The Christ Church Wednesday Bible Study Group is studying of the Old Testament book of Leviticus. The key to the book of Leviticus is found in verses 45 and 46 of chapter 11.
Leviticus 11:44-45 NIV I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
These are the notes to Session 23.
In chapters 25 and 26 the focus is on Israel in their land. If the Israelites were to possess and enjoy their land, they had to recognize and respect some basic facts, the first of which was that God owned the land. Because He owned the land, He had every right to dispose of it as He saw fit. God He could also expect obedience from also owned the people of Israel, because He had redeemed them from Egyptian bondage.
Today we will talk about what happens in the 50th year, the Year of Jubilee.
One thing to consider and remember as we study these chapters is there’s no evidence in Scripture that the nation of Israel ever observed the Sabbath Year or celebrated the Year of Jubilee. In fact there is an inference in scripture to indicate that they did not observe or celebrate them.
Jeremiah 25:8-11 NIV Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
2 Chronicles 36:20-21 NIV He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.
An audio recording of the session can be accessed by clicking the YouTube image at the end of these notes.
Leviticus 25:8-17, 23-24 NIV “ ‘Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. “ ‘In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property. “ ‘If you sell land to any of your own people or buy land from them, do not take advantage of each other. You are to buy from your own people on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And they are to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what is really being sold to you is the number of crops. Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the Lord your God.
23-24“ ‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.
The word jubilee is used six times in verses 8–17 and means “to sound the trumpet.” The priests blew the trumpet.
According to Numbers 10:1–10, the priests blew the silver trumpets for three occasions: to call the people together, to announce war, and to announce special times.
Numbers 10:1-10 NIV The Lord said to Moses: “Make two trumpets of hammered silver, and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out. When both are sounded, the whole community is to assemble before you at the entrance to the tent of meeting. If only one is sounded, the leaders—the heads of the clans of Israel—are to assemble before you. When a trumpet blast is sounded, the tribes camping on the east are to set out. At the sounding of a second blast, the camps on the south are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out. To gather the assembly, blow the trumpets, but not with the signal for setting out. “The sons of Aaron, the priests, are to blow the trumpets. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you and the generations to come. When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the Lord your God and rescued from your enemies. Also at your times of rejoicing—your appointed festivals and New Moon feasts—you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God. I am the Lord your God.”
For the people of Israel, each new year opened with the blowing of the trumpets on the first day of the seventh month. The Feast of Trumpets was held on the first day of the seventh month and ushered in the new civil year (Rosh Hashanah, “the head of the year”). Passover was the first day of the religious year.
Each year, the grown males of the nation had appeared before God to celebrate three specific feasts: Passover and Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Tabernacles.
This was a required feast announced by trumpet blasts, and ten days later, the people celebrated the Day of Atonement by fasting, repenting, and offering the required sacrifices. But every fiftieth year, at the close of the celebration of the Day of Atonement, the horns were blown again to announce that the Year of Jubilee had begun.
It would require a great deal of faith for the people to celebrate this special year, because the previous year—the forty-ninth—would have been a Sabbath year when the fields, vineyards, and orchards would not have been cultivated. The Jews had to trust God to provide for them for the forty-ninth and fiftieth years, and also during the fifty-first year while they waited for the harvest. God certainly wouldn’t fail them, but their faith might fail. In fact, there’s no evidence in Scripture that the nation of Israel ever celebrated the Year of Jubilee.
What elements were involved in the Year of Jubilee?
Leviticus 25:9 NIV Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land.
It’s significant that the Year of Jubilee started with the Day of Atonement, a day when the Jews were commanded to deny themselves and repent of their sins.
Leviticus 16:29-34 NIV “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community. “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.
They were not to enter the Year of Jubilee without the Lord first cleansing and forgiving them. If their hearts weren’t right with God, they could never release their slaves or return the land to its original owners. Our relationship with God determines how we treat other people.
There was to be repentance then Release.
Leviticus 25:10, 13 NIV Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. “ ‘In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property.
At the start of the Year of Jubilee, the people were commanded to release their indented servants so that they might return to their own lands and families. A Hebrew servant was to serve for only six years and then be set free. How could the Jews celebrate this special year if some of their people were in bondage and separated from their loved ones and their land?
Leviticus 25:11-12 NIV The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.
During the Year of Jubilee, the people were forbidden to carry on their normal agricultural pursuits but had to live on whatever the land produced. This gave both them and the land an extra year of rest, since the previous year would have been a Sabbath Year.
They had to rely on the Lord to keep His promises and supply sufficient food for almost three years, since they wouldn’t be able to work the land until the fifty-first year, and even then, they’d have to wait for the harvest.
There’s repentance, release, rest, then restoration.
Leviticus 25:13-17 NIV “ ‘In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property. “ ‘If you sell land to any of your own people or buy land from them, do not take advantage of each other. You are to buy from your own people on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And they are to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what is really being sold to you is the number of crops. Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the Lord your God.
In Numbers chapters 13 through 17 God gives instructions as to how the land was to be allotted to each tribe and each family of Israelites. Everybody except the Levites was given land.
Any property that was sold since the last Year of Jubilee would revert to its original owner, for the Lord wanted His land to remain with the tribes, clans, and families to which it had been allotted. The Lord owned the land and only loaned it to His people. He wanted them to have a sense of proprietorship and responsibility in caring for His property.
Whenever a piece of land was sold, the proximity of the next Year of Jubilee determined the price, for this determined how much produce the new owner could get from the soil. Since the buyer knew full well that the land would eventually revert back to the original owner, he certainly wasn’t going to pay more for the land than what he would be able to get out of it. “The land shall not be sold forever” was God’s law.
These laws made it impossible for ruthless wealthy real estate speculators to accumulate vast land holdings and thus upset the economy. Even the poorest Israelite family received its land back, and by working the land, they could gain enough wealth to meet their needs and perhaps the needs of others. The Year of Jubilee provided a new beginning for the released slaves and the landowners, and this kept poverty and inequality to a minimum. The people were not to oppress one another, but remember that the land was God’s and they were only His tenants.
Leviticus 25:23-24 NIV “ ‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.
Like the announcement of the Year of Jubilee, the gospel is good news to the poor, because their debts have been paid and are completely forgiven.
All they need do is receive the Savior and rejoice in a new beginning. Just as the debtors and slaves were set free to enjoy Jubilee, so sinners are set free when they trust the Lord to save them. Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is a “Jubilee” experience, for it restores broken families and lost blessings and brings “times of refreshing” from the Lord .
Acts 3:19-21 NIV Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.
Repentance, release, rest, restoration happened in the Jubilee year but a person didn’t have to wait that long.
If a poor Jew had to sell himself or his property in order to stay alive, he didn’t have to wait until the Year of Jubilee to regain either his property or his freedom.
The redemption of land (vv. 25–28).
Leviticus 25:25-28 NIV “ ‘If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold. If, however, there is no one to redeem it for them but later on they prosper and acquire sufficient means to redeem it themselves, they are to determine the value for the years since they sold it and refund the balance to the one to whom they sold it; they can then go back to their own property. But if they do not acquire the means to repay, what was sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. It will be returned in the Jubilee, and they can then go back to their property.
If the former owner of the land was too poor to redeem his land, then a near kinsman could do it for him.
The kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who, had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. The Hebrew term (go el) for kinsman-redeemer designates one who delivers or rescues or redeems property or person. The kinsman who redeems or vindicates a relative is illustrated most clearly in the book of Ruth, where the kinsman-redeemer is Boaz.
The story of Ruth and Boaz begins when Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, return to Bethlehem from Moab where they had been living. Naomi’s husband and both sons, one the husband of Ruth, had died, leaving the women penniless and without a male protector. Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Naomi sends Ruth to glean in the fields of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi to whom they, through a series of divinely appointed circumstances, appeal as their go el. Boaz acquiesces, willingly takes Ruth as his wife, and together they bear a son named Obed who became the grandfather of David, the forefather of Jesus.
In the Old Testament Yahweh is Israel’s Redeemer, the one who promises to defend and vindicate them. He is both Father and Deliverer.
Exodus 20:2 NIV I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
There are numerous Old Testament appeals to God as rescuer of the weak and needy.
Psalms 82:2-4 NIV “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Jeremiah 20:13 NIV Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.
In the New Testament, Christ is often regarded as an example of a kinsman-redeemer because, as our brother. He also redeems us because of our great need, one that only He can satisfy.
But if the former owner somehow acquired the necessary wealth, he could redeem it for himself. The price would depend, of course, on the number of years (harvests) until the Year of Jubilee. If the man had neither a willing kinsman nor the necessary wealth, he would have to wait until the Year of Jubilee to regain his property.
There were some differences in land outside of the cities and houses in the cities and the land given to the Levites.
The redemption of houses (vv. 29–34).
Leviticus 25:29-34 NIV “ ‘Anyone who sells a house in a walled city retains the right of redemption a full year after its sale. During that time the seller may redeem it. If it is not redeemed before a full year has passed, the house in the walled city shall belong permanently to the buyer and the buyer’s descendants. It is not to be returned in the Jubilee. But houses in villages without walls around them are to be considered as belonging to the open country. They can be redeemed, and they are to be returned in the Jubilee. “ ‘The Levites always have the right to redeem their houses in the Levitical towns, which they possess. So the property of the Levites is redeemable—that is, a house sold in any town they hold—and is to be returned in the Jubilee, because the houses in the towns of the Levites are their property among the Israelites. But the pastureland belonging to their towns must not be sold; it is their permanent possession.
A house in a walled city would be much more valuable than one in the open land because it afforded protection from invaders. The former owner had only one year in which to redeem the house. After that, it belonged to the new owner and wouldn’t even revert to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee. After all, nobody would want to purchase an expensive house, move his family in, and then wonder how long he’d be living there!
Houses in unwalled villages could be redeemed at any time and would revert to the original owner at the Year of Jubilee. If a Levite sold his house in one of the forty-eight Levitical cities, he could redeem it at any time (Num. 35; Josh. 21).
If he didn’t redeem it, the house would revert to him or his family at the Year of Jubilee. The Levites were given no tribal land allotment because the Lord was their inheritance, but they were given pasture lands adjacent to their cities
Joshua 13:14, 33 NIV But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the food offerings presented to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as he promised them. But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.
Joshua 14:3-4 NIV Moses had granted the two-and-a-half tribes their inheritance east of the Jordan but had not granted the Levites an inheritance among the rest, for Joseph’s descendants had become two tribes—Manasseh and Ephraim. The Levites received no share of the land but only towns to live in, with pasturelands for their flocks and herds.
Joshua 18:7 NIV The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the Lord is their inheritance. And Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan. Moses the servant of the Lord gave it to them.”
Numbers 35:1-5 NIV On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, the Lord said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in from the inheritance the Israelites will possess. And give them pasturelands around the towns. Then they will have towns to live in and pasturelands for the cattle they own and all their other animals. “The pasturelands around the towns that you give the Levites will extend a thousand cubits from the town wall. Outside the town, measure two thousand cubits on the east side, two thousand on the south side, two thousand on the west and two thousand on the north, with the town in the center. They will have this area as pastureland for the towns.
These lands could not be sold.
JUST IN CASE THERE IS EVER A QUESTION
Acts 4:36-37 NIV Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
As he was a Levite, he could not have sold, or alienated, his paternal inheritance; but the land or estate here spoken of, might either have been some legacy, or purchased land, in Judea, to which he might have a title till the next jubilee, or some land in Cyprus.
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