While Moses was on Mount Sinai, the LORD said to him,
"Give these instructions to the Israelites: When you have entered the land I am giving you as an inheritance, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the LORD every seventh year.
For six years you may plant your fields and prune your vineyards and harvest your crops,
but during the seventh year the land will enjoy a Sabbath year of rest to the LORD. Do not plant your crops or prune your vineyards during that entire year.
And don't store away the crops that grow naturally or process the grapes that grow on your unpruned vines. The land is to have a year of total rest.
But you, your male and female slaves, your hired servants, and any foreigners who live with you may eat the produce that grows naturally during the Sabbath year.
And your livestock and the wild animals will also be allowed to eat of the land's bounty.
"In addition, you must count off seven Sabbath years, seven years times seven, adding up to forty-nine years in all.
Then on the Day of Atonement of the fiftieth year, a blow the trumpets loud and long throughout the land.
This year will be set apart as holy, a time to proclaim release for all who live there. It will be a jubilee year for you, when each of you returns to the lands that belonged to your ancestors and rejoins your clan.
Yes, the fiftieth year will be a jubilee for you. During that year, do not plant any seeds or store away any of the crops that grow naturally, and do not process the grapes that grow on your unpruned vines.
It will be a jubilee year for you, and you must observe it as a special and holy time. You may, however, eat the produce that grows naturally in the fields that year.
In the Year of Jubilee each of you must return to the lands that belonged to your ancestors.
"When you make an agreement with a neighbor to buy or sell property, you must never take advantage of each other.
When you buy land from your neighbor, the price of the land should be based on the number of years since the last jubilee. The seller will charge you only for the crop years left until the next Year of Jubilee.
The more the years, the higher the price; the fewer the years, the lower the price. After all, the person selling the land is actually selling you a certain number of harvests.
Show your fear of God by not taking advantage of each other. I, the LORD, am your God.
"If you want to live securely in the land, keep my laws and obey my regulations.
Then the land will yield bumper crops, and you will eat your fill and live securely in it.
But you might ask, 'What will we eat during the seventh year, since we are not allowed to plant or harvest crops that year?'
The answer is, 'I will order my blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a bumper crop, enough to support you for three years.
As you plant the seed in the eighth year, you will still be eating the produce of the previous year. In fact, you will eat from the old crop until the new harvest comes in the ninth year.'
And remember, the land must never be sold on a permanent basis because it really belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenants living with me.
"With every sale of land there must be a stipulation that the land can be redeemed at any time.
If any of your Israelite relatives go bankrupt and are forced to sell some inherited land, then a close relative, a kinsman redeemer, may buy it back for them.
If there is no one to redeem the land but the person who sold it manages to get enough money to buy it back,
then that person has the right to redeem it from the one who bought it. The price of the land will be based on the number of years until the next Year of Jubilee. After buying it back, the original owner may then return to the land.
But if the original owner cannot afford to redeem it, then it will belong to the new owner until the next Year of Jubilee. In the jubilee year, the land will be returned to the original owner.
"Anyone who sells a house inside a walled city has the right to redeem it for a full year after its sale. During that time, the seller retains the right to buy it back.
But if it is not redeemed within a year, then the house within the walled city will become the permanent property of the buyer. It will not be returned to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee.
But a house in a village -- a settlement without fortified walls -- will be treated like property in the open fields. Such a house may be redeemed at any time and must be returned to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee.
"The Levites always have the right to redeem any house they have sold within the cities belonging to them.
And any property that can be redeemed by the Levites -- all houses within the Levitical cities -- must be returned in the Year of Jubilee. After all, the cities reserved for the Levites are the only property they own in all Israel.
The strip of pastureland around each of the Levitical cities may never be sold. It is their permanent ancestral property.
"If any of your Israelite relatives fall into poverty and cannot support themselves, support them as you would a resident foreigner and allow them to live with you.
Do not demand an advance or charge interest on the money you lend them. Instead, show your fear of God by letting them live with you as your relatives.
Remember, do not charge your relatives interest on anything you lend them, whether money or food.
I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
"If any of your Israelite relatives go bankrupt and sell themselves to you, do not treat them as slaves.
Treat them instead as hired servants or as resident foreigners who live with you, and they will serve you only until the Year of Jubilee.
At that time they and their children will no longer be obligated to you, and they will return to their clan and ancestral property.
The people of Israel are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt, so they must never be sold as slaves.
Show your fear of God by treating them well; never exercise your power over them in a ruthless way.
"However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.
You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property,
passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.
"If a resident foreigner becomes rich, and if some of your Israelite relatives go bankrupt and sell themselves to such a foreigner,
they still retain the right of redemption. They may be bought back by a close relative --
an uncle, a nephew, or anyone else who is closely related. They may also redeem themselves if they can get the money.
The price of their freedom will be based on the number of years left until the next Year of Jubilee -- whatever it would cost to hire a servant for that number of years.
If many years still remain, they will repay most of what they received when they sold themselves.
If only a few years remain until the Year of Jubilee, then they will repay a relatively small amount for their redemption.
The foreigner must treat them as servants hired on a yearly basis. You must not allow a resident foreigner to treat any of your Israelite relatives ruthlessly.
If any Israelites have not been redeemed by the time the Year of Jubilee arrives, then they and their children must be set free at that time.
For the people of Israel are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)