Thursday, December 13, 2007

Leviticus 25

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying,

2 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.

3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

7 And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

11 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.

12 For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.

13 In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession.

14 And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppress one another:

15 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:

16 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.

17 Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God:for I am the LORD your God.

18 Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.

19 And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety.

20 And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase:

21 Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.

22 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.

23 The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.

24 And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.

25 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.

26 And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;

27 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.

28 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.

29 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.

30 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.

31 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.

32 Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time.

33 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.

34 But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.

35 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.

36 Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.

37 Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.

38 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.

39 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:

40 But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile.

41 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.

42 For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen.

43 Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.

44 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.

45 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.

46 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.

47 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:

48 After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:

49 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.

50 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.

51 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.

52 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.

53 And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight.

54 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.

55 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.
  • #1: At Mt. Sinai, God tells Moses...
  • #2: Tell the Israelites that they need to keep a Sabbath for me when I (eventually) get them to the promised land.
  • #3: For six years, so your fields and for six years (if I were Moe, I'd have asked whether he meant concurrently), prune your vineyards and gather fruit...
  • #4: But in the seventh year, it's a Sabbath for your land. Don't sow and don't prune.
  • #5: Stuff that grows on its own in your harvest, don't reap it. Also don't gather the grapes from "thy vine undressed" (apparently, "untrimmed" or "untended"). It's a year off for the land.
  • #6: "And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you," your servants, maids, hired help, and visiting strangers. (Doesn't seem to make sense, since YHWH just said not to eat it).
  • #7: And "the increase" of your cattle and (other) beasts will be meat for you, too.
  • #8: Do this yearlong field-sabbath bit seven times over forty-nine years.
  • #9: Afterwards, sound a jubilant trumpet on the tenth day of the seven month (that, is fifty Yom Kippurs from now).
  • #10: Treat that fiftieth year as sacred, and free all your slaves, so they can return to their families and their stuff (freedom deferred is...).
  • #11: Have a jubilee that year. And (again) no sowing, reaping, or gathering of untended grapes.
  • #12: But it's the jubilee, it's holy to you. Eat the "increase" out of the field (without reaping, right?).
  • #13: In this year, we'll return all the slaves to their property. (Just like in verse #10)
  • #14: And if you sell something to your neighbor, don't screw him in the deal (unlike in the 49 years beforehand?).
  • #15: Factor how many years have passed since the jubilee into the price.
  • #16: If it's a lot of years (until the next jubilee?), then it's more.
  • #17:Therefore ('cuz why?) don't oppress each other, but fear me, "for I am the LORD your God."
  • #18: Therefore obey my laws and judgment, and you'll live in safety (was Yahweh's last name Corleone?)...
  • #19: And the land will give you your fill of fruit. And you'll live in safety. (Nice promised land you [eventually] got there. Hate to see anything happen to it).
  • #20: And if you ask what you're going to eat in those Sabbath years, without the sowing and gathering...
  • #21: "Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years." (Looks like a good idea to ask that rather obvious question. Also, assuming this means three years' worth of harvest at once and yet another awesome feat of Biblical food preservation — though nothing compared to those seven lean years in Egypt.)
  • #22: You'll plant more crops in the eighth year and keep eating old fruit (yum!) until the ninth.
  • #23: Don't sell that land forever (apparently meaning it can't be sold in perpetuity) . It's mine. You people are just strangers and transients (ouch!).
  • #24: The land you have, you should always be willing to sell it back to the original owners. (Does that apply if the "original owner" was a Palestinian? Just askin'.)
  • #25: If your brother went broke and sold some of his land, then you should buy it back.
  • #26: If none of his brothers snaps up the land, and the guy comes into enough coin...
  • #27: Then he has to factor in the years since the sale into his repurchase price.
  • #28: But if he can't afford it, it stays with the buyer until jubilee, and then the seller gets it back.
  • #29: If someone sells a house in a walled city, he can buy it back within a year. (Man, it's a hard job being God, having to plan out all this picayune shit).
  • #30: If he doesn't buy it back with a year, it will forever (so much for verse #23) belong to the generations of the buyer. No jubilee boomerang deal on these abodes.
  • #31: But houses in unwalled villages, those can be repurchased and are returned at jubilee time.
  • #32: But in the cities of the Levites and cities in their possession, the Levites can repurchase their houses at any time. (Hmm, I wonder if any Levites were involved in writing this chapter...)
  • #33: If someone buys a house from a Levite, ownership returns to the Levite in the jubilee year.
  • #34: But the "field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold."
  • #35: If your brother is broke, then help him out. (Not sure if it says to help him out as you would a stranger or transient, or help him even if he is one, in which case "brother" is meant more broadly — as some translations have it)
  • #36: Don't charge him interest. Instead, "fear thy God" and let your brother live with you.
  • #37: Don't charge him interest on money or food you lend him.
  • #38: "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." (Or so you've said, again and again).
  • #39: If your brother is poor and is sold to you, don't make him work as a slave. (But let's face it, bro, you're pwned!)
  • #40: Treat him more like a hired hand, and you own him until the jubilee.
  • #41: Then, he and his kids return to their family and possessions. (Note to self: if going broke, do it real close to the jubilee year).
  • #42: Because they're my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. Don't sell them as slaves. (Just own them. That's the holy thing to do.)
  • #43: Don't treat 'em rough. Instead,"fear thy God."
  • #44: You will have slaves, heathens you'll buy from neighboring lands.
  • #45: Also, you can buy, for use as slaves, children conceived by visitors to your land.
  • #46: Those slaves are part of your estate, handed down to your children. But don't be a harsh master to your fellow Israelites.
  • #47: If the visitor becomes rich and your brother who lives with him goes broke, he can sell himself to the visitor.
  • #48: But his brothers can buy him back.
  • #49: An uncle or cousin or other near relative can buy him back. Or he can buy himself back, if he comes up with the scratch.
  • #50: The price will be prorated, relative to the date of the jubilee.
  • #51: If there a lot of years until the jubilee, he owes more (assuming I'm successfully making any sense out of this crazy-ass minutia).
  • #52: If there aren't many years until the jubilee, he'll (in this case, too) pay a pro-rated amount.
  • #53: The visitor should treat him like a hired hand and not ride him hard.
  • #54: If he doesn't get repurchased before the jubilee, in that year he and his children will be set free.
  • #54: Because ('cuz why?) they're my slaves, "whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."


Anonymous said...

Note the parallel between the rest in the seventh year, and the rest in the seventh day. The seventh day is the "sabbath", and so the seventh year is the "sabbatical"; hence the modern use of the term "sabbatical". Its a primitive version of the fallow-year system - leaving the soil fallow for one year in every X will help keep it fertile; the more medieval Western system, which is more efficient, is 1 fallow year in every 4 year cycle, but the Holiness Code is trying to fix it at a 7 year cycle (which clearly is an attempt to parallel the sabbath).

The modern system of crop rotation, which was developed in Islamic countries, means that a fallow year is not even required; at the time it was developed, Islamic countries were the most scientifically advanced in the world - this was due to Islam's advocacy of learning and science, rather than any scriptural claims about the best agricultural practice.

The Covenant Code has a similar 7th year rule, which was based on the same theological view, but originally the size of the gap between fallow years would have been much vaguer, with farmers experimenting.

The Holiness Code here implies that 2007, for example, might would be a Sabbatical year - that a fixed year across the ENTIRE COUNTRY would be a fallow year. But the other law codes phrase it in a way to imply that "year 7 after the previous fallow year, for the field" is the Sabbatical, ie. if you last left your field fallow in 2000 then 2007 is a fallow year FOR THAT FIELD, and if other people had left their fields fallow in 2001 then the sabbatical for their fields wouldn't be until 2008. The Holiness Code's version is clearly more theological, but utterly stupid when it comes to practice, as it leaves the entire country without crops.

An important point to realise is that "jubilee trumpet" is a tautology; "jubilee" is the transcription (via Latin) of the Hebrew word for "ram" ("yobhel"), and refers to the ram's horn trumpet that was blown. The meaning that "Jubilee" now has in English is derived from the references to "Jubilee" in this chapter and similar parts of the bible.

Verse 8-9 imply that the Jubilee is year 49, but verse 10 says that its year 50. Year 49 would make more sense since there would then only be 1 fallow year in a row, instead of 2.

The section about the Jubilee has been heavily doctored by passages added by a writer from the Priestly Code. Note the strange wording of verse 9 - the second half almost repeats the first half, but words it so that it implies day 10=Yom Kippur; this addition must have been inserted when Yom Kippur and New Year's day swapped places. In the book of Ezekiel, which is slightly earlier than the Priestly Code, New Year is on day 10, and atonement is on day 1.

The spelling out of the consequences by verses 11-13, and 16, are also additions. That's why, as you point out, verse 13 is "just like" verse 10; verse 10 was the original conclusion of that paragraph of the text, but the additional verses 11-12 require the new conclusion, at verse 13. Verse 16 does indeed relate to the Jubilee, and the text is basically describing the standard pricing mechanism for leases.

The property ownership rights are all about trying to completely freeze the division of Israel and Judah between the tribes, and clans within them. With the land reverting to its "original" owners every X years, it never changes hands in the long term, and the geographic division is kept; more significantly it prevents geographic movement of the population - keeping members of each tribe tied to the respective area. The legal situation is basically that absolute sales are banned, and only leases and rentals are allowed; like most leases, the price is to be proportional to the number of years left to run on the lease. The distinction is that the original length of the lease is fixed at a universal X number of years.

In modern Israel its currently a Sabbatical year. They refuse to work out when the Jubilee is due, even though there must have been one since Israel was founded, for precisely the reason that they would have to hand land back to the Palestinians. The Ashkenazi (Northern European) Jews, but not the Sephardi (Southern Europe), use a trick - they sell the land to a non-Jew, who isn't compelled to obey the rules, and must still work the land, and then sell it back to the Jew later.

The Jubilee is basically an Aaronid invention, attempting to parallel Shavuot (which is 50 days after Mazzoth). The other biblical law codes don't mention it, and instead specify that the return of slaves should occur during every Sabbatical (ie. every 7 years); the Jubilee was an attempt by the Aaronids to reduce their obligations, and increase their property ownership rights.

Verses 26-34, which add the exceptions that houses in walled towns aren't subject to the Jubilee (except Levite houses), and that the earlier owner of a house can buy it back if they request to do so within 1 year (but Levites can buy it back at any time), these exceptions are all among the later additions by the Priestly Code; the extra exception for the Levites is down to editorial bias. Really, all of these exceptions are built on the principle that "walled towns" don't count; the law was originally agricultural, and clearly wasn't written at a time when "walled cities" existed in a substantial way, but here one of the writers of the Priestly Code has decided that "walled cities", which are much more valuable, should be excluded from the rules.

Verse 40 is another later addition by the Priestly Code. Originally it was just "you can't force a poor relative to perform bonded labour", but the addition changes it to "you CAN force a poor relative to be a paid servant"; the addition completely inverts it - from "DON'T force the poor into servitude" into "DO force the poor into servitude".

Verses 44-46, the ones that say "DO put people into bonded labour, DO buy the children and relatives of resident foreigners to be slaves; they will belong to you permanently" are also additions by the Priestly Code. Its a bit like Animal Farm, where the pigs change "all animals are created equal" into "all animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others", effectively cancelling the law; the Aaronid author has modified the implication of the law that slavery is bad, into one that says slavery is good.

Verses 48-52 are also Priestly Code insertions. Rather than the original "if your poor relative sells himself to a resident foreigner [47], then he must be treated as if he was only a hired member of staff on a 1-year contract [53]", it now says "if your poor relative sells himself to a resident foreigner, he can be freed IF a relative buys him back...".

Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy said...


Thanks as always. Can't wait to dig into Leviticus 26, IMHO the best Bible chapter yet!

Jeff and Katie said...

Another interesting side note. Most scholars believe Jubilee was not celebrated by Israel or Judah.
Could you imagine if a country would celebrate the year of Jubilee? Their economic system would be chaos.