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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 25

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying, No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 2-4

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.

When ye come into the land which I give you. It has been questioned on what year, after the occupation of Canaan, the Sabbatic year began to be observed. Some think it was the seventh year after their entrance. But others, considering that as the first six years were spent in the conquest and division of the land (Joshua 5:12), and that the Sabbatical year was to be observed after six years of agriculture, maintain that the observance did not commence until the fourteenth year.

The land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. It commenced immediately after the feast of ingathering. This was a very special arrangement. The command to give rest to the land every seventh year, when the extent of country was so disproportionate to its population, must appear exceedingly strange to those who have not duly considered it. The generality of people would account for it perhaps from its being conducive to the good of the land, which would be too much exhausted if it were not permitted occasionally to lie fallow. But this could not be the reason; because then a seventh part of the land would most probably have been fallow every year, and not the whole at once.

Moreover, it would not have been suffered to produce anything which would tend to counteract the main design; whereas all the seed that had been accidentally scattered on it during the harvest was suffered to grow up to maturity. Nor can the idea of being fallow be applied with any propriety to the oliveyards and vineyards, which, though not trimmed and pruned that year, were suffered to bring all their fruit to maturity.

Some other and deeper reasons, then, because this appointment must be sought for. Not only all agricultural processes were to be intermitted every seventh year, but the cultivators had no right to the soil. It lay entirely fallow, and its spontaneous produce was the common property of the poor and the stranger, the cattle and game. This year of rest was doubtless to invigorate the productive powers of the land, as the weekly Sabbath was a refreshment to people and cattle. But it was calculated to teach the people, in a remarkable manner, the reality of the presence and providential power of God, and to train them to habits of trust and confidence in Him.

Verses 5-7

That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land. No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

Thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years. This most extraordinary of all civil institutions, which received the name of [ showpaar (H7782)] "Jubilee" from a Hebrew word signifying a musical instrument, a horn or trumpet, began on the tenth day of the seventh month, or the great day of atonement, when, by order of the public authorities, the sound of trumpets proclaimed the beginning of the universal redemption. All prisoners and captives obtained their liberties, slaves were declared free, and debtors were absolved. The land, as on the Sabbatic year, was neither sowed nor reaped, but allowed to enjoy with its inhabitants a Sabbath of repose; and its natural produce was the common property of all. Moreover, every inheritance throughout the land of Judea was restored to its ancient owner.

Verse 9

Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 10

And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

Hallow the fiftieth year. Much difference of opinion exists as to whether the jubilee was observed on the 49th year, or in round numbers it is called the 50th. The prevailing opinion, both in ancient and modern times, has been in favour of the latter.

Verse 11

A jubile 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 12

For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.

Ye shall eat the increase thereof ... All that the ground yielded spontaneously during that period might be eaten for their necessary subsistence; but no persons were at liberty to hoard or form a private stock in reserve.

Verse 13

In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession.

Ye shall return ... Inheritances, from whatever cause, and how frequently soever they had been alienated, came back, free of all encumbrances, into the hands of the original proprietors or their heirs. This law of entail, by which the right heir could never be excluded, was a provision of great wisdom for preserving families and tribes perfectly distinct, and their genealogies faithfully recorded, in order that all might have evidence to establish their right to the ancestral property. Hence, the tribe and family of Christ were readily discovered at his birth. Of course this agrarian law constantly affected the sale or conveyance of property, because the amount of purchase-money given for land would depend on the longer or shorter tenure of the estate. The arrival of the jubilee annulled every contract that could bar the recovery of a patrimonial possession.

Verses 14-16

And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppress one another:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 17

Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.

Ye shall not ... oppress one another. This, which is the same as Leviticus 25:14, related to the sale or purchase of possessions, and the duty of paying an honest and equitable regard, on both sides, to the limited period during which the bargain could stand. The object of the legislator was, as far as possible, to maintain the original order of families, and an equality of condition among the people.

Verses 18-20

Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 21-22

Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.

I will command my blessing ... A provision was made, by the special interposition of God, to supply the deficiency of food which would otherwise have resulted from the suspension of all labour during the Sabbatic year. The sixth year was to yield a miraculous supply for three continuous years. And the remark is applicable to the year of Jubilee as well as the Sabbatic year. (See allusions to this extraordinary provision in 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 37:30.) None but a legislator who was conscious of acting under divine authority would have staked his character on so singular an enactment as that of the Sabbatic year; and none but a people who had witnessed the fulfillment of the divine promise would have been induced to suspend their agricultural preparations on a recurrence of a periodical Jubilee.

Verses 23-28

The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.

The land shall not be sold for ever - or, 'be quite cut off,' as the margin better renders it. The land was God's, who had dispossessed the former inhabitants, and, in prosecution of an important design, gave it to the people of His choice, dividing it among their tribes and families. They, however, held it of Him merely as tenants at will, and had no right or power of disposing of it to strangers. In necessitous circumstances individuals might effect a temporary sale. But they possessed the right of redeeming it, at any time, on payment of an adequate compensation to the present holder and by the enactments of the Jubilee they recovered it free-so that the land was rendered inalienable. (See an exception to this law, Leviticus 27:20).

Verses 29-31

And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it.

If a man sell a dwelling house. All sales of houses were subject to the same condition. But there was a difference between the houses in villages, which, being connected with agriculture, were treated as parts of the land, and houses possessed by trading people or foreigners in walled towns, which could only be redeemed within the year after the sale; if not then redeemed, these did not revert to the former owner at the Jubilee. 'This circumstance,' says Graves, 'must have given property in the country a decided preference above property in cities, and have tended to induce every Jew to reside on and improve his land, and employ his time in the care of flocks and agriculture; which, as they had been the occupation of those revered patriarchs from whom the Jews descended, were with them the most honourable of all employments.'

Verses 32-34

Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time.

Notwithstanding the cities ... The Levites, having no possessions but their towns and their houses, the law conferred on them the same privileges that were granted to the lands of the other Israelites. A certain portion of the lands surrounding the Levitical cities was appropriated to them for the pasturage of their cattle and flocks (Numbers 35:4-5). This was a permanent endowment for the support of the ministry, and could not be alienated for any time. The Levites, however, were at liberty to make exchanges among themselves; and a priest might sell his house, garden, and right of pasture to another priest, but not to an Israelite of another tribe (Jeremiah 31:7-9).

Verses 35-38

And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.

If thy brother be waxen poor ... relieve him. This was a most benevolent provision for the poor and unfortunate, designed to aid them or alleviate the evils of their condition. Whether a native Israelite or a mere sojourner, his richer neighbour was required to give him food, lodging, and a supply of money without usury. The latter was severely condemned (Psalms 15:5; Ezekiel 18:8; Ezekiel 18:17); but the prohibition cannot be considered as applicable to the modern practice of men in business borrowing and lending at legal rates of interest.

Verses 39-46

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 bondservant:

If thy brother ... be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, [ 'aachiykaa (H251) `imaak (H5973), thy neighbour]. An Israelite might be compelled, through misfortune, not only to mortgage his inheritance, but himself [ wªnimkar (H4376)] - not, be sold but sell himself (cf. 2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:6; Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 58:6; Jeremiah 34:8-11; Amos 2:6; Amos 8:6). The law did not empower a creditor to sell an insolvent debtor; the practice crept in through the lapse of years; and the wife and children (Matthew 18:25), nay, even the family of a deceased debtor, were liable to be sold, as those mentioned in 2 Kings 4:1. This practice was severely condemned by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:5). Michaelis affirms that the Jewish Rabbis declared against the legality of such sales, except in the case of a thief; and he is of opinion that they were unknown in our Lord's day, the allusion in the parable of the unforgiving servant being borrowed from the usage of neighbouring nations.

In the event of his being reduced to this distress; he was to be treated, not as a slave, but a hired servant and a citizen, whose engagement was temporary, and who might, through the friendly aid of a relative, be redeemed at any time before the Jubilee (Leviticus 25:47-52). The ransom money was determined on a most equitable principle. Taking account of the number of years from the proposal to redeem and the Jubilee, of the current wages of labour for that time, and multiplying the remaining years by that sum, the amount was to be paid to the master for his redemption. But if no such friendly interposition was made for a Hebrew slave, he continued in servitude until the year of Jubilee, when, as a matter of course, he regained his liberty, as well as his inheritance.

Viewed in the various aspects in which it is presented in this chapter, the Jubilee was an admirable institution, and subservient in an eminent degree to uphold the interests of religion, social order, and freedom among the Israelites. (See on the Jubilee; Godwyn's 'Moses and Aaron,' lib. 3:, ch. 10:; Jahn's 'Bib. Archaeol.,' sec. 351; Graves' 'Lectures on the Pent.,' vol 2:, p. 10; 'Jew. Repos.,' vol 3:, p. 143; Michaelis, vol. 3:, pp. 58-60; Saalschutz, 'Das Mos. Recht,' pp. 702-708.)

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Leviticus 25". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/leviticus-25.html. 1871-8.
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