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A Reprieve From the Strange and Offensive
Our journey through Leviticus for many has been a tour of the strange and offensive. We had laws about what to eat and what not to eat, menstruating women, skin disorders, and a God that kills two sons of Aaron for serving strange fire. In chapter 25 however, we find commands that many find at first glance find welcome.
Sabbath For the Land
The chapter begins with Sabbath for the land. Just as Israel was supposed to observe a day without work every 7 days, the land itself would be given one year in seven where it would not be worked or plowed or cut. The people could live off what the land naturally produced in that year but there would be no plowing or planting.
Most modern readers of the book once again, as we’ve done with laws of clean and unclean jump to strategies for healthy land management. Leaving soil for a fallow year is not uncommon as is crop rotation. Farmers even before the development of chemical fertilizer knew to plan some bean varieties that would refresh the nitrogen content of the soil for the sake of future crops. We’ve seen, however, that Leviticus should not be read as some pre-scientific guide to folk health and prosperity. The lessons of Leviticus are symbolic with respect to the relationship between God, the earth and the people.
Rest for the land in the Sabbath year, just like rest for the worker on the Sabbath day, was intended to create in the community a deep reliance upon God’s provision for them rather than their provision for themselves. It would also adjust their relationship with the land. The land did not belong to them but to God and the land, while it was their servant beneath them in rank, was also a fellow servant before God. The land was not to be abused just like their family members were not to be abused or be seen as tools for the powerful to oppress.
Freedom for the Owned Continue reading