The Bible – Old Testament
The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai,
“Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, let the land, too, keep a sabbath for the LORD.
For six years you may sow your field, and for six years prune your vineyard, gathering in their produce.
But during the seventh year the land shall have a complete rest, a sabbath for the LORD, when you may neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.
1 The aftergrowth of your harvest you shall not reap, nor shall you pick the grapes of your untrimmed vines in this year of sabbath rest for the land.
While the land has its sabbath, all its produce will be food equally for you yourself and for your male and female slaves, for your hired help and the tenants who live with you,
and likewise for your livestock and for the wild animals on your land.
“Seven weeks of years shall you count – seven times seven years – so that the seven cycles amount to forty-nine years.
Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month let the trumpet resound; on this, the Day of Atonement, the trumpet blast shall re-echo throughout your land.
2 This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when every one of you shall return to his own property, every one to his own family estate.
In this fiftieth year, your year of jubilee, you shall not sow, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth or pick the grapes from the untrimmed vines.
Since this is the jubilee, which shall be sacred for you, you may not eat of its produce, except as taken directly from the field.
“In this year of jubilee, then, every one of you shall return to his own property.
Therefore, when you sell any land to your neighbor or buy any from him, do not deal unfairly.
On the basis of the number of years since the last jubilee shall you purchase the land from him; and so also, on the basis of the number of years for crops, shall he sell it to you.
When the years are many, the price shall be so much the more; when the years are few, the price shall be so much the less. For it is really the number of crops that he sells you.
Do not deal unfairly, then; but stand in fear of your God. I, the LORD, am your God.
“Observe my precepts and be careful to keep my regulations, for then you will dwell securely in the land.
The land will yield its fruit and you will have food in abundance, so that you may live there without worry.
Therefore, do not say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we do not then sow or reap our crop?’
I will bestow such blessings on you in the sixth year that there will then be crop enough for three years.
When you sow in the eighth year, you will continue to eat from the old crop; and even into the ninth year, when the crop comes in, you will still have the old to eat from.
“The land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine, and you are but aliens who have become my tenants.
Therefore, in every part of the country that you occupy, you must permit the land to be redeemed.
When one of your countrymen is reduced to poverty and has to sell some of his property, his closest relative, who has the right to redeem it, may go and buy back what his kinsman has sold.
If, however, the man has no relative to redeem his land, but later on acquires sufficient means to buy it back in his own name,
he shall make a deduction from the price in proportion to the number of years since the sale, and then pay back the balance to the one to whom he sold it, so that he may thus regain his own property.
But if he does not acquire sufficient means to buy back his land, what he has sold shall remain in the possession of the purchaser until the jubilee, when it must be released and returned to its original owner.
“When someone sells a dwelling in a walled town, he has the right to buy it back during the time of one full year from its sale.
But if such a house in a walled town has not been redeemed at the end of a full year, it shall belong in perpetuity to the purchaser and his descendants; nor shall it be released in the jubilee.
However, houses in villages that are not encircled by walls shall be considered as belonging to the surrounding farm land; they may be redeemed at any time, and in the jubilee they must be released.
“In levitical cities the Levites shall always have the right to redeem the town houses that are their property.
Any town house of the Levites in their cities that had been sold and not redeemed, shall be released in the jubilee; for the town houses of the Levites are their hereditary property in the midst of the Israelites.
Moreover, the pasture land belonging to their cities shall not be sold at all; it must always remain their hereditary property.
“When one of your fellow countrymen is reduced to poverty and is unable to hold out beside you, extend to him the privileges of an alien or a tenant, so that he may continue to live with you.
Do not exact interest from your countryman either in money or in kind, but out of fear of God let him live with you.
You are to lend him neither money at interest nor food at a profit.
I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
“When, then, your countryman becomes so impoverished beside you that he sells you his services, do not make him work as a slave.
Rather, let him be like a hired servant or like your tenant, working with you until the jubilee year,
when he, together with his children, shall be released from your service and return to his kindred and to the property of his ancestors.
Since those whom I brought out of the land of Egypt are servants of mine, they shall not be sold as slaves to any man.
Do not lord it over them harshly, but stand in fear of your God.
“Slaves, male and female, you may indeed possess, provided you buy them from among the neighboring nations.
You may also buy them from among the aliens who reside with you and from their children who are born and reared in your land. Such slaves you may own as chattels,
and leave to your sons as their hereditary property, making them perpetual slaves. But you shall not lord it harshly over any of the Israelites, your kinsmen.
“When one of your countrymen is reduced to such poverty that he sells himself to a wealthy alien who has a permanent or a temporary residence among you, or to one of the descendants of an immigrant family,
even after he has thus sold his services he still has the right of redemption; he may be redeemed by one of his own brothers,
or by his uncle or cousin, or by some other relative or fellow clansman; or, if he acquires the means, he may redeem himself.
With his purchaser he shall compute the years from the sale to the jubilee, distributing the sale price over these years as though he had been hired as a day laborer.
The more such years there are, the more of the sale price he shall pay back as ransom;
the fewer years there are left before the jubilee year, the more he has to his credit; in proportion to his years of service shall he pay his ransom.
The alien shall treat him as a servant hired on an annual basis, and he shall not lord it over him harshly under your very eyes.
If he is not thus redeemed, he shall nevertheless be released, together with his children, in the jubilee year.
For to me the Israelites belong as servants; they are servants of mine, because I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I, the LORD, your God.
1 [5-7-9] As long as the produce of the sabbatical year remains on the field, it remains available to everyone; cf ⇒ Lev 25:12. In ⇒ Exodus 23:10-11 the poor and the wild beasts that have no other source of nourishment are alone mentioned.
2  Fiftieth year: to arrive at this number, the preceding year of jubilee is included in the count, and therefore this is more exactly the forty-ninth year, the seventh sabbatical year. Liberty: Israelite slaves were set free (⇒ Lev 25:50) and landed property was returned to its original owner (⇒ Lev 25:13): two important laws for preserving the social and economic equilibrium. Jubilee: derived from the Hebrew word yobel, “ram’s horn,” which was blown on this occasion.