BIBLE STUDY SERIES #293, 294 and 295

6 July, 1997

SABBATICAL YEAR AND YEAR OF JUBILEE - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of studies began several years ago at Genesis 12 with the account of God's Call to Abram. It has led us down the generations of his progeny and we have been working our way more or less steadily, with occasional digressions, through successive chapters of Genesis, Exodus and more recently Leviticus since then.

On our last studies, Moses was relaying to the Israelites, gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai some instructions from Leviticus 25, a chapter which contains information regarding the Sabbatical Year and The Jubilee. Today we will continue to examine these matters, starting with verse 23.

23. The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.
24. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.
25. If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.
26. And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;
27. Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession.
28. But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubile: and in the jubile it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession.
29. And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it.
30. And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubile.
31. But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubile.
32. Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time.
33. And if a man purchase of the Levites, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubile: for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel.
34. But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.

The Companion Bible explains a number of terms here. In verse 23, of "for ever", it notes the meaning "- as we say, in perpetuity= absolutely or beyond recovery. Examining the words 'The land is Mine' it would have us compare references in Exodus 15:17, "the place O LORD which thou has made for Thee to dwell in", Isaiah 14:8, 25 (relief of the land from the oppression of Babylon and Assyria), Jeremiah 2:7 (condemning the House of Jacob for defiling "My land"), and Psalm 10:16 ("The heathen are perished out of His land") and Psalm 78:54 (He brought [His own people] to the border of His sanctuary, even to this mountain, which His right hand had purchased").

The Companion Bible notes elucidate some terms. In verse 24, "grant=give. redemption=repurchase." In 25, "waxen poor=brought low", "any of his kin= his goel, or redeemer, next of kin. redeem= buy back." In verse 28 "return [unto his possession]" is explained with the words "The twelve loaves of ch. 24 were a witness as to the People; the jubilee (ch. 25) as to the Land." Other Companion Bible notes include: verse 29 "within a whole year = within days, 'days' being put ... for a whole year of days", and verse 30 "the walled city= a city that hath walls." At verse 32 "the cities of the Levites, that reference refers us to "the forty-eight cities" described in Numbers 35.1-8, and their allotment to Levitical families in Joshua 21:1-8. It notes at verse 33 that the words "If a man purchase of the Levites" should be "If one of the Levites should not redeem."

Under the sub-heading "ii. The law of redemption (xxv. 23-34)", The New Bible Commentary notes "The principle involved in the law of redemption is that the land belongs not to any man but to God. They are not owners but strangers and sojourners (23), tenants by courtesy of the land which God has given to them. They are tenants at will, the will of God. See Ex. xxii. 21n. and Dt. x. 19n. The reclaiming of land (25-28) may be done by a kinsman (25), by the man himself (26f.), or it will take place automatically in the year of jubile. But this does not apply to a dwelling house in a walled city (29), which can be redeemed only within a year of its sale, apparently because this has no direct connection with the land and its cultivation. On the other hand houses in villages are covered by the provision probably because farmers and shepherds dwell in them (31). the Levites and their possessions come within a special class (32-34)." We continue our reading at verse 35.

35. And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.
36. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.
37. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
38. I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
39. And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:
40. But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile:
41. And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return.
42. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen.
43. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.
44. Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
45. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
46. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.
47. And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family:
48. After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:
49. Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.
50. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubile: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him.
51. If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for.
52. And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubile, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption.
53. And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight.
54. And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubile, both he, and his children with him.
55. For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Again, The Companion Bible notes are useful. In verse 35 "Fallen in decay= 'his hands have become shaky' or become feeble", and verse 36, "usury (Heb. nashak), is a charge on money, increase (Heb. tarbith or marbith) is a charge on goods. These were the definitions of the authorities of the second temple." Moving to verse 39, we find "sold, as in 2 Kings 4.1 [a passage wherein a widow's single pot of oil is used by Elisha to create sufficient to sell and to pay off the creditor who is about to claim her two sons to be bondmen]. That reference at verse 42 notes "brought forth. Note the four occurrences of this expression in these two chapters: 26.13 brought out to be free men (in relation to the Egyptians); 25.42 (in relation to fellow Israelites); 25.38, to be inheritors; and 25.55 to be Jehovah's servants." The Companion Bible notes at verse 49, of the words "may redeem", that we ought to compare this with Nehemiah 5:8 wherein Nehemiah rebukes the nobles and rulers of those returned from Babylon for using usury and for buying and selling their brethren.

The New Bible Commentary notes, on this section "Verse 35 is difficult. 'As...a sojourner' (RV) and though... a sojourner (AV) are both possible renderings. RV seems better because the laws given here make a clear distinction between Israelite and Gentile. Note the 'if thy brother' (25, 35, 39, 47) and 'your brethren of the children of Israel' (46). Loving the stranger (see xix. 34 and Dt. x. 18) does not mean that no distinction is to be made between him and the brother Israelite. Rather the status of the Israelite is shown to be completely different. Loans made to him must be without interest. On this question of usury see Ex. xxii. 25n.; Dt. xxiii. 19n. If he sells himself, he is to be treated as a hired servant and not as a slave; he is to be treated with leniency and is to go free at the jubile, should this come before the termination of his six years of service (Ex. xxi. 2-4; Dt. xv. 12f.). The law of release does not apply to the non-Israelites; they may be treated as slaves incapable of redemption (44-46). The principles of redemption are then extended to the case of a man who sells himself to a sojourner or stranger, who, as indicated above, is required to obey the requirements of the law, or at least not to transgress them."

These laws have extended application where Christ our kinsman redeems His people from sin. We shall continue with Chapter 26 on the next study.

13 July, 1997

BLESSINGS AND CURSINGS - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies began several years ago with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12, and it has taken us, with occasional digressions, to successive Biblical passages down to Leviticus 25 since that time. We have followed the course of events as the stories of the line of successive Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were followed, in turn, by that of the children of Israel who went into Egyptian bondage from which they were eventually rescued through the divine interventions which we can only describe as the miracles of The Exodus. Today, we look at the first section of Leviticus 26, a chapter, the introductory notes to which The New Bible Commentary heads "Blessings And Cursings."

Today we shall be examining verses 1 to 13 of this chapter, but before we begin, I ought to review briefly some points regarding the overall importance of these words of The Almighty God to His people, for they will apply particularly to many who hear my words today.

We, of the British-Israel-World Federation, sustain before the public the evidences for the identification of the vast majority of Israel's present-day descendants in the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world, and it will therefore be of particular, and indeed immense importance to them, especially, that these words are addressed to Israel's descendants for many generations.

We must also see the matter as one which presses decisions upon those among us who profess our Christian devotion because the blessings and the curses which are listed in Leviticus 26 are very evidently being placed upon our own peoples today, in spite of the fact that many dismiss the Old Testament, in particular, as out-of-date, or non-applicable. Facts in today's events speak otherwise with urgent clarity. There are too many signs all about us which speak of the application of the curses which were to follow disobedience by Israel against the words of The Almighty God. As we proceed through the study, we shall perhaps be reminded of some of those events which are happening even now, today, to our own people, and which reflect quite precisely the punishment clauses of the divine agreement with His people which was outlined in this and related chapters of holy writ.

In introducing a study of this chapter, The New Bible Commentary notes convey these words: "The immense importance which attaches to the keeping of the law, which has just been set before the people and the priests in such detail, is summed up by Moses in Dt. xxx. 15, in the words 'See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil'. Cf. Lv. xviii. 5. No reference is made to the solemn rite which is to be observed at Shechem (see Dt. xi. 26-29, [a very similar setting forth of the alternatives for obedience and for disobedience] xxvii. 4ff. [wherein the Israelites having crossed the Jordan under the leadership of Joshua are to set up stones, plaster them, and write the law upon them in mount Ebal, and to proclaim on the neighbouring mountains, Gerizim and Ebal, the same alternatives for blessing and curses]; Jos. viii. 30-35). But here, as on that solemn occasion, the issue and the choice are placed before Israel with the utmost plainness, all the more impressive in this case because the Lord, while speaking of course through Moses, addresses the people in the first person (note the frequently recurring 'I') and without any introductory phrase. Cf. Dt. xxvii-xxviii where Moses speaks in the name of the Lord. Idolatry in any form is to be shunned, the sabbath is to be kept, and the sanctuary of the Lord is to be reverenced (1, 2). These three matters are first singled out for special emphasis because of their importance and also because of all that is involved and implied in their observance."

We might now begin our reading of those first 13 verses of Leviticus 26, and, in the usual manner, I shall be ready to insert some comments as we read.

1. Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.

Here we might note that this command can be applied in many places and on many occasions that we have from childhood accepted as Christian settings. It might surprise many people to learn that, especially in some denominations, worshippers often tend to take for granted the direct breaking of this law as a suitable form of worship. In how many supposedly Christian settings do those who are ill-instructed in this Old Testament Law (while supposing themselves well versed in their theology), enter a church where they face some object of metal or stone which is intended to portray a reminder of some Biblical story or an example of a saintly life, and there in the church, they bow, genuflect or offer prayers directed at the stone or metal object; perhaps for example, a beautiful carving of some saint, or a cross on a table, and the like. Such is idol worship. It becomes a great danger when it is so close to true worship of the Christ Who was responsible for the living example portrayed by the dead stone, plaster, or other work of the art of man's devising.

I know the matter from the standpoint of that of an artist who does paintings to illustrate Biblical stories, and I am always very conscious of the dangers whereof I speak. Paintings used as illustrations are a form by which scripture can be conveyed swiftly to those who cannot read, or will not bother to read, the words in print. That was why, in earlier ages of the church, stained-glass windows showing stories from scripture were inserted in churches. They were the visual aids of the time, used as a means of instructing the illiterates of the congregation. Such, however, must never lead on to worship of the work of art any more than one might use an ouija-board to yield information. Continuing at verse 2:

2. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
3. If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
4. Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
5. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.
6. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.
7. And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.
8. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
9. For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.
10. And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.
11. And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.
12. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.
13. I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright.

Under the sub-heading "a. Blessings as a reward of obedience (xxvi. 3-13), The New Bible Commentary states of this passage "These blessings are only as it were an amplification of the promise given in Ex. xix. 5f. They give an idyllic picture, such as Isaiah delights to paint, of the prosperity and peace which is the reward of obedience to God. The Lord will give rain and the earth will yield its bounty. The harvest and the ingathering will be so abundant that it will require months instead of days to gather it. And with plenty there shall be peace. Neither man nor beast will be able to injure them or stand before them. The Lord will have respect (lit. 'turn') unto them (9), will set His tabernacle among them and will not abhor them (11). This last striking statement seems like an anticlimax, but is not. For Israel is a sinful people which deserves to be abhorred, and would be, were it not for the love and grace of their God. And I will walk among you (12). We are reminded of Gn. iii. 8. The land of Canaan will be like the garden of Eden, because the God of Eden will dwell there with His people. The Lord who will do all this is the One who delivered them from Egypt, the greatest proof of His love and almighty power. Again and again in the Old Testament it is referred to as evidence of this love and of the fact that Israel belongs to God and owes Him allegiance. See, e.g., Jos. xxiv. 17." [That reference is a reminder of the same faithfulness of God towards His people, saying "For the LORD our God, He it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed".] May we hold the certainty of God's continuing promises in the days and weeks to come.

20 July, 1997

BLESSINGS AND CURSINGS - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram, in Genesis 12, has continued with occasional digressions, down the scriptural passages in succession to our present focus in Leviticus 26. We have looked at the Biblical story of the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (who was re-named Israel), and the children of Israel as they first entered Egypt, under the care of Joseph, but later began to suffer bondage under a pharaoh "who knew not Joseph." We saw in the miracles of The Exodus the hand of The Almighty God Who was leading His people out into the wilderness of Sinai where He might meet with them, isolated from the distractions of civilization in idolatrous Egypt, and impart to them the most wonderful offer that any nation of people have ever received; that of becoming nationally His "wife", as scripture later attests.

We had arrived at Leviticus 26:1-13, and we had just examined the review of those important laws, for which blessings are promised to accompany national observance. Today, starting at verse 14 and reading to verse 33, we will encounter some less desirable results in the form of national cursings for disobedience of these same examples of God's Law.

14. But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;
15. And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant:
16. I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.
17. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.
18. And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.
19. And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
20. And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.
21. And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins.
22. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.
23. And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;
24. Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
25. And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.
26. And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied.
27. And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;
28. Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.
29. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.
30. And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.
31. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.
32. And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.
33. And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.

Under the heading "b. The chastisements for disobedience (xxvi. 14-45), The New Bible Commentary has three sections. The first, headed "i. The evils described (xxvi. 14-33)" states "It is significant that the evils which are threatened are described much more fully than the blessings that are promised. Man being what he is, sinful and prone to evil, fear is, in many if not most cases, a stronger stimulant to the will than love. 'But if ye will not hearken unto me' (14). A sharp contrast is suggested by the one 'if' of obedience (3) and the many 'ifs' or 'if nots' of disobedience (14, 15, 18, 21, 23, 27). The Hebrew verb translated 'hearken' has three main renderings in English: 'hear', 'hearken' and 'obey'. The old saying 'to hear is to obey' is especially applicable to Hebrew. Here obeying (hearing) is contrasted with despising, abhorring and disobeying which amount to breaking the covenant. Note especially the word contrary (used seven times), which suggests Am. iii. 3. The thought of reciprocity is stressed throughout. God will deal with Israel exactly as she deserves. The evils which are threatened are in the main four: pestilence (16, 25), famine (19), wild beasts (22), and the sword as typifying war and the desolations which will result from it (25-39). The contrast with the rewards of obedience is made very glaring. Compare verses 7, 8 with 17, 36-38. Four times the word seven is used (18, 21, 24, 28)."

Here, the commentator writing the account of this passage in The New Bible Commentary and I disagree, for The Commentary states "It might be well to render it 'sevenfold' rather than seven times since it is apparently the intensity rather than the duration that is referred to. It should not be connected with the prophetic 'times' of Daniel." I think that this commentator might revise that approach if made aware of the evidences which detail that very "seven times" as a clear aspect of the history of Israel's descendants down to our own day, marking off seven actual sets of "times" of 360 years per "time", but obviously, the writer labours under the grave disadvantage which deprivation of an understanding of the true identification of present day Israel nations would impart. It would take too long at this point either to establish the usage which designates 360 years as one "time", or to list the evident outworkings of the prophetic curse and release therefrom in detail, but those who have past issues of our little free-distribution magazine, The Prophetic Expositor, may find some help in Volume 30, Number 1, January, 1993, on pages 16-20, in which the script was printed for the broadcast entitled "Manasseh's Blessing." If you would like a reprint of that item, you might like to jot down our mailing address and let us know of your interest. (* See footnote below.)

May I digress very briefly, in order to make the point clear. Modern-day Israel is found in the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred nations of peoples in the present world setting. If these are indeed the descendants of ancient Israel, we ought to see the punishment described in this Scripture imposed for exactly a timespan of 2520 years, from the year of imposition to the year which saw the release from that curse, in spans which, measured like a ruler applied to a time-graph, marked from the various years when the curse was imposed on segments of Israel to corresponding developments in more recent history of the modern descendants of Israel of old time. This we believe that we can show quite clearly, so it forms an interesting study in its own right - perhaps we can go over the matter again on another study.

I shall conclude the note on this passage from The New Bible Commentary. On this scripture, we read "But both Jeremiah and Ezekiel seem to have this chapter clearly in mind. Jeremiah speaks of four kinds of punishments (xv. 3f.). Cf. Ezk. xiv. 12-21. Both of these prophets refer especially to the sword. Dispersion is also definitely threatened here. Israel will be scattered among the heathen (33)." We shall conclude the study of this chapter of Leviticus on the next programme.

Let me leave with you the further thought that the continuance of the curses and blessings are in themselves also a proof of the continuance of the everlasting God Who gave these instructions so long ago, and of the oversight and power which he has, to bring about that which He has promised. Surely, such a God will not fail to conclude all Scriptural promises in like manner to His people. Indeed, let us remember again that reference in Scripture in which Moses recounts God's words which lead His people to remember their great national deliverance from Egyptian bondage through the multiplied miracles of The Exodus experience. Even greater miracles are promised, so that the Exodus events will be pale by comparison! That is something to which all of God's people ought to look with longing anticipation at Christ's Second Advent.

* See Study #56 in "Bible Study Series #56, 57 and 58" on this web page for the broadcast script contained in this "back number" of The Prophetic Expositor.

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