During the Seventh Year

Let the Land Lie Unplowed and Unused

23: 10-11

    This section concerning the Sabbatical year is introduced at this point to teach the lesson of kindness to the poor and to wildlife. For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused (23:10-11a). This was an extension of the Fourth Commandment (20:8-11). One aspect of the Sabbath was that the Israelites were to let their land lay fallow once every seven years. This was to remind Israel that the land was God’s, and they were merely His tenants. Further details were given in Leviticus 25:1-7, 18-23. There were two reasons given for the land being given a Sabbath. First, it was humanitarian. The needy or those who had no inheritance would have something to eat. Then the poor among your people may get food from it. They probably rotated the land that was left fallow so that the needy would be able to gather food every year, not merely every seventh year. Secondly, the commandment also benefited wildlife, so the wild animals would have something to eat. And the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove (23:11b). The rabbis taught that the commandment applied to everything that grew from the ground.

    Once the Jews were in Palestine, they would ignore the Sabbath rest for the land for 490 years; therefore, God would send them into captivity for 70 years in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11; Second Chronicles 36:21). One year of captivity for each Sabbath rest they had ignored.


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