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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 25

 

 

Verses 1-55


The Sabbatical Year. The Year of Jubilee

The matters treated in this chapter are closely related to those in Leviticus 23, and their separation is another indication that we are dealing with a book made up of different elements. Observe again the change of number in Leviticus 25:14, Leviticus 25:17 and the interruption caused by Leviticus 25:18-22. Cp. what is said above in intro. to Leviticus 21.

1-7. The law of the Sabbatical Year: see also Exodus 23:10-11; Deuteronomy 15:1-11; Deuteronomy 31:9-13. This law rests on the principle that the land inhabited by the Israelites is not theirs in absolute possession. It really belongs to God; 'the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me' (Leviticus 25:23). To keep the people in mind of this, it is enacted that every seventh year the land has to lie fallow. Only the spontaneous produce of that year is to be enjoyed, and that not selfishly or for profit; it is to be shared with the poor and strangers (Exodus 23:11). Everything is to be common. Slaves are to be set free if they desire their freedom (Exodus 21:2-6), and debts are to be remitted to Israelites (Deuteronomy 15:1-3;). It is promised that the harvest of the sixth year will be sufficiently abundant to provide for the wants of the people till they reap again (Leviticus 25:20-22). The Sabbatical Year began with the first day of Tishri: see on Leviticus 23:28. How far these enactments were actually carried out it is difficult to say. There is no mention of their observance during preexilic times, so that they may have been allowed to become a dead letter, a supposition confirmed by what is said in 2 Chronicles 36:21. They were renewed under Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:31;).

5. This v. is interesting as containing the only example of the word 'its' in AV Elsewhere the word 'his' is used as the possessive of the neuter pronoun. In the AV of 1611 it is printed 'it'; 'that which groweth of it owne accorde.'

Year of rest unto the land] As customs similar to this are found in other countries, it is probable that it is a survival of a communistic age. At the same time, it was a benefit to the land. Thus we have another example here of the Lawgiver adopting a primitive custom and investing it with the sanctity of religion. Cp. what is said in intro. to Leviticus 11-15, and see also Intro, to Exodus.

8-55. The Year of Jubilee. Thisrestsonthe same principle as the Sabbatical Year: see above. In the fiftieth year, i.e. after a period of 7 × 7 years, the land is to lie fallow, and Hebrew slaves with their families are to be emancipated without price, as in the Sabbatical Year (Leviticus 25:39-55). A new and distinctive feature, however, makes its appearance. In the Year of Jubilee all property reverts naturally to the original owner, who through poverty may have been obliged to sell it at some time during the previous period (Leviticus 25:13-28). The freehold of agricultural land could never, therefore, be sold in perpetuity (Leviticus 25:23), and in cases of sale the purchase price was regulated according to the number of years still to run till the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:14-16). The only exception was house property in a walled city (Leviticus 25:29.). The case of the Levitical cities is specially dealt with (Leviticus 25:32-34).

The Year of Jubilee was thus, as it were, the 'new birth' of the whole nation, when property was redistributed, and the inequalities arising in the previous period were removed. It was a remarkable social law, putting a check upon ambition and covetousness, preventing the acquisition of huge estates, and adjusting the distribution of wealth in the various classes of the community. The incidents of Ruth (Leviticus 4) and of Naboth (1 Kings 21) show that the law against the alienation of land was in force in early times: cp. Jeremiah 32:6. That it was not unnecessary in later times appears from such passages as Isaiah 5:8; Micah 2:2.

9. The Year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement, and was ushered in with the blowing of trumpets; hence its name (Heb. johel = a ram's horn trumpet).

23. Forever] RV 'in perpetuity.'

25. A kinsman could redeem his relative's property at any time at a price calculated according to the years still to elapse before the Jubilee.

26. And himself..] RV 'and he be waxen rich and find sufficient to redeem it.'

28. Restore it to him] RV 'get it back for himself.'

32. The Levites were granted forty-eight cities to dwell in, with suburbs for their cattle: see Numbers 35.

35-38. See on Exodus 22:25.

39-46. See on Exodus 21:1-6. Only foreigners could be bought as slaves for ever.

47-54. The converse case of a Hebrew sold to a foreigner.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Leviticus 25:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/leviticus-25.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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