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Adam Clarke Commentary

Leviticus 25

Introduction

The law concerning the Sabbatical or seventh year repeated, Leviticus 25:1 -7. The law relative to the jubilee, or fiftieth year, and the hallowing of the fiftieth, Leviticus 25:8 -12. In the year of jubilee every one to return unto his possessions, Leviticus 25:13 . None to oppress another in buying and selling, Leviticus 25:14 . Purchases to be rated from jubilee to jubilee, according to the number of years unexpired, Leviticus 25:15 -17. Promises to obedience, Leviticus 25:18 , Leviticus 25:19 . Promises relative to the Sabbatical year, Leviticus 25:20 -22. No inheritance must be finally alienated, Leviticus 25:23 , Leviticus 25:24 . No advantage to be taken of a man's poverty in buying his land, Leviticus 25:25 -28. Ordinances relative to the selling of a house in a walled city, Leviticus 25:29 , Leviticus 25:30 ; in a village, Leviticus 25:31 . Houses of the Levites may be redeemed at any time, Leviticus 25:32 , Leviticus 25:33 . The fields of the Levites in the suburbs must not be sold, Leviticus 25:34 . No usury to be taken from a poor brother, Leviticus 25:35 -38. If an Israelite be sold to an Israelite, he must not be obliged to serve as a slave, Leviticus 25:39 , but be as a hired servant or as a sojourner, till the year of jubilee, Leviticus 25:40 , when he and his family shall have liberty to depart, Leviticus 25:41 ; because God claims all Israelites as his servants, having redeemed them from bondage in Egypt, Leviticus 25:42 , Leviticus 25:43 . The Israelites are permitted to have bond-men and bond-women of the heathens, who, being bought with their money, shall be considered as their property, Leviticus 25:44 -46. If an Israelite, grown poor, be sold to a sojourner who has waxed rich, he may be redeemed by one of his relatives, an uncle or uncle's son, Leviticus 25:47 -49. In the interim between the jubilees, he may be redeemed; but if not redeemed, he shall go free in the jubilee, Leviticus 25:50 -54. Obedience enforced by God's right over them as his servants, Leviticus 25:55 .

Verse 2

The land keep a Sabbath - See this ordinance explained, Exodus 23:11 (note). It may be asked here: if it required all the annual produce of the field to support the inhabitants, how could the people be nourished the seventh year, when no produce was received from the fields? To this it may be answered, that God sent his blessing in an especial manner on the sixth year, (see Leviticus 25:21 , Leviticus 25:22 , and it brought forth fruit for three years. How astonishing and convincing was this miracle! Could there possibly be any deception here? No! The miracle speaks for itself, proves the Divine authenticity of the law, and takes every prop and stay from the system that wishes to convict the Mosaic ordinances of imposture. See Exodus 23:11 . It is evident from this that the Mosaic law must have had a Divine origin, as no man in his senses, without God's authority, could have made such an ordinance as this; for the sixth year, from its promulgation, would have amply refuted his pretensions to a Divine mission.

Verse 8

Thou shalt number seven Sabbaths of years - This seems to state that the jubilee was to be celebrated on the forty-ninth year; but in Leviticus 25:10 and Leviticus 25:11 it is said, Ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and, A jubilee shall this fiftieth year be. Probably in this verse Moses either includes the preceding jubilee, and thus with the forty-ninth makes up the number fifty; or he speaks of proclaiming the jubilee on the forty-ninth, and celebrating it on the fiftieth year current. Some think it was celebrated on the forty-ninth year, as is stated in Leviticus 25:8 ; and this prevented the Sabbatical year, or seventh year of rest, from being confounded with the jubilee, which it must otherwise have been, had the celebration of this great solemnity taken place on the fiftieth year; but it is most likely that the fiftieth was the real jubilee.

Verse 11

A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be - The literal meaning of the word jubilee, יובל yobel in Hebrew, and יוביל yobil in the Samaritan, has not been well ascertained. Josephus and the rabbins have caused many to err; the former says the word signifies liberty; Ελευθεριαν δε σημαινει τουνομα, Antiq., l. 3, cap. 12, edit. Haverc., vol. 1, p. 184; but the word liberty signifies rather the intention of the institution, than the meaning of the Hebrew term. The rabbins say it signifies a ram's horn, because the trumpets which were used in proclaiming this solemnity were made out of ram's horns. This meaning is adopted in a few places in our translation, but none of the ancient versions acknowledge this sense of the term, the Chaldee excepted. Some derive it from יבל yabal, to bring, carry away, because the Israelites at this time carried away the right of repossessing their inheritances which had been forfeited or alienated. The most natural derivation is from הוביל hobil, to cause to bring back, or recall, because estates, etc., which had been alienated, were then brought back to their primitive owners. This was a wise and excellent institution, but appears to have been little regarded by the Jews after the Babylonish captivity. Indeed, it is not mentioned under the second temple, and the observance must have ceased among the Jews when they were brought under a foreign yoke. The jubilee seems to have been typical,1. Of the great time of release, the Gospel dispensation, when all who believe in Christ Jesus are redeemed from the bondage of sin - repossess the favor and image of God, the only inheritance of the human soul, having all debts cancelled, and the right of inheritance restored. To this the prophet Isaiah seems to allude, Isaiah 26:13 , and particularly Isaiah 61:1 -3.2. Of the general resurrection. "It is," says Mr. Parkhurst, "a lively prefiguration of the grand consummation of time, which will be introduced in like manner by the trump of God, 1 Corinthians 15:52 , when the children and heirs of God shall be delivered from all their forfeitures, and restored to the eternal inheritance allotted to them by their Father; and thenceforth rest from their labors, and be supported in life and happiness by what the field of God shall supply."It is worthy of remark that the jubilee was not proclaimed till the tenth day of the seventh month, on the very day when the great annual atonement was made for the sins of the people; and does not this prove that the great liberty or redemption from thraldom, published under the Gospel, could not take place till the great Atonement, the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, had been offered up? See Leviticus 25:9 .

Verse 14

Ye shall not oppress one another - Ye shall take no advantage of each other's ignorance either in buying or selling; for he that buys an article at less than it is worth, or sells one for more than it is worth, taking advantage in both cases of the ignorance of the vender or buyer, is no better than a thief, as he actually robs his neighbor of as much property as he has bought the article at below or sold it above its current value.

Verse 15

According to the number of years - The purchases that were to be made of lands were to be regulated by the number of years unelapsed of the current jubilee. This was something like buying the unexpired term of a lease among us; the purchase is always regulated by the number of years between the time of purchase and the expiration of the term.

Verse 20

What shall we eat the seventh year? - A very natural question, which could only be laid at rest by the sovereign promise in the next verse:I will Command my Blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for Three Years. See on Leviticus 25:2 (note).

Verse 23

The land shall not be sold for ever - the land is mine - As God in a miraculous manner gave them possession of this land, they were therefore to consider themselves merely as tenants to him; and on this ground he, as the great landholder or lord of the soil, prescribes to them all the conditions on which they shall hold it. This one circumstance was peculiarly favorable to their advancement in religion, in righteousness, and true holiness; for feeling that they had nothing which they could call their own upon earth, they must frequently, by this, be put in mind of the necessity of having a permanent dwelling in the heavenly inheritance, and of that preparation without which it could not be possessed.

Verse 25

Any of his kin come to redeem it - The land that was sold might be redeemed, in the interim between jubilee and jubilee, by the former owner or by one of his kinsmen or relatives. This kinsman is called in the text גאל goel or redeemer; and was not this a lively emblem of the redemption of man by Christ Jesus? That he might have a right to redeem man, he took upon him human nature, and thus became a kinsman of the great family of the human race, and thereby possessed the right of redeeming that fallen nature of which he took part, and of buying back to man that inheritance which had been forfeited by transgression.

Verse 29

Sell a dwelling house in a walled city - A very proper difference is put between houses in a city and houses in the country. If a man sold his house in the city, he might redeem it any time in the course of a year; but if it were not redeemed within that time, it could no more be redeemed, nor did it go out even in the jubilee. It was not so with a house in the country; such a house might be redeemed during any part of the interim; and if not redeemed, must go out at the jubilee. The reason in both cases is sufficiently evident; the house in the city might be built for purposes of trade or traffic merely, the house in the country was built on or attached to the inheritance which God had divided to the respective families, and it was therefore absolutely necessary that the same law should apply to the house as to the inheritance. But the same necessity did not hold good with respect to the house in the city: and as we may presume the house in the city was merely for the purpose of trade, when a man bought such a house, and got his business established there, it would have been very inconvenient for him to have removed; but as it was possible that the former owner might have sold the house rashly, or through the pressure of some very urgent necessity, a year was allowed him, that during that time he might have leisure to reconsider his rash act, or so to get through his pressing necessity as to be able to get back his dwelling. This time was sufficiently long in either of the above cases; and as such occurrences might have been the cause of his selling his house, it was necessary that he might have the opportunity of redeeming his pledge. Again, as the purchaser, having bought the house merely for the purpose of trade, manufacture, etc., must have been at great pains and expense to fit the place for his work, and establish his business, in which himself, his children, and his children's children, were to labor and get their bread; hence it was necessary that he should have some certainty of permanent possession, without which, we may naturally conjecture, no such purchases ever would be made. This seems to be the simple reason of the law in both cases.

Verse 32

The cities of the Levites - The law in this and the following verses was also a very wise one. A Levite could not ultimately sell his house: if sold he could redeem it at any time in the interim between the two jubilees; but if not redeemed, it must go out at the following jubilee. And why? "Because Moses framed his laws so much in favor of the priesthood, that they had peculiar privileges?" etc. Just the reverse: they were so far from being peculiarly favored that they had no inheritance in Israel, only their cities, to dwell in: and because their houses in these cities were the whole that they could call their own, therefore these houses could not be ultimately alienated. All that they had to live on besides was from that most precarious source of support, the freewill-offerings of the people, which depended on the prevalence of pure religion in the land.

Verse 36

Take thou no usury of him - Usury, at present, signifies unlawful interest for money. Properly, it means the reward or compensation given for the use of a thing, but is principally spoken of money. For the definition of the original term, See the note on Exodus 22:25 .

Verse 42

For they are my servants - As God redeemed every Israelite out of Egyptian bondage, they were therefore to consider themselves as his property, and that consequently they should not alienate themselves from him. It was in being his servants, and devoted to his work, that both their religious and political service consisted. And although their political liberty might be lost, they knew that their spiritual liberty never could be forfeited except by an utter alienation from God. God therefore claims the same right to their persons which he does to their lands; See the note on Leviticus 25:23 .

Verse 43

Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor - What is rigorous service? "Service which is not determined, and service whereof there is no need." This is the definition given by the Jews; but much more is implied in this command than is expressed here. Labour beyond the person's strength, or labor too long continued, or in unhealthy or uncomfortable places and circumstances, or without sufficient food, etc., is labor exacted with rigour, and consequently inhuman; and this law is made, not for the Mosaic dispensation and the Jewish people, but for every dispensation and for every people under heaven.

Verse 50

The price of his sale shall be, etc. - This was a very equitable law, both for the sojourner to whom the man was sold, and to the Israelite who had been thus sold. The Israelite might redeem himself, or one of his kindred might redeem him; but this must not be done to the prejudice of his master, the sojourner. They were therefore to reckon the years he must have served from that time till the jubilee; and then, taking the current wages of a servant per year at that time, multiply the remaining years by that sum, and the aggregate was the sum to be given to his master for his redemption. The Jews hold that the kindred of such a person were bound, if in their power, to redeem him, lest he should be swallowed up among the heathen; and we find, from Nehemiah 5:8 , that this was done by the Jews on their return from the Babylonish captivity: We, after our ability, have redeemed our brethren the Jews, who were sold unto the heathen.

Verse 55

For unto me the children of Israel are servants - The reason of this law we have already seen, (See on Leviticus 25:42 (note)), but we must look farther to see the great end of it. The Israelites were a typical people; they represented those under the Gospel dispensation who are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. But these last have a peculiarity of blessing: they are not merely servants, but they are Sons; though they also serve God, yet it is in the newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. And to this difference of state the apostle seems evidently to allude, Galatians 4:6 , etc.: And because ye are Sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a Servant, but a Son; and if a Son, then an Heir of God through Christ; genuine believers in Christ not being heirs of an earthly inheritance, nor merely of a heavenly one, for they are heirs of God. God himself therefore is their portion, without whom even heaven itself would not be a state of consummate blessedness to an immortal spirit. The jubilee was a wonderful institution, and was of very great service to the religion, freedom, and independence of the Jewish people. "The motive of this law," says Calmet, "was to prevent the rich from oppressing the poor, and reducing them to perpetual slavery; and that they should not get possession of all the lands by way of purchase, mortgage, or, lastly, usurpation. That debts should not be multiplied too much, lest thereby the poor should be entirely ruined; and that slaves should not continue always, they, their wives and children, in servitude. Besides, Moses intended to preserve, as much as possible, personal liberty, an equality of property, and the regular order of families, among the Hebrews. Lastly, he designed that the people should be strongly attached to their country, lands, and inheritances; that they should have an affection for them, and consider them as estates which descended to them from their ancestors which they were to leave to their posterity, without any fear of their going ultimately out of their families." But this institution especially pointed out the redemption of man by Christ Jesus:1. Through him, he who was in debt to God's justice had his debt discharged, and his sin forgiven.2. He who sold himself for naught, who was a bondslave of sin and Satan, regains his liberty and becomes a son of God through faith in his blood.3. He who by transgression had forfeited all right and title to the kingdom of God, becomes an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ. Heaven, his forfeited inheritance, is restored, for the kingdom of heaven is open to all believers; and thus, redeemed from his debt, restored to his liberty, united to the heavenly family, and re-entitled to his inheritance, he goes on his way rejoicing, till he enters the paradise of his Maker, and is for ever with the Lord.Reader, hast thou applied for this redemption? Does not the trumpet of the jubilee, the glad tidings of salvation by Christ Jesus, sound in the land? Surely it does. Why then continue a bond-slave of sin, a child of wrath, and an heir of hell, when such a salvation is offered unto thee without money and without price? O suffer not this provision to be made ultimately in vain for thee! For what art thou advantaged if thou gain the whole world and lose thy soul?

Leviticus 25


  1 And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying,
  2 Speak 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 the LORD.
  3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
  4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.
  5 That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.
  6 And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee,
  7 And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.
  8 And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years.
  9 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.
  10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all 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.
  11 A 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 thy vine undressed.
  12 For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.
  13 In the year of this jubilee ye shall return every man unto his possession.
  14 And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppress one another:
  15 According to the number of years after the jubilee thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee:
  16 According to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee.
  17 Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.
  18 Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.
  19 And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety.
  20 And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase:
  21 Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.
  22 And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store.
  23 The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.
  24 And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.
  25 If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.
  26 And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;
  27 Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession.
  28 But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is 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.
  29 And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it.
  30 And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubilee.
  31 But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubilee.
  32 Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time.
  33 And if a man purchase of the Levites, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubilee: for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel.
  34 But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.
  35 And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.
  36 Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.
  37 Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
  38 I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
  39 And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:
  40 But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee:
  41 And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return.
  42 For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen.
  43 Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.
  44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
  45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
  46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.
  47 And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family:
  48 After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:
  49 Either 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 able, he may redeem himself.
  50 And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold 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 an hired servant shall it be with him.
  51 If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for.
  52 And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubilee, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption.
  53 And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight.
  54 And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubilee, both he, and his children with him.
  55 For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

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