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25. The Sabbath Year

1And Jehovah 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 shall the land keep a sabbath unto Jehovah. 3Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruits thereof; 4but in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath unto Jehovah: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. 5That which groweth of itself of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, and the grapes of thy undressed vine thou shalt not gather: it shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6And the sabbath of the land shall be for food for you; for thee, and for thy servant and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant and for thy stranger, who sojourn with thee. 7And for thy cattle, and for the beasts that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be for food.

8And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and there shall be unto thee the days of seven sabbaths of years, even forty and nine years. 9Then shalt thou send abroad the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month; in the day of atonement shall ye send abroad the trumpet throughout all your land. 10And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. 11A jubilee 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 the undressed vines. 12For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.

13In this year of jubilee ye shall return every man unto his possession. 14And if thou sell aught unto thy neighbor, or buy of thy neighbor's hand, ye shall not wrong one another. 15According to the number of years after the jubilee thou shalt buy of thy neighbor, and according unto the number of years of the crops he shall sell unto thee. 16According to the multitude of the years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of the years thou shalt diminish the price of it; for the number of the crops doth he sell unto thee. 17And ye shall not wrong one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am Jehovah your God.

18Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep mine ordinances and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety. 19And the land shall yield its fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety. 20And 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 the three years. 22And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat of the fruits, the old store; until the ninth year, until its fruits come in, ye shall eat the old store.

23And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. 24And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land. 25If thy brother be waxed poor, and sell some of his possession, then shall his kinsman that is next unto him come, and shall redeem that which his brother hath sold. 26And if a man have no one to redeem it, and he be waxed rich and find sufficient to redeem it; 27then let him reckon the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; and he shall return unto his possession. 28But if he be not able to get it back for himself, then that which he hath sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubilee: and in the jubilee 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; for a full year shall he have the right of redemption. 30And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be made sure in perpetuity to him that bought it, throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubilee. 31But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be reckoned with the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubilee. 32Nevertheless the cities of the Levites, the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time. 33And if one of the Levites redeem, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the jubilee; for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel. 34But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.

35And if thy brother be waxed poor, and his hand fail with thee; then thou shalt uphold him: as a stranger and a sojourner shall he live with thee. 36Take thou no interest of him or increase, but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. 37Thou shalt not give him thy money upon interest, nor give him thy victuals for increase. 38I am Jehovah your God, who 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 be waxed poor with thee, and sell himself unto thee; thou shalt not make him to serve as a bond-servant. 40As a hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee; he shall serve with thee unto the year of jubilee: 41then shall he go out from thee, he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. 42For they are my servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen. 43Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor, but shalt fear thy God. 44And as for thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, whom thou shalt have; of the nations that are round about you, of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. 45Moreover of the children of the strangers that sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they have begotten in your land: and they shall be your possession. 46And ye shall make them an inheritance for your children after you, to hold for a possession; of them shall ye take your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel ye shall not rule, one over another, with rigor.

47And if a stranger or sojourner with thee be waxed rich, and thy brother be waxed poor beside him, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner with thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family; 48after that he is sold he may be redeemed: one of his brethren may redeem him; 49or 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 waxed rich, he may redeem himself. 50And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he sold himself to him unto the year of jubilee: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years; according to the time of a hired servant shall he be with him. 51If there be yet many years, according unto them he shall give back the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for. 52And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubilee, then he shall reckon with him; according unto his years shall he give back the price of his redemption. 53As a servant hired year by year shall he be with him: he shall not rule with rigor over him in thy sight. 54And if he be not redeemed by these means, then he shall go out in the year of jubilee, he, and his children with him. 55For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am Jehovah your God.

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22. Ye shall have one manner of law. That the people of Israel, with their usual arrogance, might not suppose the race of Abraham only to be privileged, the Law is extended also to foreigners; and thus God shows that the whole body of the human race are under His care, so that He would not have those that are farthest off exposed to the licentious violence of the ungodly. In other points tie provided special privileges for His elect people; but here, because He created all men without exception after His own image, He takes them under His care and protection, so that none might injure them with impunity.

8. And thou shalt number seven. The third kind of Sabbath follows, which was composed of forty-nine, or seven times seven years. This was the most illustrious Sabbath, since the state of the people, both as to their persons and their houses and property, was renewed; and although in this way God had regard to the public good, gave relief to the poor, so that their liberty should not be destroyed, and preserved also the order laid down by Himself; still there is no question but that He thus added an additional stimulus to incite the Jews to honor the Sabbath. For it was a kind of imposing memorial of the sacred rest, to see slaves emancipated and become suddenly free; houses and lands returning to their former possessors who had sold them; and in fine all things assuming a new face. They called this year Jobel, from the sound of the ram’s horn, whereby liberty and the restitution of property were proclaimed; but as I have said, its main feature was the solemnity which shewed them to be separated from other nations to be a peculiar and holy nation to God; nay, the renewal of all things had reference to this, that being redeemed anew in the great Sabbath, they might entirely devote themselves to God their Deliverer.

20. And if ye shall say. Men will never be obedient to God’s precepts, unless their distrust of Him is corrected, and will be always ingenious in laying hold of pretexts for disobedience. The difficulty, however, in this matter was a specious excuse for the Jews; for famine might have destroyed them in these two years, since in the seventh year they neither sowed nor reaped; and for reaping they were obliged to wait till the end of the eighth year. Now, whence were they to get seed enough to sow after the land had rested for a whole year? It is not without reason, then, that God delivers them from this doubt, promising them that He will give such abundance in the sixth year as shall suffice for the two following ones. The phrase must be observed, that God would “command His blessing” in an especial manner, and beyond the usual course, so that the land should be twice or thrice more fertile. Hence is suggested to us no ordinary ground of confidence in asking for our daily bread. But this was a special promise, that food should not fail the Jews on account of the Sabbatical year; a manifestation of which God had already given in the desert, when supplied a double portion of manna to those who gathered it on the day before the Sabbath. Now-a-days this inconvenience is avoided by the industry of farmers, who so divide their acres that the land should never lie fallow altogether, but that one part should supply the deficiency of another. This distribution did not obtain with the Jews. Therefore God relieved them from the fear of famine down to the harvest of the eighth year; although He seems at the same time to accustom them to frugality, lest they should waste in intemperance and luxury what He afforded in sufficient abundance to last for two years. To this precept He alludes, when He declares by the Prophets that the land “enjoyed her Sabbaths,” when it had vomited forth its inhabitants, (2 Chronicles 36:21;) for since they had polluted it by violating the Sabbath, so that it groaned as if under a heavy burden, He says that it shall rest for a long continuous period, so as to compensate for the labor of many years.

23. The land shall not be sold for ever. Since the reason for this law was peculiar to the children of Abraham, its provisions can hardly be applied to other nations; for so equal a partition of the land was made under Joshua, that the inheritance was distributed amongst the several tribes and families; nay, in order that each man’s possession should be more sacred, the land had been divided by lot, as if God by His own hand located them in their separate stations. In fact, that allotment was, as it were, an inviolable decree of God Himself, whereby the memory of the covenant should be maintained, by which the inheritance of the land had been promised to Abraham and his posterity; and thus the land of Canaan was an earnest, or symbol, or mirror, of the adoption on which their salvation was founded. Wherefore it is not to be wondered at that God was unwilling that this inestimable benefit should ever be lost; and, lest this should be the case, like a provident father of a family, He laid a restraint on His children, to prevent them from being too prodigal; for, when a man has any suspicions of his heir, he forbids him to alienate the patrimony he leaves him. Such, therefore, was the condition of the ancient people; yet it cannot be indiscriminately transferred to other nations who have had no common inheritance given them. Some vestige of it appears in the right of redemption; 156156     “Redemptio in Law, a faculty or right of re-entering upon lands, etc., that have been sold and assigned, upon reimbursing the purchase-money with legal costs. Bargains wherein the faculty, or, as some call it, the equity of redemption is reserved, are only a kind of pignorative contracts. A certain time is limited, within which the faculty, of redemption shall be exercised; and beyond which it shall not extend. — Chambers’s Encyclopaedia. but, because that depends on the consent of the parties, and is also a special mode of contract, it has nothing to do with the law of Moses, which entirely restored both men and lands, (in the year of jubilee, 157157     Added from Fr. ) That God should call the land of Canaan His, is, as it were, to assert His direct Lordship 158158     “La seigneurie directe (qu’on appelle,) ou fonsiere.” — Fr. (dominium,) as they call it, over it; as He immediately afterwards more clearly expresses His meaning, where He says that the children of Israel sojourn in it as His guests. 159159     Addition in Fr., “Ou fermiers, ou grangiers.” For although their condition was the best in which just and perpetual owners can be placed, still, as respected God, they were but His tenants (coloni,) only living there at His will. In fine, God claims the freehold (fundum) for Himself, lest the recollection of tits having granted it to them should ever escape them.

24. And in all the land of your possession. Before the jubilee came, He permits not only the relations to redeem land sold by a poor man, but the seller also, if no other redeemer interposed. The same power was also given to relations amongst other nations, though with a different object, viz., the preservation of the family name; still, the seller was never allowed to redeem, unless a special clause to that effect was contained in the contract. But God desired that the lands should be retained by their legal possessor, in order that the people might deviate as little as possible from the division made by Joshua. Meanwhile, He had in view the private advantage of individuals; but in the perpetual succession to the land He considered Himself rather than men, in order that the recollection of His kindness should never be lost. Finally, He orders all lands to return in the year of jubilee to their original owners; and all sales to be cancelled, as if, in the fiftieth year, he renewed the lot for the division of the land.

29. And if a man sell a dwelling-house. He here distinguishes houses from lands, providing that the power of redemption should not extend beyond a year; and also, that the purchase should hold good even in the jubilee. A second distinction, however, is also added between different kinds of houses, viz., that houses in towns might be altogether alienated, whilst the condition of those in the country should be the same as that of the lands themselves, as being annexed so as to form part of them. As regarded houses fix towns, because they were sometimes burdensome to their owners, it was an advantage that they might pass into the hands of the rich who were competent to bear the expenses of building. Besides, a house does not supply daily food like a field, and it is more tolerable to be without a house than a field, in which you may work, and from the cultivation of which you may support yourself and family. But it was necessary to except houses in the country, because they were appendages to the land; for what use would there be in harvesting the fruits, if you had no place to store them in? Nay, what would it profit to possess a farm which you could not cultivate? for how could oxen plough without any stalls in its vicinity? Since, then, lands without farm-buildings or cottages are almost useless, and they cannot be conveniently separated, justly did God appoint that, in the year of Jubilee, every rural possession should revert to its former owner.

32. Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites. Another exception, that the Levites should recover the houses they had sold, either by the right of redemption, or gratuitously in the year of jubilee. And this is not only appointed out of favor to them, but because it concerned the whole people, that they should be posted like sentries in the place which God had assigned to them. As to the suburbs, or the lands destined for the support of their cattle, God forbids their alienation, because thus they would have forsaken their proper station and removed elsewhere; whereas it was of importance to the whole people that such a dispersion should not occur.

39. And if thy brother. He now proceeds further, i e., that one who has bought his brother should treat him with humanity, and not otherwise than a hired servant. We have seen, indeed, just above, that the labor of a slave is estimated at twice as much, because the humanity of his master will never go so far as to indulge or spare his slave as if he were a hireling. It is not, therefore, without reason that God puts a restraint upon that rule, which experience shows to have been often tyrannical. Still He prescribes no more than heathen philosophers did, 150150     Seneca de Benef. 3:22. “Servus (ut placet Chrysippo) perpetuus mercenarius est.” See also Sen. Epp. 6:47, in which the following beautiful sentiment occurs: “Haec tamen mei praecepti summa est, Sic cum inferiore vivas, quemadmodum tecum superiorem velis vivere.” viz., that masters should treat their slaves like hired servants. And this principle of justice ought to prevail towards all without exception; but since it was difficult to prescribe the same rule respecting strangers as respecting their brethren, a special law is enacted, that at least they should observe moderation towards their brethren, with whom they had a common inheritance and condition. First:. therefore, it is provided as to Hebrew slaves that they should not be treated harshly and contemptuously like captives (mancipia;) and then that their slavery should come to an end in the year of jubilee. But here the question arises, since their liberty was before accorded to them in the, seventh year, why it is now postponed to the fiftieth? Some get over the difficulty by supposing that 151151     So the Hebrew doctors, and Ainsworth, Caietan, and Willet. Michaelis supposes that servants were regularly restored to freedom after six years’ service, (not on the Sabbatical year, but on the seventh from the sale;) but supposing them bought less than six years before the jubilee, they received their freedom on that year. Laws of Moses, vol. 2 p. 176. — Brightwell. if the jubilee occurred during the six years, they must then be set free, although they had not completed the whole term; but this is too forced a conjecture. The view that most approves itself to me is, that the word יבל, yobel, is extended to mean every seventh year, or, at any rate, that moderation towards those slaves is specially prescribed who were most exposed to violence and other injurious treatment. For they would not have dared to oppress at pleasure their slaves, who were soon afterwards to be free; but those who, by having their ears bored, had subjected themselves to the longer period of slavery, would have been more outrageously harassed, unless God had interposed. And this opinion I freely adopt, that although their slavery lasted to the jubilee, yet flint their masters were to treat them with moderation and humanity. This too is confirmed by what immediately follows, where it is enjoined that the children should be set free with their fathers, which did not take place in the seventh year.

42. For they are my servants. God here declares that His own right is invaded when those, whom He claims as His property, are taken into subjection by another; for He says that He acquired the people as His own when He redeemed them from Egypt. Whence He infers that His right is violated if any should usurp perpetual dominion over a Hebrew. If any object that this is of equal force, when they only serve for a time, I reply, that though God might have justly asserted His sole ownership, yet He was satisfied with this symbol of it; and therefore that He suffered by indulgence that they should be enslaved for a fixed period, provided some trace of His deliverance of them should remain. In a word, He simply chose to apply this preventative lest slavery should altogether extinguish the recollection of His grace, although He allowed it to be thus smothered as it were. Lest, therefore, cruel masters should trust that their tyranny would be exercised with impunity, Moses reminds them that they had to do with God, who will at length appear as its avenger. Although the political laws of Moses are not now in operation, still the analogy is to be preserved, lest the condition of those who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood should be worse amongst us, than that of old of tits ancient people. To whom Paul’s exhortation refers:

“Ye masters, forbear threatening your slaves, knowing that both your and their Master is in heaven.” 152152     See Margin of A. V. (Ephesians 6:9.)

44. Both thy bond-men, and thy bond-maids. What God here permits as regards strangers was everywhere customary among the Gentiles, viz., that their power over their slaves should exist not only until their death, but should continue in perpetual succession to their children; for this is the force of the expression, “ye shall possess them for your children,” that the right of ownership should pass to their heir’s also; nor is there a distinction made only as to perpetuity, 153153     “Or la diversite d’entre les estrangers, et les enfans d’Israel n’est pas seulement mis, etc.;” now the diversity between strangers and the children of Israel is not only placed, etc. — Fr. but also as to the mode of their treatment. For we must observe the antithesis, “ye shall make use of their service, but over his brother no man shall rule with rigor;” 154154     See Margin of A.V. on ver. 46. “His in perpetuum tanquam servis utamini, popularibus vero vestris Israelitis ne severius imperetis.” — Dathe. whence it appears that a restraint was imposed upon them lest they should imperiously rule the children of Abraham, and not leave them half their liberty in comparison with the Gentiles. Not that a tyrannical or cruel exercise of power oyer strangers was allowed, but that God would have the race of Abraham, whose liberator lie was, exempted by certain privileges from the common lot.

47. And if a sojourner or a stranger. A caution is here introduced as to the Israelites who had enslaved themselves to strangers. But by strangers understand only those who inhabited the land of Canaan; for, if any one ]lad been carried away into other countries, God would have enacted this law as to their redemption in vain. A power, therefore, of redeeming the slave is granted to his relatives, or, if he had himself obtained sufficient to pay his price, the same permission is accorded to himself. The mode and the form of this are then expressed: that a calculation of the time which remained before the jubilee should be made, and the period which had already elapsed should be subtracted from the sum, viz., if he had been sold for fifty shekels he should only pay ten shekels in the fortieth year, because only a fifth part of the time remained. But if none of his family aided him, and the unhappy man’s hope of redemption was frustrated, He commands that he should be set free in the jubilee year, in which a general enfranchisement took place as regarded the children of Abraham. The object of the law was, that none of those whom God had adopted, should be alienated from their race, and thus should depart from the true worship of God Himself. The whole of this is comprehended in the last verse, where God declares that the children of Abraham were His property, inasmuch as He had led them forth from the land of Egypt, and, on the other hand, that He is their peculiar God. For, whilst it was just that they should enjoy His blessing, so also it behooved that they should be kept sound in His pure and undivided worship; whereas, if they had been the slaves of Gentiles, not only would the elect people have been diminished in numbers, but circumcision would have been corrupted and a door opened to impious perversions. Yet God so mitigates His law as to lay no unjust burden upon sojourners, since He concedes more to them, with respect to Hebrew slaves, than to the natives of the land; for if they had sold themselves to their brethren, they went forth free in the seventh year, whilst their slavery under sojourners was extended to the fiftieth year. This exception only was introduced that the stranger who had bought slaves should enfranchise them on the payment of their value. Since God had previously promised to His people a large and manifold abundance of all good things, the poverty here adverted to could only occur from the curse of God; 155155     Addition in Fr., “Et d’un juste chastiment de leurs pechez;” and as a just chastisement of their sins. we see, therefore, that of His incomparable loving-kindness He stretches forth His hand to the transgressors of His law; and, whilst He chastises them with poverty, still looks upon them, unworthy as they are, and provides a remedy for the ills which their own guilt had brought upon them.




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