The Sabbatic Year and Year of Jubilee
The Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I am giving you, then the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop. But in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow [seed in] your field nor prune your vineyard. Whatever reseeds itself (uncultivated) in your harvest you shall not reap, nor shall you gather the grapes from your uncultivated vine, it shall be a year of sabbatical rest for the land. And all of you shall have for food whatever the [untilled] land produces during its Sabbath year; yourself, and your male and female slaves, your hired servant, and the foreigners who reside among you, even your domestic animals and the [wild] animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.
The Year of Jubilee
‘You are also to count off seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven Sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the ram’s horn everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month (almost October); on the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year and [a]proclaim freedom [for the slaves] throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee (year of remission) for you, and each of you shall return to his own [ancestral] property [that was sold to another because of poverty], and each of you shall return to his family [from whom he was separated by bondage]. That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee for you; you shall not sow [seed], nor reap what reseeds itself, nor gather the grapes of the uncultivated vines. For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its crops out of the field.
‘In this Year of Jubilee each of you shall return to his own [ancestral] property. If you sell anything to your friend or buy from your friend, you shall not wrong one another. According to the number of years after the Jubilee, you shall [b]buy from your friend. And he is to sell to you according to the number of years of crops [which may be harvested before you must restore the property to him]. If the years [until the next Jubilee] are many, you shall increase the price, but if the years remaining are few, you shall reduce the price, because it is the number of crops that he is selling to you. You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God [with profound reverence]; for I am the Lord your God.
‘Therefore you shall carry out My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them, so that you may live securely on the land. Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it. And if you say, “What are we going to eat in the seventh year if we do not sow [seed] or gather in our crops?” then [this is My answer:] I will order My [special] blessing for you in the sixth year, so that it will produce [sufficient] crops for three years. When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crops, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.
The Law of Redemption
‘The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; you are [only] foreigners and temporary residents with Me. So in all the country that you possess, you are to provide for the redemption of the land [in the Year of Jubilee].
‘If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell some of his property, then his nearest relative is to come and buy back (redeem) what his relative has sold. Or in case a man has no relative [to redeem his property], but he has become more prosperous and has enough to buy it back, then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his [ancestral] property. But if [c]he is unable to redeem it, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of the purchaser until the Year of Jubilee; but at the Jubilee it shall revert, and he may return to his property.
‘If a man sells a house in a walled city, then his right of redemption remains valid for a full year after its sale; his right of redemption lasts a full year. But if it is not redeemed for him within a full year, then the house that is in the walled city passes permanently and irrevocably to the purchaser throughout his generations. It does not revert back in the Year of Jubilee. The houses of the villages that have no surrounding walls, however, shall be considered as open fields. They may be redeemed, and revert in the Year of Jubilee. As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites have a permanent right of redemption for the houses in the cities which they possess. Therefore, what is [purchased] from the Levites may be redeemed [by a Levite], and the house that was sold in the city they possess reverts in the Year of Jubilee, for the houses in the Levite cities are their [ancestral] property among the Israelites. But the pasture lands of their cities may not be sold, for that is their permanent possession.
Of Poor Countrymen
‘Now if your fellow countryman becomes poor and his hand falters with you [that is, he has trouble repaying you for something], then you are to help and sustain him, [with courtesy and consideration] like [you would] a stranger or a temporary resident [without property], so that he may live among you. Do not charge him usurious interest, but fear your God [with profound reverence], so your countryman may [continue to] live among you. You shall not give him your money at interest, nor your food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
‘And if your fellow countryman becomes so poor [in his dealings] with you that he sells himself to you [as payment for a debt], you shall not let him do the work of a slave [who is ineligible for redemption], but he is to be with you as a hired man, as if he were a temporary resident; he shall serve with you until the Year of Jubilee, and then he shall leave you, he and his children with him, and shall go back to his own family and return to the property of his fathers. For the Israelites are My servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold in a slave sale. You shall not rule over him with harshness (severity, oppression), but you are to fear your God [with profound reverence]. As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. Moreover, from the children of the strangers who live as aliens among you, from them you may buy slaves and from their families who are with you, whom they have produced in your land; they may become your possession. You may even bequeath them as an inheritance to your children after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your fellow countrymen, the children of Israel, you shall not rule over one another with harshness (severity, oppression).
Of Redeeming a Poor Man
‘Now if the financial means of a stranger or temporary resident among you become sufficient, and your fellow countryman becomes poor in comparison to him and sells himself to the stranger who is living among you or to the descendants of the stranger’s family, then after he is sold he shall have the right of redemption. One of his relatives may redeem him: either his uncle or his uncle’s son may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself. Then he [or his redeemer] shall calculate with his purchaser from the year when he sold himself to the purchaser to the Year of Jubilee, and the [original] price of his sale shall be adjusted according to the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be considered as that of a hired man. If there are still many years [before the Year of Jubilee], in proportion to them he must refund [to the purchaser] part of the price of his sale for his redemption and release. And if only a few years remain until the Year of Jubilee, he shall so calculate it with him. He is to refund the proportionate amount for his release. Like a man hired year by year he shall deal with him; he shall not rule over him with harshness in your sight. Even if he is not redeemed during these years and under these provisions, then he shall go free in the Year of Jubilee, he and his children with him. For the children of Israel are My servants; My servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
- Leviticus 25:10 The quote on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is from this verse and reads, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
- Leviticus 25:15 The transfer of land in Israel was more like a lease than an outright purchase. Since all property reverted to the original owner at the Jubilee year, the purchaser would pay a price only for the years of use remaining until the next Jubilee.
- Leviticus 25:28 Lit his hand has not found enough.
Blessings of Obedience
[a]‘You shall not make idols for yourselves, nor shall you erect an image, a sacred pillar or an obelisk, nor shall you place any figured stone in your land so that you may bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. You shall keep My Sabbaths and have reverence for My sanctuary. I am the Lord. If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments and [obediently] do them, then I will give you rain in its season, and the land will yield her produce and the trees of the field bear their fruit. And your threshing season will last until grape gathering and the grape gathering [time] will last until planting, and you will eat your bread and be filled and live securely in your land. I will also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down and there will be no one to make you afraid. I will also eliminate harmful animals from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. And you will chase your enemies, and they will fall before you by the sword. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will put ten thousand to flight; your enemies will fall before you by the sword. For I will turn toward you [with favor and regard] and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will establish and confirm My covenant with you. You will eat the old supply of [abundant] produce, and clear out the old [to make room] for the new. I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject nor separate itself from you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves; and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk upright [with heads held high as free men].
- Leviticus 26:1 Through Moses God explains clearly how He will bless the Israelites for their faithful obedience and repeatedly emphasizes that His blessings are contingent on Israel’s responsiveness. If the Israelites want God’s blessings, they must not take Him for granted.