Leviticus 25


Just as the Israelites were to rest each seventh day, so also, they were to observe every seventh year, they were also to observe the seventh week and the seventh month.

The seventh cycle of sabbatical years was to be a most special year. On the Day of Atonement, the 7th month, of the 7th cycle of sabbatical years, the Year of Jubilee was to be ushered in.

This was to be a time of great rejoicing. The fasting of the Day of Atonement was over, sins had been proclaimed forgiven and now there was to be a time of rest which was to last an entire year.

In addition to the rest, all debts were to be wiped out, slaves were to be freed and all land was to revert to its original owners. Israel learn that the land didn’t belong to the people, it was the Lord’s land.

‘The LORD said to Moses at Mount Sinai, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land, I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.’ Leviticus 25:1-7

The Sabbath Year

The Israelites were allowed to work the land for six years but on the seventh year, the Sabbath Year they were to rest, Exodus 23:10-11 / Deuteronomy 31:10 / 2 Kings 10:29 / Nehemiah 10:31. This was also the year that you released any personal slave, Exodus 21:2, and the time to forget all debts from one Israelite to another, Deuteronomy 15:1-3.

This was also the year the Law was read publicly at the feast of tabernacles, Deuteronomy 31:2. If they obeyed God there would be no poor among them, Deuteronomy 15:4-6, if there were poor people, they were to be generous towards them, Deuteronomy 7-11.

It wasn’t all about the Israelites getting some rest but giving a chance for the land to rest from being harvested. Doing this would help the land to recover and go on to produce more harvest the following year.

‘Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. ‘In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property. ‘If you sell land to any of your own people or buy land from them, do not take advantage of each other. You are to buy from your own people on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And they are to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what is really being sold to you is the number of crops. Do not take advantage of each other but fear your God. I am the LORD your God. ‘Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. You may ask, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?’ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.’ Leviticus 25:8-22

The Year Of Jubilee

The Year of Jubilee was practised every fifty years. It was commenced by the trumpet sounding on the seventh day of atonement which was the tenth day of the seventh month.

During this time all land was to be returned to its original owner but there was to be no sowing or reaping. God would provide the food during the period of the Sabbatical year and the Jubilee year.

We can imagine the joy the Israelites had during this period, as everyone who owned anything was returned to the original owner. If anyone had given themselves into slavery because of debt, they were to be set free.

The land was to be valued before the year of Jubilee according to the crops that it would produce, not according to any inflationary value or location in reference to a city.

‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land. ‘If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold. If, however, there is no one to redeem it for them but later on they prosper and acquire sufficient means to redeem it themselves, they are to determine the value for the years since they sold it and refund the balance to the one to whom they sold it; they can then go back to their own property. But if they do not acquire the means to repay, what was sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. It will be returned in the Jubilee, and they can then go back to their property. ‘Anyone who sells a house in a walled city retains the right of redemption a full year after its sale. During that time the seller may redeem it. If it is not redeemed before a full year has passed, the house in the walled city shall belong permanently to the buyer and the buyer’s descendants. It is not to be returned in the Jubilee. But houses in villages without walls around them are to be considered as belonging to the open country. They can be redeemed, and they are to be returned in the Jubilee. ‘The Levites always have the right to redeem their houses in the Levitical towns, which they possess. So, the property of the Levites is redeemable—that is, a house sold in any town they hold—and is to be returned in the Jubilee, because the houses in the towns of the Levites are their property among the Israelites. But the pastureland belonging to their towns must not be sold; it is their permanent possession.’ Leviticus 25:23-34

If a man was poor and had to sell his land, it was to be returned to him during this year. It was a year of rest and it was a year when all debts were cancelled and all slaves were set free. The reason behind this was to prevent perpetual slavery of the poor and to prevent the accumulation of land by the rich.

The land could not be sold permanently because it belonged to God, He was the One who had given the land in the first place. He blessed them with portions of the land but if the land had to be sold to cover the debt, then during the year of Jubilee it was to be restored to the family to whom God had given it.

It appears that a different law applied to possessions within the city walls. If the house was sold, the original owner had one year to buy it back, but if he didn’t, then it remained with the new owner indefinitely. Dwellings in cities could be sold permanently except for the possessions of the Levites, if a house was sold by the Levites it could be redeemed at any time.

The fields of the Levites that were attached to the cities could not be sold. There was no one-year restriction placed on the Levites for buying back their houses within the walled cities. However, during the year of Jubilee, the house would be returned to the Levite who had sold it.

‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. ‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves. They are to be treated as hired workers or temporary residents among you; they are to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then they and their children are to be released, and they will go back to their own clans and to the property of their ancestors. Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. Do not rule over them ruthlessly but fear your God. ‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly. ‘If a foreigner residing among you becomes rich and any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to the foreigner or to a member of the foreigner’s clan, they retain the right of redemption after they have sold themselves. One of their relatives may redeem them: An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them. Or if they prosper, they may redeem themselves. They and their buyer are to count the time from the year they sold themselves up to the Year of Jubilee. The price for their release is to be based on the rate paid to a hired worker for that number of years. If many years remain, they must pay for their redemption a larger share of the price paid for them. If only a few years remain until the Year of Jubilee, they are to compute that and pay for their redemption accordingly. They are to be treated as workers hired from year to year; you must see to it that those to whom they owe service do not rule over them ruthlessly. ‘Even if someone is not redeemed in any of these ways, they and their children are to be released in the Year of Jubilee, for the Israelites belong to me as servants. They are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ Leviticus 25:35-55

There was a law against extortion, they were to help the poor by not charging any interest or gain on what was given to him, Exodus 22:25, however, interest was charged to foreigners, Deuteronomy 23:19-20. There was a law concerning pledges, a cloak that was given as a pledge was to be returned to the owner before sunset, Exodus 22:26-27 / Deuteronomy 24:12-13.

They could not take a handmill or an upper millstone as a pledge, Deuteronomy 24:6. They weren’t allowed to enter the borrower’s house for a pledge, it had to be brought out to him, Deuteronomy 24:10. They were to be just in their dealings with the alien, orphan, and widow, Deuteronomy 24:17.

There was a law concerning gleaning, any forgotten sheaf was to be left for the needy, Deuteronomy 24:19. They were to harvest their olive trees and vineyards only once and thus leave the corners of the field for the poor, Leviticus 19:9. They were not to gather the fruit in their vineyards, but they must leave it for the poor, Leviticus 19:10.

When food was given, no excess food was to be returned for gain. Remember Israel was poor in Egypt, they were brought out of Egyptian slavery and given a land of milk and honey. God say He wants Israel to do for the poor as He did for them.

If an Israelite slave was to be redeemed, the price was to be based on the nearness to the year of Jubilee. When a fellow Hebrew gave themselves as a slave to someone else because of debt, the person they gave themselves to couldn’t treat him as a slave, he was to be treated as a hired slave until the Year of Jubilee and then set free. It’s clear that God was reinforcing the respect for human life and human freedom.

The Laws Concerning Slaves

The Hebrew male slaves had rights, he worked for six years and then was freed on the seventh year with possessions from his master’s flock, threshing floor and wine vat, Exodus 21:2 / Deuteronomy 15:12-18.

If he had brought his wife with him, she was to leave with him, but if the master had given him a wife and he had children, the wife and the children stayed with the master, Exodus 21:3-4.

If the slave did not want to leave, then the master was to take him to the door and pierce his ear, the slave was then to serve him forever, Exodus 21:5-6 / Deuteronomy 15:16-17. If a man is to sell himself because of poverty, he was to be considered a hired man, not a slave, Leviticus 25:39-40, he was to be released at the year of jubilee, Leviticus 25:40-41, the master was not to rule over him with severity, Leviticus 25:43.

The Hebrew female slaves had rights too, a female sold by her father was not free to go like the male slave, Exodus 21:7. If the master had taken her to himself and she was found to be displeasing to him, then she could be redeemed, Exodus 21:8. He could not sell her to a foreign people after this act, Exodus 21:8.

If he took another woman besides her, he was still to give her, her legal rights, Exodus 21:10. If he did not give her what belonged to her, she was allowed to go free, Exodus 21:11, if the master gave the female slave to his son as a wife, he was then to treat her as a daughter, Exodus 21:9.

A female slave was to be freed in the seventh year with possessions from the master’s flock, threshing floor and wine vat, Deuteronomy 15:12-18.

The Hebrew slave who belonged to a foreigner, had redemptive rights, Leviticus 25:48-49. He could be redeemed by a relative, Leviticus 25:48-49, he could redeem himself, Leviticus 25:49.

The redemption price was to be determined by nearness to the years of Jubilee, Leviticus 25:50-52, he was not to be ruled over with severity, Leviticus 25:53. If he was not redeemed he was freed in the year of Jubilee, Leviticus 25:54-55.

The permanent slave had rights too, they could not take Israelites as permanent slaves, though one may have been so by choice, Leviticus 25:46 / Exodus 21:5-6 / Deuteronomy 15:16-17. Permanent slaves were to come from strangers, Leviticus 25:44-46.

The foreign slaves had rights, if he was beaten to death, the master was to be punished, Exodus 21:20-21. If the slave survived the beating a day or two then no vengeance was taken on the master, Exodus 21:21. If some physical injury was done, such as the loss of an eye or tooth, he was allowed to go free, Exodus 21:26-27.

Foreign slaves could be slaves forever, even passed on to the next generation, Leviticus 25:44-46. An escaped slave could not be returned to his master, Deuteronomy 23:15-16.

Go To Leviticus 26