LEVITICUS CHAPTER 25
The land not to be tilled, but rest the seventh year; and that which grew of itself in the field or vineyard to be meat for them and their cattle, Leviticus 25:1-7. The jubilee on the day of atonement; a year of liberty and restoration; a year of rest to the land; of the peculiar blessing of God on it, Leviticus 25:8-22. Sold inheritances to be redeemed at any time; but now to be restored; a dwelling-house in a walled city only excepted, Leviticus 25:23-34. Kindness to the poor; usury forbidden; an Israelite must not be a bond-man or maid, but a hired servant till the year of jubilee; bond-men or maids to be taken from the heathen; an inheritance for ever, Leviticus 25:35-46 Of an Israelite that should sell himself to a stranger, Leviticus 25:47-55.
i.e. Near Mount Sinai. So the Hebrew particle beth is sometimes used, as Genesis 27:13 Joshua 5:13 Jude 8:5 2 Chronicles 33:20, compared with 2 Kings 21:18. So there is no need to disturb the order of the history in this place.
When ye come into the land, so as to be settled in it; for the tithe of the wars was not to be accounted, nor the time before Joshua’s distribution of the land among them, Joshua 14:7,10.
Keep a sabbath, i.e. enjoy rest and freedom from ploughing, tilling, &c.
Unto the Lord, i.e. in obedience and unto the honour of God. This was instituted partly for the assertion of God’s sovereign right to the land, . in which the Israelites were but tenants at God’s will; partly for the trial and exercise of their obedience; partly for the demonstration of his providence as well in the general towards men, as more especially towards his own people, of which see below, Leviticus 25:20-22; partly to wean them from inordinate love, and pursuit of or trust to worldly advantages, and to inure them to depend upon God alone, and upon God’s blessing for their subsistence; partly to put them in the mind of that blessed and eternal rest provided for all good men, wherein they should be perfectly freed from all worldly labours and troubles, and wholly devoted to the service and enjoyment God; see on Exodus 23:11; and lastly, that by their own straits in that year they might learn more compassion to the poor, who were under the same straits every year.
Of its own accord; from the grains that fell out of the ears the last reaping time.
Thou shalt not reap, i.e. as thy own peculiarly, but only so as others may reap it with thee, for present food.
The grapes of thy vine undressed, Heb. the grapes of thy separation, i.e. the grapes which thou hast separated or set apart to the honour of God, and to the ends and uses appointed by God; or the grapes of that year, which are in this like the Nazarites’ hair, not cut off by thee, but suffered to grow to the use of the poor.
The sabbath, i.e. the growth of the sabbath, or that fruit which groweth in the sabbatical year. See on Leviticus 23:38, where the word sabbath is taken in the like sense.
For thee, and for thy servant; for all promiscuously, to take food from thence as they need it.
The jubilee signified the true liberty from our spiritual debts and slaveries, to be purchased by Christ, and to be published to the world by the sound of the gospel.
The seventh month was the first month of the year for civil and worldly affairs, which were mainly concerned in the jubilee, and therefore it began in that month; and, as it seems, upon this very tenth day, when the trumpet sounded, as other feasts generally began when the trumpet sounded.
In the day of atonement; a very fit time, that when they fasted and prayed for God’s mercy to them in the pardon of their sins, then they might exercise their charity and kindness to men in forgiving their debts, which is the true fast, as is noted Isaiah 58:6, and to teach us that the foundation of all solid comfort and joy must be laid in bitter repentance and atonement for our sins through Christ.
By which it seems most probable that the year of jubilee was not the forty and ninth year, as some learned men think, but precisely the fiftieth year; which may appear,
1. Because the Jews account it so, which is confessed by the adversaries of this opinion, who say that the Jews err in the computation of the jubilee, as they do in Christ, the great end and antitype of the jubilee. But it is not probable that the Jews should universally err in a matter of constant practice among themselves, especially when there was nothing of interest or prejudice in the case, as there was in reference to Christ.
2. Because it is expressly called the fiftieth year here, and Leviticus 25:11, that fiftieth year, which was not true if it was but the nine and fortieth year. It is said it is called so popularly, and it was so if you take in the foregoing jubilee. But it must be remembered, that there was not yet any foregoing jubilee, but the very first of the kind is expressly called the fiftieth year, which in truth it was not if the jubilee was ended ere the fiftieth year began.
3. From the common course of computation. The old weekly sabbath is called the seventh day, because it truly was so, being next after the six days of the week, and distinct from them all; and the year of release is called the seventh year, Leviticus 25:4, as immediately following the six years, Leviticus 25:3, and distinct from them all. And therefore, in like manner, the jubilee must needs be called the fiftieth year, because it comes next after seven times seven, or forty-nine years, Leviticus 25:8, and is distinct from them all.
4. From Leviticus 25:11,12, where it is said, ye shall not sow, nor reap, &c; for it is the jubilee, &c.; which looks like a vain and useless repetition, if this year were but one of the seven years, for this very command was given concerning every seventh year, Leviticus 25:4; but if this year of jubilee was, as indeed it was, a year distinct from and coming after the seven sevens of years, then this repetition and application of that command to it was highly necessary, because otherwise it might seem hard and unreasonable that they should forbear sowing and reaping two years together, which hereby they are commanded to do. Two things are objected against this:
1. That the jubilee was only a revolution of forty-nine years. But that seems a great mistake, for it is most expressly distinguished from them all, and by way of distinction called the fiftieth year, therefore surely none of the forty-nine.
2. The difficulty propounded Leviticus 25:20 concerns only the seventh year, whereas it had been a greater difficulty if it had been extended to the jubilee, and the jubilee had been another vacant year coming next after the seventh year. But though the difficulty was greater for the jubilee, yet it was more frequent for the seventh year; and the resolution of the one made the way plan for the satisfaction of the other. For as God promised so to bless every sixth year, that it should bring forth fruit for three years, Leviticus 25:21; so when the case was extraordinary, as in the jubilee, it was but reasonable to expect an extraordinary blessing from God upon that sixth year which went next before the last of the seventh years, or the forty-ninth year, that it should then bring forth fruit for four years.
All the inhabitants thereof: understand such as were Israelites; principally to all servants, even to such as would not and did not go out at the seventh year, and to the poor, who now were acquitted from all their debts, and restored to their possessions. A jubilee; so called, either from the Hebrew word jobel, which signifies first a ram, and then a ram’s horn, by the sound whereof it was proclaimed; or from Jubal, the inventor of musical instruments, Genesis 4:21, because it was celebrated with music and all expressions of joy. Every man unto his possession, which had been sold, or otherwise alienated from him. This law was not at all unjust, because all buyers and sellers had an eye to this condition in their bargains; but it was necessary and expedient in many regards; as,
1. To mind them that God alone was the Lord and Owner and Proprietor both of them and of their lands, and they only his tenants and farmers; a point which they were very apt to forget.
2. That hereby inheritances, families, and tribes might be kept entire and clear until the coming of the Messias, who was to be known, as by other things, so by the tribe and family out of which he was to come. And this accordingly was done by the singular providence of God until the Lord Jesus did come. Since which time those characters are miserably confounded; which is no small argument that the Messias is come.
3. To set bounds both to the insatiable avarice of some, and the foolish prodigality of others, that the former might not wholly and finally swallow up the inheritances of their brethren, and the latter might not be able to undo themselves and their posterity for ever, which was a singular privilege of this law and people. Every man unto his family, from whom he was gone, being sold to some other family, either by himself or by his father.
Though it come immediately after a seventh year, wherein also this was forbidden to you.
It shall be holy unto you: so it was, because it was sequestered in great part from worldly employments, and dedicated to God, and to the exercise of holy joy and thankfulness; and because it was a type of that holy and happy jubilee which they were to expect and enjoy by and under the Messias.
The increase thereof; such things as it produced of itself; for the year before nothing was sowed. Out of the field; whence they in common with others might take it as they needed it; but must not put it into barns. See Leviticus 25:5 Exodus 23:11.
Neither the seller by requiring more, nor the buyer by taking the advantage from his brother’s necessities to give him less than the worth of it.
of years of fruits, or, of fruitful years; for there were some unfruitful years, to wit, such wherein they were not allowed to sow or reap, &c.
Or, for the number of the fruits. The meaning is, he selleth not the land, but only the fruits thereof, and that for a certain time.
A like objection, see Exodus 34:23,24.
my blessing. Commanding is oft used in Scripture either for the performance of promised blessings, as Deuteronomy 28:8 Psalms 111:9 133:3, or for the execution of threatened judgments, as Isaiah 5:6 Amos 9:4; both being acts of God’s providential will, as the command is of his legislative will.
For three years; not completely, but in great part, to wit, for that part of the sixth year which was between the beginning of harvest and the beginning of the seventh year, for the whole seventh year, and for that part of the eighth year which was before the harvest, which reached almost until the beginning of the ninth year. And by this expression we may understand the meaning of that eminent passage of Christ’s being three days and three nights in the grave, to wit, one whole day, and part of two days; of which more, if God please, in its proper place. This is added to show the equity of this command. As God would hereby try their faith, and exercise obedience, so he gave them an eminent proof of his own exact providence and tender care over them, in making provisions suitable to their necessities. Albeit it be also probable that divers of them, especially such as were more solicitous or distrustful of God’s providence, did lay up something of the fruits of former years against this time.
Of old fruit; of the sixth year principally, if not solely.
Until her fruits, i.e. the fruits of the eighth year.
For ever, or, absolutely and properly, so as to become the propriety of the buyer; or to the extermination or utter cutting off, to wit, of the seller, from all hopes and possibility of redemption. For the land is mine; procured for you by my power, given to you by my mere grace and bounty, and the right of propriety reserved by me, and to be disposed of by you only to such persons and in such manner as I shall have ordained.
Sojourners with me, i.e. in my land or houses: thus he is said to sojourn with another that dwells in his house. Thus the poor decayed Israelites and the strangers are said to live with them, i.e. with the other Israelites, to wit, in the land or houses here, Leviticus 25:35,36,40,44. Or, before me, in my sight, or in my account. Howsoever in your own or other men’s opinions you pass for lords and proprietors, yet in truth, according to which my judgment always is, you are but strangers and sojourners, not to possess the land for ever, but only for a season, and to leave it to such as I have appointed for it.
i.e. A right of redemption in the time and manner following.
Some of his possession, to wit, in the fields, but not in cities, Leviticus 25:29.
If any of his kin come to redeem it; or, if the redeemer come, being near akin to him, to whom the right of redemption belonged, Ruth 3:2,9,12 Jer 32:7, who in this act was an eminent type of Christ, who was made near akin to us by taking our flesh, that he might perform the work of redemption for us.
The years of the sale thereof, i.e. from the time of the sale to the jubilee. See Poole "Leviticus 25:15" See Poole "Leviticus 25:16". The overplus, i.e. a convenient price for the years from this redemption to the jubilee.
It shall go out, i.e. out of the buyer’s hand, without any redemption money.
The reason is from the great difference between such houses and lands. The reasons before alleged for lands do not hold in such houses; there was no danger of confusion in tribes or families by the alienation of houses. The seller also had a greater propriety in houses than in lands, as not coming to him by God’s mere gift, but being commonly built by the owner’s cost and diligence, and therefore had a fuller power to dispose of them. Besides, God would hereby encourage persons to buy and possess houses in such places, which frequency and fulness of inhabitants in cities was a great strength, honour, and advantage to the whole land.
The houses of the villages belonged to and were necessary or very convenient for the management of the lands.
Or thus, But he that shall redeem it shall be or must be of the Levites, i.e. no person of another tribe, though by marriage near akin to the selling Levite, shall redeem it, but Levites only, and any of them shall have the same power to redeem it, which in other tribes only the nearest kindred have; and, in case none of them redeem it, yet the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, i.e. his share or interest in the city of his possession, shall go out and return to the Levites without any redemption.
the suburbs of the cities, See Poole "Numbers 35:4".
May not be sold; not sold at all, partly because it was of absolute necessity for them for the keeping of their cattle, and partly because these were no enclosures, but common fields, in which all the Levites that lived in such a city had an interest, and therefore no particular Levite could dispose of his part in it. Some conceive that this law was altered in ensuing ages, which they gather from Jeremiah 32:7,8 Ac 4:36,37. But those examples do not prove it. That sale of Jeremiah’s was made by a particular dispensation and command of God, and that in a time when the Levites, as well as the people, were to be destroyed or dispersed, and carried into captivity, and therefore could receive no considerable injury by it; and besides, this sale was only made formally and for signification, as it is explained, Leviticus 25:14,15. And for the land sold by Barnabas a Levite, Ac 4, as it was at a time when the Jewish church was dissolved, and their state upon the brink of utter ruin, so it is not evident that it was such suburb land, which would have yielded but a small price, but it might be other land, either such as he might have in right of his wife, or such as he might have purchased. For though the Levites in general had no other share of land beside this allotted them by God, yet it is conceived that particular Levites might purchase lands to themselves.
Fallen in decay, Heb. his hand wavereth, of faileth
or is decayed so that he hath not power to get or keep wealth, as the phrase is, Deuteronomy 8:18; as on the contrary, when a man is able, his hand is said to attain and find sufficiency, as here above, Leviticus 25:26.
Relieve him, Heb. strengthen him, comfort his heart, and strengthen his hand.
A sojourner; understand it of proselytes only, for of other strangers they were permitted to take usury, Deuteronomy 23:20.
i.e. Of thy brother, whether he be Israelite or proselyte.
Increase: this some conceive relates to the fruits of the earth, food, &c., as usury doth to money. But here may rather seem’ to be two words expressing the same thing,
(1.) To meet with the subtle evasions of crafty and covetous men, who made gain of their poor brethren (for of such only he speaks here, as is evident from Leviticus 25:35) by the lending of money or other things; and that they may quiet their consciences, and palliate their sin, they disguise it under other names; and,
(2.) To show that all kinds of usury are in this case forbidden, whether of money, or of victuals, or of any thing that is commonly lent by one man to another upon usury, or upon condition of receiving the thing lent with advantage and overplus, as it is said Deuteronomy 23:19.
Neither for the time, for ever, nor for the manner, with the hardest and vilest kinds of service, rigorously and severely exacted from him.
Then shall he depart from thee; thou shalt not suffer him or his to abide longer in thy service, as thou mightest do in the year of release, Exodus 21:2,6.
They are my servants; they, no less than you, are members of my church and people; such as I have chosen out of all the world to serve me here, and to enjoy me hereafter, and therefore are not to be oppressed or abused, neither are you absolute lords over them, to deal with them as you please.
Though thou dost not fear them who are in thy power, and unable to right themselves, yet fear that God who hath commanded thee to use them kindly, and who can and will avenge their cause, if thou dost oppress them.
The stock, Heb. root, i.e. one of the root or stock. So the word root is elsewhere used for the branch or progeny growing from it, as Numbers 13:28 2 Chronicles 22:10. He seems to note one of a foreign race and country, transplanted into the land of Israel, and there having taken root amongst the people of God; yet even such a one, though he hath some privilege by it, yet he shall not have power to keep a Hebrew servant from the benefit of redemption.
Allowance shall be made for the time wherein he hath served, proportionable to that which is given to a hired servant for so long service, because his condition is in this like theirs; that it is not properly his person, but his work and labour that was sold.
Thou shalt not suffer this to be done, but whether thou art a magistrate, or a private person, thou shalt take care according to thy capacity to get it remedied.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Leviticus 25". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany