if lie had declared his willingness to remain with his master and had received
the mark of bondage in his ear. V.42. For
they are My servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt, they
were Godís peculiar property; they
shall not be sold as bondmen. V.43.
Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor, as over a true slave, but
shalt fear thy God. V.44. Both thy
bondmen and thy bond-
maids which thou shalt have shall be of the heathen that are round about you; these only could be kept in true slavery; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. V.45. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession, and could be kept arid treated as slaves. V.46. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen forever, this applying to heathen slaves of Hebrew masters only. But over your brethren, the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor. V.47. And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, the non-Israelite growing wealthy in the same proportion as the Israelite grew poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the strangerís family, that is, to the descendants of immigrants who were not citizen; V.48. after that he is sold, he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him, in order not to have the disgrace of being in bondage to an outsider resting upon him; v.49. either his uncle or his uncleís son may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, if he finds ways and means of raising the money, he may redeem himself. V.50. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the Year of Jubilee; and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him. The purchase price was to be divided by the number of years which he would have to serve till the next Tear of Jubilee, and the time which he had already served was to be valued in terms of a hired servant, this amount being subtracted from the entire sum. V.51. If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for, as much as his services would have been worth to his master until the Pear of Jubilee V.52. And if there remain but few years unto the Year of Jubilee, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption, in this case a relatively small sum. V.53. And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him, as such he should be regarded by his master; and the other shall not rule with rigor over him in thy sight, so that the people would become aware of it: for as soon as such treatment were known, the government was supposed to act. V.54. And if he be not redeemed in these gears, then he shall go out in the Year of Jubilee, both he and his children with him. V.55. For unto Me the children of Israel are servants; they are My servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God. Thus the Year of Jubilee became a year of freedom and of mercy to the entire people, but especially to the poor and oppressed, and a year of rest from toil and drudgery. In this respect, it was a type of the acceptable year of the Lord, in which the Gospel is being preached to the meek, in which the brokenhearted are being bound up, liberty is being proclaimed to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, this time being in itself a foretaste of the day when the sons of God will be received into the perfect and eternal liberty provided for them, Is. 61, 1-3; Luke 4, 17-21.