1 Kings 13: Scapegoat of God

1And behold,(A) a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the LORD to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar(B) to make offerings. 2(C) And the man cried against the altar by the word of the LORD and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David,(D) Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.'” 3And he gave(E) a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the LORD has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.'”

 

Who this ‘man of God’ is, we are not told.  Just as mysterious as Melchizedek was, so this man of God bears no name unlike Shemaiah from the previous chapter.  What is key, however, is the precise description of his background, and the precision of his prophecy – a godly man from Judah, brought by God’s word to the house of God (Bethel), to proclaim against the false altar that a son of David, Josiah, shall destroy this false system of worship.  The predominate man of God is Jesus Christ Himself – as if this shadow of a godly messenger points us towards Christ, the man of Judah, the son of David, who himself shall also destroy this false system of worship.  Not by destruction of a mere altar in this mock-house of God, but a destruction of the house of God itself – the tearing down not of a mere altar (v.3) but the tearing down of the House of God (John 2:19).  Yet, the high priest that is sacrificed on this House of God, this Temple of the LORD built by Solomon’s hand and rebuilt time and time again, is Jesus Himself.

 

4And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. 5The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. 6And the king said to the man of God,(F) “Entreat now the favor of the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” And the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as it was before. 7And the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and(G) I will give you a reward.” 8And the man of God said to the king,(H) “If you give me half your house,(I) I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, 9for so was it commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.'” 10So he went another way and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel.

 

This dried hand is but the true diagnosis of Jeroboam – dried up and lifeless (Ezekiel 37:11) – and only such healing could be achieved by the LORD Jesus (Jeremiah 8:22; Matthew 9:12).  Note, however, that Jeroboam does not pray to receive the LORD’s mercy, or the love of Christ – instead, he merely prays in v.6 that he may simply have his hand restored.  This is the classic sign of religion, that Christ is the means, and not the end.  In the words of Matthew Henry:

 

Jeroboam’s inability to pull in his hand made him a spectacle to all about him, that they might see and fear. If God, in justice, harden the hearts of sinners, so that the hand they have stretched out in sin they cannot pull in again by repentance, that is a spiritual judgment, represented by this, and much more dreadful.

But observe, He did not desire the prophet to pray that his sin might be pardoned, and his heart changed, only that his hand might be restored; thus Pharaoh would have Moses to pray that God would take away this death only (Ex. 10:17), not this sin.

 

And so this man of God rightly refuses fellowship with this king, who remains hard-hearted, stiff-necked, as according to the LORD’s command (v.9).  From v.1-10 thus far, the only faithful trustworthy figure has been the LORD Himself, using his agent (the man of God) to mercifully warn Jeroboam that He stays true to His word, demonstrated by the tearing down of the altar and ashes pouring out.  This is but the first fulfilment – the true horror is that the LORD knows Jeroboam would rebuild the altar despite this first sign, for it is on the rebuilt altar that Josiah will “sacrifice on you [the altar] the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.”  Thus, this horror is Jeroboam’s self-judgment – denying the first sign, denying the LORD’s faithfulness to His word and promises that Jeroboam’s false system of worship, false system of priesthood – Jeroboam himself, will all fall.

 

However, this faithfulness of the LORD means that the warning given to the man of God will also be fulfilled against the man of God should he be disobedient, though confirming the consistent truth that He is faithful; but we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).

11Now(J) an old prophet lived in Bethel. And his sons[a] came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. They also told to their father the words that he had spoken to the king. 12And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him the way that the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him and he mounted it. 14And he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak. And he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” 15Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” 16And he said,(K) “I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place, 17for it was said to me(L) by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.'” 18And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.'” But he lied to him. 19So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water.

 

What plays out here is a close parallel to the history of garden of Eden.  This old prophet lies in v.18, for the LORD does not contradict His own word to the man of God – yet this man of God chose to heed the false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:3-5), and broke the two-fold command: not to return to Bethel, and not to have food fellowship during his mission.  Just as Eve received the command not to eat the forbidden fruit, so also she was deceived and did not stay faithful to the word of God and instead heeded the word of a creature.  Thus, the liar (v.18) triumphed over the man of God.  Witness the result of the liar’s words:

 

20And as they sat at the table, the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back. 21And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD and have not kept the command that the LORD your God commanded you, 22but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.'” 23And after he had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the prophet whom he had brought back. 24And as he went away(M) a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the donkey stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body. 25And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown in the road and the lion standing by the body. And they came and told it in the city where(N) the old prophet lived.

How strange that the false prophet, like Balaam, is prophesying the truth (v.20-22) against this holy man! The donkey which this false prophet rode is instead ridden by Christ into the wilderness (Zechariah 9:9; John 12:14-15) – it is a picture of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:22), the sin of the old prophet transferred onto the man of God; the declaration that the man of God has sinned, but the old prophet and Jeroboam remain unscathed.  And that is the alarming aspect of these chapters and feud between Israel and Judah; neither king stood in Christ, though Shemaiah and this man of God had clearly spoken words of truth.  Yet, only the LORD has been faithful throughout, and v.23-25 is a clear example of the LORD fulfilling his warning, v.24 and 25 (and v.28 – with particular emphasis on “the lion had not eaten the body or torn the donkey”) in particular showing that once the animals have killed the man of God, they have refrained from mauling him further.  This is a picture of the foolishness of man’s lust, in the donkey, against the picture of the devil prowling like a lion (1 Peter 5:8).  As Dev Menon states in his “Donkeys” blog entry:

“Genesis 16:12 – He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” (Ishmael)

Jeremiah 2:24 – a wild donkey used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her. (Israel)

Hosea 8:9 – For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild donkey wandering alone; Ephraim has hired lovers.

Genesis 49:14-15 – “Issachar is a strong donkey, crouching between the sheepfolds. 15 He saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant, so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant at forced labor. (blessings from Jacob)

Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Jesus tames the wild donkey lusting after everything, living alone…
She was chained up by the law, restraining the lust – but still rebellious
Untied by the Master, she willingly bears this Burden
She carries Him to the cross….

Thus, the donkey brings the man of God, full of sin because of the false prophet’s deception, ‘devoured’ by the prowling lion, the picture of him sprawled across the road in between the two inanimate animals.  This is our Saviour, the Son of Man, who bore our sins for us.  Though this man of God has disobeyed, the parallel here is that the Son of Man obeyed till his death, bearing our sins upon him until he cried out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani” (Mark 15:34).

26And when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the LORD; therefore the LORD has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the LORD spoke to him.” 27And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” And they saddled it. 28And he went and found his body thrown in the road, and the donkey and the lion standing beside the body. The lion had not eaten the body or torn the donkey. 29And the prophet took up the body of the man of God and laid it on the donkey and brought it back to the city[b] to mourn and to bury him. 30And he laid the body in his own grave. And they mourned over him, saying,(O) “Alas, my brother!” 31And after he had buried him, he said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried;(P) lay my bones beside his bones. 32(Q) For the saying that he called out by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against(R) all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of(S) Samaria shall surely come to pass.”

It is strange here therefore for the prophet to want to be buried with the man of God – save for only one apparent reason, that this prophet should partake in the man of God’s glory – v.32 – “For the saying that he called out by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass”.  What privilege it is, therefore, that this prophet is buried with the man of God just as we are called to bury our old sinful lives of falsehood (Colossians 2:12) and rise in His truth, demonstrated through this man of God who is but a shadow of Christ, a prophet of the Old Testament pointing to God’s faithfulness to His overarching promise that judgment will be declared against the altars and false worship of this world by the very return of His true son Josiah, in the name of Christ Jesus.  Thus Adam Clarke states, “This argues a strong conviction in the mind of the old prophet, that the deceased was a good and holy man of God; and he is willing to have place with him in the general resurrection.”  And so the old prophet joins in the man of God’s prophesying, by himself prophesying the judgment in the cities of Samaria (though Samaria is not yet established until 1 Kings 16:24!), a display of the restoration of Israel spreading out to the surrounding Gentile nations (Isaiah 54:2-3). 

33After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. 34(T) And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam,(U) so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.

And how unsurprising that despite hearing the LORD’s faithfulness enacted against the man of God Himself, just as the Father’s wrath had been poured out onto the Son – the cosmic sacrifice of His only begotten Son (Genesis 22), that the man of God should have his Last Supper with the false prophet, drinking the cup of wrath upon Himself (Isaiah 51:17; Matthew 26:39) and being the living scapegoat, dying by the judgment at the house of God (Bethel) – prophesying the day that the altar shall be smashed once and for all, just as the true House of God is torn down by the Son who died not where he came, but will return to a renewed Jerusalem one glorious day.  That glorious day, for Josiah, is in 2 Kings 23:15-20, approximately 350 (half of the fullness of 700 years) years after 1 Kings 13:

15Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected(BD) by Jeroboam the son of Nebat,(BE) who made Israel to sin,(BF) that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned,[d] reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah. 16And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it,(BG) according to the word of the LORD that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. 17Then he said, “What is that monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him,(BH) “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted[e] these things that you have done against the altar at Bethel.” 18And he said, “Let him be; let no man move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones(BI) of the prophet who came out of Samaria. 19And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the high places that were(BJ) in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the LORD to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. 20And(BK) he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars,(BL) and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

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1 Kings 13: Scapegoat of God

Leviticus 24:10- Ch.25: Holistic Living in the New Land

Since chapter 16 we have been working towards the newness of life, from the cleanness of being in this world (and being sanctified by the Spirit) to being completely sanctified in New Creation (with new bodies).  It is a strong reminder that Israel, then, could not have been the chosen race because of their merit – it was something they looked forward to.  Canaan, to them, was a temporary place – representative of the renewed creation of New Jerusalem.

The previous two chapters referred to the importance of the Jewish feasts on an annual basis, and the next two work towards building up on this picture of holistic living, as a preparation for true kingdom living in new creation; as well as incorporated temporarily the aspects of looking forward to new creation where this forward-looking hope is erased in Zion when all things are fulfilled (Hebrews 11).

1.  The Name (Leviticus 24:10-23)

2.  Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

1.  The Name (Leviticus 24:10-23)

Lev 24:10-23  Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp,  (11)  and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.  (12)  And they put him in custody, till the will of the LORD should be clear to them.  (13)  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (14)  “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.  (15)  And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin.  (16)  Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

When we first read these verses, it is easy to skim over and conclude that they relate to blasphemy.  In one sense, it is right to read it as such – but given today’s climate and interpretation of the word ‘blasphemy’, it is perhaps better to understand the actual Hebrew which seems to give it a much stronger tone (qalal – קלל – which literally means ‘to make lightly of’, but the figurative use of the Hebrew term is to despite and to curse).  Given the context and the choice of the English translation, it seems to be inclined to the Hebrew figurative.  This Egyptian-Israelite son is a blasphemer, a despiser, of the Name.

Before we move on to look at what this “Name” is, it is interesting to note the little detail about the child’s heritage.  He is of Egyptian-Israelite heritage: there can be many implications made about this mixed heritage.  Adam Clarke and Matthew Henry simply state the fundamental spiritual problem represented by the mixed heritage.  Henry goes on to say that the incorporation of the Egyptians into Israel during the Exodus is a cause of much strife since Exodus 12:38.

However, I think Calvin marks the message best.  We know from Genesis 12 that the LORD does not have essential problems against mixed-heritage marriage, so long as both are spiritual Israelites – so long as both are heart-circumcised.  Indeed, a command to marry only Israelites, and not outsiders, is more a proclamation of singleness of identity and loyalty to the LORD – the very name “Israelite” is the same as saying, “I am a citizen of those whose God fights for them”. How can an outsider, a Canaanite, or Amorite, or Ninevite say the same thing?  Their national identity preaches other truths (“Canaan” means humilitated).

Which is why the treatment of this Egyptian-Israelite child should not be different from anyone else.  v.16 explains it well: whoever blasphemes the name; the sojourner as well as the native.  The LORD does not actually differentiate between nations.  He is not making a statement against Egyptians.  He is saying that anyone who appears to be in the physical church will still be destroyed if they do not partake of the fruit of faith.  Only the spiritual church will be taken up to the Holy of Holies, and the physical church like the rest of the world remain reprobate and judged.

On another level, his treatment of the Egyptian child is also a mark of the LORD’s acceptance of Egyptians fully into Israel and his expectation of the child to obey the laws of the land be he Israelite or not.  Thus, physical lineage does not give us the privilege in itself; it is the national citizenry which we join as born-again Israelites and Gentiles which establishes that privilege.  The LORD here is destroying he who took pride in the Exodus which the child clearly did not remember nor took seriously.  His faith in Jesus was never true.

The Name

What is “the Name”?  Let’s work backwards in the NT.  Revelation 16:9 and 19:13 reveal that the blasphemy of this “name” will lead to people’s death.  This “name” is revealed as the Word of God, as explained in John 1 as Jesus Christ.  1 John 5:13 is especially important:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

The Christians did not have a generic understanding of “the Name”, as if it referred to some monotheistic God of divine essence.  The Christians viewed faith as a firm belief in the name of the SON of God, that you may know you have eternal life.  1 Peter 4:14 states that if you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of God rests upon you which corresponds directly to James 5:10 who tells the Greek and Jewish NT readers to look at the OT Scripture and the OT saints who spoke in the name of the LORD.  Which LORD was James speaking of?  What name was James speaking of?  Given Peter’s explanation that our persecutions are a result of bearing not just any “name”, but the name of CHRIST, the Son, James’ reference to the LORD is synonymous to that of Christ as well.  Hebrews 1:4 – “the name” of Christ, generated from the Father, establishing his identity as far superior to that of angels.  2 Thess 1:12:

so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul had clear Trinitarian worship in 2 Thess 1:12.  He refers that in his name we are glorified, according to the grace of our God (meaning the Father), and the Son.  He understood that it is by the grace of the Father, and in Christ, that we are glorified through Christ (c.f. Ephesians 5:20).  Philippians 2:10 – “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”.  One might ask – why would people profess another name in the OT, and why would God work under a different economy in the OT, if he intended to have people acknowledge the name of Christ in heaven, on earth, and under the earth?  If God himself has such a Christological focus of the entire creation, even in heaven and under the earth beyond what we see, perceive and understand?  The presupposition of exegesis, as we investigate the NT, shows that it must be Christological.  That it MUST presume Christ as the focus of every Israelite’s faith in the OT, before proven otherwise (c.f. Romans 9:17; 10:13).

The Council of Jerusalem shows exactly the contention shown – the Jews had no idea who this “Name” is, and that is exactly the tension between them and the circumcised Christians who understand that salvation must come through a Trinitarian understanding, by calling on the Christ, and saved and glorified by the grace of the Father:

Act 5:40-42  and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  (41)  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  (42)  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Note, however, that v.42 implies that the some in Israel understood the name as synonymous with the Christ.  Many may not have understood the Christ to have come as God-man, but many did consider the Anointed One, the Seed, as the name on which they called.

Therefore, bringing us back to the Egyptian child – for him to blaspheme the Name is to blaspheme the very identity of the church of Christ.  He is directly blaspheming, cursing, despising, the only mediator who should be acknowledged in the heavens, earth and under the earth.

(17)  “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.  (18 )  Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life.  (19)  If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him,  (20)  fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.  (21)  Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.  (22)  You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.”  (23)  So Moses spoke to the people of Israel, and they brought out of the camp the one who had cursed and stoned him with stones. Thus the people of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.

It may sound completely ironic that after the stoning and death of the Egyptian child, v. 17-22 is preached.  However, remember that these passages relate to a tit-for-tat attitude of sin.  A sin shall be repaid – a life for a life.  However, what of the inevitable death of tens of thousands of billions of men and women who have died as a result of Adam’s inherited sin?  That must be repaid by a mediator who is more than man – a mediator who is fully man and fully God.  That is the cost of Christ’s death, and how absolutely wonderful and glorious it is!  How little of the impact of the cross we know of!  Thus, the proportionality of the punishment is reflected in the stoning prior to this commandment.  It is as if Christ is saying that the stoning is completely appropriate and proportional to the blaspheming of the Name, and so it is, for who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit who brings us the eyes of our hearts to Christ who not be saved (Matthew 12:32; 1 Corinthians 2).

2.  Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

Lev 25:1-55  The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying,  (2)  “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. (3)  For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits,  (4)  but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.  (5)  You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.  (6)  The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired servant and the sojourner who lives with you,  (7)  and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

Again, the very first command is not to sacrifice to the LORD; it is not to do ‘good works’.  It is to simply keep a Sabbath to the LORD.  But note the important distinction: the LAND shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD.  The model of work for six, then rest on seventh.  Six days, seventh day rest.  Six years, seventh year rest.  We understand that this model of Sabbath is a continual reminder of the rest that we look forward to, that in new creation we will not work and toil in the same way as we do now.  But this commandment relates to the LAND: for the LAND is also looking forward to its own redemption as symbolised through the Sabbath (Romans 8:18-25).

(8 )  “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.  (9)  Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land.  (10)  And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.  (11)  That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines.  (12)  For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you…

While we have looked at the theology of numerology to some extent by looking at the significance of the numbers 1-7 (according to the significance shown on day 1-6 of creation, day 7 of Sabbath rest and divinity, day 8 of new creation and first day of new week, number 12 as representative of governmental perfection (c.f. the 144,000 in the new city of Jerusalem = multiple of 12, perfection of Christian political order; 12 Tribes of Israel; 12 Apostles).  Here, the Israelites are asked to wait 49 years (7 x 7 years), the fullness of the Sabbath multiplied!  The food is provided without any further need to work after the consecration of the 50th year. This is not the first time we consider the number 50 – the last time we saw this number is the commandment of the festival of Pentecost (23:15-22), simultaneous to the festival of harvest and as we know, the giving of the Spirit to both Jew and Gentile alike.  The festival was also a time of communion and unity through harvest-sharing (23:22).

We understand that the trumpet points towards the victory of Christ, but why is it on the 10th of Tishri instead of 1st of Tishri?  When the trumpet is normally blared on the 1st day of the Jewish civil year, it is a forward-looking action towards new creation.  However, the 50th year, the year of the jubilee, marks the actual joining of the victory of Christ to the Day of Atonement.  This is very important: if the trumpet signifies victory won, and the Day of Atonement signifies ascension, then the commandment to preach the victory won must be part and parcel with the ascension.  The Jewish understanding of the Day of Atonement, again, must not be tied to an actual trust in the goat sacrifice; it is symbolic of Christ’s work!  And, just as sure as Genesis 3:15 is preached, so the victory of Christ is something they look forward to but the LORD wants the Israelites to consider it as a victory already achieved.

There are a few things to note under this chapter:

(a)  Redemption of the Land from the lessees to God

Lev 25:13-18  “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.  (14)  And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another.  (15)  You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops.  (16)  If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you.  (17)  You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.  (18 )  “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely.

The verses state that for 49 years, the land may be leased to a fellow Israelite or sojourner, but it is freed in the 50th year to the owner. The next few verses continues on this theme of freedom:

Lev 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.  (26)  If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it,  (27)  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.  (28 )  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.

This theme is again shown in v.25-28, that even if the redeemer has insufficient means to recover the land, the buyer shall hold the consideration until the year of the jubilee where a return of the property will happen, regardless of the redeemer’s capability!

Lev 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.  (30)  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.  (31)  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.  (32)  As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess.  (33)  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.  (34)  But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.

The only difference shown here is a dwelling house in a walled city:  with a right of redemption within a year of its sale, and shall keep forever it if it is not redeemed within a year.  But every other land outside of the walled city is considered as “fields of the land” (v.31).

Contrarily, the priestly Levites have the privilege of redeeming the houses in the cities they possess at any time.  These houses are their possession among the people of Israel; but the fields are their possession forever.

Some important things should be stated here – as we understand Canaan as representative of the spiritual Israel, the walled city is akin to the walled city of Revelation 21:12-19.  Therefore, anything within the walled city can be kept forever if not redeemed.  This perhaps implies an eschatological significance of the people of Israel no longer living in “the land” in tents, but living in walled cities built by the hands of God.  The ownership in the walled city belongs to us and to Christ.  This is why there is much privilege in being a Levite during the Mosaic law period, because of their typological significance as being like Christ.  The Levites have the power of redeeming the houses in the city, and the fields that they own are in their possession forever.

The picture here is quite important: for every non-Israelite, there is much ‘exchanging’, from lessee back to owner.  It is a picture of the land being redeemed to God, who is the true owner of the entire creation.  But this picture is even clearer when we look at the Levites – only they can own the land forever.  Only they can redeem the houses within the walled city at any time.  This teaches us that for everyone who is a doulos, a slave, who is redeemed into Christ, is truly and forever owned by Christ.  Only Christ can redeem us whenever and wherever, and when Christ redeems us, we are kept forever by his work on the cross (c.f. Romans 8:38 ).  It is a picture of salvation from the LORD and kept by the LORD.  True freedom is marked here by being joined to Christ; to follow Christ, who set us free to bear the cross — that is to gain true Christian freedom (Galatians 2:4; 5:1).

(b)  Debt management & slavery

Lev 25:35-55  “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.  (36)  Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.  (37)  You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.  (38 )  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

This is a perfect picture of kingdom living: v. 38 is the justifying verse of the behaviour of v. 36-37.  This is the type of holistic Christological lifestyle that should be conducting the actions of the Israelites and us Christians today.  Why do we love our neighbours?  Why do we love our brothers?  Why do we love our enemies?  It stems from the justification of v.38 – because He is faithful.  Because he brought the detestable and complaining Israelites out of Egypt.  The LORD did not ask anything from us as a contribution to salvation; so why would you ask your brother who becomes poor to return money at an interest?  As this holistic living is built upon salvation already won, it is not holistic living to gain the LORD’s approval.  It is how the LORD wants us to live by pondering our salvation in hindsight, and not to fight for our own salvation.

(39)  “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave:  (40)  he shall be with you as a hired servant and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. (41)  Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers.  (42)  For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.  (43)  You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. (44)  As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you.  (45)  You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. (46)  You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.  (47)  “If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan,  (48 )  then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him,  (49)  or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself.  (50)  He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired servant. (51)  If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price.  (52)  If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service.  (53)  He shall treat him as a servant hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. (54)  And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. (55)  For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Again, v. 55 is the justifying verse for the jubilee redemption of the slaves and servants.  They are to look back on the Exodus as their salvation gained, so they can live holistically.  There is a refrain in this part of chapter 25:  The Israelite “shall not rule over (the servant/slave) ruthlessly” – the reason being v.55.  The servant/slave shall serve the Israelite until the year of jubilee.  Because of v. 55 – because we are the redeemed slaves of God – we are the LORD’s servant.  Paul’s statement is clear in Galatians 1:10 – doulos, literally meaning slave, of Christ.  v.47-55 sees the LORD maintaining national purity and integrity, requiring the relative of a slave to redeem him/her if the slave is subjected to a “stranger’s clan”.  These verses show the importance of familial redemption, and again, these verses find their meaning in v.55, and the year of the jubilee is the year of full redemption, whether the money is paid for the slave or not.

However, what of a pagan slave?  He will surely be ‘released’ back to his pagan owner!  It is not clearly stated here, but Deuteronomy 23:15-16 implies that refuge is not found in his pagan master!  Rather, refuge is found within the land of Israel, and the pagan slave shall find his identity within Israel.  The year of the jubilee therefore is a year where he is free, and will enjoy his freedom in attachment to the LORD who set him free.  The 7th years described in Exodus 21:1-4, and the jubilees, are all indicative of this inevitable redemption which is all justified from the great Exodus.  The book of Leviticus is not one of holistic living in a vacuum; and these chapters display that the work of the Exodus is not isolated either: it is tied very much to the 10 Commandments, the Tabernacle, and the new kingdom living as a result of salvation won.  The jubilee is merely a mock-representation of the great future Jubilee starting from the true Day of Atonement, the spiritual 10th of Tishri that we are all looking forward to.  However, are we merely going to wait for it, and not bring the reality of this new kingdom living now, by the power of the Spirit?  Let us continue to live as the Redeemed, and bring more strange clans and outsiders into the spiritual church of Israel so they, too, and live as the Redeemed and fight the slavery outside of Christ, for Christ alone gives us freedom in our slavery to His Name.

Leviticus 24:10- Ch.25: Holistic Living in the New Land