23. The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.
23. Terra autem non vendetur absolute, quia mea est terra: vos enim peregrini, et advenae estis apud me.
24. And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.
24. In universa autem terra possessionis vestrae redemptionem dabitis terrae.
25. If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.
25. Quum attenuatus fuerit frater tuus, et vendiderit de possessione sua: tunc veniet redemptor ejus propinquus ipsi: et redimet venditionem fratris sui.
26. And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;
26. Et, si non fuerit viro redemptor, sed apprehenderit manus ejus, et invenerit quod sufficit ad ejus redemptionem;
27. Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it, that he may return unto his possession.
27. Tunc supputabit annos venditionis suae, et restituet quod superest viro cui vendidit, et revertetur ad possessionem suam.
28. But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubilee: and in the jubilee it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession.
28. Si vero non invenerit manus ejus quod sufficiat ad reddendum illi, tum erit venditio ejus in manu ejus, qui emit illum, usque ad annum Jubilaei: at egredietur in Jubilaeo, reverteturque ad possessionem suam.
29. And 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.
29. Vir autem quum vendiderit domum habitationis in urbe murata, erit redemptio ejus donec compleatur annus venditionis ejus: anno uno erit redemptio ejus.
30. 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.
30. Quod si non redimatur donec impleatur illi annus integer, remanebit domus quae fuerit in civitate cui est murus, absolute ementi illam in generationibus ejus: non egredietur in Jubilaeo.
31. But the houses of the villages, which have no walls round about them, shall be counted as the fields of the country; they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubilee.
31. Domus autem villarum quibus non est murus in circuitu, secundum agrum terrae aestimabitur, redemptio erit ei, et in Jubilaeo egredietur.
32. Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time.
32. Urbium autem Levitarum, et domorum urbium possessionis eorum, redemptio perpetua erit Levitis.
33. And if a man purchase of the Levites, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubilee: for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel.
33. Qui autem emerit a Levitis, egredietur venditio domus, et urbis possessionis ejus in Jubilaeo, quia domus urbium Levitatum est possessio eorum in medio filiorum Israel.
34. But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.
34. Ager autem suburbii urbium eorum non vendetur, quia possessio perpetua est illis.
23. The land shall not be sold for ever. Since the reason for this law was peculiar to the children of Abraham, its provisions can hardly be applied to other nations; for so equal a partition of the land was made under Joshua, that the inheritance was distributed amongst the several tribes and families; nay, in order that each man's possession should be more sacred, the land had been divided by lot, as if God by His own hand located them in their separate stations. In fact, that allotment was, as it were, an inviolable decree of God Himself, whereby the memory of the covenant should be maintained, by which the inheritance of the land had been promised to Abraham and his posterity; and thus the land of Canaan was an earnest, or symbol, or mirror, of the adoption on which their salvation was founded. Wherefore it is not to be wondered at that God was unwilling that this inestimable benefit should ever be lost; and, lest this should be the case, like a provident father of a family, He laid a restraint on His children, to prevent them from being too prodigal; for, when a man has any suspicions of his heir, he forbids him to alienate the patrimony he leaves him. Such, therefore, was the condition of the ancient people; yet it cannot be indiscriminately transferred to other nations who have had no common inheritance given them. Some vestige of it appears in the right of redemption;1 but, because that depends on the consent of the parties, and is also a special mode of contract, it has nothing to do with the law of Moses, which entirely restored both men and lands, (in the year of jubilee,2) That God should call the land of Canaan His, is, as it were, to assert His direct Lordship3 (dominium,) as they call it, over it; as He immediately afterwards more clearly expresses His meaning, where He says that the children of Israel sojourn in it as His guests.4 For although their condition was the best in which just and perpetual owners can be placed, still, as respected God, they were but His tenants (coloni,) only living there at His will. In fine, God claims the freehold (fundum) for Himself, lest the recollection of tits having granted it to them should ever escape them.
24. And in all the land of your possession. Before the jubilee came, He permits not only the relations to redeem land sold by a poor man, but the seller also, if no other redeemer interposed. The same power was also given to relations amongst other nations, though with a different object, viz., the preservation of the family name; still, the seller was never allowed to redeem, unless a special clause to that effect was contained in the contract. But God desired that the lands should be retained by their legal possessor, in order that the people might deviate as little as possible from the division made by Joshua. Meanwhile, He had in view the private advantage of individuals; but in the perpetual succession to the land He considered Himself rather than men, in order that the recollection of His kindness should never be lost. Finally, He orders all lands to return in the year of jubilee to their original owners; and all sales to be cancelled, as if, in the fiftieth year, he renewed the lot for the division of the land.
29. And if a man sell a dwelling-house. He here distinguishes houses from lands, providing that the power of redemption should not extend beyond a year; and also, that the purchase should hold good even in the jubilee. A second distinction, however, is also added between different kinds of houses, viz., that houses in towns might be altogether alienated, whilst the condition of those in the country should be the same as that of the lands themselves, as being annexed so as to form part of them. As regarded houses fix towns, because they were sometimes burdensome to their owners, it was an advantage that they might pass into the hands of the rich who were competent to bear the expenses of building. Besides, a house does not supply daily food like a field, and it is more tolerable to be without a house than a field, in which you may work, and from the cultivation of which you may support yourself and family. But it was necessary to except houses in the country, because they were appendages to the land; for what use would there be in harvesting the fruits, if you had no place to store them in? Nay, what would it profit to possess a farm which you could not cultivate? for how could oxen plough without any stalls in its vicinity? Since, then, lands without farm-buildings or cottages are almost useless, and they cannot be conveniently separated, justly did God appoint that, in the year of Jubilee, every rural possession should revert to its former owner.
32. Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites. Another exception, that the Levites should recover the houses they had sold, either by the right of redemption, or gratuitously in the year of jubilee. And this is not only appointed out of favor to them, but because it concerned the whole people, that they should be posted like sentries in the place which God had assigned to them. As to the suburbs, or the lands destined for the support of their cattle, God forbids their alienation, because thus they would have forsaken their proper station and removed elsewhere; whereas it was of importance to the whole people that such a dispersion should not occur.