Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
The rest (sabbathises sabbatum). The land was to enjoy the benefit of rest every seventh year, to remind God's people that he had created the world, and that he still retained dominion over it, (St. Augustine, q. 91, 92,) requiring the spontaneous fruits of that year as a tribute, part of which he gave to the poor. In the mean time, all creatures rested from their labours, and the people were taught to have an entire confidence in Providence. (Calmet) --- This law was given in the desert of Sinai, in the month of Nisan, the second year after the exit: but it did not begin to be in force till the Hebrews entered into the land of Chanaan. (Haydock)
Reap entirely, but only take a part, ver. 6. --- First-fruits. None shall be this year presented to the Lord. Hebrew has the word Nezireka, "Nazareat," alluding to the custom of those who, out of devotion, let their hair grow; as here only the spontaneous fruits of the unpruned vine were to be eaten; they were separated, as the word also means, or "sanctified," (Septuagint) being abandoned indifferently for the use of any one that pleased to eat of them, and no longer fenced in by the proprietor, (Calmet) though he might take the first, or choicest fruits for his own use, (Menochius,) or at least he might take his share like the rest. (Tirinus)
They. Hebrew and Septuagint, "The sabbath of the earth shall be meat for you" in common.
Cattle. This last term in Hebrew, Septuagint, &c., means "wild beasts," which must also live. At this period of the seventh year debts were to be remitted, the law read, &c. (Exodus xxi. 2; Deuteronomy xv. 2, and xxxi. 10.) But in the jubilee year, even those Hebrew slaves whose ears had been pierced, and those who had sold their land, regained their liberty and possessions. (Calmet) --- Their children and wives, according to Josephus, went out with them, ver. 41. Houses and suburbs for gardens, &c., might be sold for ever, if they were not redeemed the first year, excepting those of the Levites, ver. 34. (Tirinus)
Years. It is dubious whether the 49th or the 50th year was appointed for the jubilee. The former year is fixed upon by many able chronologers, who remark, that if two years of rest had occurred together, it would have been a serious inconvenience; and Moses might have said the 50th year for a round number, or comprise therein the year of the former jubilee, as we give five years to the olympiad, and eight days to the week, though the former consists only of four years, and the latter of seven days. (Rader; Scaliger; &c.) But others decide for the fiftieth year, ver. 10. (Philo; Josephus, [Antiquities] iii. 10.; St. Augustine, q. 92.; Salien; &c.) (Calmet) --- On the feast of expiation of the 49th year, they promulgated the following to be the year of jubilee. (Menochius) --- Usher places the first in the year of the world 2609, 49 years after the partition of the land by Josue in 2560: Salien dates 50 years from the entrance (ver. 2,) of the Hebrews into Chanaan, in the year of the world 2583, six years sooner; and places the first jubilee 2633, immediately after the sabbatic year, which fell in the 32nd year of Othoniel. He supposes that both were proclaimed at the same time, on the 1st of Tisri, Ros Hassana, "the head of the year;" though the heralds went about the country only on the 10th. The writers both of the Synagogue and of the Church generally adopt the 50th for the year of jubilee; and the pretended inconvenience of two years' rest is nugatory, since God promised a three years' crop, ver. 21. (Haydock)
Remission; that is, a general release and discharge from debts and bondage, and a reinstating of every man in his former possessions. (Challoner) --- Jubilee: Hebrew jubol means "liberty" (Josephus); "re-establishment" (Philo); (Calmet) --- "deliverance" (Abenezra). The Rabbins falsely assert, that a ram's horn was used on this occasion: but Buchart shews that it is solid and unfit for the purpose. (B. ii. 42.) They also maintain, that from the 1st of this sacred month, as it is called by Philo, till the 10th, the slaves spent their time in continual rejoicings in their master's house, and on the latter day they were set free. Cunæus (Rep., i. 6,) observes, that the jubilee was discontinued after the captivity, though the sabbatic year was still kept. (Calmet) --- Indeed the Jews were often very negligent in these respects, and God complained and punished them for it, chap. xxvii. 32.; &c. The avarice of the great ones chiefly caused these wise regulations to be despised, though, from time to time, God enforced their observance, that it might be clearly known from what family the Messias spring. After his birth they were abrogated, as no longer necessary. (Haydock) --- Something similar was instituted by Solon, and styled "the shaking off burdens," for the redemption both of men and good. (Laertius) (Menochius) --- The Locrians could not alienate their patrimony. (Aristotle, polit. ii. 7, and vi. 4.) The Rabbins deviate from the spirit of their lawgiver, when they assert, that persons might sell their inheritance for a greater number of years than 50, if they specified how many, &c. (Selden, Succes. iii. 24.) In the Christian dispensation, the jubilee denotes a time of indulgence, in consequence of the power left by Jesus Christ. (Matthew xvi. 19.; 2 Corinthians ii. 10.) The first was given by Boniface VIII in 1300; and others were granted every century, till Clement VI reduced the space to 50 years, 1542. Gregory XI would have them dispensed to the faithful every 33 years, and Paul XI every 25th, that more might partake of so great a benefit. This has been done since his time, and the Popes often grant them when the Church is in great danger, and also in the year when they are consecrated. (Calmet) --- They are designed to promote the fervour of piety, and the remission of punishment due to sin. (Haydock) --- Family. Slaves shall obtain their liberty. This law set a restraint upon the rich, that they might not get possession of too much land, or oppress the poor. Lycurgus, with the same view, established an equality of lands among the Spartans, and Solon acknowledged the propriety of the regulation, which he probably saw practised in Egypt. (Diodorus i.) (Calmet) --- The Agrarian laws at Rome, were often proposed; but they caused nothing but confusion and riot. (Haydock)
Eat them. No wine was to be made of the grapes, nor the corn heaped up, to the detriment of the poor. All is claimed by God, as his own property.
Grieve. Hebrew, "deceive not." St. Chrysostom observes, that to engage another to sell us any thing for what we know is beneath its value, is theft. (Grotius, Jur. ii. 12.) The Rabbins also decide that, if an Israelite be defrauded a sixth part, restitution must be made, ver. 17. (Selden, Jur. vi. 6.)
Three years. After the harvest of the sixth year was gotten in, the land rested from September to September, the beginning of the 8th year, when it was tilled again. Nothing would be ripe till about March; yet the harvest of the 6th year would suffice to furnish food till that time, or even for a year longer, as it would be requisite, when the year of jubilee succeeded that of rest, ver. 8. (Haydock)
For ever. Samaritan version, "absolutely." The only exception to this law is, when a person makes a vow to give some land to the Lord, and will not redeem it, chap xxvii. 20. In that case, God re-enters upon his property, and it belongs to his priests. (Calmet)
Fruits. An estimation shall be made of what the buyer would probably have gotten for the fruits of the land, till the year of jubilee, and that sum shall be given to him; (Calmet) or what benefit he has already derived from the land shall be computed; so that, if he purchased it for 100 sicles, and had received the value of 80, he should be content with the addition of 20 more, ver. 53. (Haydock)
City. These houses are of greater consequence, and therefore God dissuades his people from selling them; though if they think proper to do so, he holds out an encouragement to those who buy, that they may afford a better price, on the prospect of keeping possession for ever. (Menochius)
Owners. The Levites had no other possessions, but these cities and 2000 cubits of land around them. The priests might buy of one another, Jeremias xxxi. 7.
And thou. Hebrew, "thou shalt receive him: and of the stranger....(ver. 36,) take no usury." There are two precepts; to relieve those in distress, and not to injury any one. (Calmet)
Hireling, who has engaged to work for a term of years, either of six, or at most 49. After the year of the jubilee, he might enter into fresh engagements with his late master. (Haydock) --- The Hebrews have always hated slavery. We have never been slaves to any, John viii. 33. They were not allowed to part with their liberty, except from absolute distress; (Maimonides) and then they do not submit to what they call intrinsical slavery. --- [Ver. 41.] Children. His wife and children were not made slaves of him. But if his master gave him a second wife, her children belonged to their common master. (Selden, Jur. vi. 1.)
Might. Hebrew, "rigour or haughtiness." Septuagint, "Do not make him strain himself with work."
Servants, or slaves, whom you may treat with greater severity than the Hebrews, and keep for ever, even though they may have embraced the true faith. But still you must remember that they are your brethren.
Stranger, or Gentile, who engages at least to keep the precepts given to Noe. (Haydock)
Himself. He might have saved up something by greater industry. The Athenians allowed their slaves the same privilege. (Calmet)
Wages. Hebrew, "as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him." What was customarily given to a hired servant for a certain number of years, might be a rule to judge how much was to be paid for redemption. (Haydock) --- Thus if a man had engaged to serve 20 years for 100 sicles, and at the expiration of 10 years wished to redeem himself, he might do it for half that sum. Some think, that those Hebrews who had sold themselves to a Gentile, sojourning among them, could not take the benefit of the sabbatic year, (Exodus xxi. 6,) because Moses is silent on this head. But this argument is not satisfactory. (Calmet)