Bible study 115 – Leviticus 25Posted: January 26, 2017
Every seventh year is a “sabbath of complete rest for the land”, and everyone has to live on the previous year’s harvest until the next year.
Then, for every fiftieth year, there is a tradition I’ve never heard of: the jubilee. The jubilee basically resets Israelite society: Everyone returns to their ancestral lands, all land returns to their original owners, and all Israelite servants are freed from their contracts (as opposed to every seventh year, which was actually ordered in Exodus 21). In effect, you can only lease land (or slaves) for maximum 50 years. I thought this was a really nifty innovation. It should be a stabilizing and equalizing force in society and though it probably has lots of pitfalls, I would love to see how it turned out in practice. Unfortunately, the Oxford Bible notes inform me that there is no historical evidence of the jubilee actually having been practiced.
Everyone are also strongly encouraged not to sell (or in effect, rent out) land except in desperate circumstances, and to take it back at the first possible opportunity without waiting for the jubilee; and to help any relatives with the same.
Unfortunately, foreign slaves are not part of this jubilee tradition.
You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness.