LEVITICUS 24 and 25
Olive oil is very good for you – as evidenced by the fact that the Lord was also keen on it for twelve hours a day! The command to Aaron was to keep the lamps burning continually during the hours of darkness in front of the Ark in the tabernacle. The twelve large loaves of bread – a gift of gratitude from each of the tribes – were a memorial to the inexhaustible supply of manna that God had supplied in the desert and a promise of continued provision thereafter in the Land.
An Israelite blasphemed the name of the Lord – expressly forbidden by the third commandment – and so was judicially condemned to death. Interestingly, the very next verse says that anyone who kills another human must be put to death; but this must have referred to murder – or else the executioners of the blasphemer would themselves have had to be killed! Judicially, the penalty for harming a fellow citizen was to be proportionate to their crime – to prevent escalation into family feuds. Almost certainly the penalties were commuted to fines and recompenses in favour of the victims and their families. Killing someone’s animal only demanded restitution, whereas murdering a human always resulted in death; this underscores the fact that God regards humans as uniquely special, created to be his image on earth – and not merely a highly evolved animal as some biologists would have us think!
The Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee were periods of social and economic rest – but also opportunities for the exercise of faith. One year in seven, the fields were allowed to lie fallow with no planting or harvesting allowed – so Israel had to rely upon the harvest of year six lasting until the end of the eighth year at least. This was analogous to the manna in the desert on Day Six being twice as much as a normal day, so that it lasted throughout the seventh day also. Deuteronomy 15:1 also says that all debts must be cancelled at the beginning of that seventh year. What a social advance that was – and would that not be of great benefit today, both for individuals and for nations!
The Year of Jubilee was after seven ‘Sabbaths’ of years (i.e., after 49 years) and so was held every fiftieth year. The word ‘Jubilee’ means trumpet call (or rams horn call), which is what signalled its start. Not only were debts cancelled, but all Israelite slaves were set free, and all sold property was to revert to its original owner. In this sense, the wealthy were not permitted to become excessively rich and oppressive, and the poor were given another chance. Furthermore, the emphasis was made by the Lord that all Israel were really his tenants who served him and not themselves!
As Israel trusted the Lord in these acts of faith, every Sabbath Day, Sabbath Year and Jubilee Year, the Lord, by covenant, promised to care for the nation and to provide all the food that they needed for ever. His provision of food during the years when the fields lay fallow – by giving the people bumper harvests in the years leading up to those annual sabbaths – must have been reminiscent of his provision to Egypt and the whole world during the days of Joseph. In return for this miraculous provision now, the poor had to be cared for and not oppressed, loans to Israelites could not be charged interest at all and anything sold to the poor had to be at cost only, not at a profit. “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” – as the Apostle Paul was later to write.
The Year of Jubilee, as a transformational concept, found its way into New Covenant theology – foreshadowing the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation 21. The freeing of the captives looked ahead in faith to the release of sinners from the grip of Satan and from the just condemnation of the Lord for their sins. Isaiah 61 sets this out in full – and Jesus quoted that again in Luke 4:18. “The Year of the Lord’s Favour” equals “Jubilee”. Those who belong to Christ live in perpetual Jubilee, and those who don’t yet are invited to come to him to find rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-30). Do it!