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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 25

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-34

Sabbatical and jubilee years (25:1-34)

When the Israelites conquered Canaan and divided it among their tribes and families, they were not to be selfish or greedy in their use of the land. Just as people and their working animals were to rest one day in seven, so the land was to rest one year in seven. The lack of cultivation during this seventh or sabbatical year gave people the opportunity to recognize in a special way that God was the rightful owner of the land. At the same time it gave the land the opportunity to renew its powers of reproduction (25:1-7; cf. Exodus 23:10-11).

After seven lots of seven years there was an additional sabbath year called the jubilee, or fiftieth year (GNB: the Year of Restoration). In this year all land that had been sold or otherwise changed hands during the previous fifty years returned to the original owner. This helped maintain the fairness of the original distribution of the land. It prevented the poor from losing their family property permanently, and prevented the rich from gaining control of the whole land (8-12).
In view of the return of all land to the original owner in the fiftieth year, the sale price had to be reduced from its original value, so that it was proportionate to the number of years that remained till the fiftieth year. People were to be honest in their buying and selling of land, and not cheat each other (13-17).

People had no reason to fear a shortage of food during the sabbatical and jubilee years. Whatever grew of itself during the ‘rest’ years was sufficient for the poor and for the flocks and herds (see v. 6,7,12; Exodus 23:10-11). In addition God would bless every sixth year with double, and the forty-eighth year with triple, the normal produce. This would ensure enough food throughout the sabbatical and jubilee years (18-22). The people were not to act as if they owned the land and could do as they liked with it. God was the owner; they were merely tenants (23-24).

If people needed money they could sell their land, but as soon as possible either they or a close relative had to buy it back (redeem it). The price again depended on how many years remained till the next jubilee, when normally they would receive all their land back free (25-28).
These laws for the return of land in the year of jubilee applied to all land in the country regions, such as farm and pastoral land, country villages, and districts where the Levites lived and kept their flocks. The only place where they did not apply was in the walled cities, where houses were close together and occupied very little land. The interests of such people were usually commercial and had nothing to do with the cultivation of the land and its ‘rest’ years (29-34; cf. v. 15-16).

Verses 35-55

Sympathetic treatment of others (25:35-55)

Because all Israel existed in a special relation to God, Israelites were not to take advantage of each other. They could lend money to those in need, but were not to charge interest (35-38). They could give employment to those who wished to work for them to repay debts, but they could not make such people permanent slaves as they could foreigners (39-46).
When Israelites sold themselves as slaves to resident foreigners to repay debts, their relatives had to make every effort to buy them back. They were to do so fairly by paying the equivalent of a labourer’s wages for the period from the day of the transaction to the year of jubilee, when normally slaves would be released. Masters were to consider their slaves’ well-being and not treat them harshly (47-55).

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on Leviticus 25". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/leviticus-25.html. 2005.
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