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(MT versing)
New Sabbath Year The Sabbath of the Seventh Year The Sabbatical Year The Seventh Year The Holy Years
a. the sabbatical year
25:1-7 25:1-7 25:1-7 25:1-7 25:1
The Year of Jubilee The Year of Jubilee The Year of Jubilee The Year of Restoration b. the year of jubilee
25:8-12 25:8-12 25:8-12 25:8-12 25:8-12
25:13-17 25:13-17 25:13-17 25:13-17 25:13-17
Provision for the Seventh Year The Problem of the Seventh Year Divine Guarantee for the Sabbatical Year
25:18-22 25:18-22 25:18-24 25:18-19 25:18-19
25:20-22 25:20-22
The Law of Redemption Redemption of Property Restoration of Property Redemption of Land
25:23-24 25:23-24 25:23 25:23-28
25:25-28 25:25-34 25:25-28
25:29-34 25:29-34 25:29-34 25:29-31
Of Poor Countrymen Lending to the Poor Loans to the Poor Redemption of Persons
25:35-38 25:35-38 25:35-38 25:35-38 25:35-38
The Law Concerning Slavery Release of Slaves
25:39-46 25:39-46 25:39-46 25:39-46 25:39-43
Of Redeeming a Poor Man 25:44-46
25:47-55 25:47-55 25:47-55 25:47-55 25:47-53

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. The passage is a development of the Sabbath (7 cycles of days, years) concept of Gen. 3:1-3. This theme is expanded along several lines by Moses.
    1. "Sabbath" ‒ weekly rest and worship day (Exod. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15; see SPECIAL TOPIC: SABBATH (OT) and SPECIAL TOPIC: SABBATH, NT; Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, pp. 475-483)
    2. "Sabbath Year" ‒ every seventh year was a year of rest and a worship year, with the release of Hebrew slaves (Deut. 15:1-10)
    3. "Year of Jubilee" ‒ every 49 years was the Sabbath of Sabbath years. During this year the land rested and all land reverted to the original tribal owner.

  2. It seems that Leviticus 25 is a development of Exod. 23:10-11. Deuteronomy 15:1-11 adds even more liberty.

  3. The purpose of the Sabbath year was:
    1. to show that all Israelites were YHWH's servants (Deut. 15:1-10). It helped the poor and limited the wealthy.
    2. to force the entire population to depend on YHWH's provision of food.
    3. to restore Israel to the quiet, simple times of pastoral life that their forefathers knew.
    4. to test the obedience of the Israelites.
    5. to provide a study period of the Covenant with YHWH (Deut. 31:10-13).
    6. It was also helpful to the productivity of the land itself.

  4. The Year of Jubilee had several purposes:
    1. to show YHWH's ownership of the land, Exod. 19:5; Lev. 25:23, and care for the poor, vulnerable, and disenfranchised (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 229, 986-988)
    2. to restore original tribal allocation of the Promised Land
    3. to further emphasize the release of Israelite slaves to a new beginning
    4. to stop exploitation of the poor by large land owners or cooperatives
    5. see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, pp. 175-177

  5. Were these regulations ever implemented?
    1. Jubilees were probably kept in the early days, although we have little scriptural evidence (cf. 1 Kgs. 21:3). However, it was probably not observed later in Israel's history. The end-time implications of this day of release are seen in Isa. 61:1-3; Ezek. 46:17.
    2. The Sabbath Year was apparently not observed early (cf. 2 Chr. 30:21; Lev. 26:43) but after the exile, it was reinstated.
      1. Josephus' Antiquity of the Jews 11.8.6; 14.10.6; 14.16.2; 15.1.2
      2. I Maccabees 6:49

  6. How do these laws apply to believers today? This is a question all of us ask. The best discussion of this issue is found in John Bright's book, The Authority of the Old Testament. Also, in a brief section of Gordon Wenham's New International Commentary, Leviticus, pp. 32-37, is a discussion on this issue (cf. Section IV of this outline).


1The Lord then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, 2"Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord. 3Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, 4but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5Your harvest's aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. 6All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. 7Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.'"

25:1 "The Lord then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai" These regulations were directly from YHWH, not Moses' political philosophy. They were given at the same time as the other regulations of the Mosaic Legislation.

From Num. 1:1 we know this was at the end of the second year after the exodus. See SPECIAL TOPIC: DATE OF THE EXODUS and SPECIAL TOPIC: ANE CALENDARS.


25:2 "the sons of Israel" This refers to the descendants of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (cf. Gen. 32:28; see SPECIAL TOPIC: ISRAEL (THE NAME)). However, in 922 B.C., when the tribes split under Rehoboam, Solomon's son, the northern tribes took this collective covenant designation for themselves.

▣ "the land which I shall give you" God had promised Abraham the land on which he sojourned (see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT PROMISES TO THE PATRIARCHS). From Gen. 15:12-21 we see that God judged the native population and removed them as He later would the Israelites, too; for the same reasons (i.e., idolatry)! See notes at Lev. 25:23.

▣ "the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord" See notes at Exod. 23:10-11 online and NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1157-1161. This showed YHWH's ownership of the land.


▣ "a sabbath rest" Both words are from the same root (BDB 992). Rest is a promise of YHWH's presence with and purpose for His people (cf. Exod. 33:14). See good brief notes at NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1132-1136.

▣ "you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard" See notes at Deut. 15:1-11 online.

25:5 "trimmed vines" This is literally "Nazarite vines." These untrimmed plants grew feelers like a Nazarite's uncut hair (cf. Numbers 6).

25:6 "all of you shall have the sabbath products" The natural growth during the seventh year would belong to all of the people, not the land owner. This helped break down the social barriers that men had put up!

▣ "slaves. . .hired men. . .foreign resident. . .aliens" Although there is a distinction made between Hebrew and Gentile, God cares and provides for both. This can be seen specifically in Deuteronomy.

25:7 If any food was left by humans the cattle could have free access to all of the land. God shows great concern for animal life in the Old Testament.

8"'You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. 9You shall then sound a ram's horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. 10You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. 11You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. 12For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.'"

25:8 "forty-nine years" It is uncertain if the seventh Sabbath year coincided with the Year of Jubilee or if there were two fallow years in succession (see Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 83, #52). Some have supposed that every seventh year was a very short year of only 49 days to correct the lunar festival calendar. If this is so, then Jubilee was one of these short years (Gordon Wenham, New International Commentary, Leviticus, p. 319).

25:9 "the day of atonement" This was the only fast day specifically mentioned in the Pentateuch. It is described in detail in Leviticus 16. See notes online and SPECIAL TOPIC: ATONEMENT.


NASB, JPSOA, LXX  "a release"
NKJV, NRSV, Peshitta  "liberty"
TEV  "freedom"
NJB, REB  "liberation"

The MT has the NOUN (BDB 204 I), which has two connotations.

  1. something flowing or free running (i.e., Exod. 30:23)
  2. liberty, especially connected to Year of Jubilee (i.e., the fiftieth year, seven Sabbath years)

▣ "returns" This VERB (BDB 996, KB 1477) occurs many times in this chapter (i.e., Lev. 25:10, 13, 27, 28, 41, 51, 52). It has two distinct connotations.

  1. return
  2. repentance (see SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE (OT))

▣ "each of you shall return to his own property" This refers to the original tribal inheritance (note vv. 13-16,23; cf. Num. 36:9 and Joshua 12-19). A release after a designated number of years is common in the law codes of the Ancient Near East. For Israel it was a way to assert YHWH's ownership and control over Canaan, His land.

▣ "each of you shall return to his family" This refers to the freedom of Israelite slaves. The Year of Jubilee functioned like the Sabbath Year in its release of slaves.

25:12 "it shall be holy to you" "Holy" means "set apart for God's use." See SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY. This chapter shows that the purpose of the laws was to point to the character of God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD (OT)), His ownership, provision, and lordship.

13"'On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property. 14If you make a sale, moreover, to your friend or buy from your friend's hand, you shall not wrong one another. 15Corresponding to the number of years after the jubilee, you shall buy from your friend; he is to sell to you according to the number of years of crops. 16In proportion to the extent of the years you shall increase its price, and in proportion to the fewness of the years you shall diminish its price, for it is a number of crops he is selling to you. 17So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.'"

NASB, NRSV, NJB, JPSOA, REB  "jubilee"
NKJV  "Jubilee"
TEV  " -----"
LXX  "release"

The MT has יבל or יובל (BDB 385). The basic meaning is "ram" or "ram's horn." The ram's horn is mentioned in Lev. 25:9 (twice), but a different term, BDB 1052 (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL). It seems the idea of "Jubilee" comes from another similar Latin root. The 50th year was a year of "release" or "liberty" (cf. Lev. 25:10, BDB 204 I). These special releases were common in the ANE.

25:14 "buy" This chapter is about the right of "buying back"! The VERB (BDB 888, KB 1111) occurs often (i.e., vv. 14, 15, 28, 30, 44, 45, 50) and related to several groups and things. This VERB is parallel to "redeem" (BDB 145, KB 169, cf. Lev. 25:25, 26, 30, 33, 48, 49, 54; see SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM). This is an intensified grammatical form (i.e., an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and an IMPERFECT VERB from the same root, BDB 888, KB 1111).

▣ "you shall not wrong one another" This verse and Lev. 25:17 show the brotherly relationship that was meant to exist between Israelites because of their covenant relationship to YHWH. This also shows that "business is not business" between God's people!

25:15-16 This shows that the price of redemption was related to fifty year periods of release.

25:17 "I am the Lord your God" This reflects the covenant relationship between YHWH and Israel. The stipulations in the chapter (and all the Pentateuch, see NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 920) are meant to reveal and illustrate the unique character of God (cf. Lev. 25:38).


18"'You shall thus observe My statutes and keep My judgments, so as to carry them out, that you may live securely on the land. 19Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it. 20But if you say, "What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?" 21then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. 22When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.'"

25:18 "My statutes. . .judgments" See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION.

▣ "that you may live securely on the land" Obedience (i.e., conditional covenant) to YHWH would assure a stable and blessed community (cf. Lev. 26:3-13; Deut. 5:16; 28:1-14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT and SPECIAL TOPIC: KEEP.

25:19 God's blessing and protection could be seen in the agricultural produce of the land (esp. v. 21).

25:20 God would supernaturally provide for the fallow years with a bumper crop. Rashi says that part of the 6th year, all of the 7th, and part of the 8th is referred to. This is similar to what God did concerning the extra manna on the sixth day to provide for the Sabbath (i.e., Exod. 16:22-30).

25:21 "for three years" We tend, in the modern western world, to be literal with numbers. This is not the case of ANE cultures. The UBS Handbook for Translators, p. 382, suggests this is a two year period with only parts of the first year, the entire second year, and only part of a third year, but all told, it is only twentyfour months.

I tend to agree. The same problem occurs in how long Jesus was in the tomb (i.e., three days). I think only about 36 hours; see notes at Matthew 16:21 at Matthew 16.

23"'The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. 24Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land.'"

25:23 "the land is Mine" Canaan is often called YHWH's land but we must remember all land is YHWH's land (i.e., Exod. 19:5; see NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 460, #3 and p. 816, #b) by means of creation. Israel is YHWH's special covenant people to reveal Himself to all the world and bring them to Himself. See SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH'S ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN; also see note in NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 522-524, B, "The Land." God is owner of all things; we are stewards of all things!

▣ "for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me" Compare this phrase with Ps. 39:12; Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11.

25:24-25 This speaks of "the kinsman redeemer" or "kinsman avenger: (BDB 145 I). This near kin who redeems his brother from poverty can be seen in Ruth 4; Jer. 32:7ff.

This later becomes a title for God. As all OT titles, it reflects an intimate, loving family setting. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANTHROPOMORPHIC LANGUAGE TO DESCRIBE DEITY.

25:24 "the redemption" The VERB form (BDB 145, KB 169) is used often in ths chapter, but the NOUN form is also common (Lev. 25:24, 26, 29 [twice], 31, 32, 48, 51, 52). This chapter is about "release" connected to

  1. every seven years
  2. every fifty years

25"'If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. 26Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, 27then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. 28But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property."

25:28 The rights of the poor are balanced with the rights of the owners. We are all responsible for our actions and their consequences!

29Likewise, if a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, then his redemption right remains valid until a full year from its sale; his right of redemption lasts a full year. 30But if it is not bought back for him within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city passes permanently to its purchaser throughout his generations; it does not revert in the jubilee. 31The houses of the villages, however, which have no surrounding wall shall be considered as open fields; they have redemption rights and revert in the jubilee. 32As for cities of the Levites, the Levites have a permanent right of redemption for the houses of the cities which are their possession. 33What, therefore, belongs to the Levites may be redeemed and a house sale in the city of this possession reverts in the jubilee, for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the sons of Israel. 34But pasture fields of their cities shall not be sold, for that is their perpetual possession.'"

25:29-34 These verses deal with the spacial requirements of certain people groups who live in

  1. walled cities, Lev. 25:30
  2. unwalled cities, Lev. 25:31
  3. Levitical cities, Lev. 25:32-34; see NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 905-907

25:32 "cities of the Levites" There were 48 of these special cities (cf. Num. 35:1-8; Joshua 21; 1 Chr. 6:54-81). The Levites did not inherit land like the other tribes, so they were given cities and the surrounding pastureland. Some of these cities served as places of refuge from the kinsman redeemer for various types of crimes (cf. Joshua 20, see SPECIAL TOPIC: CITIES OF REFUGE).

25:33 This is difficult in Hebrew; many translations use the LXX. The whole point seems to be that Levites can purchase homes in the walled cities permanently, but only Levites.

The footnote of the JPSOA translation says, "meaning of first half of verse uncertain." The NET Bible, p. 266, lists the five major views of this half verse.

▣ "the Levites" Leviticus 25:32-33 is the only mention of the term "Levites" in Leviticus and it refers to members of the tribe of Levi. The family of Aaron (and Moses) comprised the priests but other members of the tribe served the temple and cultus.

35"'Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you. 37You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain. 38I 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.'"

25:35-38 These verses continue to emphasize the humanitarian nature of God's people! It even denies the charging of interest (BDB 675, cf. Exod. 22:25; Deut. 23:20; Ps. 15:5; Pro. 28:8; Ezek. 18:8,13,17) to a fellow covenant partner but one could to a Gentile (cf. Deut. 23:20; see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, pp. 170-171). The wealthier Israelite was to sustain the poorer one because of God's care for them both (cf. Lev. 25:38).

25:36 Leviticus 25:36 cannot be used as a proof text against our modern society's credit practices. There are dangers in credit but this text does not relate to them specifically! Our concern for our underprivileged fellowman, here fellow covenant partner, is the main idea (cf. Exod. 22:25; Deut. 23:20-21). See Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 151-152.

39"'If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave's service. 40He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee. 41He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers. 42For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale. 43You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God. 44As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. 45Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. 46You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.'"

25:41 "He shall go out from you, he and his sons with him" The freedom of a hired servant also included his family, see Exod. 21:2-4; Deut. 15:12-18 online.

25:43, 46, 53 These verses show the priority of people to God. We are responsible in how we treat others (cf. Eph. 6:5-9).

25:43 "revere your God" The VERB (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal PERFECT with waw) basically means "to fear," "to respect," "to stand in awe," "to honor." See SPECIAL TOPIC: FEAR (OT). It is used in Leviticus of

  1. honor for parents ‒ Lev. 19:3 (cf. Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16)
  2. respect for YHWH ‒ Lev. 19:14,32; 25:17,36,43
  3. respect for YHWH's sanctuary ‒ Lev. 19:30; 26:2

25:44-46 This shows the OT distinction between fellow Israelites and Gentiles. Yet, still a compassionate attitude is required! Israelites could own Gentile slaves (Exod. 12:44; Lev. 22:11; Eccl. 2:7). They were considered property and could be inherited (Lev. 25:46).

47"'Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger's family, 48then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him, 49or his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself. 50He then with his purchaser shall calculate from the year when he sold himself to him up to the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall correspond to the number of years. It is like the days of a hired man that he shall be with him. 51If there are still many years, he shall refund part of his purchase price in proportion to them for his own redemption; 52and if few years remain until the year of jubilee, he shall so calculate with him. In proportion to his years he is to refund the amount for his redemption. 53Like a man hired year by year he shall be with him; he shall not rule over him with severity in your sight. 54Even if he is not redeemed by these means, he shall still go out in the year of jubilee, he and his sons with him. 55For the sons of Israel are My servants; they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.'"

25:47 This verse emphasized the responsibility of the poor man for his own actions, which may result in slavery to a non-Israelite for a period of time.

25:55 This shows God's ownership and expectation of obedience and service from Israel.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. When was this information given to Moses?
  2. When was it to take effect?
  3. Why does the land have a sabbath rest?
  4. How does the concept of God's ownership and our stewardship affect our daily lives?
  5. Can Israelites have a slave?
  6. Is there a difference between Hebrew servants and a Gentile slave?
  7. Explain the year of Jubilee. Did Israel ever do it?
  8. Express in your own words the truth of this chapter in the area of the rights and responsibilities of both the wealthy and the poor.

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