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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE - 2014
Theme: And It Was Good
What This Study Is About:
focus of this study is on the fact that God remains the Owner of all
creation; it’s not ours. But He has given us a great responsibility to
care for it.
God’s Word of Creation
Our Work With Creation
has given us responsibility over His creation.
Be Good Stewards (Lev. 25:1-3)
In God (Lev. 25:4-5)
For Others (Lev. 25:6-7)
OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:
proper observance of Sabbatical and Jubilee years was to testify to
Israel’s status as a holy people (25:1-55). The land, like the people,
had to have rest; so every seventh year was set aside as a year when
nothing would be planted (25:1-7). Then after seven such cycles, the
fiftieth year too would be set apart for the rejuvenation of the land, the
forgiveness of mortgages on it, and the like (25:8-22). The redemption of
property was to remind the people that the land was Yahweh’s and was
actually leased out by Him to them (25:23-38). Likewise, those who had
been forced to indenture themselves were to be released on the Year of
Jubilee. It was most unfit that Israel, itself a slave people released
from bondage by Yahweh, should tolerate bondage within its own borders. A
holy people had to be a free people (25:39-55).
Holman Bible Handbook; General
Editor David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
we have any responsibility for the earth around us?
Some people, in what borders on being a form of nature worship, are
convinced we should avoid doing anything that upsets, or in any way
alters, nature as it is. Others,
in what borders on being a complete disregard for nature, see natural
resources as consumables and as something to be exploited for their own
benefit. The Bible gives us a
different perspective. God has
given us the earth and its resources for our benefit, but He also has
given some Biblical principles to guide us in how we use and manage those
resources so He is honored.
Introduction is adapted from the following
The Herschel Hobbs Commentary;
Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay
Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Good Stewards (Lev. 25:1-3)
1 The LORD
spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: 2
“Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am
giving you, the land will observe a Sabbath to the LORD.
3 You may sow
your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard and gather its
produce for six years.
In God (Lev. 25:4-5)
4 But there
will be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land in the seventh year, a
Sabbath to the Lord: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard.
5 You are not
to reap what grows by itself from your crop, or harvest the grapes of your
untended vines. It must be a year of complete rest for the land.
was the sabbath principle (v. 4)?
is the specific command that God gave the Israelites in these verses?
would this not be an arbitrary command from God?
did the sabbath principle prohibit the
Israelites doing (vv. 4-5)?
you think this was the main issue for the Israelites in being willing to obey
do you think the Israelites may have felt as the sabbath year approached?
would the sudden upheaval of your comfort zone make you feel? (Such things as:
losing your job; a sudden decline in income; loss of your retirement plan; a
natural disaster; a physical disability, loss of your home; etc.)
forbid, but if any of these things should happen to you, when does relying
on God come into the situation?
is the primary reason for being obedient to the sabbath principle?
are some secondary reasons?
does the sabbath principle challenge us to trust the Lord?
the fact that He is God, what do you think makes His commands trustworthy?
you think the sabbath principle has a
message for us today?
so, what is it?
What are some consequences you’ve seen as a result of abusing the earth?
How would you rate your trust in God with your livelihood on a scale of 1
(low) to 10 (high)?
Lessons in Lev. 25:4-5:
primary way the Israelites were to show their care for the land was to
allow it to rest every seventh year.
Israelites’ obedience in keeping the Sabbath year was a matter of trust
in God and His sovereignty.
as keeping the Sabbath day demonstrated that the Israelites honored God
and were committed to pleasing Him, so it was to be with the Sabbath year.
Obeying this command showed whether or not the people acknowledged
that the provision of the land and its produce came from their covenant,
Israelites’ extended disobedience to God’s command and instructions
proved they were in rebellion against Him.
For Others (Lev. 25:6-7)
the land produces during the Sabbath year can be food for you—for
yourself, your male or female slave, and the hired hand or foreigner who
stays with you. 7
All of its growth may serve as food for your livestock and the wild
animals in your land.
How does this passage speak to our
responsibility over God’s creation?
were people to be fed during the sabbatical year?
would you explain the apparent conflict between verses 4-5 and verses 6-7?
do these verses suggest about the scope of God’s care?
principle do you see in these verses that encourages you to trust God during
is the specific command God gave the Israelites in these verses?
among the Israelites was being protected through these laws?
do you think this passage tell us regarding our benevolence toward others less
fortunate than we are?
are you using what God has given you to benefit others who are in need?
are you using what God has given you to show those in need that God really does
care for them?
would you summarize the application of this passage regarding our responsibility
over God’s creation?
Lessons in Lev. 25:6-7:
that the crops grew voluntarily during the Sabbath year could be harvested
by the owners for their personal use and by others in need shows us we
need to be generous with what God has provided for us.
God wants us
to use the resources He has provided us to help others.
today still must trust God for their food supply—Jesus taught us to
include this petition in our daily prayers (Matt.6:11).
you think about what God has said to you in this session, see if He is
leading you to one of the following applications:
1.) God is my Provider. As
you go about your daily routines this week, be aware of everything you use
(food, clothing, fuel, etc.) as a provision from your Creator. Thank Him,
and pray to use wisely what He provides.
2.) Evaluate your use of God’s creation. Knowing that God is
owner and you are manager of His possessions, make a list of a few items
of God’s creation (food, water, plants, animals, etc.) you regularly
interact with. Give yourself a grade on how wisely you are managing
God’s resources. How wisely
you are managing God’s resources?
3.) Trusting my Provider. Wise
management of God’s creation means that others benefit from our actions.
Start praying today about what you could give up in order to be a blessing
to someone in desperate need either physically, spiritually, or both. Then
make yourself available to do whatever and go wherever God leads.
a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) rate how well you are wisely using the
resources God has given you so you can share them with others in need?
Pray about your rating this week, and adjust accordingly.
we love our Creator, we will want to love and care for His creation. He
has given us this great responsibility. Let each of us be found faithful
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion
adapted from the following sources:
SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville,
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study;
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
King James Version: Leviticus 25:1-7
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.
Version: Leviticus 25:1-7
1 The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, 2
“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I
am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. 3
For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and
gather their crops. 4 But in the seventh year
the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your
fields or prune your vineyards. 5 Do not reap
what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is
to have a year of rest. 6 Whatever the land
yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your
manservant and maidservant, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live
among you, 7 as well as for your livestock and
the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten. (NIV)
New Living Translation: Leviticus 25:1-7
1 While Moses was on Mount
Sinai, the LORD said to him, 2 “Give the
following instructions to the people of Israel. When you have entered the land I
am giving you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath rest before the LORD every
seventh year. 3 For six years you may plant
your fields and prune your vineyards and harvest your crops, 4
but during the seventh year the land must have a Sabbath year of complete
rest. It is the LORD’s Sabbath. Do not plant your fields or prune your
vineyards during that year. 5 And don’t
store away the crops that grow on their own or gather the grapes from your
unpruned vines. The land must have a year of complete rest. 6
But you may eat whatever the land produces on its own during its Sabbath.
This applies to you, your male and female servants, your hired workers, and the
temporary residents who live with you. 7 Your
livestock and the wild animals in your land will also be allowed to eat what the
land produces. (NLT)
Be Good Stewards
Trust In God (Lev. 25:4-5)
Care For Others (Lev. 25:6-7)
Commentary for the focal passage
comes from three sources: “The Pulpit Commentary,” “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament,” and “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
The Pulpit Commentary – Volume 2: Leviticus 25:1-7
The sabbatical year was instituted not for any
supposed physical benefit accruing from it to the land, but, first, as serving
for a link between the sabbath and the jubilee by means of the sacred number
seven — the sabbatical year being the seventh year, and the jubilee being the
year following the seven-times-seventh year; and secondly, and chiefly, as
enforcing the lesson of the weekly sabbath in a manner that could not be
overlooked, and symbolically, teaching the universal application of the
sabbatical law, even where physical needs were not concerned, and in that way
suggesting the expectation of a rest to be hereafter attained by all God's
creatures. The sabbatical year began with the commencement of the civil year,
the 1st of Tisri, just before the autumn sewings, which were intermitted for one
year. The ground was not tilled during this year (verse 4). There was a release
of debts (Deuteronomy 15:1-11), and there was to be public reading of God's Law
(Deuteronomy 31:10-13). During the previous six years the husbandmen had been
well aware of the coming sabbatical year, and would have laid by in store
accordingly, so as to support themselves and their families during that year. The
release of debts inculcated mercy. The command that the Law should be publicly
read showed that the intention of the institution was not that the year should
be spent in idleness, but that the time saved from ordinary labour was to be
given to devotional pursuits. The law of the sabbatical year was so hard of
observance by an agricultural people, that it was seldom or never acted upon
until the Captivity (see 2 Chronicles 36:21). But after that time it seems to
have been religiously kept (see Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 11:8, 6; 14:10, 6; 14:16,
2; 15:1, 2; 1 Macc. 6:49; Galatians 4:10; Tacit., ‘Hist.,’ 5:2, 4).
The jubilee was a joyous year appointed to be
observed every fifty years. The cycle of the sabbatical year and the jubilee
touched without coalescing. The forty-ninth year was necessarily a sabbatical
year, and the following year was the jubilee. It has appeared to some so
difficult to believe that two years in which it was not allowable to engage in
agricultural work should come together, that they have assumed that the
sabbatical year itself, that is, the forty-ninth year, was the year of the
jubilee. But this was clearly not the case. Twice in the century the laud was to
lie fallow for two years running — from September to the second September
following — special preparations having, of course, been made by laying up a
store of grain from the abundant harvest promised in the previous year (verse
21), and foreign crops being, no doubt, imported to take the place of the usual
home crops. In matter of fact, however, these
two blank years seldom, if ever, occurred together; for as the sabbatical year
was not observed before the Captivity, while there are indications of the
existence of the jubilee (1 Kings 21:3; Isaiah 61:1-3), so probably the jubilee
ceased to be observed after the Captivity, when the sabbatical year was
carefully kept. Supposing that they
did come together, the second year in which labour was prohibited would end just
in time for the seed to be sown for the next summer's harvest.
The jubilee affected both land and men. Land
could only be sold for fifty years, its value immediately after a jubilee had
passed being that of fifty harvests, or rather, deducting the sabbatical years
and the fiftieth year, of forty-two harvests. If it were sold, it might be
bought back by the original owner or any of his relations, counting the number
of harvests remaining before the next jubilee, and buying out the previous
purchaser with the sum of money thus estimated. No more effective plan could be
well devised for preserving the various properties in the families to which they
were at first assigned.
The other point chiefly affected by the law of
the jubilee was slavery. In ease a brother Israelite became poor, it was the
duty of his richer brethren to help him, and to lend him money without interest,
to set him up in the world again. But if this did not succeed, the poor man
might sell himself as a slave, either to an Israelite or to a foreigner living
in the land. In the former ease it had been already enacted that his slavery was
not to last beyond six years (Exodus 21:2). To this enactment it was now added
that he must be also set free whenever the year of jubilee occurred.
If he became the slave of a non-Israelite, he
must be set free, not as before on the seventh year of his slavery, but still at
the jubilee. He had also preserved for him the right of being redeemed by any
kinsman, the price paid for him being the wages which would be paid up to the
next jubilee. In either case, he was to be treated without rigour, and it was
the duty of the Israelite magistrate to see that no undue harshness was used by
the foreign master. The principle is, as before, that as the land is God's land,
not man’s, so the Israelites were the slaves of God, not of man, and that if
the position in which God placed them was allowed to be interfered with for a
time, it was to be recovered every seventh, or at furthest every fiftieth, year.
The possession of slaves was not forbidden — the world was not yet ready for
such a prohibition. The Hebrews might purchase and own slaves of alien blood,
but between Hebrew and Hebrew the institution of master and slave was
practically abolished, and superseded (in most respects) by the relationship of
master and servant.
Verse 1. And
the Lord spake unto Moses in mount Sinai. The purpose of the words, in Mount Sinai, is not to distinguish
the place in which the sabbatical law and the law of the jubilee were given from
that in which the preceding laws were delivered. The words mean only, “in the Sinai district;’’ and they are
employed because these laws form the conclusion of the series of laws given
while tile people were en-camped under Mount Sinai. The law on vows is, it is
true, added to them, but it is by way of appendix.
Verses 2-7. The sabbath of the
seventh year could only be observed when ye come into the land which I give
you. The habit of making no distraction in the seventh year during the whole
of the life in the wilderness may have led to the neglect of the law after the
settlement in Canaan. Another excuse for the neglect may have been a difficulty
which would have presented itself of fixing the date from which to count up to
the seventh year, as different parts of the land were conquered at different
times. According to the law, from New Year's Day of the seventh year (the 1st of
Tisri, which occurred about the middle of September) to the following New Year's
Day, there was to be neither sowing nor pruning, reaping or gathering. The
expression, Neither shalt thou gather the grapes of thy vine undressed,
would be more literally rendered, the grapes of thy Nazarite vine, the
vine with its unpruned tendrils, being likened to the Nazarite with his unshorn
locks. As to sowing and reaping, an exception was made with respect to the
barley sown and reaped for the Passover sheaf, and the wheat sown and reaped for
the Pentecost loaves. The spontaneous fruits of the earth, and they were very
large in the rich fields of the valleys and plains, were to be the property of
all alike, whether the owners of the land or not, “that the poor of thy people
might eat” (Exodus 23:11). And what was left by man was to be food for the
cattle and beasts of the field. The cessation of agricultural labours must have
served, and may have been intended to serve, as an encouragement to mercantile
pursuits, as well as to the study of the Divine Law (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). The
Feast of Tabernacles of the seventh year was specially appointed by Moses as a
day for reading the Law to the assembled people (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). And the
Mishna appoints the following passages of Deuteronomy to be read on that day:
— Deuteronomy 1:1-6; 6:4-8; 11:13-22; 14:22; 15:23; 17:14; 26:12-19; 27, 28.
(‘Mish. Sotah.,’ 7:8). The other ordinance connected with the sabbatical
year, the release of debts to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:1-6), was, like the fifth
commandment, made of none effect by rabbinical traditions — notably by one
which required a debtor, when his creditor said, “I remit,” to insist that
nevertheless he should accept payment. The moral purpose of the sabbath of the
seventh year is well drawn out by Keil: — “In the sabbatical year the land
which the Lord had given his people was to observe a period of holy rest and
refreshment to its Lord and God, just as the congregation did on the sabbath
day; and the hand of man was to be withheld from the fields and fruit gardens
from working them that they might yield their produce for his use. The earth was
to be sacred from the hand of man, exhausting its power for earthly purposes as
his own property, and to enjoy the holy rest with which God had blessed the
earth and all its productions after the Creation. From this, Israel, as the
nation of God, was to learn, on the one hand, that although the earth was
created for man, it was not merely created for him to draw out its power for his
own use, but also to be holy to the Lord and participate in the blessed rest;
and on the other hand, that the great purpose for which the congregation of the
Lord existed did not consist in the uninterrupted tilling of the earth,
connected with bitter labour in the sweat of the brow (Genesis 3:17, 19),
but in tile peaceful enjoyment of the fruits of the earth, which the Lord their
God had given them and would give them still, without the labour of their hands,
if they strove to keep his covenant and satisfy themselves with his grace.”
Pulpit Commentary; Volume 2: Leviticus and Numbers; Database ©
2007 WORDsearch Corp.
Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament: Leviticus
The Sabbatical Year (25:1-7)
25:1-7 The sabbatical year (shabbath)
is mentioned also in Exodus 23:10-11 and Deuteronomy 15:1-18. In the
former passage, however, it is described as a year to leave the land fallow (as
here in Lev 25) without the year being specifically named. In the
Deuteronomy passage the year is called a shemittah and is described
as a year of canceling debts and freeing slaves, not as a year of rest from the
tillage of the land. However, the verb shamat is used in Exodus
23:11 and translated by the NIV as “let the land lie unplowed” (cf. TWOT,
##454b, 2408). It appears from the combination of these two ideas that the
seventh year was both a fallow year for the land and a year of canceling debts.
For the further matter of liberating slaves (darar), see the Jubilee
As far as Moses knew, the occupation of Canaan
would begin in a few months, and Israel would begin this program of land tenure
at once. Though Israel was in the wilderness, she was looking toward a settled
condition within a year, similar to what they had known in Egypt—without the
slavery! The adoption of such a law does not imply that the legislation is late,
long years after the Conquest. Indeed, v. 2 says it is a law adopted to
cover future circumstances.
The terminology “the land itself must observe
a sabbath” (v. 2) apparently comes from the weekly Sabbath that was
already in force. The emphasis of the Sabbath was the resting. The land “I am
going to give you” (notice the proprietorship) will have its rest as well.
Presumably no one then knew why this would be good for the land. Principles of
crop rotation were not known, and God did not give them such advanced wisdom.
But he did give them the idea of the land lying fallow, and he gave it religious
sanction. It does not seem that any other nation had any custom like this.
Verse 5 seems at first to contradict v. 4.
The solution seems to be that there is to be no normal work of harvest or
grape-gathering that would involve servants and include storage. It was all
right to eat and gather directly from the fields (v. 11), but regular
harvest work was forbidden. The idea was twofold. First, the produce of the
sixth year would be so abundant because of the Lord’s blessing that there
would be a surplus. Second, the natural produce of the land would feed the poor
(Exod 23:11). It would even give wildlife a chance to repopulate itself. The
natural crop would be public property. There is an additional reason for the
sabbatical year that does not appear in this chapter. In the Feast of Booths of
the sabbatical year, the law was to be read to the people. The whole nation was
to have a short-term Bible institute (Deut 31:10-13). There would be
opportunities for other instruction during the rest of this vacation year.
SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor;
Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Leviticus 25:1-7
25:1-55. Holiness in relation to
God and in relation to one another climaxes in the treatment of the covenantal
inheritance. Holiness shows appreciation for what the Lord has provided, acting
as good stewards or managers of the inheritance for Him, holding loosely to it,
as always belonging to Him the Owner Who lets us manage it for Him. It also
indicates an active concern that all God’s people continue to enjoy and use
well their covenant inheritance from the Lord. Holiness recognizes that God is
Owner of all, and those who receive his gift of salvation are equally his
servants. For Israel, the covenant inheritance was the Promised Land apportioned
to each family in the days of Joshua. The land was the physical place God
provided for them where they could be free to enjoy all He wanted to give them,
become all He wanted them to be and work to accomplish the mission toward the
rest of the world that He intended for them. The land as inheritance functioned
as the means to his provision of daily physical needs (Lev. 26:4f; Deut. 7:13;
11:9-15). It functioned to provide a place of security from fears and the threat
of harm (Lev. 26:6; Deut. 12:9f). The land functioned for Israel as the place
from which they had the opportunity to make a contribution to the lives of other
people, first in the covenantal community of faith, and then as a part of
God’s mission to the world (Gen. 12:2f, 7; Deut. 4:6ff; 8:18; 28:9-13; Mic.
4:1-7; Zech. 8:12f). Finally, the land was to function as the place of rest and
peace in spiritual relationship with God. It was to provide the opportunity for
fellowship with the God of the universe and for experiencing the ultimate
well-being through his gracious presence (Exo. 33:14; Lev. 26:11ff; Heb.
3:18-4:11). The physical Promised Land was the actual place God chose to
establish his people Israel as a nation, to be a witness to the world as his
theocracy and to provide a people through whom He could have the Savior, his
Son, incarnated. This purpose has been fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ,
but that does not mean that all passages referring to the physical situations of
the land and Israel have no relevance to Christians. When realizing the
functions of the land, as described above, people can see that the principles
involved in such passages as Leviticus 25 are applicable in many ways to the
lives of Christians today. All these functions of the land as God’s
inheritance for his people are still needed by God’s people today and are
fulfilled in the provisions of Christ’s inheritance to believers. He wants to
meet the physical needs of his people. He wants us to live securely and without
fear in his protection. God wants his people to be productive and impact this
world for his eternal purpose. He wants us to enjoy his presence in rest and
peace (Matt. 11:28ff; Rom. 14:17). Furthermore, to be productive and accomplish
God’s purpose, everyone needs a “place,” like Israel, on which to stand
and relate to others. God’s people need a place both physically and socially
from which they can effectively communicate the gospel to others. This includes
a physical place to live as well as a place in a family and a community. God
wants to provide a “place” for each of us and for his people together so
that we can accomplish his mission in this world.
If all these are what God wants for his people,
then his people should want everyone in the covenant community to continue to
enjoy the covenantal inheritance He has provided in Christ. An important
application of ch. 25 for Christians is to become the kind of community God
wants for his people, where members know each other well enough to get involved
in each other’s lives. One illustration of this might be becoming involved
when there is loss or threat of loss of someone’s inheritance from the Lord
and thus a need to “redeem” it. That means recognizing and intervening when
a brother or sister in Christ is in need of daily physical provisions, or is
living in insecurity, whether physical or emotional. It also means becoming
involved when someone is not being productive in the Kingdom of God, or is
lacking rest and peace in the Holy Spirit. The message here is caring enough to
redeem a brother or sister’s spiritual inheritance. The Church is intended by
Christ and empowered by the Spirit to provide this kind of “place” where
God’s people can find acceptance by a significant group and receive healing
and renewal. It is also where they can mature in Christ and in human
relationships to function effectively in the world. The Church should provide
such a place for people. All of this is how the functions of the land are
applied in the lives of believers since Christ has come.
Other specific applications from this chapter
involve expressing appreciation to God for his salvation by acts of faith and
acts of kindness toward fellow members of the saved community. The message of
the sabbatical year and the Jubilee is the need to express faith in and
appreciation of the Lord by how we treat what He has provided for us. We must be
good stewards or managers of all we own, but hold it loosely as really belonging
to God, Who is the true Owner and Lord of everything. That perspective makes a
difference in how we live our lives every day. Occasionally Christians hold too
tightly to a ministry the Lord has allowed them to do and are not open to
sharing the opportunity and blessing with others whom He may be wanting to use.
If He is the real owner, and we do not “own” our “place” of ministry,
then He should be allowed to do what He wants with it. It should be no threat to
us because He is Lord and has a good “place” for us if we will let Him lead
Furthermore, we should appreciate the awesome
privilege we have of being saved into intimate fellowship with God. We must
never lord it over others, show any harshness or take advantage of anyone who is
vulnerable to us (Matt. 18:21-35). We should never take gain for ourselves from
the misfortune of others. We should give one another a fresh start by offering
whatever help is needed, including forgiveness. True gratefulness is expressed
in being generous and merciful toward others.
Christ implied that He was the fulfillment of
the Jubilee when He said He fulfilled Isa. 61:1f, (which He quoted in Luke
4:16-21) because Isaiah referred to the Jubilee in relation to the Messiah and
the time of salvation He would bring for the world. He is the eternal Redeemer
who brings eternal freedom to all who will receive it. The Jubilee ultimately
looked forward to the final restoration of God’s creation (Acts 3:21) through
the Second Coming of Christ.
Chapter 25 climaxes the covenant instructions
before the blessings and curses conclude the original Sinai covenant of Exodus
20-Leviticus 26 (with ch. 27 as an appendix). This may explain the unique
references to Mt. Sinai in 25:1, 26:46 and 27:34, with the only other reference
in Leviticus at the end of the sacrificial instructions (7:38). After covering
the principles of holiness in regard to time (ch. 23) and the privilege of his
presence, particularly at the place He chose for his presence to be experienced
(ch. 24), the observance of the 7th year and 50th year of rests for the land
together the forgiving of debts is explained. The Sabbath as a sign of the
covenant is here combined with the theme of the sanctity of the land as the
inheritance provided for those in the covenant. Not only is concern for the
environment legislated, but in context, concern is also expressed for the
ultimate well-being of one’s fellow members of the covenant community. The
overall context is the total lordship of, and ownership by, the Lord of the
land, as well as its being the place of his presence in a way similar to the Ark
in the Tabernacle.
25:1-7. The seventh year Sabbath rest for the land is
covered first. Verse 2 promises that the Lord is giving them the land (even
though it would actually be 38 more years before they would enter it, due to
their unbelief). When they occupied it, they were to let the land rest on the
seventh year, as a solemn observance to the Lord. That year they were not to do
any planting or harvesting beyond gathering what they needed to eat from what
the land produced on its own. Whatever grew belonged to everyone. All the
dependent people in the land were to eat from this. Exodus 21:1-4 had set
indentured servants free in the seventh year, and 23:10f had made the seventh
year a time for the ground to lie fallow and the poor to eat from it.
Deuteronomy 15:11 instructs them to forgive all debts at the end of every seven
years. Here, however, Leviticus 25 focuses on
the vertical dimension of holiness, calling it a Sabbath to the Lord in v. 4,
and applying the Sabbath principle of the rhythm of seven to a rest for the
land. This would testify to Israel’s faith in the Lord to supply their needs,
and that He is the true Source behind all their harvests. He could provide
enough in the other years so that there would be no lack in the seventh. It is
also good agricultural practice for replenishing the nutrients (by ridding it of
organisms that engage the nutrients) in the soil to let the land lie fallow
Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts. Database ©
2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
Sabbath—The Hebrew word Sabbath
in Leviticus 15:2 comes from the word shabat,
which means “to cease” or “to rest.” “Sheba”
is the word for “seven” and shabua’
refers to “a period of seven” or “a week.”
The term Shabbat thus refers to
the seventh day of the week, a day of rest.
A reference to the seventh day occurs for the first time at the end of
creation week: “By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done,
and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.
God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested
from His work of creation” (Gen. 2:2-3). God’s
resting on the seventh day after His six days of work in creation set a
precedent for His people in the Mosaic law.
In the Fourth Commandment God told His covenant people Israel,
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” and pointed back to creation
week and God’s rest as the reason they were to do so (Ex. 20:8).
God gave Israel specific instructions about the Sabbath, and the penalty
for violating the Sabbath was that the guilty person was to be stoned to death.
Numbers 15 records a specific incident about a man found gathering wood
on the Sabbath day, and the Lord commanded the Israelites to take him outside
the camp and stone him to death (vv. 32-36).
About 75 references to the Sabbath occur in the Old Testament, and the
New Testament contains another 60 references, though the vast majority of these
(50) are in the Gospels. Luke stated
on several occasions that the apostles went to the synagogues on the Sabbath to
preach the gospel (see, for example, Acts 13:14,42-44).
The only other two verses outside of the Gospels and Acts in which the
Sabbath is mentioned are Colossians 2:16, where Paul warned against those who
demanded that Christians should keep the Sabbath, and Hebrews 4:9, where the
Sabbath rest refers to the future kingdom.
We also should mention that this notion of a Sabbath rest—whether for a
day or for a year—for everyone and everything is met with only in Israel among
Noordtzij, Leviticus, in the Bible
Student’s Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982], 250.
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Sabbath: The English word sabbath in verse 2 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word shabbat
that means “restfulness.” A
sabbath was specified period of cessation from all work.
We often think of it as a day, but as a concept it was not limited to
that single time period. The sabbath
day was observed to honor and respect God’s own rest after six days of
creation (Ex. 20:8-11). In other
Scripture texts, the sabbath was viewed as a sign of the covenant relationship
between God and His people, and a symbol of the eternal rest He has promised
(Heb. 4:1-13). Instructions were
also provided for keeping a sabbath year in relationship to the land (Lev.
25:1-7). Every seventh year
landowners “rested” their fields from bearing crops.
The sabbath year also was a time when slaves were released and debts
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SABBATH: The day of rest, considered holy to God
by His rest on the seventh day after creation and viewed as a sign of
the covenant relation between God and His people and of the eternal rest He
has promised them.
The word sabbath comes from the Hebrew shabbat,
meaning “to cease” or “desist.” The primary meaning is that of cessation
from all work. Some persons have traced the origin of the concept to the Babylonian
calendar which contained certain days, corresponding to phases of the moon, in
which kings and priests could not perform their official functions. Such
days bore an evil connotation, and work performed on them would have harmful
effects. The fifteenth of the month, the time of the full moon in their lunar
calendar, was shapattu, the “day of pacifying the heart”
(of the god) by certain ceremonies.
Although one can show similarities to the Babylonian
concept, the Hebrew sabbath did not follow a lunar cycle. It was celebrated
every seven days and became basic to the recognition and worship of the God
of creation and redemption. Regulations concerning the sabbath are a main
feature of the Mosaic laws. Both reports of the Ten Commandments
stated that the sabbath belonged to the Lord. On six days the Israelites
should work, but on the seventh, they as well as all slaves, foreigners,
and beasts must rest. Two reasons are given. The first is that God rested
on the seventh day after creation, thereby making the day holy (Ex.
29:8-11). The second was a reminder of their redemption from slavery in Egypt
The day became a time for sacred assembly and
worship (Lev. 23:1-3), a token of their covenant with God (Ex. 31:12-17; Ezek.
20:12-20). Death was the penalty for desecration (Ex. 35:1-3). The true
observance of not following one’s own pursuits on that day would lift a
person to God’s holy mountain and bring spiritual nourishment (Isa. 56:1-7; 58:13),
but failure to keep the sabbath would bring destruction to their earthly kingdom
(Neh. 13:15-22; Jer. 17:21-27).
The sabbath became the heart of the law, and the prohibitions were
expanded. Thirty-nine tasks were banned, such as tying or untying a knot. These
in turn were extended until ingenious evasions were devised that lost the spirit
but satisfied the legal requirement.
The habit of Jesus was to observe the sabbath as a day of worship in
the synagogues (Luke 4:16), but His failure to comply with the minute
restrictions brought conflict (Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; John
5:1-18). At first, Christians also met on the sabbath with the Jews in
the synagogues to proclaim Christ (Acts 13:14). Their holy day, the day
that belonged especially to the Lord, was the first day of the week,
the day of resurrection (Matt. 28:1; Acts 20:7; Rev. 1:10). They
viewed the sabbath and other matters of the law as a shadow of the reality
which had now been revealed (Col. 2:16-23), and the sabbath became a symbol
of the heavenly rest to come (Heb. 4:1-11).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
SABBATICAL YEAR: Every
seventh year when farmers rested their land from bearing crops to renew the
land and people of Israel. Mosaic law directed that every seventh year the
land would not be planted in crops; food would come from what grew wild
(Ex. 23:10-11; Lev. 25:1-7).
Just as the Law reserved the seventh day as holy unto God, so too, was
the seventh year set aside as a time of rest and renewal. This not only assured
the continued fertility of the land by allowing it to lay fallow, but also
protected the rights of the poor. Peasants were allowed to eat from the
natural abundance of the untended fields. It may be that only a portion of the
land was allowed to rest each sabbath year, the remainder farmed as usual. Hebrews
sold into slavery were to be released in that year (Ex. 21:2). Loans and debts
to Israelites were also to be forgiven (Deut. 15:1-3). It is doubtful that
the sabbath year was celebrated in early Israel. Jeremiah reminded the
people that their fathers had ignored the observance of the law (Jer. 34:13-14;
compare Lev. 26:35). Although Israel
renewed her dedication to practice the sabbath year during Nehemiah’s
time, it is unclear whether it was carried out (Neh. 10:31). During the intertestamental
period an attempt was made by Israel to observe the sabbath year despite the
political turmoil of the times (1 Macc. 6:49). The sabbath year laws
consistently pointed to helping the poor.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
Sabbatical Year: sa-bat´ik-al שַׁבָּתוֹן שְנַת, shenath shabbāthōn; ἐνιαυτός ἀναπαύσεως, eniautós anapaúseōs, “a year of solemn rest”; or שַׁבָּתוֹן שַׁבַּת, shabbath shabbāthōn; σάββατα ἀνάπαυσις, sábbata anápausis,
“a sabbath of solemn rest” (Lev 25:4); or הַשְּמִטָּה שְׁנַת, shehath ha-shemiṭṭāh; ἔτος τῆς ἀφέσεως, étos tḗs aphéseōs, “the year of release” (Dt 15:9; 31:10)):
1. Primary Intention:
We find the first rudiments of this institution in the so-called Covenant
Book (Ex 21-23). Its connection with the day of rest (Sabbath) is obvious,
although it strikes us as somewhat remarkable that in Ex 23:10-12 the
regulation regarding the 7th year should precede the statute respecting the 7th
day. Still it seems natural that after the allusion in verse 9, “Ye were
sojourners in the land of Egypt,” the Covenant Book should put in a good word
for the poor in Israel (verse 11: “Let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor
of thy people may eat”). Even the beasts of the field are remembered (compare Jon
We must, therefore, conclude that in this early period of the history of
Israel the regulation regarding the 7th year was primarily intended for the
relief of the poor and for the awakening of a sense of responsibility in the
hearts of those better provided with the means of subsistence. It
would be wrong, however, to deny its Sabbatic character, for the text says
expressly, “But in the 7th year thou shalt let it rest” (literally, “thou
shalt release it”), implying that the land was entitled to a rest because it
needed it; it must be released for a time in order to gain fresh strength and
insure its future fertility. Two motives, then, present themselves most clearly,
one of a social, the other of an economic character, and both are rooted in
God’s dealings with Israel (compare Ex 21:1).
2. Mosaic Legislation Humane:
Another evidence of the humane spirit pervading the Mosaic Law may be
found in Ex 21:2-6 where, in the case of a Hebrew slave, the length of his
servitude is limited to six years. The connection with the idea of the Sabbath
is evident, but we fail to detect here any reference to the Sabbatical year. It
is clear that the 7th year in which a slave might be set free need not
necessarily coincide with the Sabbatical year, though it might, of course, The
same is true of Dt 15:12-18; it has nothing to do with the Sabbatical year.
On the other hand it is reasonable to assume that the “release” mentioned in Dt
15:1-3 took place in the Sabbatical year; in other words, its scope had been
enlarged in later years so as to include the release from pecuniary obligation,
i.e. the remission of debts or, at least, their temporary suspension. This means
that the children of Israel were now developing from a purely agricultural
people to a commercial nation. Still the same spirit of compassion for the poor
and those struggling for a living asserts itself as in the earlier period, and
it goes without saying that the old regulation concerning the release of the
land in the 7th year was still in force (compare 15:2: “because
Yahweh’s release hath been proclaimed”).
According to Dt 15:1, this proclamation occurred at the end of every
7 years, or, rather, during the 7th year; for we must be careful not to strain
the expression “at the end” (compare 15:9, where the 7th year is called
“the year of release”; it is quite natural to identify this 7th year with
the Sabbatical year).
Moreover, we are now almost compelled to assert the Sabbatical year by
this time had become an institution observed simultaneously all over the
country. From the wording of the regulation regarding the 7th year in the
Covenant Book we are not certain about this in those early times. But now it is
different. “Yahweh’s release hath been proclaimed.”
3. General Observance:
It was a solemn and general proclamation, the date of which was very
likely the day of atonement in the 7th month (the Sabbatical month). The
celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (booths) began five days later and it
lasted from the 15th day to the 21st of the 7th month (Tisri). In the Sabbatical
year, at that time, the Law was read “before all Israel in their hearing,” a
fact which tends to prove that the Sabbatical year had become a matter of
general and simultaneous observance (compare Dt 31:10-13). Another lesson
may be deduced from this passage: it gives us a hint respecting the use to which
the people may have put their leisure time during the 12 months of Sabbatical
rest; it may have been a period of religious and probably other instruction.
In Lev 25:1-7 the central
idea of the Sabbatical year is unfolded. Although it has been said we should be
careful not to look for too much of the ideal and dogmatic in the institutions
of the children of Israel, yet we must never lose sight of the religious and
educational character even of their ancient legislation.
4. Central Idea:
One central thought is brought home to them, namely, God is the owner of
the soil, and through His grace only the chosen people have come into its
possession. Their time, i.e. they themselves, belong to Him: this is the deepest
meaning of the day of rest; their land, i.e. their means of subsistence, belong
to Him: this reveals to us the innermost significance of the year of rest. It
was Yahweh’s pleasure to call the children of Israel into life, and if they
live and work and prosper, they are indebted to His unmerited loving-kindness.
They should, therefore, put their absolute trust in Him, never doubt His word or
His power, always obey Him and so always receive His unbounded blessings.
If we thus put all the emphasis on the religious character of the
Sabbatical year, we are in keeping with the idea permeating the Old Testament,
namely that the children of Israel are the chosen people of Yahweh. All their
agricultural, social, commercial and political relations were to be built upon
their divine calling and shaped according to God’s sovereign will.
But did they live up to it? Or, to limit the question to our subject: Did
they really observe the Sabbatical year? There are those who hold that the law
regarding the Sabbatical year was not observed before the captivity. In order to
prove this assertion they point to Lev 26:34 f, 43; also to 2 Ch
36:21. But all we can gather from these passages is the palpable conclusion that
the law regarding the Sabbatical year had not been strictly obeyed, a deficiency
which may mar the effect of any law.
The possibility of observing the precept respecting the Sabbatical year
is demonstrated by the post-exilic history of the Jewish people. Nehemiah
registers the solemn fact that the reestablished nation entered into a covenant
to keep the law and to maintain the temple worship (Neh 9:38; 10:32 ff). In 10:31
of the last-named chapter he alludes to the 7th year, “that we would forego
the 7th year, and the exaction of every debt.” We are not sure of the exact
meaning of this short allusion; it may refer to the Sabbatical rest of the land
and the suspension of debts.
For a certainty we know that the Sabbatical year was observed by the Jews
at the time of Alexander the Great. When he was petitioned by the Samaritans
“that he would remit the tribute of the 7th year to them, because they did not
sow therein, he asked who they were that made such a petition”; he was told
they were Hebrews, etc. (Josephus, Ant., XI, viii, 6).
During Maccabean and Asmonean times the law regarding the Sabbatical year
was strictly observed, although it frequently weakened the cause of the Jews (1
Macc 6:49, 53; Josephus, Ant., XIII, viii, 1; compare Josephus, Jewish
Wars, I, ii, 4; Ant., XIV, x, 6; XV, i, 2). Again we may
find references to the Sabbatical year in Josephus, Ant., XIV, xvi,
2, etc.; Tac. Hist. v. 4, etc., all of which testifies to the
observance of the Sabbatical year in the Herodian era. The words of Tacitus show
the proud Roman’s estimate of the Jewish character and customs: “For the 7th
day they are said to have prescribed rest because this day ended their labors;
then, in addition, being allured by their lack of energy, they also spend the
7th year in laziness.”
SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D.,
General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
SEVEN: The most prominent number [in Scripture] is the
number 7, which is referred to in one way or another in nearly 600 passages in
the Bible, as well as in many passages in the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha,
and later Jewish literature. Of course the number has its usual numerical force
in many of these places, but even there not seldom with a glance at its symbolic
significance. For the determination of the latter we are not assigned to
conjecture. There is clear evidence in the cuneiform texts, which are our
earliest authorities, that the Babylonians regarded 7 as the number of totality,
of completeness. The Sumerians, from whom the Semitic Babylonians seem to have
borrowed the idea, equated 7 and “all.” The 7-storied towers of Babylonia
represented the universe. Seven was the expression of the highest power, the
greatest conceivable fullness of force, and therefore was early pressed into the
service of religion. It is found in reference to ritual in the age of Gudea,
that is perhaps about the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. “Seven gods” at
the end of an enumeration meant “all the gods.” How 7 came to be used in
this way can only be glanced at here. The view connecting it with the gods of
the 7 planets, which used to be in great favor and still has its advocates,
seems to lack ancient proof. Hehn has shown that the number acquired its
symbolic meaning long before the earliest time for which that reference can be
demonstrated. As this sacred or symbolic use of 7 was not peculiar to the
Babylonians and their teachers and neighbors, but was more or less known also in
India and China, in classical lands, and among the Celts and the Germans, it
probably originated in some fact of common observation, perhaps in the four
lunar phases each of which comprises 7 days and a fraction. Conspicuous groups
of stars may have helped to deepen the impression, and the fact that 7 is made
up of two significant numbers, each, as will be shown, also suggestive of
completeness—3 and 4—may have been early noticed and taken into account. The
Biblical use of 7 may be conveniently considered under 4 heads: (1) ritual use;
(2) historical use; (3) didactic or literary use; (4) apocalyptic use.
(1) Ritual Use of Seven.
The number 7 plays a conspicuous part in a
multitude of passages giving rules for worship or purification, or recording
ritual actions. The 7th day of the week was holy (see SABBATH). There were
7 days of unleavened bread (Ex 34:18, etc.), and 7 days of the Feast of
Tabernacles (Lev 23:34). The 7th year was the sabbatical year (Ex 21:2, etc.).
The Moabite Balak built Balaam on three occasions 7 altars and provided in each
case 7 bullocks and 7 rams (Nu 23:1, 14, 29). The Mosaic law
prescribed 7 he-lambs for several festal offerings (Nu 28:11, 19, 27,
etc.). The 7-fold sprinkling of blood is enjoined in the ritual of the Day of
Atonement (Lev 16:14, 19), and elsewhere. Seven-fold sprinkling is also
repeatedly mentioned in the rules for the purification of the leper and the
leprous house (Lev 14:7, 16, 27, 51). The leprous Naaman was
ordered to bathe 7 times in the Jordan (2 Ki 5:10). In cases of real or
suspected uncleanness through leprosy, or the presence of a corpse, or for other
reasons, 7 days’ seclusion was necessary (Lev 12:2, etc.). Circumcision took
place after 7 days (Lev 12:3). An animal must be 7 days old before it could be
offered in sacrifice (Ex 22:30). Three periods of 7 days each are mentioned in
the rules for the consecration of priests (Ex 29:30, 35, 37). An oath
seems to have been in the first instance by 7 holy things (Gen 21:29 ff and the
Hebrew word for “swear”). The number 7 also entered into the structure of
sacred objects, for instance the candlestick or lamp-stand in the tabernacle and
the second temple each of which had 7 lights (Nu 8:2; Zec 4:2). Many other
instances of the ritual use of 7 in the Old Testament and many instructive
parallels from Babylonian texts could be given.
(2) Historical Use of Seven.
The number 7 also figures prominently in a
large number of passages which occur in historical narrative, in a way which
reminds us of its symbolic significance. The following are some of the most
remarkable: Jacob’s 7 years’ service for Rachel (Gen 29:20; compare 29:27
f), and his bowing down 7 times to Esau (Gen 33:3); the 7 years of plenty, and
the 7 years of famine (Gen 41:53 f); Samson’s 7 days’ marriage feast (Jdg
14:12 ff; compare Gen 29:27), 7 locks of hair (Jdg 16:19), and the 7 withes
with which he was bound (Jdg 16:7 f); the 7 daughters of Jethro (Ex 2:16), the 7
sons of Jesse (1 Sam 16:10), the 7 sons of Saul (2 Sam 21:6), and the 7 sons of
Job (Job 1:2; compare 42:13); the 7 days’ march of the 7 priests blowing
7 trumpets round the walls of Jericho, and the 7-fold march on the 7th day (Josh
6:8 ff); the 7 ascents of Elijah’s servant to the top of Carmel (1 Ki 18:43
f); the 7 sneezes of the Shunammitish woman’s son (2 Ki 4:35); the heating of
Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace 7 times more than it was wont to be heated (Dan
8:19), and the king’s madness for 7 times or years (Dan 4:16, 23, 25, 32);
Anna’s 7 years of wedded life (Lk 2:36); the 7 loaves of the 4,000 (Mt
15:34-36 parallel) and the 7 baskets full of fragments (Mt 15:37 parallel); the
7 brothers in the conundrum of the Sadducees (Mt 22:25 parallel); the 7 demons
cast out of Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9 parallel Lk 8:2); the 7 ministers in
the church at Jerusalem (Acts 6:3 ff), and the 7 sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14, but
the Western text represents them as only 2). The number must no doubt be
understood literally in many of these passages, but even then its symbolic
meaning is probably hinted at by the historian. When
a man was said to have had 7 sons or daughters, or an action was reported as
done or to be done 7 times, whether by design or accident, the number was noted,
and its symbolic force remembered. It cannot indeed be regarded in all these
cases as a sacred number, but its association with sacred matters which was kept
alive among the Jews by the institution of the Sabbath, was seldom, if ever,
(3) Didactic or Literary Use of Seven.
The symbolic use of 7 naturally led to its
employment by poets and teachers for the vivid expression of multitude or
intensity. This use is sometimes evident, and sometimes latent. (a) Evident
examples are the 7-fold curse predicted for the murderer of Cain (Gen 4:15);
fleeing 7 ways (Dt 28:7, 25); deliverance from 7 troubles (Job 5:19);
praise of God 7 times a day (Ps 119:164); 7 abominations (Prov 26:25; compare 6:16);
silver purified 7 times, that is, thoroughly purified (Ps 12:6); 7-fold sin;
7-fold repentance, and 7-fold forgiveness (Lk 17:4; compare Mt 18:21); 7
evil spirits (Mt 12:45 parallel Lk 11:26). The last of these, as well as
the previous reference to the 7 demons cast out of Mary Magdalene reminds us of
the 7 spirits of Beliar (Testament to the Twelve Patriarchs, Reuben chapters
2 and 3) and of the 7 evil spirits so often referred to in Babylonian
exorcisms, but it is not safe to connect our Lord’s words with either. The
Babylonian belief may indeed have influenced popular ideas to some extent, but
there is no need to find a trace of it in the Gospels. The 7 demons of the
latter are sufficiently accounted for by the common symbolic use of 7. For other
passages which come under this head compare Dt 28:7, 25; Ruth
4:15; 1 Sam 2:5; Ps 79:12. (b) Examples of latent use of the number 7,
of what Zockler (RE3, “Sieben”) calls “latent heptads,” are not
infrequent. The 7-fold use of the expression “the voice of Yahweh”
in Ps 29, which has caused it to be named “The Psalm of the Seven
Thunders,” and the 7 epithets of the Divine Spirit in Isa 11:2, cannot be
accidental. In both cases the number is intended to point at full-summed
completeness. In the New Testament we have the 7 beatitudes of character (Mt
5:3-9); the 7 petitions of the Paternoster (Mt 6:9 f); the 7 parables of the
Kingdom in Mt 13; the 7 woes pronounced on the Pharisees (Mt 28:13, 15, 16,
23, 25, 27, 29), perhaps the 7 sayings of Jesus, beginning with “I am” (egṓ eimi) in the
Fourth Gospel (Jn 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1),
and the 7 disciples at the Lake after the Resurrection (Jn 21:2). Several groups
of 7 are found in the Epistles and in Revelation: 7 forms of suffering (Rom
8:35); 7 gifts or charismata (Rom 12:6-9); 7 attributes of the wisdom that is
from above (Jas 3:17); 7 graces to be added to faith (2 Pet 1:5 ff); two
doxologies each containing 7 words of praise (Rev 5:12; 7:12), and 7
classes of men (Rev 6:15). Other supposed instances of 7-fold grouping in the
Fourth Gospel are pointed out by E.A. Abbott, but are of uncertain value.
(4) Apocalyptic Use of Seven.
As might be expected, 7 figures greatly in
apocalyptic literature, although it is singularly absent from the apocalyptic
portion of Daniel. Later works of this kind, however—the writings bearing the
name of Enoch, the Testaments of Reuben and Levi, 2 Esd, etc.—supply many
illustrations. The doctrine of the 7 heavens
which is developed in the Slavonic Enoch and elsewhere and may have been in the
first instance of Babylonian origin is not directly alluded to in the Bible, but
probably underlies the apostle’s reference to the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2).
In the one apocalyptic writing in the New Testament, 7 is employed with amazing
frequency. We read of 7 churches (Rev 1:4, etc.); 7 golden candlesticks (Rev
1:12, etc.); 7 stars (Rev 1:16); 7 angels of the churches (Rev 1:20); 7 lamps of
fire (Rev 4:5); 7 spirits of God (Rev 1:4; 3:1; 4:5); a book with 7
seals (Rev 5:1); a lamb with 7 horns and 7 eyes (Rev 5:6); 7 angels with 7
trumpets (Rev 8:2); 7 thunders (Rev 10:3); a dragon with 7 heads and 7 diadems
(Rev 13:3); a beast with 7 heads (Rev 18:1); 7 angels having the 7 last plagues
(Rev 15:1); and 7 golden bowls of the wrath of God (Rev 15:7) and a
scarlet-colored beast with 7 heads (Rev 17:3) which are 7 mountains (Rev 17:9)
and 7 kings (Rev 17:10). The writer, whoever he was, must have had his
imagination saturated with the numerical symbolism which had been cultivated in
Western Asia for millenniums. There cannot be a shadow of doubt that 7 for him
expressed fullness, completeness. As this inquiry will have shown, the
significance of the number is practically the same throughout the Bible.
Although a little of it may have been rubbed off in the course of ages, the main
idea suggested by 7 was never quite lost sight of in Biblical times, and the
number is still used in the life and song of the Holy Land and Arabia with at
least an echo of its ancient meaning.
The significance of 7 extends to its multiples.
Fourteen, or twice 7, is possibly symbolic in some cases. The stress laid in the
Old Testament on the 14th of the month as the day of the Passover (Ex 12:6 and 16
other places), and the regulation that 14 lambs were to be offered on each of
the 7 days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Nu 29:13, 15) hint at design in the
selection of the number, especially in view of the fact that 7 and 7 occur
repeatedly in cuneiform literature—in magical and liturgical texts, and in the
formula so often used in the Am Tab: “7 and 7 times at the feet of the king my
lord … I prostrate myself.” The arrangement of the generations from Abraham
to Christ in three groups of 14 each (Mt 1:17) is probably intentional, so far
as the number in each group is concerned. It is doubtful whether the number has
any symbolic force in Acts 27:27; 2 Cor 12:2; Gal 2:1. Of course
it must be remembered that both the Hebrew and Greek words for 14 (ʼarbāʽāh ʽāsār; dekatéssares) suggest that
it is made up of 10 and 4, but constant use of 7 in the sense above defined will
have influenced the application of its double, at least in some cases.
Forty-nine, or 7 X 7, occurs in two regulations
of the Law. The second of the three great festivals took place on the 50th day
after one of the days of unleavened bread (Lev 23:15 ff), that is, after an
interval of 7 X 7 days; and two years of Jubilee were separated by 7 X 7 years
(Lev 25:8 ff). The combination is met with also in one of the so-called
Penitential Psalms of Babylonia: “Although my sins are 7 times 7, forgive me
Seven multiplied by ten, or 70, was a very
strong expression of multitude which is met with in a large number of passages
in the Old Testament. It occurs of persons: the 70 descendants of Jacob (Ex 15; Dt
10:22); the 70 elders of Israel (Ex 24:1, 9; Nu 11:16, 24 f); the
70 kings ill treated by Adoni-bezek (Jdg 1:7); the 70 sons of Gideon (Jdg 8:30; 9:2);
the 70 descendants of Abdon who rode on 70 asscolts (Jdg 12:14); the 70 sons of
Ahab (2 Ki 10:1, 6 f); and the 70 idolatrous elders seen by Ezekiel (Ezek
8:11). It is also used of periods: 70 days of Egyptian mourning for Jacob (Gen
50:3); 70 years of trial (Isa 23:15, 17; Jer 25:11 f; Dan 9:2; Zec
1:12; 7:5); the 70 weeks of Daniel (Dan 9:24); and the 70 years of human
life (Ps 90:10). Other noticeable uses of 70 are the 70 palm trees of Elim (Ex
15:27 parallel Nu 33:9); the offering of 70 bullocks in the time of
Hezekiah (2 Ch 29:32), and the offering by the heads of the tribes of 12 silver
bowls each of 70 shekels (Nu 7:13 ff). In the New Testament we have the 70
apostles (Lk 10:1, 17), but the number is uncertain with Codices Vaticanus
and Bezae and some versions reading 72, which is the product, not of 7 and 10,
but of 6 and 12. Significant seventies are also met with outside of the Bible.
The most noteworthy are the Jewish belief that there were 70 nations outside
Israel, with 70 languages, under the care of 70 angels, based perhaps on the
list in Gen 10; the Sanhedrin of about 70 members; the translation of the
Pentateuch into Greek by Septuagint (more exactly 72), and the 70 members of a
family in one of the Aramaic texts of Sendschirli. This abundant use of 70 must
have been largely due to the fact that it was regarded as an intensified 7.
and seven, or
77, a combination found in the words of Lamech (Gen 4:24); the number of the
princes and elders of Succoth (Jdg 8:14); and the number of lambs in a memorable
sacrifice (Ezr 8:35), would appeal in the same way to the oriental fancy.
The product of seven and
seventy (Greek hebdomēkontákis heptá) is met with once in
the New Testament (Mt 18:22), and in the Septuagint of the above-quoted Gen
4:24. Moulton, however, renders in both passages 70 plus 7; contra, Allen,
“Mt,” ICC, 199. The number is clearly a forceful equivalent of
thousand in 1
Ki 19:18 parallel Rom 11:4 may be a round number chosen on account of its
embodiment of the number 7. In the Moabite Stone the number of Israelites slain
at the capture of the city of Nebo by the Moabites is reckoned at 7,000.
The half of seven seems sometimes to have been regarded as
significant. In Dan 7:25; 9:27; 12:7; Lk 4:25 parallel 5:17; Rev
11:2; 13:5 a period of distress is calculated at 3 1/2 years, that is, half
the period of sacred completeness.
SOURCE: International Standard
Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D.,
General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
JUBILEE YEAR (הַיּוֹבֵל שְׁנַת, shenath ha-yōbhēl; ἔτος τῆς ἀφἓσεως, étos tḗs aphéseōs; annus jubilaeus, “year
of jubilee” [Lev 25:13], or simply הַיּוֹבֵל, ha-yōbhēl, “the jubilee” [Lev 25:28; compare Nu 36:4], the King James
Version and the English Revised Version Jubile): The Hebrew word yōbhēl stands for ḳeren ha-yōbhēl, meaning the horn of a ram. Now, such a horn can be made into a trumpet,
and thus the word yōbhēl came to be used as a synonym of trumpet. According to Lev 25:9 a
loud trumpet should proclaim liberty throughout the country on the 10th day of
the 7th month (the Day of Atonement), after the lapse of 7 sabbaths of years =
49 years. In this manner, every 50th year was to be announced as a jubilee year.
All real property should automatically revert to its original owner (Lev 25:10;
compare 25:13), and those who, compelled by poverty, had sold themselves as
slaves to their brothers, should regain their liberty (Lev 25:10; compare 25:39).
In addition to this, the Jubilee Year was to be
observed after the manner of the sabbatic year, i.e. there should be neither
sowing nor reaping nor pruning of vines, and everybody was expected to live on
what the fields and the vineyards produced “of themselves,” and no attempt
should be made at storing up the products of the land (Lev 25:11 f). Thus there
are three distinct factors constituting the essential features of the Jubilee
Year: personal liberty, restitution of property, and what we might call the
1. Personal Liberty:
The 50th year was to be a time in which liberty should be proclaimed to
all the inhabitants of the country. We should, indeed, diminish the import of
this institution if we should apply it only to those who were to be freed from
the bonds of physical servitude. Undoubtedly, they must have been the foremost
in realizing its beneficial effects. But the law was intended to benefit all,
the masters as well as the servants. They should never lose sight of their being
brothers and citizens of theocratic kingdom. They owed their life to God and
were subject to His sovereign will. Only through loyalty to Him were they free
and could ever hope to be free and independent of all other masters.
2. Restitution of Property:
The institution of the Jubilee Year should become
the means of fixing the price of real property (Lev 25:15 f; compare 25:25-28);
moreover, it should exclude the possibility of selling any piece of land
permanently (Lev 25:23), the next verse furnishing the motive: “The land is
mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.” The same rule was to be
applied to dwelling-houses outside of the walled cities (Lev 25:31), and also to
the houses owned by Levites, although they were built within walled cities (Lev
In the same manner the price of Hebrew slaves was to vary according to
the proximity of the Jubilee Year (Lev 25:47-54). This passage deals with the
enslaving of a Hebrew by a foreigner living among the Jews; it goes without
saying that the same rule would hold good in the case of a Hebrew selling
himself to one of his own people.
In Lev 27:17-25 we find a similar arrangement respecting such lands
that were “sanctified unto Yahweh.” In all these cases the original owner
was at liberty to redeem his property at any time, or have it redeemed by some
of his nearest relatives (25:25-27, 29, 48 ff; 27:19).
The crowning feature, though, was the full
restitution of all real property in the Jubilee Year. The primary object of this
regulation was, of course, the reversion of all hereditary property to the
family which originally possessed it, and the reestablishment of the original
arrangement regarding the division of the land. But that was not all; for this
legal disposition and regulation of external matters was closely connected with
the high calling of the Jewish people. It was a part of the Divine plan looking
forward to the salvation of mankind. “The deepest meaning of it (the Jubilee
Year) is to be found in the ἀποκατάστασις τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, apokatástasis tḗs basileı́as toú theoú, i.e.
in the restoring of all that which in the course of time was perverted by
man’s sin, in the removing of all slavery of sin, in the establishing of the
true liberty of the children of God, and in the delivering of the creation from
the bondage of corruption to which it was subjected on account of man’s
depravity” (Rom 8:19 ff) (compare Keil, Manual of Biblical Archaeology).
In the Year of Jubilee a great future era of Yahweh’s favor is foreshadowed,
that period which, according to Isa 61:1-3, shall be ushered in to all
those that labor and are heavy laden, by Him who was anointed by the spirit of
the Lord Yahweh.
3. The Simple Life:
The Jubilee Year, being the crowning point of all sabbatical
institutions, gave the finishing touch as it were to the whole cycle of sabbatic
days, months and years. It is, therefore, quite appropriate that it should be a
year of rest for the land like the preceding sabbatic year (Lev 25:11 f). It
follows, of course, that in this instance there were two years, one after the
other, in which there should be no sowing or systematic ingathering. This seems
to be clear from Lev 25:18-22: “And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat
of the fruits, the old store; until the ninth year, until its fruits come in, ye
shall eat the old store.” Thus in the 7th and 8th years the people were to
live on what the fields had produced in the 6th year and whatever grew
spontaneously. This shows the reason why we may say that one of the factors
constituting the Jubilee Year was the “simple life.” They could not help but
live simply for two consecutive years. Nobody can deny that this afforded ample
opportunity to develop the habit of living within very limited means. And again
we see that this external part of the matter did not fully come up to the
intention of the Lawgiver. It was not the simple life as such that He had in
view, but rather the laying down of its moral and religious foundations. In this
connection we must again refer to Lev 25:18-22, “What shall we eat the
seventh year?” The answer is very simple and yet of surpassing grandeur:
“Then I will command my blessing upon you,” etc. Nothing was expected of the
people but faith in Yahweh and confidence in His power, which was not to be
shaken by any doubtful reflection. And right here we have found the root of the
simple life: no life without the true God, and no simplicity of life without
true faith in Him. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that
proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4; compare Dt 8:3).
We may well ask: Did the Jewish people ever observe the Jubilee Year?
There is no reason why they should not have observed it in pre-exilic times
(compare Lotz in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious
Knowledge, X, under the word “Sabbatical Year” and “Year of
Jubilee”). Perhaps they signally failed in it, and if so, we should not be
surprised at all. Not that the institution in itself was cumbered with any
obstacles that could not have been overcome; but what is more common than
unbelief and unwillingness to trust absolutely in Yahweh? Or, was it observed in
post-exilic times? Here, too, we are in the dark. There is, indeed, a tradition
according to which the Jubilee Year has never been observed—neither in the
time of Ezra and Nehemiah nor at any later period. The truth of this seems to be
corroborated by the silence of Josephus, who, while referring quite frequently
to the sabbatic year, never once mentions the Year of Jubilee.
SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons
Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Understanding of the Land
By D. Larry
Gregg, Sr., is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Rutherfordton, North Carolina
and instructor of biblical studies, philosophy, and world religions at
Isothermal Community College in Spindale, North Carolina.
EXPLORATION of the relationship between Israel and the
land must reflect a balanced understanding of the appropriate tension between
two foundational biblical assertions: “All the land which thou seest, to thee
will I give it, and to thy seed forever” (Gen. 13:15).1 And
“That the land spew not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spewed out the
nations that were before you” (Lev. 18:28).
God’s original promise to Abraham must be read through the lens of the
moral and ethical accountability enshrined in the Levitical “fine print” of
Israel’s covenant with Yahweh. On
the threshold of Canaan, Israel faced the stark truth that the privileges and
the responsibilities of chosenness came wrapped
together in the same package.
Israel and the
Ancient Israel’s covenant relationship
with God was the stack-pole around which the people’s understanding of the
land was organized. God said to
Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy
father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Gen. 12:1).
God reaffirmed the promise He made to Abraham by repeating it to
Abraham’s son, Isaac (26:3) and to his grandson, Jacob (46:3-4).
Finally, Joseph reiterated in his deathbed speech the belief that God had
promised a land to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants (50:24).
When Moses encountered God in the
burning bush, this promise of the ultimate possession of “a good land and a
large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8) was behind his being
commissioned to lead God’s people to the land that was their heritage (6:8).
This sense of divine promise reached its apex in the covenant at Sinai
where God laid down the conditions of relationship and the people swore, “All
that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (19:8).
covenant is an agreement in which all parties share expectations and
obligations. Covenants, as opposed
to legal contracts, are ethical in nature and depend “solely upon the
integrity”2 of the
covenant partners. Therefore, the
enduring viability of such agreements rests upon the emeth
(Hebrew for “covenant faithfulness”) of all parties.
To betray the covenant could lead to suspension, temporarily or
permanently, of the relationship.
warned Israel that when they violated the covenant relationship they “defiled
the land” and risked being “vomited” out of it (Lev. 18:25,28; 20:22).
Israel’s classical prophets interpreted the people’s eventual
expulsion from the land as the illustration par
excellance of this truth. Ancient
Israel’s greatest folly was the assumption that God was obliged to keep His
side of the covenant regardless of whether or not they remained faithful.
They forgot that the same God who had, in divine grace, declared them to
be His people, could also declare to an idolatrous, morally and ethically
bankrupt society, “ye are not my people, and I will not be your God” (Hos.
Three Hebrew words characterize the nature
of Israel’s understanding of the land: nahala
(inheritance), ahuzza (possession),
and memuha (rest).3
Inheritance here does not simply signify the passage of property from one
generation to another on the basis of biological descent.
More accurately the image is that of the feudal bestowal by a sovereign
lord of land and title upon a dependent vassal.
“The emphasis falls on God as one who has authority to dispose of land
belonging to him.”4 While the
land may be passed from generation to generation through biological descent, the
sovereign lord retains the right to reclaim the inheritance and bestow it upon
another if the original recipient or his descendants betray the trust.
reaches back to Genesis where God placed the man and woman in the garden and
gave them responsibility of caring for it. Eden
was not their garden; it was God’s. Their
tenure in the garden carried with it both privileges and responsibilities.
while the Israelites were to benefit from the blessings of the land, they were
also accountable to God for how they used it.
Regardless of how long Israel possessed the land, God ultimately remained
its Owner. “The land [was] a
sacred responsibility of stewardship
land God gave to ancient Israel was to be held in trust.
For this reason God commanded, “The land shall not be sold for ever:
for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev.
Israel understood the land as “rest.” Joshua
spoke these words to the Israelites on the threshold of Canaan: “The Lord your
God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land” (Josh. 1:13).
Through the wilderness journey Israel had been sustained by the hope that
a day would come when their wandering would cease, their battles would be over,
their liberty would be secure, and every man would sit “under his vine and
under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid” (Mic. 4:4).
However, such rest and covenant faithfulness remained closely linked.
The psalmist warned: “It is a people that do err in their heart, and
they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not
enter into my rest” (Ps. 95:10-11).
Leviticus 18—20 makes clear that the
Israelites’ right to inherit, possess, and reside in peace in the land was
directly connected to their moral behavior.
They were warned that they were called to a higher personal and societal
morality than that which existed in Egypt from which they had been delivered, or
in Canaan toward which they were traveling.
The abuse of sexual relationships, not being charitable, committing human
sacrifice, fraud, talebearing, necromancy, and the abuse of the land were all
betrayals of trust relationships, either with others or with the environment.
The deliberate betrayal of such interpersonal relations constituted a
breach of the ultimate covenant with Yahweh.
Thus the Lord solemnly warned that as surely as the land was about to
spew out the Canaanites for their abominable behavior, the land would also spew
out Israel if they refused to abide by the conditions of the covenant.
The same God who chose them and conferred the land upon them was also
their Judge. Therefore, “ye shall
. . . keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in
them: I am the Lord” (Lev. 18:5).
Many today are
scandalized at any suggestion of a connection between human social ethical
behavior and the recalcitrance of the environment expressed in natural disaster,
disease, climate-change, and the like. While
one should always be careful in ascribing such things to God’s judgment on a
sinful people, reminding ourselves that our decisions and our conduct,
individually and collectively, have consequences is always appropriate.
While our eternal salvation is forever secure by our faith in Christ, all
that we have in this life may be lost as the consequence of destructive choices,
our own or others. We are a fallen
people living in a fallen environment where “the whole creation groaneth and
travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom. 8:22).
Living in this fallen environment still carries for us, we who are
covenant people, both responsibilities and privileges.
We must be careful not to assume that God’s conditional promises are
guarantees of perpetual entitlement. Instead,
our right to inherit, possess, and rest in the fullness of God’s blessings are
contingent upon our willingness to live faithfully within the covenant
relationship we have with Him. Living
as covenant people should be our goal. Concerning
our living on the land, we should remember 1 Peter 2:11, which reaches back to 1
Chronicles 29:15 to remind us that we also are “strangers and pilgrims”
accountable to God for how we live our lives.
All Scripture quotations are from the
King James Version (KJV).
Herion, “Covenant” in Eerdmand
Dictionary of the Bible, ed. in chief Freedman (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
Janzen, “Land” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. in chief Freedman (New York:
Doubleday, 1992), 4:144.
Boadt, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction (New York: Paulist Press,
Dominion Over All The Earth
is professor of Bible and Hebrew, Howard Payne University, Brownwood, Texas.
SIGNIFICANCE OF GENESIS 1:26 T0 2:3 for the environmental and ecologic
concerns of today is recognized rather generally by those who study the roots of
the present crisis. In fact, the
passage long has been of interest in the study of the implications of Scripture
for cultural concerns. Philo, a
Jewish philosopher of the first century, spent much effort relating the passage,
especially 1:28, to the culture of his day.1
Joseph Rickaby, a nineteenth-century Catholic moralist based his views of
the manner in which people should think of and use animals on the passage and
found in the dominion theme justification for all but the “wanton” use of
generally is agreed that at least one of the causes of our present ecologic
crisis is to be found in a particular understanding of this and related biblical
passages, against which there has been an absence of sustained Christian
criticism. The purpose here is to
present a perspective of the dominion theme that brings the abuse of the
environment and the self-centered use of natural and human resources into focus
in the light of the deeper implications of this passage and other Old Testament
1:26—2:3 is the climax of an exquisitely fashioned literary unit that is very
precise in its description of creation. The
larger passage 1:1—2:3, begins with a comprehensive statement that embraces
the entire chapter. All subsequent
statements basically move along the line that is given in the first verse of the
chapter: everything was created by God and there was no creative power apart
this description of creation is an ascending line expressing the relationship of
creation to the Creator. Not all of
creation has the same place before God. Farthest
from God is plant life, which has a direct relationship to the earth.
The animals are nearer. At
the end of this succession are “human beings,” and they are directly
responsible to God. The world is
oriented toward humanity, and in people it has its purest direct relation to
are created in the image of God. The
purpose of God’s image is the real intent of the passage.
There is less said about the image itself than about the task which the
image makes possible—the domination of the world.
The commission to rule is the consequence of the image, that is, that for
which humanity is capable because of God. The
practice of kings erecting images of themselves in distant quarter of their
empires where they could not appear personally is a parallel to God erecting His
image in persons in His kingdom. Humans
are only God’s representatives to maintain and enforce His claim to dominion
over the earth. “The decisive
thing about man’s similarity to God, therefore, is his function in the
in its context, the dominion theme is the climax of the ascending line of
likeness to God, with people as the nearest and having the responsibility to
exercise God’s rule over all other aspects of creation.
Likeness and responsibility to God are emphasized in being created in the
image of God, and likeness to the other animals is indicated by the food they
share. In verses 29-30 human food is
to be the same as that of the other animals.
As people and animals were created on the same day, they are to partake
of the same food. The exercise of
dominion over animals does not include the useless shedding of their blood.
“This word of God, therefore, also means, a limitation in the human
right of dominion.”4
arrangement, with people exercising God’s dominion over the natural world and
environment, and at the same time belonging to nature, is a well-balanced
provision for the good of all creation, including persons.
In verse 31 “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was
very good.” This statement refers
more to the wonderful purposefulness and harmony of creation than to its beauty.
The concluding phrase could be translated “ . . . it was completely
the Sabbath was the climax of the week in Judaism, so the climax of the creation
week was the “rest” of God. Chapter
2:1-3 often is interpreted as the establishing of the Sabbath as a day of rest
for the people of Israel, but the verses have far greater significance.
The verses emphasize, first, that the world is no longer in the process
of being created. God finished His
work of creation and turned the care and protection of it over to humans, His
image. God then “blessed” the
day of rest, “sanctified” it, and thereby expressed His concern for the
world. “Thus Genesis 2:1ff. speaks
about the preparation of the exalted saving good for the world and man.”5
The “rest” God took established His intention that all creation takes
time for rejuvenation, and the institution of the Sabbath in the life of Israel
was meant to be an expression of that intention.
Concern for domesticated animals was also a major
consideration in the purpose of the Sabbath (Deut. 5:14-15).
The motivation cause for keeping the Sabbath came in verse 15:
“remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God
brought you out . . . “ (RSV). Although
the motivation was theological, the humanitarian quality of the practice was
just beneath the surface because the memory of their own servitude was to
provoke compassion for others who had fallen into the same lot.
sabbatical year and the year of jubilee, obviously extensions of the Sabbath
idea, further limited dominion of the earth and taught concern for environment
and life. Leviticus 25 details the
proper observance of the sabbatical year and the jubilee.
According to this passage the main feature of the sabbatical year was the
cessation of working the land for food purposes.
Exodus 21:1-6 emphasizes the freeing of slaves.
Deuteronomy required the cancellation of debts.
If this was an absolute cancellation, lending money as a business
transaction would never have been practiced in Israel; it would only have been
an offer of assistance to the needy. “The
sabbatical year laws appear to be the most radical social legislation prior to
the twentieth century.”6
year of jubilee had characteristics of its own, but the laws for the sabbatical
year applied to the jubilee as well. The
year of jubilee began with the sounding of the loud trumpet on the Day of
Atonement, thereby proclaiming “liberty” to all the inhabitants of the land.
Liberty was the hallmark of jubilee, as emphasized in Ezekiel 46:17,
where it is called the “year of liberty.”
important aspect of liberty was the returning of land that had been sold during
the years since the last jubilee to the original owners or to their descendants.
If the land were not returned to the newly freed slaves, they could find
themselves compelled to enter bondage again.
The aim of the jubilee was the restoration of the position as if was of
old—free persons living on free land. In
other words, the jubilee legislation concerning the land and liberty was a
perpetual land reform program which guaranteed the equitable distribution of the
land. There can be no mistaking the
emphasis on humane concerns and the proper
use of the land. Humanity’s
dominion over the land was not considered to be absolute, but was limited by the
legislation regarding Sabbath, sabbatical year, and year of jubilee.
principle of jubilee as stated in Leviticus 25:17, “for I am the Lord your
God,” declares that jubilee was grounded in the person and character of God.
God is identified three times in Leviticus 25 as the one who “brought
you forth out of the land of Egypt.” The
strong implication was that God’s historical activity involved coming to the
aid of the oppressed and setting them free, and that the land and Israel both
belonged to God.
second principle of jubilee was to view the poor as brothers and sisters.
The phrase, “if your brother becomes poor” (RSV), occurs four times
in Leviticus 25, where it means fellow citizens.
“This means, therefore, that the Israelites were not just to look after
their immediate families.”7 It
particularly should be noted that it makes no difference how the poor became
poor, whether through misfortune or Laziness.
Jubilee was based on the theological truth that ownership of the land was
not absolute, that it was given to Israelites as a stewardship.
God was the owner, and the individual head of a family His overseer.
God wanted the country to remain equally divided among His people, as was
the case in the days of Joshua. The
land itself was to have rest, the implication being that when Israel treated the
land with respect it would respond in kind.
humanity’s dominion over the earth must be seen in the light of “the web of
life,”8 a web involving all of creation in mutual relationship and
dependency, coming very close to the modern concept of “ecology.”
That this web is “good” in all its parts was indicated in the tightly
knit account of creation in Genesis 1, with every “thread” of the web
existing in its own right, decreed so by the word of God.
creation account in Genesis 1—2 speaks eloquently of life in the natural
world, the basic necessities for life, and the space in which to live “ . . .
as an endowment that is always preordered and given together with life
itself.”9 Genesis 1—2
reflects a perception of a basic connection and the condition of existence.
Because the Old Testament world view of humanity and nature are linked
closely in a divine order from which persons cannot extract themselves and act
independently of that order, the dominion of humanity is limited to what can be
done without harm to the remaining parts of the order.
creation hymn in Psalm 104 emphasizes humanity’s involvement in the natural
order of things, especially verses 27-30. Natural
life and the fulfillment of life is not at the disposal of the living thing;
life is a gift, an event conferred, upon which everything is dependent.
People are elementally dependent for their existence, their environment,
and the length of their natural lives. For
people today the world is the material and potential for human activity, and the
result is a “manipulation reduction of all life, including man, to the level
of objects.10 In
contrast, the psalmist sees it as a gift of Yahweh the Creator who offers life
and life-span, living room, and the provision of life’s necessities to all
Philo, On the Creation, 83-88; Questions
on Genesis 2.56.
Theological Review 63, no. 3: 259.
Von Rad, Genesis:
a Commentary in The Old Testament
Library, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961, p. 60.
“Sabbatical Year,” Interpreter’s
Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962) supp. vol., p.
“Sing Jubilee,” The Other Side, March,
1984, p. 22.
“The Bible and Ecology,” unpublished seminar notes at Southwestern Baptist
and Environment (Nashville: Abingdon, 1978), pp. 99-100.
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234;
What Is The Answer
To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (08/24/14)
Which king of Israel prayed for the peace of what city? Answer next week:
Three-part question: (1) king; (2) city; (3) Bible verse.
answer to last week’s trivia question: (08/24/14)
The name of the Lord is like what place of
safety? Answer: A strong tower; Prov. 18:10.