The Closing Types of Leviticus: 11. The Poor Brother Selling Himself

Leviticus 25:47‑55  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
This last case is the saddest of all to a true Israelite. It was not without a fault that a person under the government of Jehovah grew poor in His land (vers. 25, etc.), and had to sell his possessions, whether land, or a dwelling house in a walled city (vers. 29, etc.). It was worse to fall into such decay as to become an object of help to Jew, stranger, or sojourner, for money and victuals (35-38). Still worse was it to be sold to a brother Israelite, even if Jehovah in each interposed His shield of mercy (39-46). But here it is the poor brother selling himself to a stranger or sojourner becoming rich. Yet Jehovah speaks here also.
“And if a stranger or a sojourner with thee become rich beside thee, and thy brother beside him grow poor, and sell himself to the stranger [or] sojourner with thee, or to a descendant of the stranger's family: after he is sold, there shall be right of redemption for him; one of his brethren may redeem him; or his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any of his next of kin of his family may redeem him; or if he may obtain the means, he may redeem himself. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he sold himself to him unto the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall be according to the number of the years; according to the days of a hired servant shall he be with him. If [there be] yet many years, according to them shall he return his redemption out of the money he was bought for. And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubilee, then he shall reckon with him; according to his years shall he return the price of his redemption. As a hired servant shall he be with him year by year: he shall not rule with rigor over him before thine eyes. And if he be not redeemed by these [means], then he shall go out in the year of jubilee, he and his children with him. For to me the children of Israel [are] servants; they [are] my servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I [am] Jehovah your God” (vers. 47-55).
As this chapter is devoted to redemption by grace and in power, it is in perfect keeping with its aim to let Israel know the reserves which awaited their failure in responsibility to the law, which they had accepted as the ground of their standing before Jehovah. Their fall to such an extreme of want as for an Israelite to sell himself into voluntary bondage to a rich stranger or sojourner with them, or to a scion of such a house, is here provided for in God's considerate goodness. Jehovah would not hinder their tasting their evil or folly; but He was careful to lay down, that after he had sold himself, there should be right of redemption for him. One of his brethren might redeem him, or his uncle, or his uncle's son, or any of the near relations of his family: there was room for that affectionate and special interest, which He ever cherished and commended to His people.
Or again, the man, once so desperately impoverished, might somehow obtain adequate means to redeem himself, so that he could not be kept an hour longer in slavery. As being in that land, no strangers any more than a brother could plead a just title against the statutes of Jehovah. But justice must stand too. “And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he sold himself to him unto the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall be according to the number of the years; according to the days of a hired servant shall he be with him.” Absolute slavery Jehovah would not tolerate for a child of Abraham. If the price of redemption was equitably offered, the stranger must accept it and set him free. If many years had yet to run, redemption price had to be returned out of the money that he was bought for (51); and if there remained but few years, the reckoning must be accordingly (52).
But Jehovah's pitifulness went farther still; for in ver. 53 it was prescribed, even where he had no means or prospect of redemption till the jubilee, that the Israelite bondman was to have a place like no other slave. “As a hired servant shall he be with him year by year: he [the stranger master] shall not rule with rigor over him before thine [Israel's] eyes.” Thus was the strain meanwhile to be alleviated, if Israel had the heart and power to see Jehovah's will enforced on behalf of His poor.
Then came the great resource when the trumpet of jubilee sounded over the land (54). If every other means failed, here was sure hope for Israel. “And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was bitter of soul” in abnormal bondage, was entitled to leap for joy at Jehovah's glad tidings of grace; as it is said here, “he shall go out in the year of jubilee, he and his children with him.” And Thou, blessed Jesus, true but rejected and only the more glorious Messiah, shalt have the joy of redeeming Israel from all his iniquities and all distresses and all indignities, Thyself the more loved then for Thy sufferings and shame at the Jews' hand, joining hand in hand thus with the lawless Gentiles as presently with the Antichrist against Jehovah and His Anointed. Thou shalt return in glory to destroy the destroyers, to deliver Israel in its godly remnant, and to crush the nations, with the old serpent that deceived them all, and that deceives Christendom now as blind as it is haughty.
The very learned prelate of Chester, Dr. John Pearson, had low views of Christ's personal glory, and accordingly of His work and offices. His was as “dry light” on divine things as might satisfy the most scientific of theologians. Yet even he saw in this chapter not the prototype of Christian privilege, but rather a strong contrast with the “better thing” God provided concerning us. So even his cold spirit warmed a little when he compared our privileges with those pledges of goodness to Israel. “We were all at first enslaved by sin, and brought into captivity by Satan, neither was there any way of escape but by way of Redemption. Now it was the law of Moses that if any were able he might redeem himself: but this to us was impossible, because absolute obedience in all our actions is due unto God; and therefore no act of ours can make any satisfaction for the least offense. Another law gave yet more liberty, that he which was sold might be redeemed again; one of his brethren might redeem him. But this in respect of all the mere sons of men was equally impossible, because they were all under the same captivity. Nor could they satisfy for others, who were wholly unable to redeem themselves. Wherefore there was no other brother but that Son of Man which is the Son of God; who was like unto us in all things, sin only excepted, which could work this redemption for us. And what he only could, that he freely did for us.” (An Exposition of the Creed, vol. i. 119, Oxford, 1797.)
Yes, we were all lost far beyond the worst picture of any Israelite; and we are saved as none could be till the Son of God had wrought soul-salvation for such as believe beyond what Dr. P. ever taught or knew; for God's salvation is come, and His righteousness is revealed. Such is His gospel to Jew and Greek through and upon faith in Christ.