February 10, 2018 Bible Study — The Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Leviticus 24-25.

    Today’s passage contains a commandment for something called the Sabbath Year, which is the basis for the modern sabbaticals that many academics and others take. While the idea for a sabbatical (usually year) is based on this passage, it is not really connected with the idea presented here. The Sabbath Year presented here is to allow the land to lay fallow every seventh year. The purpose it serves is similar to what modern agriculture accomplishes with crop rotation. The Sabbath Year allows for the restoration of nutrients in the soil which are used by the crops grown. Modern agriculture is much more intense than the agriculture practiced by the ancient Israelites so that a Sabbath Year would be insufficient to renew the nutrients.

    Every seventh year, the people of Israel were to practice a Sabbath Year. And every seventh Sabbath Year they were to practice a Year of Jubilee. I have my questions about how a Year of Jubilee as described in this passage could be made to work, but the concept has merit. The Year of Jubilee was designed to prevent the poor from becoming a permanent underclass. Every 49 years the economic deck got reshuffled and the “cards” redistributed equitably. Since real estate was the primary basis of wealth in ancient Israel, the Year of Jubilee prevented a limited number of people from locking everyone else out by gaining control of all of the land over time. The result of the Year of Jubilee would have been that my children would not have been stuck in a poor economic position just because I had made some bad decisions. The Year of Jubilee could be seen as intended to minimize income inequality. However, its main purposes appears to be to keep the poor from being stuck as poor, rather than to limit the wealth of the rich.

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