Leviticus 25

Leviticus 25:39-55

39. And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant:

39. Si attenuatus fuerit frater tuus apud te, ita ut vendat se tibi, non uteris opera ejus tanquam servi opera.

40. But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee:

40. Tanquam mercenarius, tanquam colonus erit tecum: usque ad annum Jubilaei serviet tibi.

41. And then shall he 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.

41. Egredietur autem a te ipse, et liberi ejus cum eo, ac revertetur ad familiam suam, et ad possessionem patrum suorum revertetur.

42. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bond-men.

42. Sunt enim servi mei quos eduxi e terra AEgypti: non vendentur venditione servili.

43. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor, but shalt fear thy God.

43. Non dominaberis illis dure sed timebis a Deo tuo.

44. Both thy bond-men and thy bond-maids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bond-men and bond-maids.

44. Servus autem tuus et ancilla tua qui erunt tibi, de gentibus erunt quae sunt in circuitu vestro, ex iis emetis servum et ancillam.

45. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession:

45. Et etiam de filiis incolarum qui versantur apud vos, emetis: et de familia eorum qui apud vos sunt, quos procreaverunt in terra vestra: eruntque vobis in possessionem.

46. And ye shalt take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bond-men for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor.

46. Et jure haereditario possidebitis eos pro filiis vestris post vos, ad possidendum possessionem: in perpetuum utemini opera, eorum: fratribus autem vestris filiis Israel quisque fratri suo non dominabitur dure.

47. And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family:

47. Si autem apprehenderint manus peregrini et advenae qui est apud te, et attenuatus fuerit frater tuus qui apud illum versatur, seque vendiderit peregrino et advenae qui est apud te, vel stirpi familiae peregrini:

48. After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:

48. Postquam vendiderit se, redemptio erit ei: unus e fratribus ejus redimet eum:

49. Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or, if he be able, he may redeem himself.

49. Aut patruus ejus, aut filius patrui ejus redimet eum, aut propinquus carnis ejus e familia ejus redimet eum: aut si apprehenderit manus ejus, tunc redimet seipsum.

50. And he shall reckon with him that bought him, from the year that he was sold to him, unto the year of jubilee: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him.

50. Et supputabit cum eo qui emit ipsum, ab anno quo se vendidit illi, usque ad annum Jubilaei, aestimabiturque pecunia venditionis ejus secundum numerum annorum: et secundum dies mercenarii fiet cum eo.

51. If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for.

51. Si adhuc multi fuerint anni, secundum eos restituet redemptionem suam de argento venditionis suae.

52. And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubilee, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption.

52. Quod si parum reliquum sit ex annis usque ad annum Jubilaei, tunc supputabit cum eo: et secundum annos suos restituet redemptionem suam.

53. And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigor over him in thy sight.

53. Tanquam mercenarius annuus erit cum illo: non dominabitur ei dure in oculis tuis.

54. And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubilee, both he, and his children with him.

54. Si non se redemerit in illis, egredietur in anno Jubilaei ipse et filii ejus:

55. For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

55. Quia mihi sunt filii Israel servi, servi mei sunt quos eduxi e terra AEgypti: ego Jehova Deus vester.


39. And if thy brother. He now proceeds further, i.e., that one who has bought his brother should treat him with humanity, and not otherwise than a hired servant. We have seen, indeed, just above, that the labor of a slave is estimated at twice as much, because the humanity of his master will never go so far as to indulge or spare his slave as if he were a hireling. It is not, therefore, without reason that God puts a restraint upon that rule, which experience shows to have been often tyrannical. Still He prescribes no more than heathen philosophers did,1 viz., that masters should treat their slaves like hired servants. And this principle of justice ought to prevail towards all without exception; but since it was difficult to prescribe the same rule respecting strangers as respecting their brethren, a special law is enacted, that at least they should observe moderation towards their brethren, with whom they had a common inheritance and condition. First:. therefore, it is provided as to Hebrew slaves that they should not be treated harshly and contemptuously like captives (mancipia;) and then that their slavery should come to an end in the year of jubilee. But here the question arises, since their liberty was before accorded to them in the, seventh year, why it is now postponed to the fiftieth? Some get over the difficulty by supposing that2 if the jubilee occurred during the six years, they must then be set free, although they had not completed the whole term; but this is too forced a conjecture. The view that most approves itself to me is, that the word lby, yobel, is extended to mean every seventh year, or, at any rate, that moderation towards those slaves is specially prescribed who were most exposed to violence and other injurious treatment. For they would not have dared to oppress at pleasure their slaves, who were soon afterwards to be free; but those who, by having their ears bored, had subjected themselves to the longer period of slavery, would have been more outrageously harassed, unless God had interposed. And this opinion I freely adopt, that although their slavery lasted to the jubilee, yet flint their masters were to treat them with moderation and humanity. This too is confirmed by what immediately follows, where it is enjoined that the children should be set free with their fathers, which did not take place in the seventh year.

42. For they are my servants. God here declares that His own right is invaded when those, whom He claims as His property, are taken into subjection by another; for He says that He acquired the people as His own when He redeemed them from Egypt. Whence He infers that His right is violated if any should usurp perpetual dominion over a Hebrew. If any object that this is of equal force, when they only serve for a time, I reply, that though God might have justly asserted His sole ownership, yet He was satisfied with this symbol of it; and therefore that He suffered by indulgence that they should be enslaved for a fixed period, provided some trace of His deliverance of them should remain. In a word, He simply chose to apply this preventative lest slavery should altogether extinguish the recollection of His grace, although He allowed it to be thus smothered as it were. Lest, therefore, cruel masters should trust that their tyranny would be exercised with impunity, Moses reminds them that they had to do with God, who will at length appear as its avenger. Although the political laws of Moses are not now in operation, still the analogy is to be preserved, lest the condition of those who have been redeemed by Christ's blood should be worse amongst us, than that of old of tits ancient people. To whom Paul's exhortation refers:

"Ye masters, forbear threatening your slaves, knowing that both your and their Master is in heaven."3 (Ephesians 6:9.)

44. Both thy bond-men, and thy bond-maids. What God here permits as regards strangers was everywhere customary among the Gentiles, viz., that their power over their slaves should exist not only until their death, but should continue in perpetual succession to their children; for this is the force of the expression, "ye shall possess them for your children," that the right of ownership should pass to their heir's also; nor is there a distinction made only as to perpetuity,4 but also as to the mode of their treatment. For we must observe the antithesis, "ye shall make use of their service, but over his brother no man shall rule with rigor;"5 whence it appears that a restraint was imposed upon them lest they should imperiously rule the children of Abraham, and not leave them half their liberty in comparison with the Gentiles. Not that a tyrannical or cruel exercise of power oyer strangers was allowed, but that God would have the race of Abraham, whose liberator lie was, exempted by certain privileges from the common lot.

47. And if a sojourner or a stranger. A caution is here introduced as to the Israelites who had enslaved themselves to strangers. But by strangers understand only those who inhabited the land of Canaan; for, if any one ]lad been carried away into other countries, God would have enacted this law as to their redemption in vain. A power, therefore, of redeeming the slave is granted to his relatives, or, if he had himself obtained sufficient to pay his price, the same permission is accorded to himself. The mode and the form of this are then expressed: that a calculation of the time which remained before the jubilee should be made, and the period which had already elapsed should be subtracted from the sum, viz., if he had been sold for fifty shekels he should only pay ten shekels in the fortieth year, because only a fifth part of the time remained. But if none of his family aided him, and the unhappy man's hope of redemption was frustrated, He commands that he should be set free in the jubilee year, in which a general enfranchisement took place as regarded the children of Abraham. The object of the law was, that none of those whom God had adopted, should be alienated from their race, and thus should depart from the true worship of God Himself. The whole of this is comprehended in the last verse, where God declares that the children of Abraham were His property, inasmuch as He had led them forth from the land of Egypt, and, on the other hand, that He is their peculiar God. For, whilst it was just that they should enjoy His blessing, so also it behooved that they should be kept sound in His pure and undivided worship; whereas, if they had been the slaves of Gentiles, not only would the elect people have been diminished in numbers, but circumcision would have been corrupted and a door opened to impious perversions. Yet God so mitigates His law as to lay no unjust burden upon sojourners, since He concedes more to them, with respect to Hebrew slaves, than to the natives of the land; for if they had sold themselves to their brethren, they went forth free in the seventh year, whilst their slavery under sojourners was extended to the fiftieth year. This exception only was introduced that the stranger who had bought slaves should enfranchise them on the payment of their value. Since God had previously promised to His people a large and manifold abundance of all good things, the poverty here adverted to could only occur from the curse of God;6 we see, therefore, that of His incomparable loving-kindness He stretches forth His hand to the transgressors of His law; and, whilst He chastises them with poverty, still looks upon them, unworthy as they are, and provides a remedy for the ills which their own guilt had brought upon them.

1 Seneca de Benef. 3:22. "Servus (ut placet Chrysippo) perpetuus mercenarius est." See also Sen. Epp. 6:47, in which the following beautiful sentiment occurs: "Haec tamen mei praecepti summa est, Sic cum inferiore vivas, quemadmodum tecum superiorem velis vivere."

2 So the Hebrew doctors, and Ainsworth, Caietan, and Willet. Michaelis supposes that servants were regularly restored to freedom after six years' service, (not on the Sabbatical year, but on the seventh from the sale;) but supposing them bought less than six years before the jubilee, they received their freedom on that year. Laws of Moses, vol. 2 p. 176. -- Brightwell.

3 See Margin of A. V.

4 "Or la diversite d'entre les estrangers, et les enfans d'Israel n'est pas seulement mis, etc.;" now the diversity between strangers and the children of Israel is not only placed, etc. -- Fr.

5 See Margin of A.V. on ver. 46. "His in perpetuum tanquam servis utamini, popularibus vero vestris Israelitis ne severius imperetis." -- Dathe.

6 Addition in Fr., "Et d'un juste chastiment de leurs pechez;" and as a just chastisement of their sins.


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