Jubilee Rest – Part 2

It has been quite some time since we broached the topic of a theology of rest (March 5, 2020) as we examined one of the more significant themes in Scripture (see below). In fact, rest was the last major topic that I was writing about before the ‘pandemic’ hit. We left off at a rather difficult point in the study with the emphasis on Jubilee Rest as an outgrowth of the Sabbath principle of rest, which extended beyond one day in seven to one year in seven to the Year of Jubilee, ultimately requiring a three-year rest period. This Sabbath principle highlights a telescoping reliance of faith in God that was to serve as a tutor or trainer for God’s people, increasing their faith and reliance upon Him for their most basic sustenance from one day to three years, along with the rest that influenced the entirety of their society. Jubilee was to occur on the 50th year, or after a cycle of seven sabbath years (49).

As we saw in the previous post the outline for Leviticus 25, the primary chapter for Jubilee, is as follows:

  • Introduction 25:1
  • A Sabbath for the Land 25:2-22
  • The Redemption of Property 25:23-38
  • The Redemption of a Slave 25:39-55

Each section has a closing theological exhortation, including a recognition formula of God, as follows:

With this as a reminder, we return to the requirement of liberation for the land (and people), back to their original clan, as found in Leviticus 25:10.

And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 

Leviticus 25:10

Looking at this verse again, we note some additional details, namely the requirement for the redemption of land back to its original owner and legislation anticipating the division of the land into various clans, or tribes. We should point out that at the institution of these laws, the young Nation of Israel was still at the foot of Mt. Sinai so the directives they were given were not yet able to be implemented. In a sense, they were required to have faith that when they entered into the land, then these laws and statutes were to be enacted. This anticipates not only the allotment of land in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1,13:15,15:18-21; Deut. 30:1-10), but the victorious acquisition of the land that was inhabited by the Canaanite nations (Joshua 11:23, 21:43-45; 1 Kings 4:20-21), a point not to be so easily overlooked. The actual allotments of land into various tribes takes place in Joshua after victory has been secured. In reviewing this land distribution, please refer to Joshua 13-22.

Restoration of the land was directly tied to the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:11-12) and instructions for how this land was to be returned to its original clan ownership are outlined in verses Lev. 25:13-17. It concludes with the first of our recognition formulas, outlined above, by stating the expectation off reliance on the Lord for a three-year provision of crops.

Turning now more directly to section two, The Redemption of Property (25:23-38), Leviticus 25:23-24 is cited below

23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. 24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land.

Leviticus 25:23-24

In the introduction of this section, we find a command that the land was not to be sold in perpetuity, in other words, no permanent land sales. We are given two primary reasons for this, the first is that true ownership of the land belongs to God and second, that the people did not have actual ownership, rather they were pilgrims, and we might add so too were their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though today we do not live in the land of Canaan nor are we regulated by the laws of Jubilee, nevertheless, we ought to understand that even now, as it has always been, the land is God’s, and we are but mere pilgrims. Additionally, we can see how these regulations prevented an out of balance, rich vs. poor society and guards against would-be land barons. Next, we see how this principle of land redemption was to extend to all of the possessed land (remember at the giving of these commands the land had not yet been entered!).

As this section unfolds, we are given two case studies for how Jubilee was to be implemented, along with further regulations in between the examples. The first case occurs in Leviticus 25:25-28 and involves kinsmen redemption. Here, if a man has become financially poor, sells his land, and is subsequently unable to buy it back, then his nearest (kinsmen) redeemer is eligible to buy the land. It may be helpful to think of this in terms of a pawn shop where an item is taken into the shop and not sold, rather it is “pawned” in return for money as a kind of collateral. The pawn shop would then offer terms of a specific time which the original owner would have to buy back the land. In our example, the original property owner’s kinsmen redeemer would be able to buy back the land. However, if he has no nearest redeemer available and he comes into money on his own, then he is able to buy it back himself and the price is calculated from the years he sold it, and the remaining balance is paid to the owner (or the pawn shop owner from our illustration). If, however, he is unable to buy back the land, then in the Jubilee the land shall be released and returned to him.

In verses 29-34 we read of additional regulations concerning a distinction between urban and rural properties. In the first stipulation, urban housing within a walled city, can be redeemed any time within a one-year period. If it is not redeemed within the one-year period, then the land exchange becomes permanent, even in the year of Jubilee. The second stipulation concerns housing that is not behind a walled city. In this case, the house would be considered as vacant land and would be eligible for return during Jubilee. A third stipulation is then added concerning the land of the Levites. We must remember that God had promised the Levites that He would be their inheritance and that their tribe wouldn’t actually have ownership of the land (Deuteronomy 18:1-4), rather they would have an allotment of cities and their related pasturelands from other tribes (Joshua 21:1-3). In this regulation of Jubilee however, the Lord had allowed them to own a house in the cities that they were in. Because of this, they were given an allowance to redeem their houses at any time. Their houses, should they be “sold”, were eligible for redemption during Jubilee, but the related pasturelands were not allowed to be sold, since they were to be a perpetual inheritance.

Our second case study occurs in Leviticus 25:35-38 and 39-46 involving financial destitution among family members. In this case, should a man become poor his brother had an obligation to care for him for free and with no expectation of profit, that is he wasn’t allowed to charge him rent or interest. This principle is grounded in the character of God with one of our formulas, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.” Verses 39-46 outline the stipulations of this case study as it relates to Jubilee. If the poor man sells himself to his brother, he is not to be treated as a slave, rather he is to work for pay until the year of Jubilee when he shall be released from his obligation. The justification for this rule is that the Israelites in general and the man in this case study in particular are servants of the Lord whom He brought out of Egypt, and they are not to be sold as slaves. In the remaining verses of this passage, God provides stipulations for the purchase of slaves from among the nations, sojourners, and strangers among them. They could be passed down from generation to generation. Here we ought to be clear that what is being described is NOT equivalent to modern chattel slavery where humans are stolen, sold, and then subjected to abusive working conditions. The idea here is more similar to indentured servitude, that is, those who out of financial need sell themselves to another and subsequently work for them in order to pay off a debt. With this, God also provided additional clarifying stipulations among the strangers and sojourners of Israel (Lev. 25:47-55). As with the other instructions, this included how the poor could be redeemed during the Year of Jubilee.

If we want to truly understand the theology of rest developed throughout Scripture, and in particular the relationship of the various Sabbaths to this concept, we must come to realize that it is far more than simply not working on a particular day. Rather the Sabbath principle is entirely woven around and dependent upon faith in God. How better to train the people to trust in Him than to have them rely on Him for food on the Seventh Day, and then have that faith stretched out to the Seventh Year, and then further stretched out to three years, the middle of which was the Year of Jubilee. As we have now seen, Jubilee introduces and develops the themes of Rest, Redemption, and Restoration. In future posts, as we continue to examine the biblical theology of rest, we will see how these themes point us toward and are ultimately fulfilled in Christ our Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria! Truly the mind of God!

A Theology of Rest

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: