The seventh year
1When Moses was on Mount Sinai, the LORD told him#Ex 23.10,11. 2to say to the community of Israel:
After you enter the land that I am giving you, it must be allowed to rest one year out of every seven. 3You may raise grain and grapes for six years, 4but the seventh year you must let your fields and vineyards rest in honour of me, your LORD. 5This is to be a time of complete rest for your fields and vineyards, so don't harvest anything they produce. 6-7However, you and your slaves and your hired workers, as well as any domestic or wild animals, may eat whatever grows on its own.
The year of celebration
The LORD said to his people:
8Once every forty-nine years 9on the tenth day of the seventh month,#25.9 seventh month: See the note at 16.29. which is also the Great Day of Forgiveness,#25.9 Great Day of Forgiveness: See the note at 16.34. trumpets are to be blown everywhere in the land. 10This fiftieth year#25.10 fiftieth year: The year following seven periods of seven years. is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families. 11This is a year of complete celebration, so don't plant any seed or harvest what your fields or vineyards produce. 12In this time of sacred celebration you may eat only what grows on its own.
13During this year, all property must go back to its original owner. 14-15So when you buy or sell farmland, the price is to be determined by the number of crops it can produce before the next Year of Celebration. Don't try to cheat. 16If it is a long time before the next Year of Celebration, the price will be higher, because what is really being sold are the crops that the land can produce. 17I am the LORD your God, so obey me and don't cheat anyone.
18-19If you obey my laws and teachings, you will live safely in the land and enjoy its abundant crops. 20Don't ever worry about what you will eat during the seventh year when you are forbidden to plant or harvest. 21I will see to it that you harvest enough in the sixth year to last for three years. 22In the eighth year you will live on what you harvested in the sixth year, but in the ninth year you will eat what you plant and harvest in the eighth year.
23No land may be permanently bought or sold. It all belongs to me—it isn't your land, and you only live there for a little while.
24When property is being sold, the original owner must be given the first chance to buy it.
25If any of you Israelites become so poor that you are forced to sell your property, your closest relative must buy it back, 26if that relative has the money. Later, if you can afford to buy it, 27you must pay enough to make up for what the present owner will lose on it before the next Year of Celebration, when the property would become yours again. 28But if you don't have the money to pay the present owner a fair price, you will have to wait until the Year of Celebration, when the property will once again become yours.
29If you sell a house in a walled city, you have only one year in which to buy it back. 30If you don't buy it back before that year is up, it becomes the permanent property of the one who bought it, and it will not be returned to you in the Year of Celebration. 31But a house out in a village may be bought back at any time just like a field. And it must be returned to its original owner in the Year of Celebration. 32If any Levites own houses inside a walled city, they will always have the right to buy them back. 33And any houses that they do not buy back will be returned to them in the Year of Celebration, because these homes are their permanent property among the people of Israel. 34No pasture land owned by the Levi tribe can ever be sold; it is their permanent possession.
Help for the poor
The LORD said:
35If any of your people become poor and unable to support themselves, you must help them, just as you are supposed to help foreigners who live among you.#Dt 15.7,8. 36-37Don't take advantage of them by charging any kind of interest or selling them food for profit. Instead, honour me by letting them stay where they now live.#Ex 22.25; Dt 23.19,20. 38Remember—I am the LORD your God! I rescued you from Egypt and gave you the land of Canaan, so that I would be your God.
39Suppose some of your people become so poor that they have to sell themselves and become your slaves.#Ex 21.2-6; Dt 15.12-18. 40Then you must treat them as servants, rather than as slaves. And in the Year of Celebration they are to be set free, 41so they and their children may return home to their families and property. 42I brought them out of Egypt to be my servants, not to be sold as slaves. 43So obey me, and don't be cruel to the poor.
44If you want slaves, buy them from other nations 45or from the foreigners who live in your own country, and make them your property. 46You can own them, and even leave them to your children when you die, but do not make slaves of your own people or be cruel to them.
47Even if some of you Israelites become so much in debt that you must sell yourselves to foreigners in your country, 48you still have the right to be set free by a relative, such as a brother 49or uncle or cousin, or some other family member. In fact, if you ever get enough money, you may buy your own freedom 50by paying your owner for the number of years you would still be a slave before the next Year of Celebration. 51-52The longer the time until then, the more you will have to pay. 53And even while you are the slaves of foreigners in your own country, your people must make sure that you are not ill-treated. 54If you cannot gain your freedom in any of these ways, both you and your children will still be set free in the Year of Celebration. 55People of Israel, I am the LORD your God, and I brought you out of Egypt to be my own servants.
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© British and Foreign Bible Society 2012