8.And thou shalt number seven.The third kind of Sabbath follows, which was composed of forty-nine, or seven times seven years. This was the most illustrious Sabbath, since the state of the people, both as to their persons and their houses and property, was renewed; and although in this way God had regard to the public good, gave relief to the poor, so that their liberty should not be destroyed, and preserved also the order laid down by Himself; still there is no question but that He thus added an additional stimulus to incite the Jews to honor the Sabbath. For it was a kind of imposing memorial of the sacred rest, to see slaves emancipated and become suddenly free; houses and lands returning to their former possessors who had sold them; and in fine all things assuming a new face. They called this year Jobel, from the sound of the ram’s horn, whereby liberty and the restitution of property were proclaimed; but as I have said, its main feature was the solemnity which shewed them to be separated from other nations to be a peculiar and holy nation to God; nay, the renewal of all things had reference to this, that being redeemed anew in the great Sabbath, they might entirely devote themselves to God their Deliverer.
By which it seems most probable that the year of jubilee was not the forty and ninth year, as some learned men think, but precisely the fiftieth year; which may appear,
1. Because the Jews account it so, which is confessed by the adversaries of this opinion, who say that the Jews err in the computation of the jubilee, as they do in Christ, the great end and antitype of the jubilee. But it is not probable that the Jews should universally err in a matter of constant practice among themselves, especially when there was nothing of interest or prejudice in the case, as there was in reference to Christ.
2. Because it is expressly called the fiftieth year here, and Lev_25:11, that fiftieth year, which was not true if it was but the nine and fortieth year. It is said it is called so popularly, and it was so if you take in the foregoing jubilee. But it must be remembered, that there was not yet any foregoing jubilee, but the very first of the kind is expressly called the fiftieth year, which in truth it was not if the jubilee was ended ere the fiftieth year began.
3. From the common course of computation. 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, Lev_25:4, as immediately following the six years, Lev_25:3, and distinct from them all. And therefore, in like manner, the jubilee must needs be called the fiftieth year, because it comes next after seven times seven, or forty-nine years, Lev_25:8, and is distinct from them all.
4. From Lev_25:11,12, where it is said, ye shall not sow, nor reap, &c; for it is the jubilee, &c.; which looks like a vain and useless repetition, if this year were but one of the seven years, for this very command was given concerning every seventh year, Lev_25:4; but if this year of jubilee was, as indeed it was, a year distinct from and coming after the seven sevens of years, then this repetition and application of that command to it was highly necessary, because otherwise it might seem hard and unreasonable that they should forbear sowing and reaping two years together, which hereby they are commanded to do. Two things are objected against this:
1. That the jubilee was only a revolution of forty-nine years. But that seems a great mistake, for it is most expressly distinguished from them all, and by way of distinction called the fiftieth year, therefore surely none of the forty-nine.
2. The difficulty propounded Lev_25:20 concerns only the seventh year, whereas it had been a greater difficulty if it had been extended to the jubilee, and the jubilee had been another vacant year coming next after the seventh year. But though the difficulty was greater for the jubilee, yet it was more frequent for the seventh year; and the resolution of the one made the way plan for the satisfaction of the other. For as God promised so to bless every sixth year, that it should bring forth fruit for three years, Lev_25:21; so when the case was extraordinary, as in the jubilee, it was but reasonable to expect an extraordinary blessing from God upon that sixth year which went next before the last of the seventh years, or the forty-ninth year, that it should then bring forth fruit for four years.
All the inhabitants thereof: 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. A jubilee; so called, either from the Hebrew word 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, Gen_4:21, because it was celebrated with music and all expressions of joy. Every man unto his possession, which had been sold, or otherwise alienated from him. This law was not at all unjust, because all buyers and sellers had an eye to this condition in their bargains; but it was necessary and expedient in many regards; as,
1. To mind them that God alone was the Lord and Owner and Proprietor both of them and of their lands, and they only his tenants and farmers; a point which they were very apt to forget.
2. That hereby inheritances, families, and tribes might be kept entire and clear until the coming of the Messias, 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 Messias is come.
3. 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. Every man unto his family, from whom he was gone, being sold to some other family, either by himself or by his father.
The fiftieth year – The year of jubilee was not the forty and ninth year, as some learned men think, 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, Lev_25:4, as immediately following the six years, Lev_25:3, and distinct from them all. And in like manner the jubilee is called the fiftieth year, because it comes next after seven tines seven or forty – nine years, Lev_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. Jubilee – So called either from the Hebrew word 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, Gen_4:21, because it was celebrated with music and all expressions of joy. Unto his possession – Which had been sold or otherwise alienated from him. 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 To mind them that God alone was the Lord and proprietor both of them and of their lands, and they only his tenants; a point which they were very apt to forget. 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. 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 jubilee shall that fiftieth year be – The literal meaning of the word jubilee, יובל yobel in Hebrew, and יוביל yobil in the Samaritan, has not been well ascertained. Josephus and the rabbins have caused many to err; the former says the word signifies liberty; Ελευθεριαν δε σημαινει τουνομα, Antiq., l. 3, cap. 12, edit. Haverc., vol. 1, p. 184; but the word liberty signifies rather the intention of the institution, than the meaning of the Hebrew term. The rabbins say it signifies a ram’s horn, because the trumpets which were used in proclaiming this solemnity were made out of ram’s horns. This meaning is adopted in a few places in our translation, but none of the ancient versions acknowledge this sense of the term, the Chaldee excepted. Some derive it from יבל yabal, to bring, carry away, because the Israelites at this time carried away the right of repossessing their inheritances which had been forfeited or alienated. The most natural derivation is from הוביל hobil, to cause to bring back, or recall, because estates, etc., which had been alienated, were then brought back to their primitive owners. This was a wise and excellent institution, but appears to have been little regarded by the Jews after the Babylonish captivity. Indeed, it is not mentioned under the second temple, and the observance must have ceased among the Jews when they were brought under a foreign yoke. The jubilee seems to have been typical,
1. Of the great time of release, the Gospel dispensation, when all who believe in Christ Jesus are redeemed from the bondage of sin – repossess the favor and image of God, the only inheritance of the human soul, having all debts cancelled, and the right of inheritance restored. To this the prophet Isaiah seems to allude, Isa_26:13, and particularly Isa_61:1-3.
2. Of the general resurrection. “It is,” says Mr. Parkhurst, “a lively prefiguration of the grand consummation of time, which will be introduced in like manner by the trump of God, 1Co_15:52, when the children and heirs of God shall be delivered from all their forfeitures, and restored to the eternal inheritance allotted to them by their Father; and thenceforth rest from their labors, and be supported in life and happiness by what the field of God shall supply.”
It is worthy of remark that the jubilee was not proclaimed till the tenth day of the seventh month, on the very day when the great annual atonement was made for the sins of the people; and does not this prove that the great liberty or redemption from thraldom, published under the Gospel, could not take place till the great Atonement, the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, had been offered up? See Lev_25:9.
It shall be holy unto you: 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 by and under the Messias.
The increase thereof; such things as it produced of itself; for the year before nothing was sowed. 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 Lev_25:5 Exo_23:11.
Lev 25:12 For it is the jubilee, it shall be holy,…. Men being restored to their liberty, possessions, and families, it must be matter of joy to them, and therefore this year was to be separated from all others, and devoted to the ends and uses before mentioned; and men were to live upon the spontaneous productions of the earth, without any tillage of land, or cultivation of vines, &c.
ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field; they were not to reap corn, and gather grapes and olives, and bring them into their barns and storehouses, as in other years; but were to go out every day into their fields, and gather for present use, and all were common to all sorts of men, and to cattle, as in the sabbatical year; See Gill on Lev_25:7.
Lev 25:13 In the year of this jubilee,…. In the beginning of it, as Aben Ezra, though not on the first day of Tisri, but the tenth day, the day of atonement, when the trumpet was blown:
ye shall return every man unto his possession; which is repeated from Lev_25:10; the reason of which, the Jews say, is to include gifts, and which, according to them, are like sales, and returned in the year of “jubilee”; that is, if a man gave his estate in possession to another, he returned to it, in the year of jubilee, equally as if he had sold it; and therefore they observe the same phrase is twice used by Moses, to include gifts (y): but perhaps the truer reason is, because this was a special business done at this time, and of great importance; the word “return” being so often used, may serve to confirm the sense of the word “jubilee”, given previously; see Gill on Lev_25:9.
(y) Misn. Becorot, c. 8. sect. 10. & Bartenora in ib.
Lev 25:14 And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour,…. Any estate or possession, house or land, at any time before the year of jubilee:
or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand; of movable goods, as the Targum of Jonathan interprets it; and so other Jewish writers (z) restrain this to goods which are bought by hand, and delivered from hand to hand; and so they think that fields, and servants, which they say are like to fields, are excluded hereby; but it seems to refer to anything saleable, and chiefly to fields and vineyards, as the following verses show; wherefore Diodorus Siculus, as quoted by Grotius, must be mistaken, when he says, it was not counted lawful by the Jews to sell their inheritance, unless he means for ever, so indeed they could not:
ye shall not oppress one another; the buyer giving too little, or the seller requiring too much; no advantage was to be taken, either of the necessity of the one, or the ignorance of the other, but a fair bargain was to be made, and the full value given, neither too much nor too little. The Jews by “neighbour” understand an Israelite, and not a Gentile (a); not that there might be no buying and selling at all between Jews and Gentiles, or that the former might oppress and defraud the latter, though not an Israelite; but lands and inheritances might not be sold at all to Gentiles, only to Israelites.
(z) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Bava Metziah, c. 4. sect. 9. (a) Jarchi in loc.
Lev 25:15 According to the number of years after the jubilee thou shalt buy of thy neighbour,…. That is, reckoning how many years had past since the last jubilee, and how many there were to come to the next, and so give as many years’ purchase as were yet to come:
and according to the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee; only care was to be taken, that as many years as were sabbatical ones, which were not years of fruit, should be deducted out of the account by the seller; since these were years the buyer could have no profit by the estate, and therefore it was not reasonable that such years should be reckoned into the purchase; and hence the Jewish writers gather, that when a man had sold his field, he could not redeem it in less than two years, because a number of years cannot be less than two, and that if even the buyer agreed to it, it might not be done (b).
(b) Misn. Eracin, c. 9. sect. 1. Maimon. & Bartenora in. ib.
According to the number of years – The purchases that were to be made of lands were to be regulated by the number of years unelapsed of the current jubilee. This was something like buying the unexpired term of a lease among us; the purchase is always regulated by the number of years between the time of purchase and the expiration of the term.
Lev 25:16 According to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof,…. More was to be asked and required, and should be given for an estate, when, for instance, there were thirty years to the year of jubilee, than when there were but twenty:
and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it; if it wanted but five, or six, or ten years unto it, then, in proportion, less was to be insisted upon and given:
for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee; which also must be considered, how many years of tillage of land, and cultivation of vineyards, &c. there were in the account, and how many sabbatical years to be deducted; for only according to the number of fruit years was the estate to be valued and sold.
Lev 25:17 Ye shall not therefore oppress one another,…. By over or underrating estates:
but thou shalt fear thy God; and the fear of God being before their eyes, and on their hearts, would preserve both buyer and seller from doing an ill thing, when it was in the power of either, through the necessity of the one, or the ignorance of the other, see Neh_5:15,
for I am the Lord your God; omniscient, and knows all that is done in the most private and artful manner; and omnipotent and able to punish both, which of them either should oppress or defraud, see 1Th_4:6.
Lev 25:18 Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them,…. These and all others he enjoined; by which tenure, even obedience to all his commands, moral, ritual, and judicial, they were to hold the land of Canaan, and their possessions in it, which is intended in the next clause:
and ye shall dwell in the land in safety; without any fear of enemies, or of the neighbouring nations about them seizing upon them, and distressing them; and Jarchi observes, that it was for transgressing the sabbatical year that Israel was carried captive, which he thinks is intimated in 2Ch_36:21; and that the seventy years’ captivity in Babylon were for the seventy sabbatical years that had been neglected.
Lev 25:19 And the land shall yield her fruit,…. That is, continually, and even in the seventh year, the sabbath of rest; for the land, though not manured, ploughed, and sowed, nor the vines, olives, and fig trees pruned, yet shall yield fruit as in other years, the Israelites observing the statutes and judgments of God:
and ye shall eat your fill; feel no want of provisions, but have fulness of everything as at other times, and never make a scanty meal, having sufficiency and plenty of all things:
and dwell therein in safety; not fearing enemies, nor being disturbed by them, nor carried captive.
20.And if ye shall say. Men will never be obedient to God’s precepts, unless their distrust of Him is corrected, and will be always ingenious in laying hold of pretexts for disobedience. The difficulty, however, in this matter was a specious excuse for the Jews; for famine might have destroyed them in these two years, since in the seventh year they neither sowed nor reaped; and for reaping they were obliged to wait till the end of the eighth year. Now, whence were they to get seed enough to sow after the land had rested for a whole year? It is not without reason, then, that God delivers them from this doubt, promising them that He will give such abundance in the sixth year as shall suffice for the two following ones. The phrase must be observed, that God would “command His blessing” in an especial manner, and beyond the usual course, so that the land should be twice or thrice more fertile. Hence is suggested to us no ordinary ground of confidence in asking for our daily bread. But this was a special promise, that food should not fail the Jews on account of the Sabbatical year; a manifestation of which God had already given in the desert, when supplied a double portion of manna to those who gathered it on the day before the Sabbath. Now-a-days this inconvenience is avoided by the industry of farmers, who so divide their acres that the land should never lie fallow altogether, but that one part should supply the deficiency of another. This distribution did not obtain with the Jews. Therefore God relieved them from the fear of famine down to the harvest of the eighth year; although He seems at the same time to accustom them to frugality, lest they should waste in intemperance and luxury what He afforded in sufficient abundance to last for two years. To this precept He alludes, when He declares by the Prophets that the land “enjoyed her Sabbaths,” when it had vomited forth its inhabitants, (2Ch_36:21;) for since they had polluted it by violating the Sabbath, so that it groaned as if under a heavy burden, He says that it shall rest for a long continuous period, so as to compensate for the labor of many years.
What shall we eat the seventh year? – A very natural question, which could only be laid at rest by the sovereign promise in the next verse:
I will Command my Blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for Three Years. See on Lev_25:2 (note).
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years, etc. — A provision was made, by the special interposition of God, to supply the deficiency of food which would otherwise have resulted from the suspension of all labor during the sabbatic year. The sixth year was to yield a miraculous supply for three continuous years. And the remark is applicable to the year of Jubilee as well as the sabbatic year. (See allusions to this extraordinary provision in 2Ki_19:29; Isa_37:30). None but a legislator who was conscious of acting under divine authority would have staked his character on so singular an enactment as that of the sabbatic year; and none but a people who had witnessed the fulfillment of the divine promise would have been induced to suspend their agricultural preparations on a recurrence of a periodical Jubilee.
Lev 25:22 And ye shall sow the eighth year,…. Sow the land in the eighth year, and likewise dress their vines, olives, &c.
and eat yet of the old fruit; even in the eighth year, of the old fruit of the sixth year, as the Targum of Jonathan adds:
until the ninth year; that is, as Jarchi explains it, until the feast of tabernacles of the ninth, which was the time that the increase of the eighth came into the house; for all summer it was in the field, and in Tisri or September was the time of gathering it into the house; and sometimes it was necessary to provide for four years on the sixth, which was before the sabbatical year, the seventh, for they ceased from tilling the ground two years running, the seventh and the jubilee year; but this Scripture is said concerning all the rest of the sabbatical years: these encouraging promises, one would have thought, would have been placed more naturally after the account of the sabbatical year that followed, Lev_25:7; but the reason of their being inserted here seems to be, because in the year of jubilee they were neither to sow nor reap, nor gather in the grapes of the undressed vine, as in the sabbatical year, Lev_25:11; wherefore those things are said for encouragement at the one time as at the other; since it might easily be concluded, that he that could provide for them every sixth year for three years to come, could once in fifty years provide for four:
until her fruits come in, ye shall eat of the old store; some of which came in in March, as barley, others in May, as the wheat, and others in August and September, as the grapes, olives, &c. which was the time of ingathering several fruits of the earth, and of finishing the whole.
Lev 25:35 And if thy brother be waxen poor,…. An Israelite, as Aben Ezra, be reduced to a low estate, through afflictions in body, or in family, or through losses in trade, or want of business, or through one providence or another:
and fallen in decay with thee; in his worldly substance: or “his hand wavers”, or “fails” (p); so that he cannot support himself and his family, has not a sufficiency, or it is not in the power of his hands to do it; and it is not owing to sloth and negligence, but to unavoidable want and necessity:
then thou shalt relieve him; not merely by sympathizing with him, but by communicating to him, and distributing to his necessities; holding him up that he may not utterly fall, and strengthening his hands, that he may have a supply for his present wants:
yea, though he be a stranger or a sojourner; whether a proselyte of righteousness, who is circumcised, and in all things conforms to the true religion; or a proselyte of the gate, who takes it upon him not to worship idols, and eat things that die of themselves, as Jarchi notes:
that he may live with thee; continue in the land of Canaan, and not be obliged to quit it, and be laid under temptations of apostatizing from the true religion professed by him, and so far as he is come into it, which would bring a worse death than corporeal upon him; or that he may have a livelihood in some tolerable manner at least, and even live comfortably and cheerfully.
(p) ומטה ידו “et nutaverit manus ejus”, Montanus, Vatablus, Fagius; “vacillabit”, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
if thy brother be waxen poor, … relieve him — This was a most benevolent provision for the poor and unfortunate, designed to aid them or alleviate the evils of their condition. Whether a native Israelite or a mere sojourner, his richer neighbor was required to give him food, lodging, and a supply of money without usury. Usury was severely condemned (Psa_15:5; Eze_18:8, Eze_18:17), but the prohibition cannot be considered as applicable to the modern practice of men in business, borrowing and lending at legal rates of interest.
A sojourner – Understand it of proselytes only, for of other strangers they were permitted to take usury, Deu_23:20.
i.e. Of thy brother, whether he be Israelite or proselyte.
Increase: this some conceive relates to the fruits of the earth, food, &c., as usury doth to money. But here may rather seem’ to be two words expressing the same thing,
(1.) To meet with the subtle evasions of crafty and covetous men, who made gain of their poor brethren (for of such only he speaks here, as is evident from Lev_25:35) by the lending of money or other things; and that they may quiet their consciences, and palliate their sin, they disguise it under other names; and,
(2.) To show that 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, as it is said Deu_23:19.
Lev 25:36 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 but 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 share with the borrower in the profit.
Lev 25:37 Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury,…. Lend him money, expecting and insisting upon a large interest for it; this is to be understood of persons in poor and necessitous circumstances, of which the text only speaks; otherwise, if persons borrow money to gain by it, to carry on a greater trade, or to make purchase with it, it is but reasonable that the lender should have a share of profit arising from thence:
nor lend him thy victuals for increase; by which it should seem that those two words, used in Lev_25:36, though in the main they signify the same thing, yet may be distinguished, the one as concerning money, the other food; and which latter is not to be given by way of loan to a person in want of it, but freely; as for instance, if a man gives a poor man a bushel of wheat, on condition he gives him two for it hereafter, this is lending or giving his victuals for increase.
Lev 25:38 I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt,…. Where they had been strangers and sojourners, and therefore should be kind to such in necessitous circumstances, and relieve them, and especially their brethren; and where God had given them favour in the eyes of the Egyptians, and they had lent them jewels of gold and silver, and raiment, and therefore they should lend freely to persons in distress; and who had brought them out from thence, that they might take upon them his commandments, though they might be grievous, as Jarchi observes; and this, it may be remarked, is the preface to the ten commandments:
to give you the land of Canaan; freely, a land flowing with milk and honey; and therefore, since he had dealt so bountifully with them, and had given them plenty of good things, they need not grudge giving to their poor brethren, and others in necessitous circumstances:
and to be your God; their covenant God, to bless and prosper them, protect and defend them.
Here, and in Lev_25:42, Lev_25:55, is expressed the principle which was to limit and modify the servitude of Hebrew servants.