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Leviticus 25:1022, 3538comment (0)

May 27, 2010

By Jeffrey S. Quiett

Related Scripture: Leviticus 25:1022, 3538

Explore the Bible
Associate professor of marriage and family counseling, University of Mobile

Leviticus 25:10–22, 35–38

The Jubilee (10–22)

The main purpose of the laws described in this text was to prevent the utter ruin of debtors. In Old Testament times, a man who incurred debt that he could not repay could be forced to sell his land or even himself into slavery. When left unchecked, this process led to great social division with a class of rich landowners exploiting a mass of landless peasants. The purpose of the “Year of Jubilee” was to prevent such abuse. In many ways, the Year of Jubilee reflected God’s forgiveness and redemption of the Israelites that was repeated countless times in the Old Testament.

The jubilee year occurred every 50 years. Thus, about once in a man’s lifetime, the slate was “wiped clean” so that he could regain property and possessions that had been lost. Everyone had a chance to make a fresh start. Unfortunately there is very little evidence that the Israelites actually observed the Year of Jubilee during Old Testament times or any other time in Jewish history. Their failure to observe the jubilee may partially explain the Israelites’ long history of social abuse (especially abuse of the poor) and financial failures.

Verse 18 and following include promises that observance of the jubilee would bring blessing and provision from God. God did not require an observance that would not be under His blessing. Since there is no evidence that the Israelites observed the jubilee, they never had the privilege of experiencing God’s miraculous supply. This blessing would be produced through Israel’s faith that God would provide for them even when crops were not planted.
Several lessons can be drawn from this passage. Responsibility for the welfare of others was a major reason for the institution of the Year of Jubilee. The same grace that God extended to the Israelites was to be replicated through their care of others. The blessings that God has bestowed on us (material and nonmaterial) are countless, and He expects us to, in turn, bless others. God’s blessing and provision is given with the expectation that we will pass the blessing on to others. Another lesson of this passage is faith. Observance of the jubilee tested the Israelites’ faith in God’s ability to take care of them. When God asks us to give, He tests our belief that He will ultimately take care of us and provide for our needs (Matt. 6:25–34). To give sacrificially means to step out on faith that God will supply our basic needs when we give generously to others.

Taking Care of the Poor (35–38)
This passage gave further instructions regarding the treatment of the poor and anyone who had “fallen on hard times.” Verse 35 instructed the Israelites to take care of their own as they were instructed to take care of foreigners in other passages. They were to be as generous to members of their family who were in need as they were to aliens. Verses 36–37 further qualify the treatment of the poor. Interest-free loans are well attested in ancient financial records, and laws against excessive interest are also known. This law, however, was unique in the ancient world in totally prohibiting interest payments on loans to the poor. Notice, however, that these loans were indeed loans that carried the requirement of payback. These laws simply prohibited the abuse of the poor through unscrupulous business practices. Verse 38 concludes this section by reminding the Israelites that their generosity was to reflect God’s generosity.

The plight of the poor is well-documented in human history. The passage on the Year of Jubilee and this passage prohibiting interest on loans to the poor are just two examples of God’s provision for the poor. God, however, expects that we will promote His concern for the poor through sacrificial and tangible service. Mere concern for those who have little is not enough (James 2:15–16). God expects His followers to show others the same grace and generosity He shows us on a daily basis. This does not mean that God does not expect us to use wisdom in whom we give money to, but it does mean that we should generously take care of people who are in genuine need.  

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