Here is, I. A law concerning the real estates of the Israelites in the land of Canaan, and the transferring of them. 1. No land should be sold for ever from the family to whose lot it fell in the division of the land. And the reason given is, The land is mine, and you are strangers and sojourners with me, Lev. 25:23. (1.) God having a particular propriety in this land, he would by this restraint keep them sensible of it. The possessions of good people, who, having given up themselves to God, have therewith given up all they have to him, are in a particular manner at his disposal, and his disposal of them must be submitted to. (2.) They being strangers and sojourners with him in that land, and having his tabernacle among them, to alienate their part of that land would be in effect to cut themselves off from their fellowship and communion with God, of which that was a token and symbol, for which reason Naboth would rather incur the wrath of a king than part with the inheritance of his fathers, 1 Kgs. 21:3. 2. If a man was constrained through poverty to sell his land for the subsistence of his family, yet, if afterwards he was able, he might redeem it before the year of jubilee (Lev. 25:24, 26, 27), and the price must be settled according to the number of years since the sale and before the jubilee. 3. If the person himself was not able to redeem it, his next kinsman might (Lev. 25:25): The redeemer thereof, he that is near unto him, shall come and shall redeem, so it might be read. The kinsman is called Goel, the redeemer (Num. 5:8; Ruth 3:9), to whom belonged the right of redeeming the land. And this typified Christ, who assumed our nature, that he might be our kinsman, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and, being the only kinsman we have that is able to do it, to him belonged the right of redemption. As for all our other kinsmen, their shoe must be plucked off (Ruth 4:6, 7); they cannot redeem. But Christ can and hath redeemed the inheritance which we by sin had forfeited and alienated, and made a new settlement of it upon all that by faith become allied to him. We know that this Redeemer liveth, Job 19:25. And some make this duty of the kinsman to signify the brotherly love that should be among Christians, inclining them to recover those that are fallen, and to restore them with the spirit of meekness. 4. If the land was not redeemed before the year of jubilee, then it should return of course to him that had sold or mortgaged it: In the jubilee it shall go out, Lev. 25:28. This was a figure of the free grace of God towards us in Christ, by which, and not by any price or merit of our own, we are restored to the favour of God, and become entitled to paradise, from which our first parents, and we in them, were expelled for disobedience. 5. A difference was made between houses in walled cities, and lands in the country, or houses in country villages. Houses in walled cities were more the fruits of their own industry than land in the country, which was the immediate gift of God’s bounty; and therefore, if a man sold a house in a city, he might redeem it any time within a year after the sale, but otherwise it was confirmed to the purchaser for ever, and should not return, no, not at the year of the jubilee, Lev. 25:29, 30. This provision was made to encourage strangers and proselytes to come and settle among them. Though they could not purchase land in Canaan to them and their heirs, yet they might purchase houses in walled cities, which would be most convenient for those who were supposed to live by trade. But country houses could be disposed of no otherwise than as lands might. 6. A clause is added in favour of the Levites, by way of exception from these rules. (1.) Dwelling houses in the cities of the Levites might be redeemed at any time, and, if not redeemed, should revert in the year of jubilee (Lev. 25:32, 33), because the Levites had no other possession 45cc s than cities and their suburbs, and God would show that the Levites were his peculiar care; and it was for the interest of the public that they should not be impoverished, or wormed out of their inheritances. (2.) The fields adjoining to their cities (Num. 35:4, 5) might not be sold at any time, for they belonged, not to particular Levites, but to the city of the Levites, as a corporation, who could not alienate without a wrong to their tribe; therefore, if any of those fields were sold, the bargain was void, Lev. 25:34. Even the Egyptians took care to preserve the land of the priests, Gen. 47:22. And there is no less reason for the taking of the maintenance of the gospel ministry under the special protection of Christian governments.
II. A law for the relief of the poor, and the tender usage of poor debtors, and these are of more general and perpetual obligation than the former.
1. The poor must be relieved, Lev. 25:35. Here is, (1.) Our brother’s poverty and distress supposed: If thy brother be waxen poor; not only thy brother by nation as a Jew, but thy brother by nature as a man, for it follows, though he be a stranger or a sojourner. All men are to be looked upon and treated as brethren, for we have all one Father, Mal. 2:10. Though he is poor, yet still he is thy brother, and is to be loved and owned as a brother. Poverty does not destroy the relation. Though a son of Abraham, yet he may wax poor and fall into decay. Note, Poverty and decay are great grievances, and very common: The poor you have always with you. (2.) Our duty enjoined: Thou shalt relieve him. By sympathy, pitying the poor; by service, doing for them; and by supply, giving to them according to their necessity and thy ability.
2. Poor debtors must not be oppressed: If thy brother be waxen poor, and have occasion to borrow money of thee for the necessary support of his family, take thou no usury of him, either for money or victuals, Lev. 25:36, 37. And thus far this law binds still, but could never be thought binding where money is borrowed for purchase of lands, trade, or other improvements; for there it is reasonable that the lender share with the borrower in the profit. The law here is plainly intended for the relief of the poor, to whom it is sometimes as great a charity to lend freely as to give. Observe the arguments here used against extortion. (1.) God patronizes the poor: “Fear thy God, who will reckon with thee for all injuries done to the poor: thou fearest not them, but fear him.” (2.) Relieve the poor, that they may live with thee, and some way or other they may be serviceable to thee. The rich can as ill spare the hands of the poor as the poor can the purses of the rich. (3.) The same argument is used to enforce this precept that prefaces all the ten commandments: I am the Lord your God which brought you out of Egypt, Lev. 25:38. Note, It becomes those that have received mercy to show mercy. If God has been gracious to us, we ought not to be rigorous with our brethren.