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In the Gates

City Homes The First Commandment

City Homes

The First Commandment

No other gods

Leviticus 25.29-34

If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee. As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.”

The case of properties within walled cities was different, perhaps because people who lived in walled cities – which were few – did, perhaps exclusively, the kind of work that did not require extensive portions of land (carpenters, for example). They needed a more settled environment where they could trade their labor for the increase gained by others.

Thus, houses sold within walled cities could only be redeemed within the first year. After that they remained the property of the buyer, surviving in his hands or those of his heirs, even beyond the Jubilee, or until he decided to sell. This was especially true for the Levites, who owned no lands or properties. Homes purchased from Levites, moreover, were to be released in the Jubilee, thus restoring to that tribe the only property granted to them by the Lord. Pasturelands belonging to the Levites were not to be sold.

We place these property laws within the context of the first commandment, but we might also visit them under the eighth as well. Here they remind us, as the Lord insists, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Ps. 24.1). We worship and serve the Lord by keeping this stewardship principle in mind in all we do.

This series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Book Store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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