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Leviticus 23 is about the restoration of Israel as a people. But it is not only the people who God has in mind; His eyes are also on the land. Land and people belong together (Genesis 15:1-Ecclesiastes :). This chapter is about the land: “The land is Mine” (Leviticus 25:23). If the people are so impoverished that the land has to be sold, this will not disrupt God’s plans. He promises a year of jubilee. Everything will return to its original owners.
The Sabbatical Year
These verses are about the sabbatical year, not the year of jubilee. The sabbatical year is once every seven years, the year of jubilee once every fifty years. There is a correspondence. Both are a picture of the kingdom of peace. The difference is that the sabbatical year speaks of rest (Hebrews 4:9) and the year of jubilee of restoration (Acts 3:21) and freedom (Romans 8:21). Just as the people have to work six days and rest on the seventh day, so the land in which they will live must be worked for six years and be given a year’s rest in the seventh year.
What the LORD has to say about the sabbatical year and the year of jubilee, he says “to Moses at Mount Sinai” (Leviticus 25:1; Leviticus 7:38; Leviticus 26:46Leviticus 27:34). In the foregoing we find above all that the LORD speaks to Moses from the tent of meeting (Leviticus 1:1). That emphasizes more that God wants to come together with His people to share the thoughts of His heart with them about what He has for them. Here it is about what God has in His heart regarding His land. He already spoke about this with Moses on Sinai, where He also showed Moses the tabernacle, which shows His desire to dwell with His people. People and land belong together.
The sabbatical year is marked by God’s faithfulness and the faith of the people in that faithfulness. In the sixth year the people may not sow, but they may reap (Leviticus 25:21-Isaiah :). In the seventh year they will eat of what grows naturally. God will make sure that there is enough. In the sixth year he will give so much in the country that the people will have enough to eat in the sixth, seventh and eighth years. That He promises this must be sufficient for the people. In the seventh year they are not allowed to do anything. Only in the eighth year do they sow again, so that they can harvest again in the ninth year.
The Israelites are tenants of the land. They are servants of the LORD (Leviticus 25:55). God wants His people to realize this well. For six years they can enjoy all the benefits of the land. But as to the seventh year it is: “The land is Mine” (Leviticus 25:23). This is not a punishment, but a blessing: they do not have to work. We also see this in the gathering of the manna. On the sixth day the people can gather twice as much, so that they do not have to gather on the seventh day.
It is “a sabbath to the LORD” (Leviticus 25:4), not only for the people or for the land. It is about the rest of God. Keeping this sabbatical year for the land means that the people recognize God’s rights to the land. This recognition will give great blessing: rest and prosperity for three years (Leviticus 25:20-Song of Solomon :). Israel has never celebrated those sabbatical years, as it has never kept to any commandment of God. Then God makes sure that His land gets rest by sending the people into exile (2 Chronicles 36:21).
God lets us share in His rest. It is the only rest that can really be called rest. Nothing but what is God’s rest can be our rest. God rests in the Lord Jesus and His work, and that is also our rest. We may already know this rest in our hearts. Soon it will be all over the earth. The Lord desires that we may already know times of rest, to enjoy with Him the inheritance. For us, that means: Enjoy the blessings in the heavenly places.
A further provision is added to the use of the food that arises automatically during the sabbatical year: that food is for everyone, not just for the owner of the land. This provision teaches them that they must be merciful and generous and share in the kindness of God which is expressed in what the earth itself produces.
The Year of Jubilee
The sabbatical year is not only a year of rest in certain cases, but also a year of restoration and freedom. Thus the Hebrew slave is released in the seventh year (Exodus 21:2) and debts are remised (Deuteronomy 15:1-Job :). But in the year of jubilee things go much further. Then the inheritance will be restored. Everything returns to its original situation, as God intended it to be. People are released and return to their property; a property is returned to its original owner.
The word “jubilee” means “blowing on the ramshorn”. Except here in Leviticus the word ‘jubilee’ is only mentioned in Numbers (Numbers 36:4). The thought of release (Leviticus 25:10) is used in Isaiah 61, where we read: “To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1). In the following verse is spoken about “the favorable year of the LORD” (Isaiah 61:2; Jeremiah 34:8; Jeremiah 34:15Jeremiah 34:17; Ezekiel 46:17).
Generally speaking, every Israelite witnesses once in his life how everything is restored to its original state. When he experiences it, he will be reminded of paradise, where man has not had to work either, but has been able to freely enjoy everything that God has made grow. He also gets a taste of the future blessing that God will give to Israel and the whole earth under the reign of the Lord Jesus in the millennial kingdom of peace. Then everyone will also enjoy the delicious things creation provides.
In his speech to the people of Israel, in the “portico of Solomon”, Peter speaks about it. He calls upon the people to repent and return, “and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until [the] period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:20-Ecclesiastes :).
The year of jubilee, a fiftieth year, follows a sabbatical year, a forty-ninth year. The fiftieth year thus also indicates a new beginning. It is like with the eighth day, which also follows a period of seven days. This new beginning is also in connection with heaven and eternal things. The kingdom of peace has not only an earthly side, but also a heavenly side (Matthew 13:43). Abraham looked forward to this: “For he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10; Daniel 7:27). The heavenly rest and glory will have their radiance on earth.
Everything in God’s Word that is about Israel, all prophecies, it all ends in the year of jubilee. There the final fulfilment of all God’s promises takes place. Then comes the “favorable year of the LORD” (Isaiah 61:2). For all who have accepted the Lord Jesus, this “favorable year” has already begun (Luke 4:19; Luke 4:21). This may be mentioned in the preaching of the gospel: “And working together [with Him], we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”” (2 Corinthians 6:1-Exodus :).
The horn will sound the same in the fiftieth year as in all previous years on the first day of each month (Leviticus 23:24). But in this fiftieth year the trumpet will sound another time in the seventh month. Also on the tenth day, that is the day of atonement (Leviticus 23:27), there will be the sound of the trumpet. The whole land will hear it (Leviticus 25:9). It will show that all tribes will be back in the land and each tribe will live in the inheritance God has given him. The trumpet blown on the first day of the seventh month will herald this restoration. The restoration will be based on the Lord Jesus’ atoning work as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Before the trumpet sounds as a sign of the start of the year of jubilee, another trumpet will sound, the last trumpet, the trumpet of God. When that trumpet sounds, the church will be taken up from the earth and meet the Lord in the air (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-Job :).
Year of Jubilee as Starting Point
When a piece of land is sold, in reality it is not the land, but a number of harvests that are sold. The calculation of the price is based on the coming year of jubilee. This method of settling debts prevents capitalism (more and more possessions) and communism (no possessions, everything of everyone).
In this way, the Israelite can have two types of land. He owns his own inheritance and he can have a land he has bought. The latter is only his property for a certain period of time. The Christian also has to deal with two kinds of ‘land’. He has his own inheritance in heaven. That is his inalienable property. He also owns earthly things. They are not his own. He is only a steward of it. He will have to give up the earthly things, nothing of them will remain his property. He will also have to account for the way in which he dealt with it.
In Luke 16 the Lord Jesus speaks of “that which is another’s” and of “that which is your own” (Luke 16:12). “That which is another’s” are the earthly blessings, “that which is your own” are our heavenly blessings. Faithfulness in the fulfilment of our earthly task and the responsible management of the earthly resources at our disposal in doing so is a prerequisite for enjoying our very heavenly possessions.
An important indication for dealing with earthly things in the light of the upcoming “year of jubilee” we read in 1 Corinthians 7 (1 Corinthians 7:29-Obadiah :). The value of what we have ‘bought’ is measured by the time that separates us from the ‘year of jubilee’. We are just before the year of jubilee. The closer we are to the coming of the Lord Jesus, the more we long for Him, the less earthly things are worth to us. Dealing with earthly matters in the light of the coming year of jubilee will save us from seeking the things “that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
Besides the idea that we are just before the ‘year of jubilee’, the fear of God is also important in our view of earthly things. The earthly things belong to Him. When we use it for ourselves, we appropriate what is His. He cannot let that happen unpunished. Real fear for God is not so much expressed in fear for punishment when we do something that He does not approve of, but is expressed in respect for Him, through which we do what pleases Him.
Blessing In Keeping the Sabbatical Year
The enjoyment of the blessing depends on obedience of faith. It seems a venture not to sow a year. The mind reasons: How shall we get food? Faith relies on God’s promise. Whoever trusts in Him will not be ashamed. Even more: experiences His special blessing. We learn by doing so: “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD” (Matthew 4:4). Experiencing the Lord’s faithfulness is a great thing. It glorifies Him and fills the heart with joy. This joy cannot be expressed in money.
If they are obedient, they can count on living safely in the land, which means that there is external security and inner rest and confidence for the heart, without fear of enemies. They will not have to fear for their food either. It will be possible to eat until saturation. By the blessing of God, with little much can happen. We lose nothing through obedience, but we win everything.
Redemption of the Land
The starting point for the rules for redemption is that the land is the land of the LORD. His is the earth and all that is thereon (Psalms 24:1), but He has given the land of Canaan a special place. In that land he has given every tribe and family its inheritance and so He wants to see it fulfilled. Because of man’s infidelity, for forty-nine years can there can be a state of affairs of confusion and misery. But it will not remain so. There will be a fiftieth year in which everything will be restored in such a way that God’s original plan will be seen.
The Christian is aware that the redemption of his inheritance is yet to come. He already has the pledge of it, namely “the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of [God’s own] possession” (Ephesians 1:14). Anyone who is guided by the Spirit will not be tempted to give up anything of his inheritance by seeking his happiness on earth to experience it here and now.
Now it may happen that someone is forced to sell his land because he is impoverished. At the same time the LORD determines that there is always the right of redemption. One does not have to wait until the year of jubilee. Someone else can pay his debt for him in the meantime. Then he again possesses his inheritance. But the settlement has to be done over the time that runs until the year of jubilee.
If someone remains incapable to redeem it, he will at least receive his land back in the year of jubilee, as a special proof of God’s grace. Naboth has no need to renounce his inheritance. He appreciates his inheritance and refuses to sell it to Ahab or to exchange it for a vineyard of Ahab (1 Kings 21:1-Leviticus :). Ahab gets the land of Naboth only through a list of murderous Jezebel (1 Kings 21:7-2 Samuel :).
The cases of impoverishment are becoming more and more poignant in this chapter.
1. Leviticus 25:25 refers to an impoverishment in which the poor “has to sell part of his property”.
2. In Leviticus 25:35 the brother is so impoverished that “his means with regard to you falter” and must be kept alive. The need is great.
3. In Leviticus 25:39 the brother is so impoverished that he is obliged to sell himself.
4. In Leviticus 25:47 the worst situation is: there an impoverished brother sells himself to a stranger.
Someone can become impoverished, for example due to illness or the wrong policy. In spiritual terms, poverty is often due to unhealthy, sickening activities (sins) or to being absorbed by earthly activities, a misbalance between the time spent on spiritual and earthly matters.
The redemption of the land can take place in different ways. Those who have to sell land can have someone who is “his nearest kinsman” who can act as a redeemer (Leviticus 25:25). This is reminiscent of the Lord Jesus as the true ‘Kinsman’ – He has participated in flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14). He paid the price through His work on the cross to redeem the inheritance from the debt that rests on it. This applies both to the land of Israel and to all creation.
An example of this acting as a redeemer can be seen in the history of Boaz and Ruth. The Lord Jesus is the true Boaz. Boaz is able to help the impoverished Naomi and Ruth to regain possession of the inheritance that Naomi has lost (Ruth 4:1-2 Samuel :). Thus the Lord Jesus will once as the true Boaz – Boaz means ‘in him is strength’ – bring everything back into the possession of God as the original Owner.
Redemption of Houses
With the redemption of houses things are different than with the redemption of land. A house is not an inheritance. The owner does not get it back in the year of jubilee when it is sold. He has a year to buy it back. If he does not, he will lose it forever. This is about a house in a walled city. A wall speaks of separation. If that separation does not prevent us from losing things, we lose things forever. Then we have not observed the right separation, that to God. The intrusion of the world, the decay, cannot be reversed. Scripture says that this development is unstoppable. However, after losing something, there is still one year to get it back (cf. Luke 13:8-1 Samuel :). That is God’s grace.
The houses in villages are different. Those revert in the year of jubilee or can be redeemed. Just as those villages are, so shall Jerusalem be in the kingdom of peace, without a wall. There are no more enemies and so there is no reason to have a wall.
God has an exception for the Levites. They have no inheritance and nothing but their towns and their houses. They will get their house back in the year of jubilee.
Attitude Toward the Poor
Three times in this section a brother is said to become impoverished (Leviticus 25:35; Leviticus 25:39Leviticus 25:47; cf. Leviticus 25:25). It is about someone from the people of God, a fellow brother or a fellow sister. A believer may be spiritually impoverished. He may lose sight of his blessings. But that does not mean that we should despise such a person. On the contrary, we must help such a person, keeping in mind the year of jubilee. The year of jubilee will make up for it. Then they will get back what they have lost.
A brother may not be used as a slave by a fellow Israelite. The reason is that all the Israelites are servants of the LORD (Leviticus 25:42; Leviticus 25:55). They are all redeemed from Egypt to be free. Any Israelite must be aware of this and must not therefore be harsh on another Israelite and exploit the situation. In practical terms, Christian masters must realize that they themselves also have a Lord in heaven, so they themselves are also servants (Colossians 4:1). In spiritual terms, it applies to us that One is our Master and that we are all brothers (Matthew 23:8; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:23).
If an Israelite has sold himself as a slave to a stranger, his brother may redeem him. Nehemiah seems to have acted in accordance with this regulation (Nehemiah 5:8). The Lord Jesus is the true Redeemer. He will deliver those whom He calls His brethren from the power of their adversaries. He will come and free the remnant of Israel. He will also give them their land and the freedom to enjoy under His benevolent rule all that He has promised.
Poverty is not what God had intended for His people. There will be no poor when they serve Him. Then each piece of land will give its full yield. Poverty and hunger are therefore a consequence of the infidelity of the people. Even today there is no reason for a believer to be spiritually poor. Spiritual poverty is the result of wrong education or failure to occupy oneself with the deep digging out of God’s Word for the spiritual treasures that can be found in it.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Leviticus 25". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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