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In the Gates

Redeeming City Properties

Leviticus 25.25-28

If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. But if he has not sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.”

The case of properties within walled cities was different from that of the farm and pasture lands, 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.

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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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