In the Old Testament in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, God established detailed laws to ensure fair practice and justice concerning property and freedom. He knew that, over time, people would probably exploit each other and the land, but he established laws to ensure that things would be restored at certain times to their original state. These laws ensured that people who were poor or slaves had the hope of future justice.
These laws are based on the principle of the Jubilee. They prevent land from becoming exhausted and infertile. They give freedom from debt and slavery every seven years and ensure the redistribution of wealth and land every 50 years (every generation). These laws are explained in three different books of the Old Testament. We don’t know to what extent the principle of the Jubilee was practised in Old Testament times. However, these principles, of preventing the rich from becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer, remain at the heart of God’s desire for justice.
- Read Exodus 23:10-11, Exodus 21:2-6, Deuteronomy 15:1-18 and Leviticus 25:1-55. These laws look at several different things: the freeing of slaves, care of the land, the forgiveness of debts and the redistribution of property and land. What would be the consequences if the Jubilee laws were still in use today?
- What can we learn from the Jubilee laws about God’s plan?
- Do our national laws try to ensure that wealth is distributed more fairly in our country? How effective are the laws concerning this (for example, paying taxes)?
Articles 1, 17, 25 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights