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Bible: What Does Leviticus 23-25 Teach Us About Israel's Feast Days and the Year of Jubilee?
The Resurrection (First Fruits)
The LORD now speaks to Moses about the various annual feast days that Israel must observe (vv. 1-2).
First, He mentions their need to keep the Sabbath as their weekly day of rest and holy convocation (v. 3).
Next, the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread occur on the fourteenth of Nisan (the first month of the year) and from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of Nisan, respectively (vv. 4-6).
The latter feast’s first and last days are those of rest (no customary work allowed), but the people must still offer sacrifices on these days as well as on the other five (vv. 7-8).
In the Promised Land Israel must bring a sheaf of the first fruits of their harvest to the priest who will wave it before the LORD on the day after the Sabbath (vv. 9-11; cf. 1 Cor. 15:20, 23).
On this day, the worshiper must also sacrifice an unblemished yearling male lamb as a burnt offering together with the prescribed meal and drink offering (vv. 12-13).
An “eternal” statute prohibits all Israelites from eating any bread product or grain before they offer this sacrifice (v. 14).
Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)
After Firstfruits comes the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost), because it occurs fifty days after the day the priest waved the first sheaf (vv. 15-16a).
On this day they must offer a new grain offering as first fruits: two leavened wave loaves (vv. 16b-17).
With this offering they must sacrifice ten animals as burnt offerings: seven, unblemished yearling lambs, one bull, and two rams (v. 18).
A sin offering—a goat—and peace offerings—two yearling male lambs—follow (v. 19), which the priest waves with the bread of the firstfruits (v. 20).
Pentecost is a day of holy convocation and no customary work (v. 21).
[Verse 22 repeats the LORD’s directive regarding leaving some gleanings for the poor and for the stranger].
[Why do such statements, seemingly “tacked on” at the end of sections, occur?]
Israel celebrates the fifth feast—Trumpets—on the first day of the seventh month (the New Year) [vv. 23-24a]. [The number of this feast includes the Sabbath].
Again, it is a day of rest (no customary work), but on which they do offer a sacrifice (v. 25).
What is special is the blowing of trumpets as they assemble (v. 24).
[In terms of Christian parallels, to what event does this feast point?]
Yom Kippur occurs on the tenth day of the seventh month; it, too, is a day devoted to rest and sacrifice, but it is also characterized as one of “soul affliction” (vv. 26-28).
[How does one “afflict” one’s soul? Humble oneself and repent of sins.]
Starting on the evening of the ninth day, anyone violating the “no work” or “soul affliction” laws God dooms to destruction (vv. 29-32).
Later in the seventh month the final feast occurs, and it lasts eight days (7/15-7/22) [vv. 33-34].
Tabernacles (or Booths) begins and ends with a day of rest; Israelites offer sacrifices every day of the feast (vv. 35-36, 39).
[Verses 37-38 seem to stress the special character of all of the feasts; they require extra dedication and sacrifice].
On the first day of the feast, the fifteenth, Israel must take foliage from various trees and rejoice before the LORD for seven days (vv. 39-41).
All native Israelites must dwell in booths/tabernacles (shelters made of the boughs) as a reminder that their ancestors dwelt in booths during their exodus from Egypt (vv. 42-43). It points forward to a millennial age (cf. Zech 14:16).
Thus saith Moses to Israel (v. 44).
Punishment for Blasphemy
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Yahweh commands Israel to supply Aaron (and his descendants) with enough oil to keep the lamps on the golden lampstand burning, morning and evening (vv. 1-4).
Every Sabbath Moses must appoint a baker to prepare twelve cakes for his brother and nephews to eat, placing the bread on the table of showbread and sprinkling frankincense on each row of six (vv. 5-9).
At this point Moses inserts a story relating the execution of a death sentence for blasphemy (vv. 10-12, 23).
A certain son of mixed heritage (half Israelite, half Egyptian) fights with a full-blooded Israelite and, in the heat of the battle, blasphemes and curses Yahweh (vv. 10-11).
After taking him into custody, the people later stone him to death (v. 23).
The LORD uses the incident to instruct Israel through Moses about the various penalties for blasphemy (vv. 13-16) and for causing injuries to others (vv. 17-22).
Those who hear the curse witness to it, but the whole congregation (representatives) carry out the execution (vv. 13-16).
Other offenses and their punishments follow:
(1) “Killing a man” (premeditated murder) deserves capital punishment (vv. 17, 21);
(2) Killing someone else’s animal requires restitution (animal for animal) [vv. 18, 21];
(3) Disfigurement of another person calls for equal justice to be rendered the guilty party (vv. 19-20).
The same standard holds true for both stranger and citizen (v. 22).
The Year of Jubilee
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Now the LORD issues more instruction about the Sabbath, specifically the Sabbath of the seventh year.
That is, every seventh year Israel must let the Promised Land rest (vv. 1-4).
They must do no work on the Land; any fruit borne they may use for food, but they do not reap or gather it (vv. 5-7).
[Note: Verse five says Israel shall not reap or gather, but verse six relates that “the Sabbath produce . . . shall be food for you.”]
Verse eight provides the interpretation of seven sabbaths, i.e., forty-nine years.
On the Day of Atonement in this forty-ninth year Israel sounds a trumpet, signaling the consecration of the fiftieth year, the year of Jubilee, during which people return to their own property/possession and family (vv. 9-10, 13).
It is a year of rest for the Land; Israel eats the Land’s produce from the field, but does not reap it (vv. 11-12).
Practices During Jubilee Year
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The Year of Jubilee
Jubilee is also a year dedicated to equitable business relationships (v. 14).
According to the number of years after the Jubilee that they sold their property, individuals must pay a fair price to reclaim their land from those to whom they sold it; on the other hand, the most recent owners (those who worked the land) must not gouge the original owners when they sell them their crops (vv. 15-17).
If Israel keeps His commandments, God promises them not only perpetual safety in and productivity from the Land (vv. 18-19), but a special blessing upon them (and it) in the sixth year (vv. 20-21).
The produce from that year will provide for Israel until they reap the harvest in the ninth year (vv. 21b-22).
Now God returns to the issue of buying back property once sold.
First, He settles the question of whose Land it is (v. 23); as sojourners on earth, Israelites own nothing.
Therefore, the new stewards must allow the original stewards to redeem their inheritance (v. 24).
He offers a few examples of how Israel should handle redemption settlements:
(1) A kinsman redeemer may buy back a poor relative’s land (v. 25); or
(2) the man may redeem it (if he becomes able to do so), counting off the number of years since he sold his inheritance and “restoring the remainder” to the man to whom he sold it (vv. 26-27).
[The “poor” man needs to pay the “buyer” for the price of the land plus any improvements that the latter had made to the land.
This extra amount will make up for any loss the “buyer” will incur].
However, if the “poor” man cannot redeem it, he must wait until the year of Jubilee (v. 28).
A fourth example allows a man one year to redeem a house in a walled city (v. 29); after one year, however, he can never again redeem his dwelling, even at Jubilee time (v. 30).
People may redeem houses in unwalled villages, and they may reclaim them during Jubilee (v. 31).
Levites, on the other hand, may redeem the houses in their cities at any time, and one who buys a house from Levites must return it to them at Jubilee time.
Levites cannot sell the field of the common land of their cities (vv. 32-34).
The LORD issues an exhortation for His people to help their poor brethren as well as an admonition for them not to charge usury or interest (vv. 35-37).
Israel should base their treatment of the poor brother upon their fear of God as their Redeemer (v. 38).
Israel should not make poor brethren into slaves, but treat them as they do household servants and sojourners (v. 39).
At the Jubilee they must release the poor man and his family, so that they may return to their own inheritance (vv. 40-41).
While he is a servant, they (Israelites) must not mistreat him; instead, they must fear God (vv. 42-43).
However, enslaving people from other nations is not out of the question; neither is buying the children of strangers who will become an inheritance for the Israelites’ children.
God calls these people “property” and “permanent slaves” (vv. 44-46).
[Obviously, the topic of slavery is a touchy, difficult one to rationalize and present in a good light. Yet God's ways are always right.
Is slavery an eternal taboo?
Does it have any redeeming quality to it?
How should Christians seek to explain the LORD's rationale for allowing this practice?]
If a poor Israelite sells himself to a rich stranger (a non-Israelite who is close to being an Israelite), a near relative may redeem him, or he may redeem himself when he is able (vv. 47-49).
The once poor Israelite (or a near relative) must pay the stranger a fair price based on the Jubilee reckoning (the years from his selling himself until the year of Jubilee) [v. 50].
Whether the time is long or short, he must repay him the price of his redemption (vv. 51-52).
The stranger must treat the Israelite with respect because of who he is—a servant of God (v. 53).
If the poor man cannot pay the price of redemption, the stranger must release him in the year of Jubilee (vv. 54-55).
© 2014 glynch1