My Neighbor's Landmark:
Short Studies in Bible Land Laws
by Frederick Verinder
The Year of Jubilee: Land and Liberty
"And they praised the
God of their fathers, because he had given them freedom and liberty." — 1
"Where the Spirit of
the Lord is, there is liberty" — 2 Cor. 3:17.
"Ye shall … proclaim liberty
throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." — Lev.
| § 1. The equal division of the land gave to
every family in the Commonwealth of Israel direct access to the soil.
There was little room for the growth of involuntary poverty in a community
whose Law did not permit
the divorce of land from labor. "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of
bread," "shall be satisfied
with bread."123 It is very significant that while Moses (no doubt "for the hardness
of their hearts," Mark 10:5) did permit to the Hebrews a
certain form of chattel-slavery — then probably universal among Eastern
nations — though hedging it about with unusually stringent limitations,124
yet he prohibited absolutely that more insidious form of slavery, landlordism,
which reduces men to subjection by monopolising the natural elements necessary
to their existence. "The bread of the needy is their life: he that defraudeth
him thereof is a
man of blood. He that taketh away his neighbor's living slayeth him; and he that defraudeth the laborer
of his hire is a bloodshedder."125
|| 123 Prov. 12:11, 28:19.
124 Note, in addition to what is given below, the effort
to protect slaves against injury by their masters (Ex 21:20, 26, 27; cp. Lev. 24:17-22), and the attempts to mitigate
the position of the woman slave (Ex. 21:7-11; Deut. 21:10-14).
Asylum for escaped slaves (Deut. 23:15, 16). "Servant" in the English
versions = "bondman" (R.V. m. Ex. 21:2, etc.), or "slave." "The
Deuteronomic law in favor of the fugitive slave is in marked contrast
with the severe enactments in the Code of Hammurabi" (S. A. Cook, The
Laws of Moses and the Code of Hammurabi, p. 274).
125 Ecclus. 34:21, 22, curiously
echoed by Shakespeare (Merch. of Ven., Act IV, Scene I): "You
take my life when you do take the means whereby I live.." Cp. Deut. 24:6: "No
man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge: for he taketh
a man's life to pledge."
|§ 2. So far, then, as the first settlers in
the land of Canaan were concerned, they all had a fair start. Wage
slavery and undeserved poverty were unknown. The legislator was able
to contemplate the possibility
of an ideal state of society "when there shall be no poor among you; for the
Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee
for an inheritance to
possess it"; but "only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy
God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command
thee this day."126 So long as the Law was kept, no Hebrew need toil for sweated
wages127 for a brother Hebrew. By his own labor, under the Law which secured
to him the equal right to the use of the earth, he could produce all that he
needed, without being beholden to or controlled by any one else. Under such a
Law, the worker's wages consisted of the whole of his product. He was not compelled
to share what he produced
either with a landlord or with an exploiter of labor. "Whoso keepeth the fig
tree shall eat the fruit thereof?"128 "They shall build houses and inhabit them;
and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build,
and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat; for as the days of
a tree are the days of My people, and Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of
their hands. They shall not
labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble."129 "The husbandman that laboreth
must be the first to partake of the fruits."130 "Who planteth a vineyard, and
eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the
milk of the flock? . . For it is written in the Law of Moses, Thou shalt not
muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for
oxen? Or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this
is written that he that ploweth the land plow in hope; and that he that thresheth
hope should be partaker of his hope."131
||126 Deut 15:4,5.
127 "The Lord will enter
into judgment with the ancients of His people, and the princes thereof:
for ye have eaten up the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is
in your houses. What mean ye that ye beat My people to pieces, and
grind the faces of the poor, saith the Lord of Hosts?" (Isa. 3:14,
128 Prov. 27:18.
129 Isa. 65:21-23; cp. Amos
therefore as ye trample upon the poor, and take exactions from him of wheat:
ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have
planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink the wine thereof" [R.
V.], and also, in the same sense, Lev. 26:15, 16; Deut. 28:30, 38-41; Mic.
6:10-15; Zeph. 1:13.
130 2 Tim 2:6 [R.V.]
131 1 Cor. 9:7-10; Deut 25:4; 1 Tim 5:18.
|§ 3. But it is written that "God made man
they have sought out many inventions."132 There was a good deal of human nature
about the descendants of the crafty Jacob. They were subject to at least their
share of human weaknesses and imperfections, and were, moreover, liable, like
other folk, to accident and misfortune. It was necessary that the Law should
take this into account, and provide, not only for a fair start in the first instance,
but also for a continuance of fair conditions. Each succeeding generation had
the same equal right to the use of the earth. So abhorrent to the Mosaic conception
of justice was the idea of a landless proletariat, that special provision was
made to secure, once in each generation, a restoration of the original right
of equal access to the natural opportunities of labor. Hence the institution
Year of Jubilee.
||132 Eccles. 7:29.
|In spite of many learned disquisitions and much acute speculation,
of the word "Jubilee" remains among the unsettled questions of Hebrew philology.
Happily, the nature and significance of the institution itself is not open to
doubt. No two things bearing the same name could well differ more completely
than the jubilee of the Hebrew Commonwealth and the Victoria celebrations in
connection with which its name was taken in vain. Jubilæus est ad universam civitatem
restaurandam.133 It had nothing whatever to do with the reign of a monarch.
One of the greatest Hebrew statesmen solemnly warned his nation against the evils
of monarchy, and showed them how inevitably
great social and political evils — the rise of a privileged class, the
growth of a landed aristocracy, the subjection of the common people, the manufacture
of flunkeys, the taxation of food, the erection of a
standing army134 — would follow upon such an act of treason to the unseen
King135 as the establishment of a dynasty.
||133 Thus tersely Ewald, De feriarum Hebr. origine
ac ratione (1841), p. 25. In his later Altertkiimcr Volkes
Israels he has discussed the subject fully.
134 1 Sam. 8:11-18;
cp. 13:1, 2; 14:52; I Kings 4:7, 18:5; "the king's mowings" (Amos
7:1); the building of Jehoiakim's palace by forced, unpaid labor
(Jer. 22:13-19); Ezek.
46:18; Deut. 17:14-20.
135 1 Sam. 10:19, 12:12,19;
Isa, 41:21' Hos. 8:4 and 13:10, 11. There is an early tradition that
Gideon, the "Judge" or
Deliverer, refused an offer of hereditary kingshlp. Note his reason as given
in Judg. 8:23.
|§4. In our "Diamond Jubilee" procession, on
22nd June 1897, the visible embodyments of Samuel's forecast were paraded
before the eyes of an admiring public; a procession of rent-eaters
and tax-eaters, titled and other, along a lane of forty thousand fighting
men. The then Prince of Wales
fathered a "Jubilee" fund for postponing the public support and control of the
public hospitals. His gracious consort started another fund for giving one square
meal for once in a while to some of the beggars and outcasts who people the slums.
But a real Jubilee on Old Testament lines would, if carried into practice in
Bible-reading England, render five-sixths of the hospitals unnecessary136 by
remedying the social injustices which breed avoidable sickness and cause premature
death; and, by establishing equity as the basis of social relations, would abolish
the slums, and impose starvation as a penalty only upon wilful and obstinate
idlers.137 To the Hebrews, the Jubilee meant a year's holiday.138 The Victorian
equivalent for this was a day's holiday by
Royal proclamation — a holiday for which many workmen had to pay by the
loss of a day's wages — and even this (so incurably are we given over to
the worship of Mammon) was announced, not as a national holiday, or as a religious
holy-day, but as a "Bank" holiday. This was entirely worthy of a nation of shopkeepers,
who exploited even a revel of "loyalty" in the interests of Diamond Jubilee Syndicates,
increment along the line of route at an "expected," but not always
realised, "profit" to the shareholders of thousands per cent.
||136 St. Paul chides the Corinthian Christians for
profaning the Sacrament of Brotherhood; "For this cause," he says, "many
are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1 Cor. 11:30).
137 Thess. 3:10.
138 i.e., from their usual agricultural work (Lev. 25:11, 12).
|In England, with its immense wealth and its chronic poverty,
with its Empire upon which the sun never sets and its slums where the
sun never rises, there is nothing more greatly to be desired than a
real Jubilee. Once in every generation the Hebrew people were called
to a National rejoicing: not because the courtiers'
prayer, "O King, live
for ever" had sounded in royal ears for half a century, but because the reign
of social justice was being re-established; because the erstwhile disinherited
was once more a free man and a citizen. If the principles of the Hebrew land
laws were applied under our constitutional monarchy, we could with the greater
heartiness "sing with heart and voice, God
save the King," because we should no longer fear that a crowd of hungry men might
send back, as a sort of dismal echo, the dreary chorus, "We've got no work to
|§ 5. For once in every fifty
years139 — which we may take roughly to represent a generation of Hebrew
life — the original equal division of the land was restored. Whatever inequalities
might have crept in, through the foolishness or improvidence of some, or through
the selfishness or injustice of others, were redressed when, in the fiftieth
year, "on the tenth day of
the seventh month, in the day of atonement," the trumpet of the Jubilee sounded
throughout all the land and proclaimed the national festival of
Land and Liberty. "And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty
throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee
to you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return
every man unto his family."140
||139 The Book of Jubilees (second century B.C.) makes
the Jubilee cycle one of forty-nine years. But according to
Jos. (Antiq. iii. 12. 282),
and most other authorities, it was the fiftieth year:. Ewald (Antiq., Engl. transl.
of 3rd ed., pp. 374, 375) says that it included the last half of
the 49th and the first half of the 50th year; and that it "naturally
began with the preparatory day of the Autumn festival, after the
year's harvest of every kind was complete."
140 Lev. 25:8-10. There is no
definite historical record of the actual observance of the Year of jubilee.
(But see Jewish Encyclopedia, x. 607, for the tradition of its observance
before the captivity.) "On a close inspection nothing is more certain than
that the idea of the Jubilee is the last ring of a chain which only
attains in it the necessary conclusion, and that the history of the Jubilee,
in spite of its at first seemingly strange aspect, was once for centuries
a reality in the national life of Israel" (Ewald, Antiq. 378). "It
is impossible to think that (as sometimes been supposed) the institution
of the Jubillee is a mere paper-law -- a theoretical completion of the system
of seven; at least as far as concerns the land (for the periodical
redistribution of which there are... analogies in other nations) it must
date from ancient times in Israel (Driver, Literature of the O.T., 7th
ed. p. 57). Ezekiel (7:12, 13)
mentions its non-observance as one of the signs that "the end is come" upon
the nation for its abominable misdoings (7:2,3).
|It is to be noted that the Hebrew's estate in land is always spoken
of as his "possession" or his "inheritance," and never as his "ownership" or "property." Ewald141
seems to have expressed the
distinction with exactness: —
"The existence of property is assumed by every
system of legislation, even the earliest, because such a system can only follow
on a long period of social development and exertion. But Jahveism assumes more
than this. For, according to it, each of the tribes of Israel is to have its
landed possessions, and each individual household
in the tribe is to have its definite portion of the land belonging to the tribe,
which is for ever to remain the inalienable heritage of this house and form the sure
basis of all property."142
|141 Antiq. Isr. (Engl. transl. of 3rd. ed.),
142 Bishop Westcott
has an interesting note (at Heb. 6:12) on the Biblical use of kanpovouia (=
inheritance). He says,"The idea of inheritance which [the Gr. words used
in the LXX] convey is in some important respects different from that which
we associate with the word. . . . The dominant Biblical sense of 'inheritance'
is the enjoyment by a rightful title of that which is not the fruit
of personal exertion. . there is no necessary thought of succession
to one who has passed away" (Bishop Westcott on Hebrews,
2nd edit., pp. 167-169). The words which I have italicised show
how aptly the word "inheritance" is used of land as distinguished from
the results of labor.
|The Hebrew did not own land. It was not "his own" to do as he liked
with; "the land shall not be sold out and out;" it was only his to
use, subject to the equal rights of every other Hebrew. He only enjoyed
an interest in land, and, if he sold anything, he could only sell that
interest.143 He could not sell the equal interest of his children or
his children's children.144 The land of Canaan was, as it were, held
from God on lease, by the families of Israel. At the end of every fifty
years, all the leases fell in simultaneously, and God made a fresh
grant of the land, for another fifty years, to all the families of
His people, in equal shares as at the first. Hence the Hebrew who,
or through some compulsion, "sold his land," sold, not the ownership of the land,
but the "fag-end of the lease" — till the next year of Jubilee.145 When
the Jubilee proclamation again sounded from the sacred rams' horns, the land
came back to his family, all contracts of sale to the contrary notwithstanding,
and his children enjoyed the
same advantage of a "fair start" as their father had had before them.
||143 It is a maxim of English law that no one can
give a better title than he has. Nemo dat quod non habet. See
Broom's Legal Maxims, 6th edit., 761. Nemo potest plus
juris ad alium transferre quam ipse habet. Coke's Littleton, 309.
144 This natural and inalienable
right to the equal use and enjoyment of land is so apparent, that it has
been recognised by men wherever force or habit has not blunted first perceptions.
To give but one instance: The white settlers of New Zealand found themselves
unable to get from the Maoris what the latter considered a complete title
to land, because, although a whole tribe might have consented to a sale,
they would still claim with every new child born among them an additional
payment on the ground that they had parted with only their own rights,
and could not sell those of the unborn. The Government was obliged to step
in and settle the matter by buying land for a tribal annuity, which every
child that born acquires a share (Henry George, Progress and Roverty, Book
VII, Chapter 1).
145 This is very clearly illustrated
by the fact that a man who "bought" a field from another and "devoted it to
the Lord" could only "devote" the value of the usufruct till the next
year of Jubilee, when the land itself returned "to him to whom the possession
of the land belonged" (Lev. 27:22-24).
|§ 6. It is plain that, under such a Law, the
growth of a wealthy landlord class with large estates on the one hand,
and of a landless146 pauper class on the other, were rendered alike
impossible. Although there might be, and naturally would be, inequalities
arising from varying degrees of industry, there would be no such extremes
of poverty and riches as we are familiar with.
idle classes — the wealthy idlers of the West end and the starving idlers
of the East — which disgrace our modern "civilisation," could not coexist
with the equality of opportunity secured by the Hebrew Law. The prayer of Agur,
the son of Jakeh, perhaps represents the ideal of such a
society. "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for
me; lest I be full and deny Thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor,
and steal, and take the name of my God in
vain."147 "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much
but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. There is a sore evil
which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to
their hurt."148 A writer in the Book of
Proverbs tells us that "much food is in the tilled land of the poor; but there
is that is destroyed by reason of injustice,"149 while Isaiah150 drives the lesson
home by his description of the barrenness
of the land under monopoly. "There is that withholdeth what is justly due, but
it tendeth only to want. ... He that withholdeth corn [and, may we not add, he
that withholdeth the land on which alone the corn can be grown], the people shall
curse him"151 "As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he
that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days,
and at his end shall
be a fool."152 For "better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice."153
||146 Le but principal de cette institution etait de
maintenir autant de possible l'egalite primitive du partage des
terres, de reparer les perturbations arrivees dans le courant de
quarante-neuf ans, et de prevenir ainsi le complet et durable apprauvissement
de certaines familles plus malheureuses que d'autres (Dict. Encycl. de la Theol. Catholique, s.v., Jubile). "With
the consistent administration of this 1aw, a class wholly without
property would have been impossible in Israel" (Oehler, Theol.
of the O.T.,i. 348). Jahn (Biblical Archaeology) well
describes the Jubilee as "a regulation which prevented the rich
from coming into possession [by "free trade in land"] of
large tracts of land, and then leasing them out in small parcels
to the poor; a practice which anciently prevailed, and does to
this day, in the East." [Heinrich Hein writes: Moses endeavored
to bring property into harmony with morality, with the true law
of reason, and this he accomplished by the introduction of the
Year of Jubilee, in which alienated land that was inherited . .
. fell back to the original owner, regardless of the manner in
which it had been disposed of. This institution forms the most
decided contrast to that "outlawry" with the Romans, where after
the lapse of a certain time the actual possessor of a property
could not be compelled by the legitimate owner to return the property,
if he could not bring evidence to show that he had demanded restitution
in due legal form. This last condition left the field open to every
possible fraud, especially in a state where despotism and jurisprudence
were in bloom, and where the lawful possessor had in his power
all the means of intimidation, especially when confronted by the
poor man who could not afford the expenses which a contest involved.
The Roman was soldier and lawyer at the same time, and he knew
how to defend with his glib tongue the property taken from others,
often with the sword. --S.].
147 Provo 30:8, 9.
148 Eccles. 5:12, 13.
149 Prov. 13:23 (R.V. m).
150 Isa. 5:10; see above,
Chapter 3 § 2).
151 1 Provo 11:24,26 (R. V.m..)
152 Jer. 17:11.
153 Prov. 16:8 (R.V.); Ps. 27:16.
|§ 7. The price paid on such "sales" was naturally
based upon the number of years that were to elapse before the next
Year of Jubilee:
so many years' purchase of the usufruct.
And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbor, or
buyest ought of thy neighbor's hand, ye shall not oppress [R.V., wrong] one
another. According to the number of years after the Jubilee thou shalt buy
of thy neighbor, and according unto the number of years of the fruits [R.V.,
crops] he shall sell unto thee. According to the multitude of years thou shalt
increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt
diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits
[R.V., for the number of the crops] doth he sell unto thee" (Lev. 25:14-16).
|Once more we note the astonishing modernity of the ancient Law. For,
if the testimony of Josephus is to be believed, the Hebrew legislation
had already drawn a distinction
between "land" and "agricultural improvements," and had already recognised the
of compensation for tenants' improvements.
"When the Jubilee is come, which name denotes liberty,
he that sold the land, and he that bought it, meet together, and make an estimate,
on the one hand, of the fruits gathered, and, on the other hand, of the expenses
laid out upon it. If the fruits gathered come to more than the expenses laid
out, he that sold it takes the land again; but if the expenses prove more than
the fruits, the present possessor receives of the former owner the difference
that was wanting, and leaves the land to him; and if the fruits received, and
the expenses laid out, prove equal to one another, the present possessor relinquishes
it to the former owner."154
|154 Jos. Antiq. 3:12/ 283, 284.
|That is, if the outgoing tenant has spent more on the
land than he has got out of it, he receives compensation for his unexhausted
|§ 8. For there is an essential
difference between the "land," which God made, and the "improvements" which
labor of man has made upon the land. "For every house is builded by some man;
but He that built all things is God."155 Not only are improvements made by labor;
they have to be maintained by labor. "By much slothfulness the building decayeth;
and through idleness of
the hands the house droppeth through."156 Some elementary appreciation of this
economic distinction, not perhaps much more definite than that which has found
expression in our own proverb, "God made the country
and man made the town," may be traced in the provision of the Law as to the sale
If a man sell a dwelling-house in a walled city,
then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year
may he redeem it. And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year,
then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to
him that bought it throughout his generations! it
shall not go out in the Jubilee.
"But the houses of the villages which have no wall about them shall
be counted as [R.V., reckoned with] the fields of the country; they may be
redeemed, and they shall go out in the Jubilee" (Lev. 25:29-31).
|155 Heb. 3:4.
156 Eccle. 10:18.
|That is, a house in the town could be sold "out and out," but
houses in the open country were treated as a part of the inheritance,
and were restored, with it,
at the Jubilee.157 "This provision was made to encourage strangers and proselytes
to come and settle among them. Though they could not purchase land in Canaan
for themselves and their heirs, yet they might purchase houses in walled cities,
which would be
most convenient for them, who were supposed to live by trade."158
||157 For the exceptional treatment of the Levites'
houses, and the reason of it, see Chapter 6. Lev. 25:32-34.
158 Bush, quoted in Gray's Biblical
Museum (on Lev. 25:29). For the Canaanite traders, see p. 34, n.
|§ 9. The Law clearly recognises
the fact that slavery, in one form or another, is caused by the denial
of equal rights in land. So long as the Hebrew retained his foothold
upon the land, he enjoyed freedom and had within his hand the opportunity
of winning a comfortable subsistence by honest toil. No landlord could
rack-rent him for permission to till the ground, or confiscate the
results of his industry by raising the rent on his improvements. Economically
and politically, he was a free man.159 But if, in the course of time,
to another man his share in the land — through misfortune, or laziness,
or vice on his own part; or through the
cunning or violence of his fellows — he must either become a tramp, or
hire himself for wages to a brother-Israelite. To the man who gained by such
a transaction it meant the beginning of monopoly: to the man who lost, and to
his family, a descent into social slavery. Wage-slavery is
the daughter of landlordism.
"And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be
waxen poor,160 and be sold unto thee thou shalt not compel him to serve as
a bondservant: but as an hired servant,161 and as a sojourner, he shall be
with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of Jubilee: and then he shall
depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto
his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. For
they are My servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they
shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor; but
shalt fear thy God" (Lev. 25:39-43).
|159 Note, in the story of Joseph, the express recognition
of the fact that the people of Egypt, by selling their land to
Pharoah during the famine, became Pharaoh's slaves (Gen.47:18-21);
and cp. Neh. 5:5.
160 Note the sequence: "If thy
brother be waxen poor and hath sold away some of his possession (verse
25). . . and be fallen in decay (35) . . . and be sold" (39). See an instance
in 2 Kings 4:1; cp. Matt. 18:25, and Neh. 5:5: A man might also become
a bond-slave as a punishment for theft, if unable otherwise to make restitution (Ex. 22:3).
Cp. Jos. Antiq., 3.12. 282.
161 i.e., day-laborer. A "hired
servant," whether native or foreigner, was not to be oppressed or defrauded (Deut. 24:14;
cp. Luke 15:17-19), and his wages were to be paid every evening (Deut. 24:14;
Lev. 19:13; Tob. 4:14; Matt. 20:2, 8, 13). The normal day of labor
is fixed in the Jewish law at twelve hours, from which two were remitted in
the course of the day for meals and the recital of the prescribed prayers
-- the Shema and Tefillah -- thus leaving ten hours
for work. Workmen could require better conditions, but not a decrease in the
number of hours; and a rise in wages could not secure for employers increased
time, but a better quality of work. --S.]'
|The kidnapping of a brother Hebrew into slavery was punishable
by death.162 But the Hebrews were permitted to make slaves of the captives
of war, and to buy
slaves of "the heathen that are round about
you,"163 to treat them as property,164 and to leave them as an inheritance to
||162 Ex. 21:16; Deut. 24:7. Man-stealing is the only
form of robbery for which the Law awards the punishment of death.
For the stealing of goods or cattle the penalty is restitution,
or its equivalent in labor.
163 Lev. 25:44-46; Num.
31:18, 26, 27; Deut. 20:14; I Kings 9:21.
164 "Nor his manservant, nor
his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is "thy neighbor's" (Ex.
20:17); cp. 21:21 "for he is his money."
165 The later teaching, fully developed
only in the N. T., extended the older Jewish conception of the brotherhood
of the children of Abraham so as to include all
the children of Adam. ("Christwas not the second Abraham, but the second Adam" --
Rev. Thos. Hancock.) When Malachi (2:10) asked: "Have we not all one Father?
hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against
his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?" he was thinking only
of his own nation. But the universal Fatherhood of God, as preached by Jesus
Christ, and by St. Paul on Mars' Hill, made slavery logically impossible to
Christians. "God that made the world and all things therein . . . hath made
of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth.
.. . .. As certain also of your own poets have said, For we also are His offspring." (Acts
17: 24, 26, 28). In the Jews' morning prayer, the men, in three consecutive
benedictions; bless God "Who hath not made me a Gentile . . . a slave .
..a woman" (Taylor, Sayings J.F., p. 15, n.). St. Paul certainly
had this prayer in mind when he dictated Gal. 3:28. (The reason why the Jewish
ritual contains the passage "not '-.. . a Gentile. . . a slave. ...a woman" is,
that these three classes were exempt from certain religious obligations.,..-
S.] Jesus ben Sirach exhorts the master, for motives of self-interest,
to "entreat" the slave whom he has bought ''as a brother" (Ecclus. 33: 30,
31). St. Paul may have been thinking of this passage when he wrote about the
runaway slave Onesimus (Philem. 16)., but the reason he gives is based on higher
|Even foreign settlers among the Hebrews were subject
to the law of Jubilee, so far as their Hebrew slaves were concerned.
If a rich foreigner bought a Hebrew as his slave, he must treat him
as "a yearly
hired servant," and must set him free in the Year of Jubilee,166 if he had not,
in the meantime, been able to redeem himself, or been redeemed
by a kinsman.
||166 Lev. 25:47-55
|So, once in every generation did the Law "proclaim liberty
the captives" in "the acceptable Year of the Lord."167 Well does one of the prophets
call it "the Year of Liberty."168
||167 Isa.51:2; Luke 4:18,19.
168 Ezek. 46:17.
|The emancipation of the man and the restoration of the land go hand in hand.
The same law applies to both: the Jubilee sets them both equally free. Means
are provided by which, even before the Jubilee, under favoring conditions,
man may be redeemed from bondage,169 or
the land from the hand of the stranger.170
||169 Lev. 25:48-52.
170 Lev. 25:25-28.
|There are few tracts on the Land Question so thought-provoking
as to the first principles of just social relationships as the little
leaflet which has floated down to us through the ages, and which we
usually refer to as the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus. The details
of the legislation there recorded have long ceased to have other than
an antiquarian interest, but the principles they embody and illustrate
are eternal. We have here at once one of the most ancient and one of
the most modern treatises on the Land Question; for it is based on
- that private property in land is private property in man;
- that landlordism is slavery;
- that Land and Liberty are both essential to the well-being of