This chapter is about the Sabbath Year & the Year of Jubilee. The Sabbath Year has to do with the ancient Judaic agriculture practices when they were to enter into Canaan. Also we’ll be getting into the Year of Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee is something kind of awesome in Jewish tradition. It happens once every 50 years. They get into real estate transactions, more agricultural practices, redemption, the poor & priest’s rights, slavery all happening during the Year of Jubilee. It’s a pretty cool social system. I’m also writing in general pronouns in this one. Generally, when I say “they,” it’s referring to a man or men. Specifically talking about slavery, the text doesn’t talk about what happens to the female slaves or how they could be redeemed. I hope everyone enjoys the read!
(This is where people say that the bible needs to get it together. The beginning of the text says that: “The Lord said to Moses on Mount Sinai…” Now I don’t know about you but it didn’t say anything about Moses going up to Mount Sinai, again, to talk to the big guy. Nor does the text before this say anything about Moses was, on the regular, going up & down Mount Sinai. So when did “the Lord” say this to Moses? I mean, like where, chronological, should this be placed in the bible? Not exactly right here. Sure, I’ll concede that it’s in the correct book. But not particularly right here in the narrative.)
God talks to Moses on Mount Sinai. God tells Moses about what’s to be known as the Sabbath Year. Moses tells the Israelites that when they enter Canaan (or “the land I (God) am going to give you.”) that the actual land (the real estate) itself HAD to observe a sabbath to God.
For 6 years, the Israelites could sow the fields & prune their vineyards. They could gather their crops. However, in the 7th year, the land is to have a sabbath of rest. They couldn’t sow the fields or prune the vineyards. They could reap what grows of itself. Or harvest the grapes of the untended vineyards. The land is to have a year of rest.
Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year, that’s what the Israelites (& everyone in their “care”) had to eat. This also went for the livestock & the wild beasts of the land. Whatever the land produces could be eaten.
Then God told Moses about what becomes known as the Jubilee Year. The text says: “Count off 7 sabbaths of years–7 times 7 years–so that the 7 sabbaths of years amount to a period of 49 years.” So pretty much they counted up sabbaths up to 49 years. Then they had to have a trumpet sounded everywhere, throughout the Israelite land, on the 10th day of Tishri on the Day of Atonement.
The 50th year is consecrated. (So every 50 years is a Jubilee Year.) They had to proclaim liberty throughout the land to all who were living in their land. It was/is to be a jubilee for the Israelites. Everyone, EVERYONE, had/has to return to their family property. (This doesn’t include the women! Sorry ladies. The ladies fell under their husband’s household.) Each to his own clan.
The 50th year was the jubilee for the Israelites. In the Jubilee Year, the agricultural rules apply like they do during the Sabbath Year.
In this Year of Jubilee, everyone had to return to his own property.
If they sold land to another “countrymen”/Israelites or buy anything from them, don’t take advantage of one another. You’re to buy from your “countrymen”/Israelites on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And they’re to sell to them on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting the crops. When the years are a lot (because it’s a 50-year gap), they had to increase the price. When the years are smaller, the price is smaller. Because what they’re selling you is the number of crops. They couldn’t take advantage of each other (The Israelites).
God told Moses that they had to follow all of God’s decrees & laws. If the Israelites did, they would live safely in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit. The Israelites will eat their fill & live safely there. (So pretty much, God says “Do what I say or you’re gonna starve & be homeless.”) God even had a plan for when they couldn’t plant or harvest their crops: He (God) would send “a blessing” in the 6th year so that the land will yield enough for 3 years. Whilst they (the Israelites) plant during the 8th year, they would be eating from the “blessing” until the harvest of the 9th year comes in.
Also the land mustn’t be sold permanently. Because the land is God’s & the Israelites are but aliens/foreigners. And God’s tenants. (So God is the ancient Israelites’ landlord.) Throughout the country that was held as a possession, they had to provide the redemption of the land.
If one of your “countrymen” (Countrymen is just a fancy word for someone who from your own country. Like if you’re from Ohio & your bff is from California, you’re countrymen.) becomes poor & sells some of their property, their nearest relative (mom, dad, son, daughter) is to come & redeem what their countrymen sold. (We will be getting into the redeemer aspect & rules about the redeemer later. In this instance, it’s someone’s representative.) If, however, they’ve no one to redeem it for them but they themselves prospers & acquires sufficient means to redeem it, he’s to determine the value for the years since they sold it & refund the balance to the person to whom they sold it. (This means that if the person, who sold the property, doesn’t have that representative & now has the means, can go get their property back. But they have to pay for it. If they had a representative, seemingly anyways, they didn’t have to pay.) They can then go back to his own property. But if they don’t acquire the means to repay them, what they sold will remain in possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. The property will be returned in the Jubilee. They can then go back to their property.
If a person sells a house in a walled city, they retain the right of redemption a full year after its sale. During that time, they may redeem it. If it’s not redeemed before a full year has passed, the house in the walled city will belong, permanently, to the buyer & their descendants. It’s not to be returned in the Jubilee. But houses in villages without walls around them are to be considered as “open country.” Those can be redeemed. These are to be returned in the Jubilee.
The Levites (the priests) ALWAYS have the right to redeem their houses in the Levitical (priestly) towns. (Okay. The priestly class of the Israelites are granted special benefits for being of the priestly class. Such as this, real estate dealings, monetary dealings, etc. These are granted by God.) The property of the Levite is redeemable (a house that’s sold in ANY town that the Levites are) & is to be returned in the Jubilee. Because the houses in the towns of the Levites are their property among the Israelites. However, their (the Israelites’) pastureland is off limits! It’s the Levites’ permanent property. It can’t be sold at all. To anyone. Ever!
If an Israelite (“countrymen”) becomes poor & can’t support their selves, help them as you would do to a alien/foreigner or temporary resident (this is like a person who travels around for work, etc.). So they can continue to live among you. Don’t take interest of any kind from him. But fear YOUR God, so that your “countrymen” may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell them food at a profit. (Now wouldn’t this be nice nowadays. If you were/are poor, if you could get a monetary loan & have no interest was attached to the loan. And the food was wholesale, there was no mark-up for profit. If a loaf of bread cost 50 cents to make then that poor person paid only 50 cents.)
If an Israelite (“countrymen”) becomes poor & sells their selves to you, don’t make him work as a slave. (Even though, that’s exactly what this is. At worst. At best, this is some indentured servitude.) They (the poor person) were to be treated like a hired worker or a temporary “resident.” Don’t rule over them ruthlessly. They were to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then he & his children are to be released. (It’s an interesting note that it doesn’t say anything about his wife/wives. Just the man & his kids.) They’ll go back to their own clan & the property of his forefathers. Because of the Israelites are God’s servants.
The Israelite slaves of both genders are to come from the nations around them. From these countries around them, they had to buy their slaves. They also buy some of the temporary residents living among them. Plus they could buy members of the temporary residents “clan”/family to become the Israelites’ property. The Israelites could will them to their children as inherited property & could make them slaves for LIFE! (This means that when a Israelite died, the will they left behind could very well give these slaves to their families. And the slave would have no recourse & couldn’t be freed. They had to stay slaves for the rest of their lives.)
If an alien/foreigner or temporary resident among you becomes rich & one of the Israelites becomes poor & sells themselves to the foreigner or a member of the foreigners family living among you, the Israelite retains the right to be redeemed after they’ve sold themselves. One of their relatives must redeem them: An uncle, cousin, or any blood relative (sorry no in-laws) in their family/”clan” may redeem them. Or if the Israelite slave prospers, they may redeem themselves.
The slave & 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 man for that number of years. If many years remain, they have to 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’re to compute that & pay for their redemption accordingly. They’re to be treated as a man hired from year to year. You must see to it that his owner doesn’t treat him ruthlessly.
If they aren’t redeemed in any of these ways, he & his kids are to be released in the Year of Jubilee. For the Israelites belong to God as servants. (It doesn’t say what the compensation would be for the foreigner since they HAD to release their Jewish slaves. Right?)
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