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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.