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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 25

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7


Verses 1-7:

The requirements of the Law are a reminder of the essential character of faith, Heb 11:6. This is emphasized in the Sabbath of the land. Just as one day in seven was to be set aside for man as holy to the Lord, so one year in seven was to be set aside for the land as holy to the Lord. Six years Israel could sow and reap, prune and harvest. But the seventh year was the Sabbath year for the land. Nothing was to be harvested, not even that which grew of itself. This law was to be strictly observed throughout the Land, by all. This included the landowners, their slaves, their hired servants, and the foreigners who lived among them.

The Sabbath year began on Tisri 1, the first day of the civil year. This was just after the harvest, and before the autumn sowing. It was to continue for a full year, until Tisri 1 of the following year. There were several purposes for this law:

1. For the benefit of the land, that it might not be overworked and suffer erosion and depletion due to continual planting.

2. For the benefit of the people, to teach the lessons of:

(1) Thrift and wise provision for future needs. There were six years in which to prepare for this time; the wise farmer would set aside in store from his harvest for the sabbbatical year, see Pr 6:6-11.

(2) Mercy: there was to be a release of debts, De 15:1-11.

(3) Faith: there was a need to trust God to provide enough the sixth year to sustain for two years; this was a constant reminder of God’s trustworthiness.

(4) Study: this was to be a time of public reading of the Law, as a year-long study of the Word of God, De 31:10-13. The sabbath year was not to be spent in idleness; the leisure time was to be spent in praise and meditation on God’s Word.

The sabbatical year requirement illustrates a principle applicable today: that leisure time can best be spent in meditation and praise.

Israel, as a nation, virtually ignored this sabbatical year statute, for almost five hundred years. However, God did not overlook their disobedience. Their violation of this statute was one reason for the Captivity. This is another reminder that man cannot ignore God’s laws, and expect to avoid the consequences, Ga 6:7-9.

History records that after the Jews returned from captivity, they religiously observed the sabbatical year, see "Antiquities" by Josephus; and the Apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees.

Verses 8-17

Verses 8-17:

One of Israel’s most important religious festivals was the Jubilee Year. This occurred the year following the seventh cycle of the sabbatical year.

"Jubilee," yobel, "time of shouting," every 50th year. It was announced by the blowing of a trumpet (shophar), verse 9.

The Year of Jubilee began on the tenth day of the seventh month, the day of Yom Kippur (Le 16).

There were two purposes of the Jubilee Year.

I. To proclaim liberty unto the inhabitants of the Land; and

2. To return every man unto his possession.

The Land belonged to Jehovah; the people of Israel were but tenants. They might maintain undisputed possession of a parcel of land for many years, but at the fiftieth year, it reverted to the one to whom Jehovah had assigned it, or to his representative. An Israelite might sell the parcel that was his inheritance, but the transaction must be with that understanding. The purchase price was reckoned by computing the value of the harvests until the next Jubilee Year. This was another effective provision for preserving the integrity of the family unit.

No Israelite might "oppress" his fellow-citizen by demanding more than the just price of land in view of the Jubilee Year.

Twice each century Israel was required to demonstrate a remarkable degree of faith. The Jubilee year occurred the year following the sabbatical year. This meant that the land must lie fallow for two years in succession, rather than one. The Israelite must trust in God to provide for both these years.

The Jubilee Year may portray that time in Earth’s history when Jesus will return and rule over all the Earth for one thousand years, Re 10:4, 6. This will be a time of restoration for this Planet, when man shall be restored his rightful inheritance and will have dominion over Earth, as God intended, Ge 1:26, 27; Isa 2:1-5; 11:1-9; 65:17-25.

Verses 18-22

Verses 18-22:

The conditions for Israel’s security in her land did not lie in the strength of her armies or the sophistication of her weapons. The secret of her prosperity did not lie in their farming techniques nor their business acumen. These things were contingent upon one thing and one only: obedience to the statutes of Jehovah, Jer 9:23, 24; Pr 3:7-10; 16:7. As Israel obeyed Jehovah’s laws, He obligated Himself to be their Protector and Provider.

This was evident in God’s promise regarding the sabbatical year, and the Jubilee Year. If Israel would observe the commandments regarding these times, God obligated Himself to provide enough the sixth year for that year, for the seventh year, and until the harvest of the eighth year. And in the Jubilee Year, there would be enough for the extra year they would not work their fields.

This principle holds true today. God is under obligation to protect and to provide for those who honor His Word, 2Ti 1:15; Ps 84:11; 34:7; Mt 6:33.

Verses 23-24

Verses 23, 24:

There were certain advantages to the sabbatical year and the Jubilee Year principle. One of these was that it would do much to correct abuses arising from slavery. All slaves were to be set free periodically under the sabbatical provisions.

Another advantage was that it would curb the greed of those who would accumulate large land-holdings. The land returned to its ancestral tenants each Jubilee Year.

The most important feature of this provision, however, was that it emphasized the proprietorship of God and the stewardship of man. The Land belonged to God. He allocated it to His people according to His own will, under the administration of Joshua. The Jubilee provision that title to the land should revert to the original grantees was a constant reminder that the people were tenants, not owners, and were dependent upon Jehovah for their livelihood. This principle applies today. God is still the owner of all, Ac 17:28; Ps 24:1. Man is but a steward, and will one day give account of his stewardship over God’s property, 2Co 5:10; Php 2:5-11.

Verses 25-28

Verses 25-28:

No land could be sold permanently. An Israelite might be forced by adversity to sell his land. But he had the right to redeem it at any time, either personally or through a near kinsman. If he exercised that right, he must refund the over-payment or the harvest value to the buyer. If he did not exercise redemption rights, the land reverted to him in the Jubilee Year.

If a man were forced to sell his land, he must first offer it to his near kinsman, see Jer 32:7, 8.

The Book of Ruth is an example of the kinsman redeemer. This provision is a picture of Jesus, man’s Kinsman Redeemer, who paid the price to redeem and restore his forfeited inheritance, 1Pe 1:18; Ga 3:13; 4;4, 5.

Verses 29-31

Verses 29-31:

A dwelling house in a walled city did not come under the provisions of the Jubilee Year. One who sold such a house had one year in which to redeem it. If he did not exercise that right within the year, the house passed permanently to the estate of the buyer.

A dwelling house in an unwalled village fell under the provisions of the Jubilee Year. It reverted to the original owner just as did the land.

Verses 32-34

Verses 32-34:

The law provided an exception to the provision for disposition of houses in a walled city, in the case of the tribe of Levi. In the territorial assignment of Israel’s tribes, the tribe of Levi was not assigned a geographical allotment; they were assigned forty-eight cities throughout the territories of the other tribes, Nu 35:2-8; Jos 14:3, 4; 21:1-42. Included in this assignment was the cities’ "suburbs," migrash, "places for driving out cattle."

The Levitical cities were treated in the law of redemption as was the territorial grants of the other tribes in Israel. This meant that houses in the walled cities could be redeemed, in the same manner as the fields of their brethren.

The land which belonged to the Levites consisted of a limited acreage surrounding their cities, which provided pasturage for their livestock. This land could be sold, but only to other Levites.

Verses 35-38

Verses 35-38:

Israel was commanded to relieve the poverty of their brethren who might become destitute. This was designed to prevent their being sold into slavery. It made no difference if the impoverished Israeli was an acquaintance or a stranger, the treatment was to be the same in either case.

None might charge interest on any money loaned or given to the poor Israelite. And he could not avoid this provision by requiring repayment of more food than was loaned or given.

"Usury," neshek, "biting, to exact, to lend upon usury." The modern definition of usury is "the practice of lending money at a rate higher than the lawful rate; exorbitant interest paid on borrowed money." However, the term originally denoted any interest charged on borrowed money.

The prohibition of usury applied only to an impoverished brother Israelite. It did not apply to lending money at interest to a foreigner, or to the wealthy, De 23:19, 20; Isa 24:2.

Verses 39-46

Verses 39-46:

Slavery was permitted but regulated under the provisions of the Law. The Israelites might buy and sell slaves from among the original inhabitants of their Land, and by implication from any foreign nation. However, no Israelite might buy a fellow-Israeli as a slave. In the event an Israelite became destitute to the point of slavery, he might become a hired servant to a fellow Israelite. However, all obligations were remitted during the Jubilee Year.

The reason for this provision: all Israelites were servants (slaves) to Jehovah. He had bought them from Egypt, and they belonged to Him. Thus they could not belong to another so long as He was their rightful Owner.

In the same manner, Christians today belong to God. He has bought them with the blood of His Son, and indwells them in the Person of His Holy Spirit, 1Co 6:19, 20; 1Pe 1:18; Ga 3:13.

"Rigor," perek, harsh and unjust treatment. No such treatment could be imposed upon an Israeli who had become a servant. This principle applies to the treatment of Christians today by their brethren, Ro 12:10; 13:10.

Verses 47-55

Verses 47-55:

This law made provision for the case of an Israelite who sold himself as a slave to a non-Israelite living in the Land. He would not be set free on the seventh year, as would be the case if an Israelite were his master. However, in all other respects he was to be treated as if the servant of an Israelite.

The near kinsman might redeem him by payment of the value of his work to the Jubilee Year. Or, he might redeem himself if he could acquire the money. However, he must be set free in the Jubilee Year.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Leviticus 25". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/leviticus-25.html. 1985.
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