Leviticus 25
Benson Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying,
Leviticus 25:1. In mount Sinai — That is, in the wilderness of Sinai, or near mount Sinai, as the Hebrew particle beth frequently signifies. For they did not remove from this wilderness till the 20th day of the seventh month after their coming out of Egypt.

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.
Leviticus 25:2. When ye come into the land — So as to be settled in it: for the injunction neither could nor was intended to be observed during the time of the wars, nor till Joshua’s distribution of the land among them. The land shall keep a sabbath — That is, enjoy rest from ploughing and tilling; unto the Lord — In obedience and unto the honour of God. This was instituted, 1st, For the assertion of God’s sovereign right to the land, in which the Israelites were but tenants at God’s will. 2d, For the trial of their obedience. 3d, For the demonstration of his providence, as well in general toward men, as especially toward his own people. 4th, To wean them from the inordinate love and pursuit of worldly advantages, and to inure them to depend upon God alone, and upon God’s blessing for their subsistence. 5th, To put them in mind of that blessed and eternal rest provided for all good men.

Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
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.
Leviticus 25:4-5. A sabbath of rest to the land — They were neither to do any work about it, nor expect any harvest from it. All yearly labours were to be intermitted in the seventh year, as much as daily labours on the seventh day. Of its own accord — From the grains that fell out of the ears the last reaping time. Thou shalt not reap — That is, as thy own peculiarly, but only so as others may reap it with thee, for present food. Undressed — Not cut off by thee, but suffered to grow for the use of the poor. Proselytes and servants, rich and poor, had all an equal privilege: one man’s beast was to graze as freely as another’s; all were to live at rest and enjoy the comforts of this law, the merciful appointment of Heaven. It is a year of rest unto the land — This seems to have been one purpose of the institution, that the land might lie fallow, in order to recruit its strength.

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.
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,
Leviticus 25:6. The sabbath of the land — That is, the accidental crop that grew in the sabbatical year. Shall be meat for you — For all promiscuously, to take food from thence as you need. It is true the land would produce little corn without being tilled and sown, but the vines and other fruit-trees which abounded in the country, even without pruning, would yield a considerable increase, so that the poorer sort might thus enjoy many comforts, together with rest, of which they were destitute on other years.

And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.
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.
Leviticus 25:8. Thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee — Besides the rest of the seventh year, God now appoints, as another perpetual ordinance, that every fiftieth year should be celebrated as an extraordinary year of rest, freedom, and rejoicing, of which public notice was to be given through the whole country, by sound of trumpet. On this year every ancient owner of lands and estates, that had been alienated by sale, was to be restored to his possession; and every Israelitish slave set at perfect liberty, to return to the family to which he belonged. So that how often soever an estate had been sold or alienated between one jubilee and another, or how many hands soever it had passed through, yet, in fifty years, or at the next jubilee, it must return to the heirs of the persons who were first possessed of it. All this was intended to shadow forth that true liberty from men’s spiritual debts and slaveries which was to be purchased by Christ, and to be published to the world by the sound of the gospel.

Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile 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.
Leviticus 25:9. Cause the trumpet of jubilee to sound — The name jubilee is taken either from the Hebrew word יובל jobel, which signifies first a ram, and then a ram’s horn by the sound whereof it was proclaimed; or from Jubal, the inventor of musical instruments, (Genesis 4:21,) because it was celebrated with music and all expressions of joy. The seventh month — Which was the first month of the year for civil affairs; the jubilee therefore began in that month; and, as it seems, upon this very tenth day, when the trumpet sounded, as other feasts generally began when the trumpet sounded. In the day of atonement — A very fit time, that when they fasted and prayed for God’s mercy to them in the pardon of their sins, then they might exercise their charity to men in forgiving their debts; and to teach us, that the foundation of all solid comfort must be laid in repentance and atonement for our sins through Christ.

And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
Leviticus 25:10. The fiftieth year — The year of jubilee was not the forty and ninth year, as some learned men have erroneously thought, but precisely the fiftieth. The old weekly sabbath is called the seventh day, because it truly was so, being next after the six days of the week, and distinct from them all: and the year of release is called the seventh year, (Leviticus 25:4,) as immediately following the six years, (Leviticus 25:3,) and distinct from them all. And in like manner the jubilee is called the fiftieth year, because it comes next after seven times seven or forty-nine years, (Leviticus 25:8,) and is distinct from them all. Unto all the inhabitants — Understand such as were Israelites; principally to all servants, even to such as would not and did not go out at the seventh year, and to the poor, who now were acquitted from all their debts, and restored to their possessions, which had been sold or otherwise alienated from them. This law was not at all unjust, because all buyers and sellers had an eye to this condition in their bargains; but it was expedient in many regards, as, 1st, To put them in mind that God alone was the Lord and proprietor both of them and of their lands, and that they were only his tenants; a point which they were apt to forget. 2d, That hereby inheritances, families, and tribes, might be kept entire and clear until the coming of the Messiah, who was to be known as by other things, so by the tribe and family out of which he was to come. And this accordingly was done by the singular providence of God until the Lord Jesus did come. Since which time those characters are miserably confounded: which is no small argument that the Messiah is come. 3d, To set bounds both to the insatiable avarice of some, and the foolish prodigality of others, that the former might not wholly and finally swallow up the inheritances of their brethren, and the latter might not be able to undo themselves and their posterity for ever, which was a singular privilege of this law and people.

His family — From whom he was gone, being sold to some other family either by himself or by his father.

A jubile 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.
For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.
Leviticus 25:12. It shall be holy — So it was, because it was sequestered, in great part, from worldly employments, and dedicated to God, and to the exercise of holy joy and thankfulness; and because it was a type of that holy and happy jubilee which they were to expect and enjoy under the Messiah. The increase thereof — Such things as it produced of itself. Out of the field — Whence they, in common with others, might take it as they needed it; but must not put it into barns. See Leviticus 25:5, and Exodus 23:11.

In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession.
And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppress one another:
Leviticus 25:14. Ye shall not oppress — Neither the seller, by requiring more, nor the buyer, by taking the advantage from his brother’s necessities to give him less than the worth of it.

According to the number of years after the jubile thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee:
Leviticus 25:15. According to the number of years — thou shalt buy — The purchase of all lands, houses, or estates, was to be at a price proportionable to the greater or less number of years that remained from the time of the purchase to the next jubilee. Years of fruits — Years in which, having sowed, they reaped the fruits of the land, in opposition to those years in which they were neither allowed to sow nor reap.

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.
Leviticus 25:16-17. The number of the years of fruits — The meaning is, he selleth not the land, but only the fruits thereof, and that but for a certain time. Ye shall not oppress one another — By seeking to turn each other out of the perpetual possession of his lands, as Ahab did Naboth; but thou shalt fear thy God — The best proof men can give of fearing God is to abstain from evil, and to comply with his will.

Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.
Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.
And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety.
And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase:
Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.
Leviticus 25:21. For three years — Not completely, but in great part; namely, for that part of the sixth year which was between the beginning of the harvest and the beginning of the seventh year, for the whole seventh year, and for that part of the eighth year which was before the harvest, which reached almost until the beginning of the ninth year. This is added to show the equity of this command. As God would hereby try their faith and obedience, so he gave them an evident proof of his own exact providence and tender care over them in making provisions suitable to their necessities.

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.
The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.
Leviticus 25:23. For ever — So as to be for ever alienated from the family of him that sells it. Or, absolutely and properly, so as to become the property of the buyer. Or, to the extermination or utter cutting off, namely, of the seller, from all hopes and possibility of redemption. The land is mine — Procured for you by my power, given to you by my grace and bounty, and the right of propriety is reserved by me. Ye are sojourners with me — That is, in my land or houses: thus he is said to sojourn with another that dwells in his house. Howsoever in your own or other men’s opinions you pass for lords and proprietors, yet in truth ye are but strangers and sojourners, not to possess the land for ever, but only for a season, and to leave it to such as I have appointed for it.

And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.
Leviticus 25:24-25. A redemption — A right of redemption, in the time and manner following. If any of his kin come — Or, If the redeemer come, being near akin to him, who, in this, was an eminent type of Christ, who was made near akin to us by taking our flesh, that he might perform the work of redemption for us.

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.
And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;
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.
Leviticus 25:27-28. The years of the sale — That is, from the time of the sale to the jubilee. See above, Leviticus 25:15-16. The overplus — That is, a convenient price for the years from the time of this redemption to the jubilee. Go out — That is, out of the buyer’s hand, without any redemption-money.

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 jubile: and in the jubile it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession.
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.
Leviticus 25:29-31. A dwelling-house in a walled city — Here the law makes a great difference between houses in walled cities and houses in the country. The former, if sold, were either to be redeemed within a year, or else not at all, but were to be the property of the purchaser for ever; whereas, houses in the villages which had no walls round them were to be counted as the fields of the country — That is, they were to fall under the same law with the lands to which they were an appendage, and for the management of which they were necessary: they might be redeemed at any time. The following seem to be the chief reasons of this distinction: 1st, There was no danger of confusion in tribes or families by the final alienation of houses in cities, as tribes and families were not distinguished by them as they were by those in the country that were annexed to their lands, and therefore to be considered as a part of their inheritance. 2d, The seller had a greater property in houses than in lands, as being commonly built at the owner’s cost, and therefore a fuller power is granted him to dispose of them. 3d, God would hereby encourage persons to buy and possess houses in cities, as the frequency and populousness of them was a great strength, honour, and advantage to the whole land.

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 jubile.
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 jubile.
Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time.
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 jubile: for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel.
But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.
Leviticus 25:34-35. The field of the suburbs (namely, of the cities of the Levites) may not be sold — Not at all; partly, because it was of absolute necessity for them for the keeping of their cattle, and partly because these were no enclosures, but common fields, in which all the Levites that lived in such a city had an interest, and therefore no particular Levite could dispose of his part in it. A sojourner — Understand it of proselytes only, for of other strangers they were permitted to take usury, Deuteronomy 23:20.

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.
Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.
Leviticus 25:36. Take no usury of him — That is, of thy brother, whether he be Israelite or proselyte. Or increase — All kinds of usury are in this case forbidden, whether of money, or of victuals, or of any thing that is commonly lent by one man to another upon usury, or upon condition of receiving the thing lent with advantage and overplus. If one borrow in his necessity, there can be no doubt this law is binding still. But it cannot be thought to bind where money is borrowed for purchase of lands, trade, or other improvements. For there it is reasonable that the lender should share with the borrower in the profit.

Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
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.
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:
Leviticus 25:39. To serve as a bond-servant — Neither for the time, for ever, nor for the manner, with the hardest and vilest kinds of service, rigorously and severely exacted.

But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile:
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.
Leviticus 25:41-43. Then shall he depart — Thou shalt not suffer him or his to abide longer in thy service, as thou mightest do in the year of release, Exodus 21:2; Exodus 21:6. They are my servants — They, no less than you, are members of my church and people; such as I have chosen out of all the world to serve me here, and to enjoy me hereafter, and therefore are not to be oppressed, neither are you absolute lords over them to deal with them as you please. Fear thy God — Though thou dost not fear them who are in thy power, and unable to right themselves, yet fear that God who hath commanded thee to use them kindly, and who can and will avenge their cause, if thou oppress them.

For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen.
Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Leviticus 25:47. The stock of the strangers — Hebrew, root, that is, one of the root or stock. So the word root is elsewhere used for the branch or progeny growing from it. He seems to denote one of a foreign race and country, transplanted into the land of Israel, and there having taken root among the people of God; yet even such a one, though he hath some privilege by it, shall not have power to keep a Hebrew servant from the benefit of redemption.

After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:
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.
And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubile: 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.
Leviticus 25:50. According to the time of a hired servant — Allowance shall be made for the time wherein he hath served, proportionable to that which was given to a hired servant for so long service, because his condition is in this like theirs; it is not properly his person, but his work and labour that were sold.

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.
And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubile, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption.
And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight.
Leviticus 25:53. In thy sight — Thou shalt not suffer this to be done, but whether thou art a magistrate or a private person, thou shalt take care according to thy capacity to get it remedied.

And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubile, both he, and his children with him.
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.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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