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frugality in the use of his annual produce, that he and his might be the more abundantly provided against that coming time. The stores thus laid up on every estate, would not only, in a time of scarcity, be found universally diffused, precluding the necessity of cost in their transportation, but, in these more numerous smaller collections, and under the management each of its own owner, they would be protected in a thousand ways against occasions of waste, which no care of public superintendence would sufficiently obstruct. Habits of forethought, calculation, industry, and thrift, again, could not but grow up, under the operation of such a motive, which would extend their influence over the whole character. When the sabbatical year came, the land, untilled, would recruit itself for a more vigorous fertility;* and meanwhile, the year would not be altogether barren; for the vine and the olive, for instance, two great products of Palestine, are not the products of a single season, nor would the supplies of “milk and honey be affected.
All the influence which would be exerted by such an institution on individual and social habits, could only be known through a much better acquaintance than we possess with the customs and tastes of the nation. I may remark, however, that it by no means follows, that because the proprietor must not till, he must, therefore,
* So, at least, understood the Jewish commentators. E. g. Maimonides (“More Nebochim,” pars 3, cap. 39, p. 454) mentions, as one of the uses of the institution, “ut terra ita deserta et relicta tantò uberiores fructus proferat.” And the same was the opinion of Philo, as expressed in a passage which is too long to quote, but which may be found extracted by Eusebius, in his “Præparatio Evangelica,” lib. 8. cap. 7, ad calc. But I am not agriculturist enough to know, whether this view can be maintained, particularly as the method of fallowing by ploughing and manuring, as practised before the introduction of the now more approved system of rotation of crops, may be thought to be inconsistent with the direction in verses 6, 7.
be unoccupied. He might not only employ himself, during this reserved season, in other labors for the improvement of his estate, but on every account it might be desirable that he should have an uninterrupted opportunity for such employment. It is likely that the comparative leisure would be devoted by many to a variety of salutary pursuits, of a nature to re-invigorate the strength, to unbend, cultivate, and civilize the mind, and knit stronger the social ties. A use of this latter kind could not fail to be served, by the liberty now enjoyed by all alike to take their share in what they found growing spontaneously ; while this freedom could not but excite in the minds of all a feeling vigorously promotive of love of country, — the feeling, namely, that the whole Israelitish soil was in some sort a common domain.*
* I find no difficulty, in the view of the institution, presented above, arising from any inadequacy of the produce of six years to afford sustenance to the people for seven. To say that this was intended, would merely be to say, that the design was, that the consumption of each year
should only amount, on an average, to six sevenths of its produce. In such an arrangement, it cannot be thought, that there was any thing impracticable. There are States of this Union, which export yearly more than half their produce, and subsist, substantially, on the remainder, their imports consisting mostly of luxuries. Again; in England nearly three quarters of the families are engaged in commerce, manufactures, professions, and unproductive pursuits; the whole population is fed by the agricultural labors of less than one third of its number. But, in Judæa, every man was a producer of food, with the advantage of a fine climate and rich soil. The division of the land into small farms required a careful agriculture, which, accordingly, we find to have been practised, cultivation having been carried high up the sides of mountains. And what it produced was mostly food for man, the climate requiring less clothing than is necessary in the northern latitudes;
the demand for fuel being so small as to require little land to be reserved, for that supply, from tillage; and the horse, which consumes so large a portion of the products of the soil in Europe, being very little used in that country.
Nor would corn be exposed to any great waste, from being kept as this theory supposes. Of course, the cultivator, who proposed to use, from year to year, only a portion of his crop, would make his arrangement to consume the stores which lay by him, in such succession as to obviate
In the institution of the Jubilee year, again, is to be seen the strong hold of a universal freedom and equality. Even if the citizen became a slave, at the beginning of that year his liberty was restored. Even if, falling into
the danger of natural decay. If his plan was, for instance, to consume, each year, six seventh parts of what he could command, he would take on one year five sixth parts of his provision from the produce of that year, and one sixth part from the produce of the preceding ; on the next, he would take two third parts from its own harvest, and one third from the preceding, and so on; so that the grain, which at any time lay by him, would be of recent growth, and none be kept long enough to spoil.
Says our version (21), “I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth food for three years.” Michaelis, (“Commentaries” &c., book 3, chap. 2, § 74,) who thinks that the meaning was, that the produce of six years, and not of the sixth year, should furnish the needed supply, supposes the text of Moses to have been in this place corrupted. But I see no occasion for that supposition. The following is a perfectly justifiable version of the words, as they stand. “ At (or against] the sixth year, I will have commanded my blessing upon you, and it shall afford (that is, by its accumulation] food for three years." To any one acquainted with Hebrew, it would be unnecessary to say, that that language, like the Greek, has no forms corresponding to our compound tenses; so that, in saying, “I shall have done” a thing, the phrase is the same, as if the meaning were, “ I shall do” it. Compare Deut. vi. 10.
It has been further thought, that the regulations of the Sabbatical Year would tend to invite back game (7), which the careful agriculture of the other years might otherwise have entirely expelled; to encourage emigrants from Judea to return, through the facility of obtaining provisions to meet their immediate wants; and, by relieving the expense of journeying, to lead to habits, which would bring the tribes to a better mutual acquaintance, and amalgamate them into one state ;— all which views seem to be not unreasonable.
But, after all, I cannot forbear to express the doubt which I entertain, whether the ground of these different speculations is solid. I find myself unable positively to conclude, from the brief notices of this institution, (Ex. xxiii. 10, 11 ; Lev. xxv. 1-7, 20 – 22,) that tillage was forbidden by the Law on every seventh year. With diffidence, as I have nowhere seen a hint of the kind, I submit the question, whether the rule was intended to go further than this ; that, on every seventh year, the proprietor should resign the exclusive occupation of his land; that on that year he should not alone till it and reap its harvest ; that it was to be so far in common, as that the use of part of it must be granted to others who might ask the privilege, to servants, for instance, to strangers, to returning emigrants, as well as that, in the generous spirit of the season,
poverty, he had alienated his patrimonial estate, he or his posterity infallibly recovered it, as soon as that year arrived. Here is the Jewish law of entails. Every Jewish citizen was, by virtue of his citizenship, a proprietor. He could, by no possibility, estrange his landed property any further than by what we, in these days, should call a lease; a lease which could not, in any event,
animals, domestic and untamed, should be allowed their share of its productions. According to a well-known rule of Scripture interpretation, an ellipsis of the word corresponding to “ only,” is often to be understood. See Glass’s “Philologia Sacra,” lib. 3, tract. 5, can, 22. Compare Matt. x. 20; Acts v. 4; Eph. vi, 12. And this is clearly the case in part of the rule before us. It is not said more positively (4), “Thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard,” than it is said (5), “ Thou shalt not reap.” Yet in this latter case, it is clear that we are to understand, “ Thou shalt not reap” alone, exclusively; for we presently read (6), “The sabbath of thy land shall be meat for you.” If we must needs understand such an ellipsis in the latter case, why not in the former?
I wish I had space for a more detailed examination of these passages, as I think I could present considerations giving much probability to the view last suggested. 99$, for instance, in Ex. xxiii. 10, I would represent as an emphatic word, taking it in its primitive sense of “to scrape together," quasi “to hoard penuriously,” and thus as antithetical to the liberal communication which was the distinction of the seventh year. So, in the next verse wow and voi have not so much the sense of “to let rest, and lie still,” which is but a translation adapted to the common theory, as of " to release, and abandon,” or communicate, or permit. So it is by force of the general interpretation which has been put upon the passage,
in Lev. xxv. 5, is rendered, “ that which groweth of its own accord.” It is a noun derived from the verb 79, he poured out, and is naturally understood of profuse production of any kind; nor can the idea of spontaneous growth be safely inferred from any of the contexts in which it appears. Compare Lev. xxv. 11 ; 2 Kings xix. 29; Is. xxxvii. 30; Job xiv. 19. — Again ; there is a peculiar expression in Lev. xxv. 5, 7??????y, which has much perplexed the commentators. literally, “the grapes of thy Nazarite,” or “sequestered,” “devoted," « appropriated.” On the scheme which I propose, the phrase is easily explained; the proprietor was, for the time being, not to regard his estate as sequestered, appropriated, sacred, to himself. - How natural, also, to hold out as a motive to liberality to servants, among others, on one year (xxv. 6), the greater productiveness of the land during the other six (xxv. 19, 21). Grateful for the indulgence they had experienced, laborers would toil to enrich their master with a cheerful and effective service. VOL. I.
, סְפִיחַ that
run beyond fifty years, and would be in force for as many years less than that term, as had passed from the last Jubilee to the time of the alienation. Thus, on the one hand, every one had a provision, and a stake in the commonwealth, such as even the vice and improvidence of parents could not deprive him of ; and, on the other, property was prevented from accumulating in masses, dangerous to liberty. The successful adventurer, who had gone on adding house to house, and field to field, gained no permanent advantage over his fellows. The fiftieth year was always approaching, with silent but sure speed, to relax his capacious hold. And the Israelite, whom accident had carried abroad, never needed to remain a wanderer, for want of a home of his own to welcome him. A home there always was, would he but choose the proper time to reclaim it.*
The sense of the twenty-sixth chapter, I take to be a distinct confirmation of the view which I have formerly presented; viz. that the Law was in part intended and
* Lev. xxv. 8-17, 23, 24, 39 – 46, 54, 55. — As the Jubilee year was to begin on the Day of Atonement, (9,) it is likely that the Sabbatical years, the computation of which had reference to the computation of the Jubilee, (8,) began at the same time. In respect to agricultural labors, the rule was the same for both celebrations (11, 12). — From verses 24, 26, it would appear that the proprietor might at any time pay off his mortgage, (as we should phrase it,) and recover his estate, before the Jubilee came round. — The peculiarity of the regulation in verses 29-31, permitting houses in walled cities to be sold in perpetuity, I suppose had reference to the case of foreigners proposing to settle in Judea. It was the policy of the Law to invite in foreign artisans, agriculture being the proper employment of native Jews; and the proper place for the habitations of artisans was the cities. On the other hand, the city dwellings of the Levites came under the jurisdiction of the general law, (32-34, in which last verse the “but” of our version should rather be and,) because the Levites were to have no real estate except in cities and their suburbs, and it was not designed that they should ever be dispossessed. — The provision in verses 35 - 38, may better be considered in another place. See remarks on Deut. xxiii, 19, 20. And the same is true of the rules in verses 25 – 28, 47 – 53. See remarks on Numb. xxxv. 9 et seq.