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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Leviticus 25

 

 

Verses 1-55

FOURTH SECTION

Of the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years

“The keeping holy of the hallowed territory, the holy land, by the Sabbatical year; of the consecrated inheritance by the Jubilee Year, and thus also of those who had become impoverished, the Israelites who had fallen into servitude; the keeping holy of the outward appearance of the holy land (streets and ways); of the public Sabbath feast and of the Sanctuary of the religion of the land. Leviticus 25:1 to Leviticus 26:2.” —Lange.

Leviticus 25:1-55

1And the Lord spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying, 2Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shalt the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord 3 Six years thou shall sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard [fruit garden[FN1]], and gather in the fruit thereof; 4but in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard5[fruit garden1].[FN2] That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed:[FN3] for it is a year of rest unto the land 6 And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant,[FN4] and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee, 7and for thy cattle, and for the beasts [animals[FN5]] that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.

8And thou shalt number seven sabbaths[FN6] of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths6 of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years 9 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound [cause the sound of the cornet to go through the land[FN7]] on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land 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[FN8] unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall 11 return every man unto his family. A jubile8 shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the 12 grapes in it of thy vine undressed 3 For it is the jubile;8 it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.

13In the year of this jubile8 ye shall return every man unto his possession 14 And if thou sell[FN9] ought unto thy neighbor, or buyest ought of thy neighbor’s hand, ye shall not oppress [overreach[FN10]] one another: 15according to the number of years after the jubile8 thou shalt buy of thy neighbor, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee: 16according to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee 17 Ye shall not therefore oppress [overreach10] one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God.

18Wherefore ye shall do my statutes and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety 19 And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety 20 And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: 21then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years 22 And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store.

23The land shall not be sold for ever:[FN11] for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me 24 And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land 25 If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold 26 And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be27[has become[FN12]] able to redeem it; then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it: that he may return unto his possession 28 But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubile:8 and in the jubile8 it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession.

29And 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 [a term of days[FN13]] may he redeem it 30 And if it be not redeemed with the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him[FN14] that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubile 831 But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted[FN15] as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubile8

32Notwithstanding [But concerning[FN16]] the cities of the Levites, and [omit and] the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time 33 And if a man purchase of the Levites,[FN17] then the house that was sold, and [in[FN18]] the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubile:8 for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel 34 But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.

35And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger [poor, and his hand trembles by thee, thou shalt hold him up as a stranger[FN19]], or a sojourner; that he may live[FN20]with thee 36 Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee 37 Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor 38 lend him thy victuals for increase. I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

39And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; 40thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: but as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile:841 and then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return 42 For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen 43 Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor; but shalt fear thy God 44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids 45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession 46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor.

47And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or[FN21] sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family: 48after that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him; 49either his uncle, or his uncle’s Song of Solomon, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin[FN22] unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself 50 And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubile:8 and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an 51 hired servant shall it be with him. If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for 52 And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubile,8 then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again 53 the price of his redemption. And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigor over him in thy sight 54 And if he be not redeemed in these years [by these means[FN23]], then he shall go out in the year of jubile,8 both Hebrews, and his children with him 55 For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Leviticus 25:3-4. כֶּרֶם. See Textual Note6 on Leviticus 19:10.

Leviticus 25:5. The Sam, LXX. and Syr. prefix the conjunction.

Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11. נָזִיר means primarily the separated (see Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16), then the consecrated. Except in the passages referred to, and in this chap, it is always used of the Nazarite. It is applied to the vine either as for this year consecrated, so LXX. ἁγιάσματος σου; or by a figure of speech, thy Nazarite vine, as having its branches unpruned like the unshorn locks of the Nazarite. The latter is generally preferred by the commentators. See Keil who refers to the Latin viridis coma, Tibull. i7, 34; Propert. ii15, 12. Ten MSS, the Syr. and Vulg. read the word in the plural.

Leviticus 25:6. The Sam. and Syr. read this and the three following words in the plural.

Leviticus 25:7. וְלַחַיָּה. See Textual Note 1 on Leviticus 11:2.

Leviticus 25:8. Sabbath is used here as in Leviticus 23:15 (see note there) rather in a figurative way than with the definite sense of weeks.

Leviticus 25:9. The word יוֹבֵל = Jubile of Leviticus 25:10 does not occur in this verse, and there is no occasion for its insertion. The שׁוֹפַר תְרוּעָה is the loud sound, clangor, of an instrument usually translated trumpet in the A. V, but occasionally ( 1 Chronicles 15:28; 2 Chronicles 15:14; Psalm 98:6, etc.) more correctly cornet. It was either the horn of an animal (according to the Mishna, of chamois or wild goat), or made of metal in the fashion of a horn. The LXX. renders σάλπιγξ, the Vulg. buccina.

Leviticus 25:10-13, etc. יוֹבֵל is translated throughout this chapter and Leviticus 27, jubile. So also Numbers 36:4. In Exodus 19:13 it is rendered trumpet (marg. cornet), and in the only other places where it occurs, Joshua 6:4-6; Joshua 6:8; Joshua 6:13, ram’s horns. Outside of the Bible the word is always spelt jubilee, but being here spelt jubile, Clark considers that it was intended to be pronounced as a dissyllable, making a close imitation of the Heb. word. Authorities differ as to its sense etymologically. See the subject discussed in Bochart, Hieroz, I. c43 (vol. I, pp463–466 ed. Rosen.), and Gesen. Thes. s. v. The LXX. renders ἄφεσις with relation to what was to be done in this year rather than as a translation of the Heb. word. Josephus (Ant. III:12, 3) uses the Heb. word ἰωβήλος, which he explains as meaning liberty, ἐλευθερίαν δὲ σημαἰνει τοὔνομα. The Vulg. has jubileus. In Ezekiel 46:17 it is called שְׁנַת הַדִּרוֹר = the year of liberty, from which Josephus probably derived his interpretation. This accords well with the context in Leviticus 25:11, and also with the derivation from יָבַל = to flow freely.

Leviticus 25:14. The Heb. has the verb in the plural; but the Sam. has the sing in accordance with the sing, pronouns following. The word buy, קָנֹח is inf. abs, as in Genesis 41:43.

Leviticus 25:14. אַל־תּוֹנוּ. The verb יָנָה in the Hiph. applies especially to that sort of civil oppression brought about by fraud, which is best, expressed in English by the word overreach.

Leviticus 25:23. לִצְמִתֻת, lit. for cutting off (as in marg. A. V.), viz. from all hope of redemption. In modern phrase, in perpetuity.

Leviticus 25:26. The marg. his hand hath attained and found sufficiency exactly renders the Heb.; but the text of the A. V. is a sufficiently good translation except in failing to bring out the idea that the ability to redeem has come about since the sale took place. The Jewish interpretation was accordingly correct, that the right of redemption should only accrue in case the ability to Revelation -purchase was gained after the sale had taken place; a merely voluntary sale must hold until the jubilee year.

Leviticus 25:29. יָמִים תִּהְיִח גְּאֻלָּתוֹ, lit. days shall its redemption be, i.e. the right of redemption shall continue for a definite time and no longer, which time has been explained in the previous clause to be a year; it is better, however, to let the translation follow the Heb. than to paraphrase so much as has been done in the A. V.

Leviticus 25:30. The k’ri לוֹ for the text לֹא is also the reading of the Sam. and of thirteen MSS.

Leviticus 25:31. יֵחָשֵׁב is sing. The Sam, LXX. and Syr. have the plural.

Leviticus 25:32. On this use of the particle ו see Nordheimer’s Heb. Gr. § 1093, 6, c, h. It is evident that there is nothing said about the redemption of the cities, which the form of the A. V. would seem to imply, but only of the houses in them.

Leviticus 25:33. There is much diversity of opinion as to the meaning of this clause. The text of the A. V. is supported by the LXX. and by the Targums, and is defended by Keil. A difficulty arises from the use of the word יִגְאַל = redeem; but Keil maintains, on the authority of the Rabbins, that this is used in the sense of קָנָה = to buy. He grounds the usage on the fact that the Levitical cities were originally assigned to the tribes as a part of their inheritance; they relinquished the houses, or a part of the houses in them (together with pasture grounds) to the Levites for dwelling-places. When therefore one of another tribe purchased of a Levite, he was in fact redeeming the inheritance of his tribe. So Murphy. On the other hand, the reading: If one of the Levites redeems a house in the city (according to the marg. of the A. V.), is preferred by Clark following Rosenmüller, De Wette, Kranold, Herxheimer and others. The meaning will then be, that if a Levite has sold a house to one of another tribe, and another Levite redeem it, then in the Jubilee year it must revert to its original possessor. But it is more than questionable whether the Levites had any such general right of redemption on behalf of their fellow Levites as this would suppose. The Vulg. inserts a negative, Si redemptœ (sc. œdes) non fuerint, and this is sustained by Houbigant, and preferred by Woide, Ewald, Bunsen and Knobel. It is adopted by Lange in the translation and exegesis; but it is a serious objection that it would require a change in the Heb. On the whole, the text of the A. V. seems best sustained, and gives the clearest sense.

Leviticus 25:33. On the use of וְ in the figure Hendiadys see Gesen. s. v. 1, b.

Leviticus 25:35. The particle as is inserted here by the LXX, Vulg, Targums, Luther, etc, and is recognized as to be supplied by many commentators, as Keil, Clark and others. So also Riggs. On the other hand the Syr. gives just the opposite sense: thou shalt not hold him for a sojourner or foreigner; but he shall live with thee. Others, as Lange, adopt the sense expressed in the A. V.

Leviticus 25:35. וְחֵי according to Keil, an abbreviation for וָחַי occurring only here.

Leviticus 25:47. The missing conjunction is supplied in ten MSS, the LXX. and Syr.

Leviticus 25:49. See Textual Note 4 on Leviticus 18:6.

Leviticus 25:54. The Heb. does not express the noun at all. That supplied by the marg. of the A. V. is clearly more agreeable to the context than that in the text. So Lange, following the Syr. The other ancient versions do not supply the ellipsis.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

This chapter, with the first two verses of the following one, forms another Parashah. or proper lesson of the law; the parallel lesson from the prophets is Jeremiah 32:6-27, concerning Jeremiah’s redemption of Hanameel’s field in Anathoth. This and the following chapter, which is the conclusion of the book proper, form a single Divine communication. “The institution of the jubilee years corresponds to the institution of the day of atonement ( Leviticus 16). Just as all the sins and uncleannesses of the whole congregation, which had remained unatoned for and uncleansed in the course of the year, were to be wiped away by the all-embracing expiation of the yearly recurring day of atonement, and an undisturbed relation to be restored between Jehovah and His people; Song of Solomon, by the appointment of the year of jubilee, the disturbance and confusion of the divinely appointed relations, which had been introduced in the course of time through the inconstancy of all human or earthly things, were to be removed by the appointment of the year of Jubilee, and the kingdom of Israel to be brought back to its original condition.” Keil. The systematic character and correspondence of the two great divisions of Leviticus are thus brought into view.

The institution of the Sabbatical year occupies the first seven verses, and that of the year of Jubilee, with its effects upon rights and property, the remainder of the chapter. The latter may be subdivided into the institution itself ( Leviticus 25:8-12); the legal return of every man to his own land, and the effect of this on contracts ( Leviticus 25:13-34); and finally the emancipation of the Hebrew slave with its consequences ( Leviticus 25:35-55). “The Sabbatical year and the year of Jubilee belong to that great Sabbatical system which runs through the religious observances of the law. They were solemnly connected with the sacred Covenant.” Clark. They are therefore appropriately placed immediately after the “appointed seasons” of the previous chapter; yet they are also somewhat separated from these, as “they were distinguished by no religious ceremonies, they were accompanied by no act of religious worship. There were no sacrifices, nor Holy Convocations belonging to them.” Although forming a part of the Hebrew ecclesiastical system, they were yet chiefly marked in their effects by their civil and social relations. As the whole civil polity of Israel was fundamentally theocratic, so were these remarkable provisions in their national life placed upon a religious basis.

“There are perhaps in the whole ancient world no institutions bearing comparison with the Hebrew year of release and of Jubilee, either in comprehensiveness or in loftiness of principle. It is impossible to appreciate too highly the wonderful consistency with which the Sabbath was made the foundation of a grand series of celebrations extending from the Sabbath-day to the Sabbath-month, and the Sabbath-year, and lastly to a great Sabbath-period of years. And all these institutions were associated with ideas admirably calculated to foster both a sense of dignity and humility, both zeal in practical pursuits and spiritual elevation, both prudence and charity.” Kalisch.

“The fundamental thought is: Jehovah is the Lord of the land of Jehovah, with all its blessings, with its soil and its harvests, with its inheritances and its dwellings, with its rich and its poor, with its free and its slaves, its roads and its bye-ways, its holy seasons, the Sabbath days and its central holy place, the Tabernacle.” Lange.

Leviticus 25:1-7. In mount Sinai clearly means in the region about the mountain, as in Leviticus 7:38; Leviticus 26:46; Leviticus 27:34, etc. “Mount Sinai is emphasized to allow the immediately following ordinance to come into prominence as a prophecy of the distant future.” Lange. Neither the Sabbatical nor the Jubilee year were to be observed until the settlement of the people in the promised land. On Leviticus 25:4 Lange quotes Keil as follows: “The omission of sowing and reaping presupposed that the Sabbatical year commenced with the civil year, in the autumn of the sixth year of labor, and not with the ecclesiastical year, on the first of Abib (Nisan), and that it lasted till the Autumn of the seventh year, when the cultivation of the land would commence again with the preparation of the ground and the sowing of the seed for the eighth year; and with this the command to proclaim the jubilee year ‘on the tenth day of the seventh month’ throughout all the land ( Leviticus 25:9), and the calculation in Leviticus 25:21-22, fully agree.” On the expression Sabbath Sabbathon of Leviticus 25:4, see Textual Note 2 on Leviticus 23:3. In Leviticus 25:4-7 all agricultural labor is forbidden for the Sabbatical year. Two questions arise: how were the wants of the people to be provided for during the year? and how was the time thus freed from its usual employments to be spent? In regard to the first, reference is usually made to the great productiveness of the land, and to the fact that there would be a considerable spontaneous growth of grain, while the fruit trees and the vine would of course bear nearly as usual. Greater use would also have been made of animal food by those who possessed cattle, or were able to purchase it, and the uncropped fields would have allowed of the support of herds and flocks in unusual numbers. These facts lessen the difficulty, and indeed remove it altogether for the wealthy and for the poor also during several months of the year; all this spontaneous produce was common property, and might be gathered by any one for immediate use but not stored. Undoubtedly during the time of the ripening of the various cereals there would thus be abundant provision for the wants of the whole population. But after all, the main reliance must have been upon the stores laid up previously in view of the coming on of the Sabbatical year, and this is pointed out in Leviticus 25:20-21. It is also to be noticed that only agriculture labor was suspended, and that the commerce of the cities went on as usual. In regard to the employment of the time: the command is given in Deuteronomy 31:10-12, that at the feast of Tabernacles in this year the law should be read in the hearing of all the people, including not merely the men who were alone required in other years to assemble at the feast, but also the women and children. This provision, joined with the analogy of the seventh day, shows that the leisure of the Sabbatical year was to be improved in acquiring a knowledge of the Divine law, and doubtless in renewing family ties and associations. It is distinguished not as an idle year, but as a year of intellectual and moral, rather than of manual occupation. Other passages in the law on this subject are Exodus 23:10-11, and Deuteronomy 15:1-18. The latter is the most detailed of all, and provides for the release in that year of all debts due from Israelites, and of all Israelites in bond-service. The Sabbatical year was doubtless provided for the sake of man and its bearing upon his spiritual welfare; yet when the law pronounces ( Leviticus 25:2) the land shall keep a Sabbath unto the LORD, we are forced to see a symbolical significance in the very rest of the land itself. “The earth was to be saved from the hand of man exhausting its power for earthly purposes as his own property, and to enjoy the holy rest with which God had blessed the earth and all its productions after the creation. From this, Israel, as the nation of God, was to learn, on the one hand, that although the earth was created for Prayer of Manasseh, it was not merely created for him to draw out its powers for his own use, but also to be holy to the Lord, and participate in His blessed rest; and on the other hand, that the great purpose for which the congregation of the Lord existed, did not consist in the uninterrupted tilling of the earth, connected with bitter labor in the sweat of his brow ( Genesis 3:17; Genesis 3:19), but in the peaceful enjoyment of the fruits of the earth, which the Lord their God had given them, and would give them still without the labor of their hands, if they strove to keep His covenant and satisfy themselves with His grace.” Keil. The law of the Sabbatical year was not to come into operation until after the completion of the conquest. It is hardly probable that it was actually observed until the Captivity, see 2 Chronicles 36:21, unless possibly a few times in the very beginning of the settlement in Canaan. Later, “there are found several historical notices which imply its observance. The Jews were exempted from tribute in the Sabbatical year by Alexander the Great (Jos. Ant. xi8, 6), and by Julius Cæsar (ib. xiv10, 6). The inhabitants of Bethsura could not stand out when besieged by Antiochus Epiphanes, because they had no store of provisions owing to the Sabbatical year ( 1 Maccabees 6:49), and the inhabitants of Jerusalem suffered from a like cause when they were besieged by Herod (Jos. Ant. xiv16, 2; xv1, 2).” Clark. Tacitus also mentions the Jewish “seventh year given to indolence” (Hist. v2, 4), and St. Paul ( Galatians 4:10) charges the Judaizers with observing years as well as days and months.

Leviticus 25:8-12. The institution of the year of Jubilee. The present chapter contains the whole literature of the Jubilee year to be found in the Pentateuch, except the discussion of its effect upon fields dedicated to the Lord in Leviticus 27:16-25, and except also the allusion in the case of the daughters of Zelophehad, Numbers 36:4. Lange: “The relation of the last Sabbatical year to the Jubilee year itself creates a special difficulty. If the people did not sow or reap during two years, there would result a stoppage of four years.” [This seems to overlook the fact that the Jubilee was proclaimed on the 10 th Tisri, when the whole work of the agricultural year had been rounded out and completed, so that the break of two years, serious as this was, did not extend either forward or backward in its effects beyond those years themselves.—F. G.]. “On this account it has indeed been supposed that the 49 th year itself was the Jubilee year (see Keil, p162 [Trans. p458]. Art. Sabbath and Jobeljahr in Herzog’s Real-encyclopädie).” [This view was first advocated by R. Jehuda, and has been adopted by Scaliger, Usher, Petavius, Rosenmüller, and others, and hesitatingly by Clark in his commentary. It is entirely rejected by Keil as contradictory to the plain language of the text, and by Clark in his Art. Jubilee in Smith’s Bibl. Dict. The text ( Leviticus 25:8-11) is perfectly plain, using the same forms of language as in regard to the feast of Pentecost after the completion of the seven weeks, between which and this Pentecostal year there is a clear analogy. Notwithstanding the authority of the critics above referred to, it must be considered as certain that the Jubilee followed the seventh Sabbatical year, and that thus once in every half century two fallow years were to occur together. The provisions for food were the same in the one case as in the other: no agricultural labor was to be performed, but the spontaneous productions of the earth were the common property of the whole population. Large reliance must therefore have been placed upon food previously stored and, perhaps, on foreign commerce.—F.G.] “We see from the book of Jeremiah that this feast was poorly kept in Israel, not on account of apprehended need, but in consequence of the hardening effect of proprietary relations, and the hard-heartedness of the powerful and great. (Knobel, p563. Jeremiah 34). But the year of Jubilee formed the culmination of the ideal relations of Israel which the law aimed at without actually reaching.… It is most full of significance that on the 10 th of the 7 th mouth (at the end of the seven Sabbatical years on the great day of Atonement, without doubt immediately after the full accomplishment of the propitiation) the trombone was to sound through all the land to announce the year of Jubilee as a year of freedom (דְּרוֹר), the highest feast of the laborer, and of nature, the redemption of lost inheritances, the ransom of the enslaved, the year of the restoration of all things ( Isaiah 61). The instrument of the announcement is the trombone, the horn (שׁוֹפַּר), the sound of which יוֹבֵל had proclaimed also the feast of the covenant of the law.” After the solemn quiet of the day when all the people must “afflict their souls,” and when the great rites of the annual propitiation had been completed, probably at the time of the evening sacrifice, the sudden burst of sound proclaiming the year of Jubilee must have been peculiarly impressive. The proclamation of freedom was most appropriate just after the great reconciliation of the people with God had been symbolically completed. The chief allusions to this year in the prophets are Isaiah 61:1-2; Jeremiah 32:6-15; Ezekiel 7:12-13; Ezekiel 46:16-18.

Leviticus 25:13-34. In the year of Jubilee every man was to return to his inherited possession. The principle on which this law is based is given in Leviticus 25:23 : The land was the absolute possession of Jehovah alone; He had allotted it to the families of Israel as strangers and sojourners with Him, and however these allotments might be temporarily disturbed in the exigencies of life, in the Jubilee they must all be restored again. Leviticus 25:14. Sell aught refers only to land and houses in the country. Personal property (except slaves) was not affected by the Jubilee as debts were by the Sabbatical year ( Deuteronomy 15:1-11). The price of the land was determined ( Leviticus 25:15-16) by the value of the harvests remaining until the Jubilee. “In the valuation of the harvest there was always opportunity for fraud; therefore the earnest warning not to oppress [overreach] one’s neighbor.” Lange. Leviticus 25:20-22 relate in terms to the sabbatical year, but only in regard to the supply of food. This is of course, equally applicable to the Jubilee year, and thus both cases are covered. The question arises in connection with the latter, but needs also to be answered for the former, and is therefore arranged with reference to that as the more frequently recurring. The verses stand therefore quite in their proper place; if placed, as various critics would have them, just after Leviticus 25:7, the Jubilee year could only be provided for by a repetition. Leviticus 25:23-28. Lange: “The land shall not be sold even to defeasance, i.e., completely. It shall also not be sold absolutely; the form is not an hereditary lease, once for all, but a temporary lease for a course of years.—For the land is Mine, Jehovah says, and ye are strangers and sojourners with Me.—Therefore the soil throughout the whole land was placed under the law of redemption. Also redemption could take place before the 50 th year if the nearest Goel or redeemer of the impoverished man stepped in and bought back for his benefit that which had been alienated. If the redeemers (relatives, according to their degrees of relationship, having the ability and the will) failed, then the case was conceivable that the impoverished man himself might come into the possession of means before the 50 th year, and then the redemption was reserved to him according to the usufruct of the yet remaining years.” If neither of these means of redemption were availed of, then the law of reversion absolutely and without consideration came into play in the Jubilee year. There could never be injustice in this, as all purchases had been made with a full knowledge of the law. The law, if thy brother be waxen poor, throughout presupposes that no Israelite would sell his inheritance except under the pressure of poverty. Comp. 1 Kings 21:3.

Leviticus 25:29-34. The alienation and redemption of houses (a) of the people generally, Leviticus 25:29-31; (b) of the Levites, Leviticus 25:32-34. (a) Lange: “A dwelling-house within a walled city could be redeemed within the space of the first year, but not afterwards. The law could not be brought to bear upon the more fixed relations of cities without prejudice to justice and order. The reason certainly is not that the houses in the cities belonged “to the full proprietorship of their possessors.” The possessors themselves were really tenants of Jehovah.” [The law of redemption relates to land, and is based upon the original division of the land among the families of Israel. In cities the original value of the land constituted but a small part of the value of a house; the rest was the creation of human industry. The property represented by the original value of the land is recognized in the right of redemption for a year, which also concurred with the general purpose of the law in checking the sale of real estate; but beyond this the house in the city was justly treated as of the nature of personal property. Calvin also observes justly that there was not the same objection to the falling of city houses into the hands of the wealthy as of those in the country. On the one hand, the expense of maintaining them was greater, and could be better borne by the wealthy; and on the other, the possession of a house was not at all as necessary to a poor man in the city as in the country where he could scarcely otherwise find shelter.—F. G.] “But the houses in open places were put, as an appurtenance to the farm, under the law of redemption within the fiftieth year, or of reversion at the end of that period.” (b) See the Textual Notes on Leviticus 25:32-33. Lange, in his translation and exegesis of Leviticus 25:33, follows the Vulgate, and objects to the view of Keil as too subtle, and as inapplicable to the clause: and the city of his possession. The latter objection is removed by considering this as a hendiadys, and translating in the city. Lange considers that the clause “has something like these the senses: even houses of the Levites fall back again, even if they were the whole city. Or again: only by this means the Levitical cities remain guaranteed as such.” The pasturage of the Levites was absolutely inalienable, even temporarily ( Leviticus 25:34), and the reason for extending the law of redemption to their houses in the cities is evidently that they had no other inheritance, and it was therefore necessary in this to assimilate them to the rest of the people that they might enjoy the same safeguards against hopeless poverty with their brethren. This provision applied to the priests also, who constituted one family of the Levites, and were in the same situation as their brethren in regard to landed property. It is noticeable on the one hand that this is the only mention of the Levites in this book; and on the other, that the provision of cities for them had not yet been announced. Both facts admit of the easy explanation that the whole legislation had been communicated to Moses in the Mount, so that any part of it may presuppose another; but that he was to announce it to the people in the order best adapted to their needs. The Levites are not therefore spoken of in this book, except thus incidentally in order to keep them distinct from the priests; and the law in regard to the redemption of their houses in their cities is given to complete the law of Jubilee; but the assignment of the cities themselves is reserved to the directions for the division of the land.

Leviticus 25:35-55. The emancipation of the Hebrew slave with its consequences. The main subject is still the law of Jubilee; but in connection with the effect of this upon the Hebrew slave, the treatment of the poor generally is spoken of.—And if thy brother,i.e. an Israelite, be waxen poor, he was not to be treated as an outcast, but with the consideration shown to a resident foreigner, who also had no landed possession. Leviticus 25:36-37, forbid the taking of usury of him, or increase. In the latter verse this is applied also to the furnishing of food. It is entirely clear that the prohibition is not simply of what is now commonly called usurious interest, but of any interest whatever. There was no law regulating the amount of interest; no interest was allowed to be taken of a Hebrew brother, and no limitation was put upon that which might be demanded of a foreigner. Lange, however, considers the words: a stranger or a sojourner ( Leviticus 25:35) as in apposition with the pronoun him, and taking the view expressed in the A. V, says: “It is very noticeable that this holds good also of the foreigner.” See Textual Note19. Lange adds: “Jehovah says this, the great Benefactor, who has delivered His Israel out of Egypt, and purposes to give him the whole land of Canaan, in order to make him, through thankfulness, like-minded with his God.” ( Leviticus 25:38.) Leviticus 25:39-43. Hebrew servants to Hebrews. The law provides that such servants shall not be treated as ordinary slaves entirely dependent upon the will of their master, but rather as simply under a contract, like a hired servant. In Exodus 21:1-4 it has already been provided that the term of servitude for the Israelites should not extend beyond six years, and in the seventh they should go out free; it is now further provided, as an almost necessary supplement to that law, that, whatever the number of years he might chance to have served, he should go free in the Jubilee when the land of his inheritance reverted to him, and would need his care. “Through this principle slavery was completely abolished, so far as the people of the theocracy were concerned.” Oehler. In Ex. the freedom of his wife and children is also assured, unless the wife be one given him by his master, and therefore his slave. In that case the wife and children remained the master’s, and the same qualification is doubtless to be understood of Leviticus 25:41 here. In Exodus 21:5-6, provision is made for the case of a slave who preferred to continue with his master; it would have been unnecessary at any rate to mention this unusual exception here; but probably it applied only to the ordinary release in the seventh year of service, and was not intended to take place also at the Jubilee. If the slave freed at the Jubilee chose to go back to his master, he could of course do Song of Solomon, but could only devote himself to perpetual servitude after another six years’ service. Leviticus 25:42-43. Lange: “The Israelites were not allowed to become men’s slaves, because they were God’s slaves. The Jews could misinterpret these noble words in arrogance in opposition to the heathen ( John 8); but Christian industry has read them too little.” Leviticus 25:44-46. Heathen slaves of Hebrew masters. The Israelites, in common with all nations of their time, were permitted to hold heathen slaves. It was a patriarchal custom of long standing, and the supply was kept up by natural descent, by purchase from foreigners, and by captives taken in war. The people were not yet prepared for the abrogation of this, and in consequence the Mosaic law permits its continuance, but in many ways mitigates its rigor (see Exodus 21:16; Exodus 21:21; Exodus 21:26-27), especially by providing that the slave might adopt the religion of his master, and be circumcised, and thus entitled to all the privileges of a Hebrew servant (comp. Exodus 12:44). This had certainly been done with all the slaves of Abraham, and probably with those of Isaac and Jacob. It is likely that no inconsiderable portion of the Israelites of the time of Moses were the descendants of slaves thus manumitted. Leviticus 25:47-55. Hebrew servants to foreign masters. By this addition all possible cases of servitude are covered. Lange: “The prohibition of oppressive power against an Israelite brother occurs again Leviticus 25:43, and again Leviticus 25:46. So strongly were the Israelites now bound to charitableness and to the fostering of freedom; so strongly also was the power of the stranger and foreigner coming into Israel limited in relation to heathen encroachments upon the Jewish right of freedom. If an impoverished Jew sold himself or his house to a foreigner, any one of his kindred might become his redeemer, the brother, the uncle, the uncle’s Song of Solomon, or any blood relation; also he might redeem himself, if he had laid by enough for the purpose. Everything breathed the tendency to freedom; but it was conditioned by law. The price of the redemption was fixed according to the years which he had yet to serve to the year of Jubilee, and according to the usual wages. In case there was no redemption, he was set free in the year of Jubilee. At the close occurs yet once more the solemn sanction of the law, Leviticus 25:55.” This law evidently contemplates the acquisition of wealth by foreigners residing in Israel, and their living in undisturbed prosperity. The Hebrew slave of a Hebrew was released without redemption after six years of service, and also in the year of Jubilee whenever that might occur; but apparently the law of Exodus 21does not apply to foreign masters, and here nothing is said of release, except by redemption, until the Jubilee. This would be a strong inducement to an impoverished Hebrew to sell himself to an Israelite rather than a foreigner, and concurs with the general tendency of the law to discourage any subjection to foreigners.

Lange connects the first two verses of the following chapter with this section as is done in the Jewish Parashah. They seem, however, to belong to the general conclusion of the book contained in the following chapter.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

I. Lange (under Exegetical): “The chosen land, seen from a distance, appears as a paradisaical world, inexhaustible in fruitfulness.… But it is to be particularly noticed that the prescribed Sabbath rest of the land forced the people back again to the inexhaustible source of food in the breeding of cattle, and so far to simple Idyllic relations; the breaking the hardness of purchase and property relations would further the return of Idyllic simplicity, soften the differences of rank, and above all, avert the Song of Solomon -called proletarian relations, and glorify Jehovah as the gentle sovereign Lord and manor Lord of the families of Israel joined together in brotherhood. By this also comfort was brought to the cattle, and even to the wild animal. In later times the turbulent, restless pressing on of industry is not appeased by voluntary or legal times of rest and years of remission, but indeed by commercial crises, civil catastrophes and extraordinary helps in necessity; but the proper ideas or ideal of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years have not yet come to be clearly seen in the Christian consciousness of the time.” What is noted by H. Spencer as the rythmic flow of all things in the universe is provided for in regard to human activity in this wonderful legislation; the disastrous consequences attending its absence are noted above by Lange.

II. Lange (also under Exeg.): “The limitation of human proprietary right to the soil has also its permanent ideal significance. God challenges to Himself the royal right over terrestrial nature, as a clear idea of this is given indeed in the winter storm over the sea, the Alpine glacier and the deserts. Man is inclined, in his egotistical industry, to harass nature as his beast.”

III. “Looking at the law of Jubilee from a simply practical point of view, its operation must have tended to remedy those evils which are always growing up in the ordinary conditions of human society. It prevented the permanent accumulation of land in the hands of a few, and periodically raised those whom fault or misfortune had sunk into poverty to a position of competency. It must also have tended to keep alive family feeling, and helped to preserve the family genealogies…… But in its more special character, as a law given by Jehovah to His peculiar people, it was a standing lesson to those who would rightly regard it, on the terms upon which the enjoyment of the land of Promise had been conferred upon them. All the land belonged to Jehovah as its supreme Lord, every Israelite as His vassal belonged to Him.” Clark.

IV. The law of slavery as understood among ancient nations generally is here essentially modified and softened, the Levitical precepts tending in the same direction with those of the Gospel which, after so long a time, have now nearly effected its abolition throughout the civilized world. But in regard to the Hebrews themselves, the law went much further, and substantially abolished slavery at once, reducing it to a six years’ service, and even this interrupted by the year of Jubilee, and subject to many restrictions. It is still further to be remembered that any foreign slave might be admitted to the privileges of the Hebrew, by becoming an Israelite through the reception of circumcision. Thus strongly did the law set its face against the institution of slavery.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Lange (under Exeg.): “The Sabbath year is the germ of the Jubilee year, as this is a type of the New Testament time of deliverance, restoration and freedom ( Isaiah 61; Luke 4:18), and further, a prelude and a prophecy of the heavenly and eternal Sabbath itself ( Hebrews 4).”

Lange (Homiletik): “The year of Jubilee of the theocratic land. The great year of rejoicing in the theocratic community. Ideals which have been scantily and scarcely fulfilled in the letter in Israel, but which in Christianity are continually being realized in the spirit. And this indeed in the commendable care of the fields and forests; in the dread of a gross profit out of nature; in the limitation of the proprietary right of individuals over nature; in customs of gentleness; in the consecration of the social right of fellowship; the right of the poor, the right of the laboring Prayer of Manasseh, the right of rent and purchase. The later dismal caricatures of these ideals. Seven years a period after which the administration of nature required a new revision; forty [fifty] years a period after which the arrangements of business required a revision. The neglect of reform a source of revolution. The Jubilee year a type of the Gospel time of deliverance ( Isaiah 61; Luke 4:16). The true preaching of the Gospel always a proclamation of the true Jubilee year. The Jewish and the Christian emancipation from slavery: 1) its common foundation, 2) its greater difference, 3) its unceasing development in the world.”

As the law provided for a redeemer for the poor, Song of Solomon, says Wordsworth, Christ became the Redeemer for the spiritually poor, reinstating us in our lost estate, and delivering us from the bondage of sin; and this He was entitled to do because by His incarnation He took our nature and became our Kinsman.

By the prohibition of sowing and harvesting in the Sabbatical and Jubilee years was again taught that principle which the Israelites learned from the manna in the wilderness, and which the words of Christ make of perpetual validity, that “man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.”

Very full and striking are the provisions of this chapter for the loving care of the poor, not for the sake of the poor only, but for the sake of him who should show them kindness. That the blessing of this lesson might not cease with the Mosaic dispensation, God has provided that we shall have the poor always with us, and our Lord has elevated our ministrations to them into ministrations to Himself. Similarly kindness and consideration towards those who labor for us is taught by Moses, and is ever made one of the prominent practical duties of Christianity. See Ephesians 6:9, etc.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Leviticus 25:3-4. כֶּרֶם. See Textual Note6 on Leviticus 19:10.

FN#2 - Leviticus 25:5. The Sam, LXX. and Syr. prefix the conjunction.

FN#3 - Leviticus 25:5; Leviticus 25:11. נָזִיר means primarily the separated (see Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16), then the consecrated. Except in the passages referred to, and in this chap, it is always used of the Nazarite. It is applied to the vine either as for this year consecrated, so LXX. ἁγιάσματος σου; or by a figure of speech, thy Nazarite vine, as having its branches unpruned like the unshorn locks of the Nazarite. The latter is generally preferred by the commentators. See Keil who refers to the Latin viridis coma, Tibull. i7, 34; Propert. ii15, 12. Ten MSS, the Syr. and Vulg. read the word in the plural.

FN#4 - Leviticus 25:6. The Sam. and Syr. read this and the three following words in the plural.

FN#5 - Leviticus 25:7. וְלַחַיָּה. See Textual Note 1 on Leviticus 11:2.

FN#6 - Leviticus 25:8. Sabbath is used here as in Leviticus 23:15 (see note there) rather in a figurative way than with the definite sense of weeks.

FN#7 - Leviticus 25:9. The word יוֹבֵל = Jubile of Leviticus 25:10 does not occur in this verse, and there is no occasion for its insertion. The שׁוֹפַר תְרוּעָה is the loud sound, clangor, of an instrument usually translated trumpet in the A. V, but occasionally ( 1 Chronicles 15:28; 2 Chronicles 15:14; Psalm 98:6, etc.) more correctly cornet. It was either the horn of an animal (according to the Mishna, of chamois or wild goat), or made of metal in the fashion of a horn. The LXX. renders σάλπιγξ, the Vulg. buccina.

FN#8 - Leviticus 25:10-13, etc. יוֹבֵל is translated throughout this chapter and Leviticus 27, jubile. So also Numbers 36:4. In Exodus 19:13 it is rendered trumpet (marg. cornet), and in the only other places where it occurs, Joshua 6:4-6; Joshua 6:8; Joshua 6:13, ram’s horns. Outside of the Bible the word is always spelt jubilee, but being here spelt jubile, Clark considers that it was intended to be pronounced as a dissyllable, making a close imitation of the Heb. word. Authorities differ as to its sense etymologically. See the subject discussed in Bochart, Hieroz, I. c43 (vol. I, pp463–466 ed. Rosen.), and Gesen. Thes. s. v. The LXX. renders ἄφεσις with relation to what was to be done in this year rather than as a translation of the Heb. word. Josephus (Ant. III:12, 3) uses the Heb. word ἰωβήλος, which he explains as meaning liberty, ἐλευθερίαν δὲ σημαἰνει τοὔνομα. The Vulg. has jubileus. In Ezekiel 46:17 it is called שְׁנַת הַדִּרוֹר = the year of liberty, from which Josephus probably derived his interpretation. This accords well with the context in Leviticus 25:11, and also with the derivation from יָבַל = to flow freely.

FN#9 - Leviticus 25:14. The Heb. has the verb in the plural; but the Sam. has the sing in accordance with the sing, pronouns following. The word buy, קָנֹח is inf. abs, as in Genesis 41:43.

FN#10 - Leviticus 25:14. אַל־תּוֹנוּ. The verb יָנָה in the Hiph. applies especially to that sort of civil oppression brought about by fraud, which is best, expressed in English by the word overreach.

FN#11 - Leviticus 25:23. לִצְמִתֻת, lit. for cutting off (as in marg. A. V.), viz. from all hope of redemption. In modern phrase, in perpetuity.

FN#12 - Leviticus 25:26. The marg. his hand hath attained and found sufficiency exactly renders the Heb.; but the text of the A. V. is a sufficiently good translation except in failing to bring out the idea that the ability to redeem has come about since the sale took place. The Jewish interpretation was accordingly correct, that the right of redemption should only accrue in case the ability to Revelation -purchase was gained after the sale had taken place; a merely voluntary sale must hold until the jubilee year.

FN#13 - Leviticus 25:29. יָמִים תִּהְיִח גְּאֻלָּתוֹ, lit. days shall its redemption be, i.e. the right of redemption shall continue for a definite time and no longer, which time has been explained in the previous clause to be a year; it is better, however, to let the translation follow the Heb. than to paraphrase so much as has been done in the A. V.

FN#14 - Leviticus 25:30. The k’ri לוֹ for the text לֹא is also the reading of the Sam. and of thirteen MSS.

FN#15 - Leviticus 25:31. יֵחָשֵׁב is sing. The Sam, LXX. and Syr. have the plural.

FN#16 - Leviticus 25:32. On this use of the particle ו see Nordheimer’s Heb. Gr. § 1093, 6, c, h. It is evident that there is nothing said about the redemption of the cities, which the form of the A. V. would seem to imply, but only of the houses in them.

FN#17 - Leviticus 25:33. There is much diversity of opinion as to the meaning of this clause. The text of the A. V. is supported by the LXX. and by the Targums, and is defended by Keil. A difficulty arises from the use of the word יִגְאַל = redeem; but Keil maintains, on the authority of the Rabbins, that this is used in the sense of קָנָה = to buy. He grounds the usage on the fact that the Levitical cities were originally assigned to the tribes as a part of their inheritance; they relinquished the houses, or a part of the houses in them (together with pasture grounds) to the Levites for dwelling-places. When therefore one of another tribe purchased of a Levite, he was in fact redeeming the inheritance of his tribe. So Murphy. On the other hand, the reading: If one of the Levites redeems a house in the city (according to the marg. of the A. V.), is preferred by Clark following Rosenmüller, De Wette, Kranold, Herxheimer and others. The meaning will then be, that if a Levite has sold a house to one of another tribe, and another Levite redeem it, then in the Jubilee year it must revert to its original possessor. But it is more than questionable whether the Levites had any such general right of redemption on behalf of their fellow Levites as this would suppose. The Vulg. inserts a negative, Si redemptœ (sc. œdes) non fuerint, and this is sustained by Houbigant, and preferred by Woide, Ewald, Bunsen and Knobel. It is adopted by Lange in the translation and exegesis; but it is a serious objection that it would require a change in the Heb. On the whole, the text of the A. V. seems best sustained, and gives the clearest sense.

FN#18 - Leviticus 25:33. On the use of וְ in the figure Hendiadys see Gesen. s. v. 1, b.

FN#19 - Leviticus 25:35. The particle as is inserted here by the LXX, Vulg, Targums, Luther, etc, and is recognized as to be supplied by many commentators, as Keil, Clark and others. So also Riggs. On the other hand the Syr. gives just the opposite sense: thou shalt not hold him for a sojourner or foreigner; but he shall live with thee. Others, as Lange, adopt the sense expressed in the A. V.

FN#20 - Leviticus 25:35. וְחֵי according to Keil, an abbreviation for וָחַי occurring only here.

FN#21 - Leviticus 25:47. The missing conjunction is supplied in ten MSS, the LXX. and Syr.

FN#22 - Leviticus 25:49. See Textual Note 4 on Leviticus 18:6.

FN#23 - Leviticus 25:54. The Heb. does not express the noun at all. That supplied by the marg. of the A. V. is clearly more agreeable to the context than that in the text. So Lange, following the Syr. The other ancient versions do not supply the ellipsis.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Leviticus 25:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/leviticus-25.html. 1857-84.

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Thursday, September 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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