From Leviticus 24-25
Today’s passage describes a special event in Israel’s calendar. The Jubilee. Every fifty years there would be a special year where all debts were repaid and people could return to their homeland.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
8 “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field. (Lev 25.8-12)
Everyone had to travel to the tent of meeting or the temple to observe the day of atonement. It was meant to be a time of celebration. On the day of atonement they worshipped and sounded the trumpet and proclaimed liberty to all the people. People returned to their properties and their clans. When they were not allowed to eat the produce of uncultivated vegetation. But they could from their fields.
13 “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property. 14 And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another.
15 You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. 16 If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you.
17 You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord your God. (Lev 25.13-17)
The text assumes an Israelite has come upon hard times and has been forced to sell his property. During the Jubilee this all changes. Given that they had to return the property to the original inheriting family at the jubilee, the real value of selling the land (or leasing it) was the amount of crops it could produce in the time they had before they were to give it back. The LORD commands they conduct these deals fairly.
18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. 19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20 And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives. (Lev 25.18-22)
The LORD promises he will look after them when they abstain from eating of the land during the sabbath year. It looks something like this.
- 5 Gather year 4’s crop, Sow year 5’s crop.
- 6 LORD commands a huge crop. Gather year 5’s crop.
- 7 Sabbath Year (No sowing or gathering), Year 5’s huge crop lasting.
- 8,1 Year 5’s crop still lasts. Sow year 8’s crop.
23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. 24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land. (Lev 25.23-24)
The land is the LORD’s and because it is his he commands they shall always allow for it to be redeemed. If someone is forced to sell their land, they must always be allowed to purchase it back or wait to reclaim it at the Jubilee.
Story of Israel
Gary Anderson wrote a very helpful book about the underlying metaphors behind sin in the bible. In one section of his book he spoke about how understanding sin as a debt in monetary terms influenced how the Jews perceived Leviticus 25 and 26. He describes Leviticus 25 saying;
“The above discourse continues and overall describes four discrete stages of falling into poverty:
the selling of a portion of one’s land (Lev 25.25-34),
selling all of one’s land (Lev 25.35-38),
becoming a hired laborer within the household of another Israelite (Lev 25.39-46), and
becoming a laborer within the household of a non-Israelite (Lev 25.47-55).
At first glance chapter 26 appears to have no special relationship to 25. As we shall see, there are grounds for reading this chapter as a fitting conclusion to all the laws that have been promulgated over the previous twenty-five chapters of Leviticus.” (Kindle Version; Loc 1207f of 5777; G.A., Anderson, Sin, a History)
Gary will then go into a little detail describing the blessings and curses in Lev 26. Afterwards he says;
“One might think that the picture drawn in this penultimate chapter of Leviticus is clear and straightforward. Blessings are promised in response to obedience (vv. 1-13), and warnings are issued should Israel rebel (vv. 14-26). … Yet the chapter contains one more section. After describing the price of not heeding the diving warnings, it closes with the promise to restore Israel (vv. 40-45).
No biblical work, in its full canonical form, is content to describe Israel’s destruction as a closed and final matter. Although God will for a time avert his face, in the end he will ‘turn’ his glance back toward his people and restore them.” (Loc 1259f of 5777, ibid)
Then he quotes from Leviticus 26;
43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.” (Lev 26:43–45)
As we know, Israel came under the covenant curses for rebelling against the LORD and turning away from him. God punished them and sent them into exile (the last curse). Then Isaiah prophesied their return.
40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isa 40.1-5)
“Just as Second Isaiah declares that the exile has drawn to a close because the debt owed on Israel’s sin had been repaid – so Leviticus 26 declares that Israel will remain in her current plight until such time as the land has ‘repaid the debt of its Sabbath years’ and the Israelites have repaid the debt accrued through their iniquity.” (Loc 1337f of 5777, ibid)
Jew of the second temple period linked these two chapters. They saw Lev 26 through the lense of Lev 25. The Jubilee chapters of Lev 25 anticipated their return to the promised land. The LORD is faithful to his promises.
Story of Jesus
The same prediction truly manifests itself in the coming of Jesus. Israel had returned from their exile, but they still remained under foreign rule. They still languished under the reign of sin and death. The true Jubilee came when Jesus did.
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” (Lk 3.1-6)
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Lk 3.21-22)
Like Isaiah 40, Leviticus 25 predicts the coming of Jesus. When slaves are redeemed and are given entry into their inheritance. The kingdom of God. Jesus is the one who fulfills the prophecy. With him the LORD is well pleased.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.