The idea of “Jubilee” has been very popular among the liberal set lately, particularly among the younger ones who are burdened under massive college debts. Debt relief shouldn’t be a liberal idea. My father, who’s an early-70s-style, fiscally conservative Republican, has talked to me a lot about how capitalism can’t function if everyone is in debt. The money you spend to pay off debt is the money you’re not spending to stimulate the economy or investing in new businesses.
I got very lucky through my scholarships and my parents’ planning to not be under the heavy loads that a lot of my friends are, but that certainly doesn’t mean I don’t care. But I also don’t really know how debt relief would work. Like, what would be the most feasible policy plan etc.
I do know that the actual plan of sabbath years and Jubilee seems awfully… impossible. I have to read this as more of a kind of ideal than an actual practice. I mean, one out of every seven years you don’t grow any food? Yes, it’s probably good for desert soil to have enforced fallow time, but could they really save up enough to have enough food? I know, God swears that he’ll provide a massive bumper crop in year 6, and that this is supposed to be an act of faith…
…but then again, it talks about eating whatever the field produces without you tilling it (v 6-7), as though you’re going back to a hunter-gatherer stage. Given that the garden of Eden was pre-agricultural, and that tilling the soil was part of the consequences of disobeying God, maybe this is intended to be a symbolic return to that time, by giving up agriculture.
And of course in the 50th year, the year of Jubilee, everything gets reset back to year 1 again. Land and property get returned, debts are cancelled, Israelite slaves are freed. You can earn and amass wealth and property for 50 years, but after that everyone goes back to being even.
Again, I don’t know how well that would work. Maybe it would be great. When I was younger I had this theory that we should do cycles of capitalism and communism. Let people be capitalist and build up huge amounts of wealth, then when things got too uneven, switch to communism for a while to level the playing field again so that it would be fair when we started the capitalism cycle again. All of that assumes, of course, that you have fair arbiters who won’t profit from one system or the other.
And I guess that’s perhaps the role God is playing here. He’s saying how the cycle is going to work, and no one can switch the system to make it work in their advantage.
I wonder how successfully this was ever applied. How was it enforced? Or is this another scriptural preservation of how things ought to have been rather than how they were.
Still, this image, this metaphor of a time where all debts were redeemed, where slaves were set free, where everything became just again, was a metaphor Jesus liked using a lot. So if there’s a model of the reign of God to be found in Leviticus, it’s here in Jubilee as much as in any of the other, sometimes Draconian passages.
The Japanese: mattaki “perfect, complete” (v 4), yatoinin “employee,” taizaisha “visitor” (v 6), onoono “each” (v 10), henkyaku “return, restoration” (v 13), baibai “buying and selling,” songai “damage, loss” (v 14), heion “peaceful, quiet” (v 18), kenri “right” (v 24), bokusouchi “field, pasture” (v 34), seikei “living, livelihood” (v 35), rishi “interest,” risoku “interest” (v 36, I’m not sure why it uses nearly identical terms every time), kakoku “stern, harsh,” fuminijitte “trample” (v 43), shuuhen “periphery” (v 44), hoyuu suru “to possess” (v 48), ketsuen “blood relation, kindred” (v 49), rouchin “wage,” hiyatoi “day laborer,” santei suru “to calculate” (v 50), kinkaku “sum, account,” sakaku “balance” (v 51), koyou suru “to employ” (v 53).
Two more chapters! Finishing it on Sunday!