The writer introduces us to the concept of a Sabbath Year, which means the Israelites are to work the land for six years, and then let the land go fallow for the following year. This concept is taken up by later writers as the justification and the reason why the Israelites had to go to Babylon for 70 years.
After 7 sets of 7 years, they were to hold the year of Jubilee. This was the occasion when all debts were to be forgiven, all Jewish slaves were to go free, and all land that was sold returned to its original owners.
The writer perhaps well versed on human nature says, “Okay, I know some of you are jerks, so when you sell the land, you price it according to how many years left there are until Jubilee so you don’t rip each other off.”
Moses: Okay, letting the land go fallow for a year doesn’t sound like the wisest of plans. What are we going to eat?
God: I’ll make every sixth year’s harvest three times as good, so you’ll have food for three years.
Moses: I don’t think tomatoes or celery or potatoes will keep for three years, Lord.
God: It’ll be magic tomatoes, okay? Sheesh…
- Land sales will be temporary and if a relative wants to buy land back for a family member, you have to let him. If it’s a house in a city (instead of a plot of land or house in a field), they have the right to buy it back for a year, after a year, it’s permanently part of your family’s estate. Unless the seller is a Levite, in which case, they can redeem the house whenever or claim it again during the year of Jubilee.
As always, it pays to be born into the priestly caste.
- If you have a poor neighbor who can’t sustain himself, you are to invite him in and give him food and lodging at no charge or interest.
- If your neighbor gets poor and offers to sell himself to you, you have to treat him decently, like a worker instead of a slave and at the year of Jubilee, he gets to leave your service with his family.
- Skipping ahead to verse 47, you also have to let his relatives buy him out of slavery if they want to and charge a fair price.
God: But it’s totally cool to buy and sell icky foreigners and treat them as slaves. You can keep those filthy people forever and pass them down as property to your children!
Just to make sure you get the intention here, and to ward off the apologist who will say that biblical slavery wasn’t real slavery, let’s quote this part:
You can use them as permanent slaves.
No six years and out for foreigners. They became property. Forever.
God: Do everything I say and I will make your land a utopia. Cross me and I will make you wish for the sweet embrace of death before I kill you and usher you into eternal torment.
If a man makes a vow to the Lord, maybe of service or something, the value of that service or person is to be set at fifty shekels of silver for the adult male and thirty shekels of silver for an adult female. God endorses the pay gay, ladies.
Boys are worth five shekels of silver, girls are worth three. I’m sensing a theme here, Lord. Almost like girls aren’t worth as much.
If you vow an animal to God and want it back, you have to pay a 20% markup. God’s gotta eat, after all.
Same goes for a house you give to God. God wants a 20% commission on that baby.
There’s some dreadfully dull stuff about how to appraise a field of crops depending on the crop.
Every first born animal’s is the Lord’s and if you want to redeem the unclean ones, you have to pay that 20% markup. God’s very concerned about making money, isn’t he?
28 ‘Nevertheless, anything which a man sets apart to the Lord out of all that he has, of man or animal or of the fields of his own property, shall not be sold or redeemed. Anything devoted to destruction is most holy to the Lord. 29 No one who may have been set apart among men shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.
29 No one who may have been set apart among men shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.
Um… oh, goodness… that can’t really mean what I think it means, can it? Reads commentaries…
Well, the commentaries say don’t worry, God wasn’t endorsing ritual human sacrifice. He was just talking about how if God told the Israelis to kill some foreigners, they weren’t supposed to try and negotiate to not kill some foreigners. They were to kill those foreigners for God, but not in a ritual way, because that would… wrong?
Okay, not seeing a big difference there. It still sounds like human sacrifice.
God: Everything belongs to me.
Hey, we made it. We’re done with Leviticus. Oh, good Lord, was that difficult. But it was enlightening. When taken as a book of laws written by some folks in the Bronze Age, it’s a pretty okay set of laws, not great, but it has some good things in there and some progressive things for the time, along with some really crappy things like slavery and treating women like property.
But if taken as the perfect law of God… I have to say, I think a Supreme Being could have done better.