Chapter 25


Sabbath Years

    • While Moses was on Mount Sinai, the Lord told him to give the Israelites the following instructions:

      • When you enter the land that I am giving to you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath rest to the Lord every 7th year. You can plant your fields, prune your vineyards, and gather produce for 6 years, but during the 7th year the land must completely rest. Don’t plant crops, prune your vineyards, or store away any produce that grows on its own. However, you and your livestock, as well as wild animals can eat the produce that grows on its own. This rule is applicable to all the Isaelites as well as their servants, hired workers, and people who are temporarily living among you.”

        • Guzik writes, “Obviously, this called Israel to a great deal of faith – they had to trust God that He would provide enough in the six years to see them through the seventh… In the Feast of Tabernacles on the Sabbath year, the law was to be read to all the people by the priests (Deuteronomy 31:9-13). Each Sabbath year was also to be a time for an extensive Bible seminar for the whole nation.”

        • Guzik also notes, “Israel’s failure to keep this command determined the length of their captivity; Leviticus 26:34 says that if Israel is not obedient, God will make sure the land gets its Sabbaths by exiling the nation to an enemy land; this was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity of Israel (2 Chronicles 36:20-21)…Today, many observant Jews find a way around the Sabbath year law; on the seventh year, they ‘sell’ their land to a Gentile, work it, and then ‘buy’ it back from the Gentile when the Sabbath year is over. The Gentile makes a little money, and the Jew can say, ‘It wasn’t my land on the Sabbath year, so it was all right if I worked it.’”

Year of Jubilee

      • Also, you are to count 7 sets of Sabbath years (for a total of 49 years). Then, on the Day of Atonement in the 50th year, you will declare a Year of Jubilee by blowing the horn of a ram long and loud throughout the land. This year is set apart as holy to proclaim freedom to everyone who lives in the land. During this Jubilee year, everyone can return to their clan and their ancestral land. No one is to plant their fields or harvest to store any of the produce that grows on its own, but you can eat what the land produces.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible elaborates, “Each Year of Jubilee the land was to revert to the clan or tribe that had originally received it under Joshua (Joshua 13-21)…The return of the land was to prevent powerful land monopolies that would close out the poor.”

        • Guzik adds, “Many take the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-3 to speak of a Jubilee year. Since Jesus read this passage in a Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of His ministry, some have speculated that Jesus’ ministry began in a year of Jubilee – though it was mostly not observed among the Jews at that time.”

        • HCSB notes that Leviticus 25:10 is actually inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

      • When you make an agreement with your neighbor to buy or sell property, you must be fair. The price of the land must take into consideration the number of years since the last Jubilee. The more years until the next Jubilee- the higher the price. This is because essentially the land is being leased for a certain number of years rather than sold. Show that you fear the Lord your God by not cheating each other.”

        • Guzik writes, “When Israel came into the Promised Land, the land was allotted according to tribes and families. These initial tracts of land would be the permanent possession of those families, and therefore land in Israel could never really be ‘sold’ – it could only be leased, and the amount of the lease would be based on how many years there were left until the Jubilee…This assured that no family would be permanently prevented from having land. Every fifty years, every family would have the opportunity to start again…Though this was extremely charitable and helpful to the families in Israel, this was not a socialist system, because only land was re-distributed. Most effectively, this helped protect against the existence of a permanent underclass in Israel.”

      • To live securely in the land, you must follow My statutes and ordinances. If you do, the land will yield large crops and you’ll always have plenty to eat. Some may wonder, ‘What will we eat the 7th year since we can’t plant crops?’ But, I assure you, I will bless your 6th year harvest so that you will store enough for 3 years. You’ll still be eating from the 6th year’s harvest when you harvest your 9th year’s crops.”

Redemption of Property

    • The land belongs to Me and you are foreigners and temporary residents, therefore you must never sell land on a permanent basis. Anytime you buy land from someone, you must give them the right to buy it back. If an Israelite falls into poverty and has to sell some of their family land, then a close relative should buy it. However, if there is no close relative to buy the land, and the seller subsequently gets enough money to buy the land back, the purchaser must sell it back to him. The price must be discounted taking into consideration the number of years until the next Jubilee. If the seller can’t afford to buy the land back, then the purchaser will keep it until the next Jubilee when all land reverts back to the original owners.”

        • Guzik sums up nicely, “The land of Israel belongs to the Lord, and He is free to distribute it as He wills – therefore, if He decreed it should stay in certain families, that is how it should be done!..So, the land could be leased, but never sold – and the lease would always be up in the year of Jubilee. In addition, the lease could be bought out at any time by a kinsman-redeemer (Leviticus 25:25)…This was an important way God reminded Israel that their real home was in heaven with Him, and that they were only strangers and visitors to this earth – even as Christians are today (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13).”

        • Guzik continues, “This redemption of the land was accomplished through the kinsman-redeemer (Hebrew: goel). He was a designated close relative who had the right (and responsibility) to buy the poor out of their poverty and loss…The goel is also a wonderful picture of Jesus, our kinsman-redeemer who purchased us from the “slave market” of sin (Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 6:20).”

      • Anyone who sells a house that is located within the walls of a town has one year after the sale to buy it back. If the seller doesn’t buy the house back within the one year period, it becomes the permanent property of the buyer and will not revert back to the seller in the Jubilee year. However, if someone sells a house located in a village without protective walls, it will be treated like property in the countryside- it can be bought back at any time and will revert to the original owner in the Jubilee year. However, different rules apply to Levites because the only property they are allotted is located in towns. Therefore, if a Levite sells a house located in a walled town, they always have the right to buy it back and ownership of what they have sold will revert the them in the Jubilee year. The open pasture land that surrounds Levitical towns can never be sold- it belongs to them permanently.”

Redemption of the Poor and Enslaved

      • If a fellow Israelite falls into poverty and can’t support himself, you must support him just as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to continue to live among you. If you lend him money, don’t charge him interest. If you sell him anything, do not make any profit. If a fellow Israelite becomes so poor that he has to sell himself to you, do not treat him like a slave- you may not sell him. Instead, you must treat him like a hired worker. He may work for you until the Jubilee year, but then you are to release him and his family so that he can return to his ancestral clan and property. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. You must not treat each other badly.”

        • Guzik writes, “In the Mosaic law, if one chronically could not pay his debts, he would have to work off the debt as a servant of his creditor. But these laws command fair, just and compassionate treatment of any Jewish man so unfortunate…Not only must such a servant be released when his debt was paid, but he also must be released at the year of Jubilee…Foreign slaves among the Jews did not have the same rights as Hebrew slaves sold into servitude because of debt; they could be held as slaves for life, though they had to be treated humanely (Exodus 20:8-11; 21:20-21).”

      • You may buy male and female slaves from the nations that surround you, or from foreigners that live among you, or from the families of foreigners born in your land. You may treat them as your property- leaving them to your sons to inherit. However, your fellow Israelites cannot be sold or made permanent slaves.”

        • These passages often come under fire from those who claim that the Bible endorses slavery. The NLT Illustrated Study Bible does an excellent job of discussing this issue, “Slaves in Mesopotamia and Egypt were little more than chattel, with no protection or rights. Israelites were allowed to purchase non-Israelites as slaves, but they were to be treated well and not abused. Occasionally some slaves were even adopted into childless families (Genesis 15:2-4). Slavery continued into NT times, but the foundation had been laid for its dissolution in the OT doctrine of the common origins of all mankind through God. Slavery stemmed from the Fall, when relationships based on power replaced those of fellowship and communication (Genesis 3:16). In the NT, believers uphold the idea of fellowship and communication by accepting the title ‘Christ’s slave’ or ‘servant’ (Romans 1:1; Colossians 4:12; 2 Peter 1:1). In Paul’s doctrine of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12), all believers acquired common identity (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; Philemon 1:16).”

        • Frank Turek does a phenomenal job giving a rebuttal to an atheist who attempts to “play the slavery card” in this short 2 minute video:

      • If a foreigner or temporary resident in your land becomes rich and one of your fellow Israelites who has fallen into poverty is forced to sell himself to the rich foreigner, they always have the right to be purchased back by any family member (immediate or extended) or to pay for their own freedom once they become prosperous again. The price to be paid to redeem them will be based on how much it will cost the purchaser to buy a replacement worker for the number of years remaining until the next Jubilee. The foreigner must treat the Israelite as a worker hired on a yearly basis and the foreigner must never treat the Israelite badly. The purchased Israelite will be set free at the Jubilee year if they have not been redeemed prior. This is because the Israelites belong to Me. I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”