Agrarian Laws in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE

a-gra'-ri-an loz: 1. The Sabbath Year 2. The Jubilee 3. Its Object 4. The Legal Rules 5. Ideas and Circumstances of the Legislation 6. Form of the Legislation 7. Its Operation and Extension 8. Other Laws Affecting the Land The Mosaic provisions on this subject form one of the most characteristic and interesting portions of the legislation. The main institutions are two, namely, the Sabbath year and the jubilee, and they are closely linked together. 1. The Sabbath Year: In every seventh year the land was to lie fallow "that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beast of the field shall eat" (Ex 23:10 f; compare Lev 25:2-7). `And the Sabbath of the land shall be for food for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant and for thy stranger that sojourn with thee; but for thy cattle, and for the beasts that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be for food' (Lev 25:6 f). This has been quoted at length because the rendering of English Versions of the Bible is misleading. "The Sabbath of the land" does not mean that the natural increase thereof is to be eaten by the Israelite peasant. That interpretation is excluded by Lev. 25:3-5,20-22. What is intended is clearly shown by the latter of these two passages, "I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year." The principle on which the manna had been provided for Sabbaths was to apply to the harvest of the sixth year, and this is the import of the phrase. 2. The Jubilee: After "seven sabbaths of years, even forty and tone years" a trumpet was to be blown throughout the land on the tenth day of the seventh month (i.e. the Day of Atonement) and the fiftieth year was to be hallowed and celebrated as a "jubilee." No agricultural work of any kind was to be performed, but "ye may (so correct EVV) eat the increase thereof out of the field" (Lev 25:12). God would so bless the land in the sixth year that it would bring forth enough for the Sabbath year, the ensuing jubilee and the subsequent period to the harvest of the ninth year (Lev 25:20-22). 3. Its Object: In addition to being a period in which the land was left fallow, the jubilee was intended to meet the economic evils that befell peasants in ancient societies. Wars or unfavorable seasons would soon reduce a farmer to a condition in which he would have to borrow. But money is rarely to be had without interest and security, and in early communities the rates of interest were very high indeed, while the only security the farmer could offer would consist of his land and the persons of himself and his children. Hence we find insolvency giving rise to the alienation of land and to slavery all over the world--sometimes with the retention of civil rights (as in Rome and Israel), at others in a more unalloyed form. The jubilee aims at both these evils. It is provided that in that year the peasants who had lost their full freedom through insolvency should be free (see Wiener, Studies in Biblical Law, 5 ff) and all lands that had been sold should return to the original owner or his family. "And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me" (lev 25:23). To this theory...

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