The sabbath of rest for the land in the seventh year. (Verse 1-7.)
The jubilee of the fiftieth year, Oppression forbidden. (Verse 8-22.)
Redemption of the land and houses. (Verse 23-34.)
Compassion towards the poor. (Verse 35-38.)
Laws respecting bondmen, Oppression forbidden. (Verse 39-55.)
This chapter discusses the sabbatical year which was observed every seventh year when the land was not to be cultivated, but allowed to rest. Every fiftieth year was the “year of jubile” (ie. “jubilee” = gladness) when the land was to rest for two years in a row (the 49th year would be the seventh year in that cycle and thus a sabbatical year; a larger cycle of seven sevens was also completed – thus the 50th was an added year of rest). This year of jubilee was when every man had his family inheritance restored to him and all slaves were allowed to go free. These signs served to remind the Jews that God is the owner of all things. Such a plan was also wise from a economic standpoint in virtually eliminating inflation, keeping interest rates, under control (vs. 15-16), and allowing the Jew who had gone bankrupt to get a fresh start (vs. 28). In the year of jubilee, all property that had been sold or leased during the previous 49 years reverted back to the original owner or the original owner’s family. There were only two exceptions to this: 1] houses sold in walled cities did not revert back to the original owners as the idea was to make sure that every family in Israel had land to farm – houses in the city were not an issue (vs. 30); and 2] property originally owned by Levites could be reclaimed at any time because they did not inherit farm land like the other tribes; – God gave them the houses in the city as their inheritance (vs. 32-33).
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.
3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
4 But 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 vineyard.
5 That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: 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, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee,
7 And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.
Not only were the children of Israel to the keep the weekly Sabbath but the LORD instructs his people to allow the land of Israel to rest on the Sabbath day but here we see a Sabbath year being instituted to rest the land and to restore its nutrients that the crops would take from it.
Prior to the fall such a thing would not have been necessary but because of the fall the ground has been cursed and the land does not give us what the LORD originally intended it to give.
8 And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years.
9 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound 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 unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
The year of Jubile came every fifty years and began with the blowing of the trumpet on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It was the Sabbath of Sabbaths.
If someone had contracted themselves unto you because they fell on hardship or they just needed work to get themselves going financially this would be the day when all debts were cancelled. Servants would be released from their positions and gifts would be given them to start over new.
If someone had lost their land in the past due to whatever reason it would be returned to its original owners on this day because God was the true owner of the land and he has given to his people Israel for a perpetual inheritance and no one else could own land that belonged to someone else by birthright.
11 A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed.
12 For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.
13 In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession.
14 And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another:
15 According to the number of years after the jubile thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee:
16 According 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 one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.
They were not supposed to reap what had grown of its own that year because it was a Sabbath and also because the things that were grew would produce nutrients and seeds for the following year.
If they had gathered them back up the ground wouldn’t be as fertile, nor would it have any seeds to begin the crop the following year.
18 Wherefore 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:
21 Then 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.
Just like what happened to the children of Israel in the wilderness regarding God supplying Israel a double portion of manna on the day prior to the Sabbath so he would in the year prior to the Sabbath year provided for that year as well as the Sabbath year and enough in the following year to tide them over until the crops came in.
We know however Israel rarely obeyed this commandment and they suffered in the captivity because of so that the land would get its rest that God required so that it could produce abundantly what Israel needed.
These both picture the future Sabbath of rest that will occur when God dwells with man (Immanuel) in the Kingdom.
23 The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.
God did not allow the Jews to sell their land to foreigners or for that matter to anyone in a permanent sense. The land in Egypt belonged to Pharaoh and the Egyptians were simply his tenants (Gen. 47:13-26); the land of Israel belonged to God and he gave his people each an inheritance.
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 be able to redeem it;
27 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: and in the jubile it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession.
Israel was a stranger and a sojourner with the LORD on the earth until the day they would enter into their millennial rest in the Kingdom.
Prior to that time the land that each family was given to them by inheritance was to stay in the family, it could not be sold it could only be leased until the year of Jubile.
If the land was leased out or sold it could be redeemed by the individual if he had the means to do so or it could be redeemed by a near kinsman. This was to keep Israel connected to the land.
This land is not just any land. This is where God will set up his government from in Zion in the Kingdom and that is precisely why Satan wants that land in anyone else’s possession than Israelites.
29 And 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 may he redeem it.
30 And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubile.
31 But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubile.
Houses within the city walls were allowed to be leased for a year but if the person who owned it could not redeem it at the end of the year then the person who bought it would have it as his possession forever provided of course that he paid what it was worth.
This was not concerning houses belonging to priests inside the cities of refuge. That is dealt with next.
32 Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, 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, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubile: 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.
No home belonging unto a Levite could be sold for a continual habitation to someone else. They could be leased or sold temporarily but they could be redeemed back at any time. In the year of the Jubilee they had to be returned back to their original owners. God takes care of those who minister to his people.
While the Levites were not given a twelfth of the land as the other tribes received, they were given cities that had some land associated with them, but they were only as the story says the suburbs of the cities and they could never be
sold because they belonged unto the priests and the priests belonged unto the LORD. He was their inheritance.
35 And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.
36 Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.
[Exod 22:25, Deut 23:19, Neh 5:7, Psa 15:5, Prov 28:8, Jer 15:10, Eze 18:13, Eze 22:12, Matt 25:27, Luke 19:23]
“usury” – lending money at extreme and unreasonable interest rates
37 Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
“lend…victuals for increase” – the Jew could give a poor brother food, but was not allowed to lend him food with the idea of making money of his brother’s destitute condition.
38 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.
Israelites were not allowed to charged fellow Israelites interest on their debts, they could not however charge Israelites interest. God wanted those that were his people to be blessed, so he could not have greedy Israelites preying on other Israelites.
Because God gave Israel the land that was his and because he gave himself to Israel to be their God.
39 And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:
40 But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile:
41 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.
[1st Cor 7:23]
43 Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.
[Gen 42:18, Neh 5:15]
Because the children of Israel are God’s servants in his land, he has declared that his servant whom he brought out of the land and gave them the land they lived in that they could not take from their fellow sojourners their property nor treat them like they were treated in Egypt.
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 rigour.
This portion of scripture has caused some to believe that God is cruel allowing bondmen and bondmaids to be the property of Israelites (slaves).
First of all, you must realize that slavery existed long before Israel became a nation and there were little to no rules governing it.
God placed all kinds of restrictions upon the nation of Israel concerning their treatment of their bondmen and bondmaids.
Israelites were not allowed to enslave someone or some group of people for their financial benefit as the Egyptians did with them and for that very reason it was forbidden.
Israel could not place one of their brethren in the position of a bondservant because the land was not theirs originally it was God’s and he gave it to the
m and God did not want landlords to take over the land and oppress the people.
God allowed Israel to take bondmen of the heathen that sold themselves unto them and Israel was to take care of them forever.
They were to provide housing, as well as food and clothing and they were regulated by the word of God as far as how they were to treat the bondmen and maids.
The Israelite who was abusive to his bondmen or maids would be severely treated if they misused them according to God’s instructions.
Bondmen and Bondmaids had job security for life and for their children inside of Israel but in the neighboring lands they were not treated so well. God also has instructions for those taken captive in battle but that is another subject not covered here.
47 And 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 sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family:
48 After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:
49 Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin 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: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him.
51 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, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption.
53 And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight.
54 And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubile, both he, 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.
If an Israelite is sold to a heathen, he can be redeemed by his near kinsman, but he may not sell himself for an everlasting possession because he belongs to the LORD.
An Israelite must only indenture himself until the year of Jubile. The Israelite must be able to pay his debt by that time of the year of Jubile or else his near kinsman must redeem him.
Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.
Verse 1-7 – All labour was to cease in the seventh year, as much as daily labour on the seventh day. These statues tell us to beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of his possessions. We are to exercise willing dependence on God’s providence for our support; to consider ourselves the Lord’s tenants or stewards, and to use our possessions accordingly. This year of rest typified the spiritual rest which all believers enter into through Christ. Through Him we are eased of the burden of wordly care and labour, both being sanctified and sweetened to us; and we are enabled and encouraged to live by faith.
Verse 8-22 – The word “jubilee” signifies a peculiarly animated sound of the silver trumpets. This sound was to be made on the evening of the great day of atonement; for the proclamation of gospel liberty and salvation results from the sacrifice of the Redeemer. It was provided that the lands should not be sold away from their families. They could only be disposed of, as it were, by leases till the year of jubilee, and then returned to the owner or his heir. This tended to preserve their tribes and families distinct, till the coming of the Messiah. The liberty every man was born to, if sold or forfeited, should return at the year of jubilee. This was typical of redemption by Christ from the slavery of sin and Satan, and of being brought again to the liberty of the children of God. All bargains ought to be made by this rule, “Ye shall not oppress one another,” not take advantage of one another’s ignorance or necessity, “but thou shalt fear thy God.” The fear of God reigning in the heart, would restrain from doing wrong to our neighbour in word or deed. Assurance was given that they should be great gainers, by observing these years of rest. If we are careful to do our duty, we may trust God with our comfort. This was a miracle for an encouragement to all neither sowed or reaped. This was a miracle for an encouragement to all God’s people, in all ages, to trust him in the way of duty. There is nothing lost by faith and self-denial in obedience. Some asked, What shall we eat the seventh year? Thus many Christians anticipate evils, questioning what they shall do, and fearing to proceed in the way of duty. But we have no right to anticipate evils, so as to distress ourselves about them. To carnal minds we may appear to act absurdly, but the path of duty is ever the path of safety.
Verse 23-34 – If the land were not redeemed before the year of jubilee, it then returned to him that sold or mortgaged it. This was a figure of the free grace of God in Christ; by which, and not by any price or merit of our own, we are restored to the favour of God. Houses in walled cities were more the fruits of their own industry than land in the country, which was the direct gift of God’s bounty; therefore if a man sold a house in a city, he might redeem it only within a year after the sale. This encouraged strangers and proselytes to come and settle among them.
Verse 35-38 – Poverty and decay are great grievances, and very common; the poor ye have always with you. Thou shalt relieve him; by sympathy, pitying the poor; by service, doing for them; and by supply, giving to them according to their necessity, and thine ability. Poor debtors must not be oppressed. Observe the arguments here used against extortion: “Fear thy God.” Relieve the poor, “that they may live with thee;” for they may be serviceable to thee. The rich can as ill spare the poor, as the poor can the rich. It becomes those that have received mercy to show mercy.
Verse 39-55 – A native Israelite, if sold for debt, or for a crime, was to serve but six years, and to go out the seventh. If he sold himself, through poverty, both his work and his usage must be such as were fitting for a son of Abraham. Masters are required to give to their servants that which is just and equal, Colossians 4:1. At the year of jubilee the servant should go out free, he and his children, and should return to his own family. This typified redemption from the service of sin and Satan, by the grace of God in Christ, whose truth makes us free, John 8:32. We cannot ransom our fellow-sinners, but we may point out Christ to them; while by his grace our lives may adorn his gospel, express our love, show our gratitude, and glorify his holy name.