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Really! Leviticus 25:35-55 (Part 2)

May 6, 2009

Today, we will continue looking at Leviticus 25:35-55. Before we get to verse 35, we should look at the context of chapter 25. Today’s post introduces that. Again, I hope this is helpful. please feel free to comment. In a few days, the whole passage will come together, including some notes of application.

Introduction and Analysis of Leviticus 25:35-55

In examining Leviticus 25:35-55, we see that it is a natural continuation of the previous sections of the chapter. Leviticus 25:1-7 instructs the Israelites to observe a Sabbath year every seventh year. Additionally, the Israelites were to observe the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-12) every fiftieth year, the year following seven seven-year periods. Every seventh year, the land was to lie fallow. This included the forty-ninth year. Then on the fiftieth year, the year of jubilee, the land was to continue to lie fallow. When the cycle began again the next year, it would be most of a year before harvest. That is almost three years with no production of food. Naturally, the people wanted to know where their food would be coming from during that time. God answers in verses 21-22: “I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 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.” (Leviticus 25:21-22 ESV) When the people of Israel ask where the food is going to come from, Ray Stedman, paraphrasing God, answers:

That’s exactly what I wanted you to ask, because I’m trying to impress a principle upon you: It isn’t the land which supports you; it is I. I will make the land produce enough for three years. Every seventh year I want you to experience the fact that I am able to take care of you despite the outward circumstances, that it is I upon whom you are dependent, not the land, not your own energy and labor, although that is part of the picture, but that is not where your well-being arises, it comes from me. Every sixth year I’ll increase the crops so that the seventh year you can eat of the sixth year’s crops, the eight year the year of jubilee, you can still eat from that crop, and the ninth year, while another harvest is maturing, you will still eat from the sixth year’s crops; thus you’ll have all you need to eat. (Stedman)

According to Lindsey:

The year of jubilee is not mentioned in the Old Testament outside the Pentateuch. There is no direct biblical evidence regarding its observance in Israel’s history, but if its practice was normal, there might have been no occasion to mention it. On the other hand, the apparent failure of Israelites to keep the sabbatical years during the monarchial period (cf. 26:34-35, 43; 2 Chron. 36:20-21) suggests that the Jubilee might also have been violated. (Lindsey, p. 211)

The rest of chapter 25 describes the effects of the year of jubilee on the nation of Israel, first on the possession of property (vv. 13-34), then on the personal freedom of the Israelites (vv. 35-55). For the Israelite, personal property could not truly be sold to another. In a more real sense, it was only leased. At the year of jubilee, it was returned to the family that originally owned it. When property was sold to another, the price was to be based on how long to the next jubilee (vv. 14-16).

Leviticus 25:23-34 lays out the law for redemption of property. This includes what is commonly known as the kinsman-redeemer, demonstrated in the book of Ruth. This is further described later in the chapter (vv. 47-54). These verses also describe the redemption of property inside a walled city as opposed to outside a walled city and the redemption of property belonging to Levites.

If Leviticus 25:13-34 deals with the effects of the year of jubilee on the Israelites possession of property, verses 35-55 deals with its effects on the personal freedom of the Israelites. This passage is where we will focus most of the rest of our attention. There are three levels of poverty which are dealt with in the last half of Leviticus chapter 25. The three sections of this passage deal with each level of poverty, prescribe certain obligations with regard to the poor, inform the reader of God’s purpose for requiring these obligations, and give a reason which should motivate the Israelite to obey.

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