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THE SEVENTH YEAR SABBATH (vv. 1-7)
Here was a wonderful provision for Israel every seven years. When they came into their land, they were to plant their land for six years and reap its fruits. But the seventh year they were to do no planting, nor any pruning of their vineyards, but to allow the land to rest for the whole year (vv. 1-4).
Though doing no work on the land, they could still expect fruit or grain to grow voluntarily. If so, they were not to reap this, that is, to store it or sell it (v. 5). For the sabbath produce of the land was to be food for them and their households (v. 6). In other words, they could use it as they needed it, but were not to make money from it.
If Israel had adhered to this, they would have been greatly blessed. The six years they worked would have provided more than enough to keep them through the seventh year. All that was needed was faith to believe God. But we know how selfish our own hearts are. When for six years their crops were so abundant, selfishness would say, “Why not get the same profit from the seventh year too?” Instead of resting and giving God glory, Israel preferred their own works, and thereby lost instead of gaining. Therefore Leviticus 26:31-35 prophesies of the resulting desolation in Israel, the people scattered and the land lying desolate, during which time God would give the land its needed rest. In spite of much experience we do not easily learn that selfishness defeats its own ends.
THE YEAR OF JUBILEE (vv. 8-17)
This was another gracious provision of God for His people Israel. At the end of 49 years (7x7) a year of jubilee was ordered on the 50th year. This was not merely a celebration, and not only a year of rest for the land, but on the Day of Atonement, the tenth day of the seventh month, the trumpet was to be sounded throughout all the land (v. 9), proclaiming liberty to all its inhabitants (v. 10). This would appropriately take place after the high priest had offered the sin offering and brought its blood into the holiest, thus making atonement for the people.
In this 50th year Jubilee God's wisdom is seen in addressing the inequalities that develop over a period of time, things which become destructive in many nations today. For some people become wealthy and the poor become virtually their slaves. People lose their property and others gain by their loss. Today, what wealthy man would want the government to adopt a policy of Jubilee such as Israel was given? But God's method of government in Israel was far better than any human government has ever advanced.
Whatever condition one was in, a slave or not, he was given back the property he owned previous to the year of Jubilee (v. 13). This is wonderfully symbolic of the great equalizing of all things when the Lord Jesus takes His great power to reign over Israel and the nations. What a Jubilee of unspeakable joy that will be! Mankind will cease from his own work and will recognize with wondering awe the greatness and perfection of the work of God!
The price of things sold and bought between the people was to be regulated by the number of years remaining till the Jubilee (vv. 14-16), for in this case it was really a lease for that number of years. Of course, if it were livestock, the age of the animal would also be considered, and perishables would not be considered in this matter.
But it was important for all to remember that they were not to oppress one another (v. 17), in other words, they must be fair in their dealings. No matter how good a government may be, if individuals are not fair, there is trouble.
BLESSINGS FOR OBEDIENCE (vv. 18-22)
So long as Israel would observe God's statutes and keep His judgments, they would dwell in the land safely (v. 18). The land would yield well for them, so that they would have no lack. This was a definite promise of God. Israel might question how they would be supported in the seventh year if they rested the land, as God commanded (v. 20), and the answer was plain: God would see to it that the sixth year produced enough for three years, not only sufficient for the seventh year, but abundantly over-sufficient (v. 21).
How well it would have been for Israel if they had only simply believed God! But their want of faith induced disobedience, by which they forfeited all title to God's conditional promise.
REDEMPTION OF PROPERTY (vv. 23-34)
Though the land was always to be returned to its original owner in the day of Jubilee, yet also if land had been sold, the original owner had the right of redeeming it at it fair market value at any time (v. 24). Thus it was impressed on Israel that the land belonged to the Lord (v. 23).
If an Israelite became so poor that it was necessary to sell his land or other possessions, it was also possible for a relative to redeem this (v. 25). The buyer must give way in such a case. The seller himself might eventually have sufficient funds to redeem his possession, and if so he was to count the number of years since its sale, and of course the time remaining till the year of Jubilee, and pay according to this. If, for instance, the buyer had use of the property for 20 years and there were ten years left before the Jubilee, the percentages were to be worked out according to this. For in the year of Jubilee the first owner would pay nothing to have his property returned (v. 28).
An interesting exception was made in the case of one owning a house in a walled city. If he sold it, he could redeem it within one year (v. 29), but if not redeemed in that time, the house became the permanent property of the buyer: it was not released in the year of Jubilee (v. 30). However, those houses in unwalled towns or villages were to be considered as those in the country. They could be redeemed at any time, and in the year of Jubilee were returned to the original owner (v. 31).
However, the houses of the Levites in their cities were redeemable at any time, and would return to the original owner at the time of Jubilee (vv. 32-33). For the Levites were given property only in their own cities. They therefore had the right to the redemption of their property. In these cities, however, there was common land, belonging to all the Levites, and that was not ever to be sold (v. 34).
LENDING WITHOUT INTEREST (vv. 35-38)
In cases of poverty in Israel, neighbors were to be of help, lending money, but not charging interest (vv. 36-37). Jews were not forbidden to take interest from foreigners (Deuteronomy 23:20), but were to charge nothing when dealing with their own people. This is surely a good lesson for us too. If one requires help because of poverty, it is unseemly that we should charge him interest. Dealing on the basis of business is a different matter. Still better than lending to those in poverty is the grace of giving to them, as 2 Corinthians 9:7 assures us.
HIRED SERVANTS, BUT NOT SLAVES (vv. 39-55)
Israel was never to make slaves of their own people, yet if one became so poor as to sell himself to another, he would thus become a hired servant. He was not to be oppressed as though he was merely the property of a master. In the year of Jubilee he was set free to return to his original property, which was also released at the time. This applied also to his family (v. 41). For Israel must remember that all Israelites were God's servants whom He had redeemed from Egypt. They were never to be sold as slaves, though they could become hired servants. This was virtually a leasing agreement, as was true of the sale of land also. No harsh treatment was allowed (v. 43).
However, Israel was allowed to buy Gentile slaves and keep them permanently, whether from the nations around or from those Gentiles who settled in the land (vv. 44-46). It is not said here that they were not to rule over such slaves with rigor, but in Exodus 22:21 it is insisted, “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
In the case of a foreigner dwelling or sojourning in the land of Israel, if he were to buy an Israelite, the Israelite was not his permanent property, but could be redeemed at any time by any near relative (vv. 47-49). In the year of Jubilee he was to be set free without charge. So that the price of redemption would become lower as the day of Jubilee became closer. Thus the same principles applied to an Israelite serving a Gentile as would apply if he were sold to another Israelite. He would be a hired servant, not a slave. For in a particular way the children of Israel were God's servants (v. 55). Believers today too are permanently God's servants.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Leviticus 25". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29