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Leviticus 25:4. The seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest. While the Hebrews continued faithful under the Theocracy of heaven, they were the happiest people in the world. A sabbatical year was a year of small labour only, that they might cultivate their minds instead of their lands.
Leviticus 25:10. Ye shall hallow the fiftieth year. The jubilee was certainly one of the happiest institutions ever imposed on civil society. The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fulness. No man has a right to alienate his land, and ruin his children. The jubilee saved Elimelech’s house from poverty and distress, Ruth 2:3.; and Naboth lost his life in efforts to preserve his inheritance. But alas, the gripe of avarice had, prior to the Captivity, almost superseded this divine institution; and after that time it totally ceased, being kept merely in memory of the day of atonement. It is also of moment to note, that our Saviour was born in the year of jubilee, which made the close of the 29th, and the commencement of the 30th period of jubilee from the time of Joshua. Some derive the term Jubilee from Jubal, the inventor of musical instruments. But others derive it from Jobel, a ram: for the jubilee was proclaimed by the sound of rams’ horns, as well as by the silver trumpets.
Leviticus 25:21. Fruit for three years. The Hebrews, as indeed all Shem’s race, were altogether by designation a holy nation. Their persons, their food, their law, their tabernacle, their lands, their city, were all hallowed. Moses was not ignorant that land is weakened by a constant annual culture, and requires a fallow. But he here wrote from the oracle what he was commanded, that faith might be exalted above reason, and that the husbandman, receiving this supernatural munificence from the hand of God, might love and serve him with all his heart.
Leviticus 25:37. Money upon usury. If men lend money on trade, they may take interest; but this precept respects a loan to a poor brother till his crop should be ready; in which case, interest was prohibited.
From the minor festivals of Israel we now proceed to the sabbatical years, as leading to the joyful jubilee appointed of God. And the first object which strikes us here is, the standing miracle of providence in favour of the year of rest. The land in the sixth year, according to the course of nature, would be weak: but while Israel continued in covenant with God it was rendered so fruitful by the supernatural blessing of heaven, that they had corn for the eighth year till the harvest was ready. No man should be impoverished by observing the sabbaths, and the appointed times of devotion. Had this miracle failed of effect, it would have destroyed the credit of revelation. The infidels of Israel would have sneered; they would have said, however great Moses might be as a prophet, he certainly was totally unacquainted with agriculture. But so luminous, so acknowledged was this divine phenomenon, that after the apostasy under Jeroboam, when they plowed on the seventh year, they had not bread enough; but those who observed the law in Hezekiah’s time, had no lack. 2 Kings 19:29-12.19.30.
The seven days in the week, as well as the seven sabbatical years, have been regarded as typical of the latter-day glory of the church. A day with the Lord is said to be as a thousand years: hence after six thousand years shall have elapsed we expect the ages of righteousness to succeed the ages of wickedness, when sin and its punishments shall be greatly diminished, and when the earth shall be filled with every temporal and spiritual blessing.
The institution of the jubilee distinguished the Theocracy of Israel from all the monarchies and republics of the gentile world. Society, unrestrained by law, in the struggle for the acquisition of wealth and honour, necessarily tends to aggrandize the rich, and to oppress the poor. During the feudal system, and while the lands were held chiefly by military tenure, the barons were princes and the poor were vassals. But where commerce has prevailed it has very much meliorated the condition of the labouring class, and afforded to the manufacturer and the merchant ample means to rise in the scale of opulence and rank. But in the states of Europe, and in the more distant nations where commerce is less cultivated, the poor are wretched and oppressed beyond conception. Considering the Israelites therefore as almost totally destitute of trade, we must regard an unalienable lot of land to every family, as originating in the divine foresight and care. Every man had his house and garden, or vineyard; he had his harvest field, and his quota of the flocks and herds of the city, which more than supplied the wants of his family. In the intervals between the more active seasons of the year, he had leisure to attend the feasts of the Lord, and to appear with decent oblations in his presence: or if prodigal and profane in his character, he might reduce himself to servitude and want, but he could not ruin his children. The land was the Lord’s, and he had given it to them and their children for an everlasting possession. Property so disseminated was a pledge to the public for the rectitude and morals of every individual. Who would rob, steal, or proceed to any atrocious act of violence, when his property as well as his person was amenable for his conduct.
We are not to stop however at the temporal advantages arising from an institution, the best and wisest known among humankind. While the silver trumpets and the rams’ horns were sounding emancipation to the servant, and investing him with the inheritance of his father, Isaiah saw the character of the Messiah’s ministry, and the glory of the gospel age. He saw his Redeemer anointed with the Spirit, preaching good tidings to the meek. He saw him sent to bind up the broken hearted, to publish liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. He heard the gospel trumpet proclaim the everlasting jubilee, or acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance on all them that despise his grace. He beheld him comforting the mourners, giving them beauty of countenance, by removing the ashes and wiping away their tears, and adorning them with righteousness, as the trees of a vineyard are adorned with fruits. Oh happy, happy age, when in the day of atonement our iniquity is forgiven, our bonds are broken, our hearts sanctified, and the emancipated soul is made heir of the inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.
In the near kinsman, to whom belonged the right of redemption, we see most strikingly the kindness and grace of Christ. Sinners, however unworthy you may be, he is flesh of your flesh, and bone of your bone; he has actually paid the price of your redemption, life for life; and he is gone to take possession of a better inheritance than that which Adam lost. Lift up your heads with joy: you have no need to wait a tedious course of years to the jubilee, the acceptable year is already come, and you only want a heart to receive the grace. Resemble not those slaves, who, attached to their master’s house by fleshly ties, refused liberty, as Esau despised his birthright. On them the day of vengeance shall fall, and they shall never be counted worthy of the glorious liberty of the children of God. Prize your privilege; know the day of your visitation; for it is God’s great and last dispensation of mercy to a lost and captive world.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 25". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent