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8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary
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8.31.14.creation.our.work.lev.commentary

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Man's Responsibilities in the Environment from Leviticus

Man's Responsibilities in the Environment from Leviticus

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  • 1. Session 14—Our Work with Creation Leviticus 25:1-7. Commentary The Point: God has given us responsibility over His creation. The Bible Meets Life: Do I have any responsibility toward the earth? One group borders on nature worship, calling us to avoid doing anything that upsets or changes nature. Another group sees humans at the top of the food chain, exploiting natural resources for their own benefit. The Bible gives us a different perspective. God has given to us the earth for our benefit, but Scripture gives us principles to guide us in how we use the earth. The Passage: Leviticus 25:1-7 The Setting: The English title of the Book of Leviticus comes to us from the Latin translation of Greek. It means “that which concerns the Levites,” or by interpretation, “that which concerns the priests.” It provides guidelines for priestly responsibilities ranging from leading worship to performing ritual to instructing the people. Included among these standards are directions for both working and respecting the land God provided His people. Leviticus 25:1-3 1 The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: 2 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you, the land will observe a Sabbath to the LORD. 3 You may sow your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard and gather its produce for six years. KEY WORD: Sabbath (v. 2)—The word comes from the Hebrew meaning to cease, desist, or observe an interlude. The primary meaning is a cessation from all work, a period of rest. I remember well my father’s instructions when I was first allowed to use his tools. Even as a young boy performing simple maintenance on a bicycle, his words gave simple guidance for using another’s belongings: “Use them carefully, return them to their proper place when finished, and always be sure to return them in better condition than how they were found.” As I grew up, those three rules were reiterated each time I borrowed his tools or equipment, or when we borrowed something from a neighbor. Following those rules when using someone else’s property showed responsibility and respect. I had been trusted with another’s property, therefore I must prove myself trustworthy or risk losing the privilege of borrowing. My father took the responsibility of stewardship seriously, and taught his children to do the same. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 1
  • 2. Scripture teaches the principle of stewardship toward God. The concept began with Adam and Eve in Eden (Genesis 2:15), is reiterated here in the sabbatical laws, and finds its fullest explanation in the New Testament. Every good and perfect thing comes from God (James 1:17), and we are stewards who will give account of our use of His gifts (1 Pet. 4:5; Luke 19:12-26). For us to be accounted as responsible stewards we must be judged as faithful caretakers by our Lord (1 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Pet. 4:10). Indeed, as God’s born-again people, we are bought with a price and are not our own. We are His (1 Corinthians 6:20) and therefore we owe our lives to Him to whom we will one day give an accounting (Romans 14:12). The number seven played a significant role in Jewish life. To begin with, God rested on the seventh day and declared it a Sabbath, a day of rest. The calendar included seven annual feasts, several of which occurred in the seventh month, and a couple of which lasted for seven days. Leviticus 25 records God’s instruction regarding another seven—the seventh year was to be a year of rest. This expectation applied not only to the land, but also to people and animals. With the giving of the law for the sabbatical and jubilee years, the Lord brings to a close His law-giving session with Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:32). The basis of the land laws God gave to Israel is His assertion that the land belongs to Him (Leviticus 25:23). When God’s people conquered the promised land, God used the casting of lots to distribute the land among His people, not individual cunning. Since the land was a gift, not something they claimed on their own, the people could not sell their land. The land, under God, went to the people permanently. God provided for the people, but He was their landlord. They were tenants under Him and subject to the provisions and limitations, He would impose. They were to remember that they were not proprietors but residents subject to the Lord. The statement that the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai gives authority to these new customs the Israelites were to observe. It was at Mount Sinai that the people met with God and trembled at His presence (Exodus 19:16-19). It was there Moses received the Ten Commandments (20:1-17) and the people begged Moses to speak for God rather than their having to face Him themselves (20:18-19). They recognized the importance of God’s speaking from Sinai. All of the laws given by God instructed the people how to relate to God and to one another, and in the case of the sabbatical year, how to relate to God by respecting His creation. Their entrance into the land was yet in the future, but God intended for them to know and observe His commandments from the beginning of their sojourn there. The concept of the Sabbath focused on a period of rest, or the complete cessation from work. The seventh day was declared holy to God because of His rest on that day after creation (Genesis 2:2-3). The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew meaning to cease, desist, or observe an interlude. Just as the seventh day of the week was declared a Sabbath day to cease from work and honor the Lord, every seventh year was also declared a Sabbath year for much the same purpose. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 2
  • 3. The land was to be worked for six years, then allowed to rest for an entire year. Sowing, pruning, and harvesting the abundant land God had given were their right and privilege; obeying God and ceasing from all such labors in the seventh year was their responsibility. The sabbatical year aligned with the calendar year. For the Hebrews, the calendar commenced with the autumnal equinox, just before the autumn planting season. Instructions for the sabbatical year also appear in Exodus 23:10-11 (where the land obligations are briefly described but not named) and Deuteronomy 15:1-18. In the Deuteronomy passage, the emphasis focuses on canceling debts and freeing slaves, rather than being a year of rest from cultivating the land. However, the verb translated “cancel” in Deuteronomy 15 is used in Exodus 23:11, where it clearly refers to allowing the land to rest or lay fallow. Thus we see that the Sabbath year combined two ideas, both allowing the land to lay fallow for a year and canceling debts. Although the sabbatical year institution seems to primarily have involved the cultivation of the land, it also incorporated debt forgiveness and public proclamation of God’s Law (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). In this way, the entire year would be spent focusing on the Lord and His Law. God wanted His people to realize His goodness in giving them the land as a perpetual dwelling place under His authority, and to treat His gift accordingly. To do so would not only show gratitude toward God, but would preserve the land for succeeding generations. Leviticus 25:4-5 4 But there will be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the Lord: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You are not to reap what grows by itself from your crop, or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. It must be a year of complete rest for the land. Just as God declared the seventh day of the week to be a Sabbath day of rest for men and beasts, so God proclaimed that the earth itself should have its own Sabbath of rest every seventh year. That year, the land was to be set apart to the Lord. Though the word does not occur here, it is the same concept of making holy (or sanctifying) priests or tabernacle items for the Lord’s service. In this case, that service was to provide rest to the land and to allow any food the land naturally produced to feed the poor. In reality, the land did not belong to the individual “owners” but to the Lord Himself. Leaving the land uncultivated in the seventh year reflected clear recognition of God’s ownership, a symbolic way of acknowledging and turning ownership back to God. Some commentators point out that the Bible does not indicate the sabbatical year was intended for the benefit to the land, stressing instead the emphasis on the Sabbath concept. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 3
  • 4. And yet, we understand that great agricultural advantages accompanied periodically allowing fields to be inactive. Such practice prevents the continual drain of nutrients from the soil, allowing a year of recovery. Though God did not explicitly state this value of His requirement, we can easily see His wisdom in its design. The phrase Sabbath of complete rest is a combination of closely related Hebrew words. Together the repetitiveness gives an intensive picture: a rest for a rest celebration. This emphatic combination occurs only in Leviticus: here with the Sabbath year of rest, in regard to the Sabbath day (Leviticus 23:3), and in discussing the Day of Atonement (v. 32). In each instance, the stress falls on the total cessation of work. This was to be a Sabbath to the Lord, a time of intermission from the normal pursuits of sowing and pruning to honor and remember the Lord. Whatever produce grows by itself or sprouted from untended vines was to be left uncultivated. The Hebrew word translated untended vines appears elsewhere in Scripture, frequently being translated as Nazirite (Numbers 6:2). A Nazirite was a person whose vow (or whose parents’ vow) particularly dedicated him to God. One part of that vow was to leave one’s hair uncut for the length of the vow as an indication of the consecration to God. Like the unshorn Nazirite, the untended vines gave a clear indication of consecration to the Lord. The sabbatical law was designed to test and demonstrate the people’s obedience to and trust in God. As they exercised obedience and trust in regard to the Sabbath year restrictions, they could expect God, the One from whom the annual harvest came anyway, to continue to provide for them (Leviticus 25:18-22). God anticipated the obvious question of the people, concerning their manner of living if they failed to work the land. Even before their act of faith and obedience in the seventh year, God promised an abundance in the sixth year, enough to provide for that year, the fallow seventh year, and the planting season of the eighth year until its harvest could be reaped. Leviticus 25:21 underscores the blessing of God’s plan for providing for His people. To accomplish the benefit of the land lying fallow one year, God would bless an obedient nation with abundant harvest to see them through that year. Israel was not to take the earth for granted as if it were merely created for mankind to use and abuse as he saw fit. It remained under the Lord’s ownership and as such was holy to the Lord. Man does not exist only to survive and prosper physically. If we walk by faith and not by sight, we also may trust God to provide for our needs. Jesus gave clear teaching and encouragement regarding our walk with Him by faith (Matthew 6:25-34). He knows our needs and cares for the whole of His creation, including people. When we place His priorities above our own, He promises to care for us (see v. 33). JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 4
  • 5. The abundant sixth year provision, in preparation for the seventh Sabbath year of intermission, was a miracle intended to encourage God’s people to trust Him. God’s provision is always sufficient for anything He asks of us. Our faith and obedience might indeed cost us, but God will more than make up for the loss in His own way. Unfortunately, the law of the Sabbath year was perceived as being so difficult to practice that we have little evidence it was ever observed until God imposed a 70-year Sabbath with the Babylonian captivity (2 Chron. 36:21; Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10). God had repeatedly warned Israel of the pending judgment, but they would not heed His calls for repentance. One result of the exile was that it gave the land the rest the people had refused it. For centuries, God’s people failed to observe the Sabbath year law. Their disobedience not only took away from them an opportunity for spiritual blessing, it also robbed the land, their servants, and their work animals of the chance for renewal. Their practice earned them annual harvests, but at the price of the rest and revitalization, God intended. In addition, they took food from the needy, lost the blessing of assisting the poor, and denied God the glory other nations would have heaped on Him as they saw the marvelous way He would have provided for His people. Leviticus 25:6-7 6 Whatever the land produces during the Sabbath year can be food for you—for yourself, your male or female slave, and the hired hand or foreigner who stays with you. 7 All of its growth may serve as food for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. In the first seven verses of Leviticus 25 “land” is used six times in the Hebrew. The emphasis is not only on the use of the land, but also on the reasoning for its use and care. God gave His people a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27). His provision was abundant, but it came with stipulations. Neither the land itself nor animals nor workers were to be overworked; all needed rest. God intended the Sabbath year to provide that rest as well as allow for spiritual renewal (Deuteronomy 31:10-13) and bless the poor as they gathered from the idle fields. The Law God gave to Moses directed that every seventh year the land would not be tilled or planted in crops, nor would vineyards be pruned and tended. The Law allowed that whatever the land produces on its own without tillage and care could be used for food (meat or fuel). In addition to the abundance gathered in the sixth year, food would come from plants that came up on their own. This not only contributed to the fertility of the land by allowing it to lie fallow but also protected the rights of the poor. Peasants and the poor who had no land of their own were allowed to eat from the natural abundance of the untended fields. It was to be shared equally with the slave (servant), the hired hand (hireling), and with any foreigner (an alien, a non-Hebrew) who chose to dwell in the land. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 5
  • 6. At first glance in English, verses 5 and 6 appear contradictory regarding whether the landowner may eat of the voluntary produce of the land during the Sabbath. Verse 5 emphasizes that the landholder is not to undertake any formal tending or harvesting of the land. Verse 6, however, indicates that the owner, like the other groups mentioned, could gather from the fields for immediate use, but regular harvest and storage was forbidden (Leviticus 25:11). The livestock and wild animals were also to benefit from the excess. Earlier in this session, we learned from Deuteronomy 15:1-18 that personal debts were also remitted during the Sabbath year, and that indentured servants were set free. Canceling debts (v. 1) involves both ideas of debt forgiveness and freedom for slaves. All of these requirements, coupled with the land-use statutes, emphasized generosity with the poor and with their former servants. During that special year, the nation was to learn the meaning of “give us today our daily bread” (see Matthew 6:11). God’s intent was for His people to model His generosity by sharing His blessings with others. Succeeding generations of Israelites and the surrounding nations were to learn of Yahweh’s goodness through the example of His people. As the people walked in faith, and God blessed them, others would see and be drawn to worship the one true God. Our role in the world today is no different. The times may have changed, and we may live in a vastly different culture, but we are still to be God’s representatives. We are to use the earth and all its resources not only for our own benefit, but for everyone. The blessings of God are not to be hoarded, but shared. We are to model God’s generosity with our own possessions, realizing that they and we both belong to Him, and we hold them only in trust. LIVE IT OUT: Consider what God has said to you in this session. Write your thoughts on down, then consider if He is leading you to one of these applications. God is my Provider. If you are new to faith in Christ, the concept of God’s ownership of everything may be new to you as well. As you go about your daily routines this week, be aware of everything you use as a provision from your Creator. Thank Him, and pray to use wisely what He provides. Evaluate your use of God’s creation. Knowing that God is owner and you are manager of His possessions, make a list of a few items of God’s creation (food, water, plants, animals, etc.) you regularly interact with. Give yourself a grade on how wisely you are managing God’s resources. Pray about your answers this week, and adjust accordingly. Trusting my Provider. Wise management of God’s creation means that others benefit from our actions. What could you give up in order to be a blessing to someone in desperate need either physically, spiritually, or both? Make yourself available to do whatever and go wherever God leads. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 6
  • 7. If we love our Creator, we will want to love and care for His creation. He has given us this great responsibility. Let each of us be found faithful in it. DIGGING DEEPER: Sabbath—The Hebrew word Sabbath in Leviticus 15:2 comes from the word Shabbat, which means “to cease” or “to rest.” “Sheba” is the word for “seven” and shabua’ refers to “a period of seven” or “a week.” The term Shabbat thus refers to the seventh day of the week, a day of rest. A reference to the seventh day occurs for the first time at the end of creation week: “By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation” (Genesis 2:2-3). God’s resting on the seventh day after His six days of work in creation set a precedent for His people in the Mosaic law. In the Fourth Commandment God told His covenant people Israel, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” and pointed back to creation week and God’s rest as the reason they were to do so (Exodus 20:8). God gave Israel specific instructions about the Sabbath, and the penalty for violating the Sabbath was that the guilty person was to be stoned to death. Numbers 15 records a specific incident about a man found gathering wood on the Sabbath day, and the Lord commanded the Israelites to take him outside the camp and stone him to death (vv. 32-36). About 75 references to the Sabbath occur in the Old Testament, and the New Testament contains another 60 references, though the vast majority of these (50) are in the Gospels. Luke stated on several occasions that the apostles went to the synagogues on the Sabbath to preach the gospel (see, for example, Acts 13:14,42- 44). The only other two verses outside of the Gospels and Acts in which the Sabbath is mentioned are Colossians 2:16, where Paul warned against those who demanded that Christians should keep the Sabbath, and Hebrews 4:9, where the Sabbath rest refers to the future kingdom. We also should mention that this notion of a Sabbath rest—whether for a day or for a year—for everyone and everything is met with only in Israel among ancient societies.1 The English word Sabbath in verse 2 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word Shabbat that means “restfulness.” A Sabbath was specified period of cessation from all work. We often think of it as a day, but as a concept it was not limited to that single time period. The Sabbath day was observed to honor and respect God’s own rest after six days of creation (Exodus 20:8-11). In other Scripture texts, the Sabbath was viewed as a sign of the covenant relationship between God and His people, and a symbol of the eternal rest He has promised (Hebrews 4:1-13). Instructions were also provided for keeping a Sabbath year in relationship to the land (Leviticus 25:1-7). Every seventh year landowners “rested” their fields from bearing crops. The Sabbath year also was a time when slaves were released and debts forgiven. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 7
  • 8. The day of rest, considered holy to God by His rest on the seventh day after creation and viewed as a sign of the covenant relation between God and His people and of the eternal rest He has promised them. Old Testament: The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew Shabbat, meaning “to cease” or “desist.” The primary meaning is that of cessation from all work. Some persons have traced the origin of the concept to the Babylonian calendar that contained certain days, corresponding to phases of the moon, in which kings and priests could not perform their official functions. Such days bore an evil connotation, and work performed on them would have harmful effects. The fifteenth of the month, the time of the full moon in their lunar calendar, was shapattu, the “day of pacifying the heart” (of the god) by certain ceremonies. Although one can show similarities to the Babylonian concept, the Hebrew Sabbath did not follow a lunar cycle. It was celebrated every seven days and became basic to the recognition and worship of the God of creation and redemption. Regulations concerning the Sabbath are a main feature of the Mosaic laws. Both reports of the Ten Commandments stated that the Sabbath belonged to the Lord. On six days the Israelites should work, but on the seventh, they as well as all slaves, foreigners, and beasts must rest. Two reasons are given. The first is that God rested on the seventh day after creation, thereby making the day holy (Exodus 29:8-11). The second was a reminder of their redemption from slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). The day became a time for sacred assembly and worship (Leviticus 23:1-3), a token of their covenant with God (Exodus 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12-20). Death was the penalty for desecration (Exodus 35:1-3). The true observance of not following one’s own pursuits on that day would lift a person to God’s holy mountain and bring spiritual nourishment (Isa. 56:1-7; 58:13), but failure to keep the Sabbath would bring destruction to their earthly kingdom (Nehemiah 13:15-22; Jer. 17:21-27). Interbiblical: The Sabbath became the heart of the law, and the prohibitions were expanded. Thirty-nine tasks were banned, such as tying or untying a knot. These in turn were extended until ingenious evasions were devised that lost the spirit but satisfied the legal requirement. New Testament: The habit of Jesus was to observe the Sabbath as a day of worship in the synagogues (Luke 4:16), but His failure to comply with the minute restrictions brought conflict (Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; John 5:1-18). At first, Christians also met on the Sabbath with the Jews in the synagogues to proclaim Christ (Acts 13:14). Their holy day, the day that belonged especially to the Lord, was the first day of the week, the day of resurrection (Matthew 28:1; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10). They viewed the Sabbath and other matters of the law as a shadow of the reality which had now been revealed (Colossians 2:16-23), and the Sabbath became a symbol of the heavenly rest to come (Hebrews 4:1-11). SABBATICAL YEAR: Every seventh year when farmers rested their land from bearing crops to renew the land and people of Israel. Mosaic law directed that every seventh year the land would not be planted in crops; food would come from what grew wild (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7). JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 8
  • 9. Just as the Law reserved the seventh day as holy unto God, so too, was the seventh year set aside as a time of rest and renewal. This not only assured the continued fertility of the land by allowing it to lay fallow, but also protected the rights of the poor. Peasants were allowed to eat from the natural abundance of the untended fields. It may be that only a portion of the land was allowed to rest each Sabbath year, the remainder farmed as usual. Hebrews sold into slavery were to be released in that year (Exodus 21:2). Loans and debts to Israelites were also to be forgiven (Deuteronomy 15:1-3). It is doubtful that the Sabbath year was celebrated in early Israel. Jeremiah reminded the people that their fathers had ignored the observance of the law (Jer. 34:13-14; compare Leviticus 26:35). Although Israel renewed her dedication to practice the Sabbath year during Nehemiah’s time, it is unclear whether it was carried out (Nehehiah10:31). During the intertestamental period an attempt was made by Israel to observe the Sabbath year despite the political turmoil of the times (1 Macc. 6:49). The Sabbath year laws consistently pointed to helping the poor. Sabbatical Year: sa-bat´ik-al תַנוֹב וֹןתָּב שַׁ , shenath shabbāthōn; ἐνιαυτός ἀναπαύσεως, eniautós anapaúseōs, “a year of solemn rest”; or וֹןוֹתב וֹןתָּב שַׁ , shabbath shabbāthōn; σάββατα ἀνάπαυσις, sábbata anápausis, “a Sabbath of solemn rest” (Lev 25:4); or ןַנוֹב וֹהטַמְּשָּה , shehath ha-shemiṭṭāh; ἔτος τῆς ἀφέσεως, étos tḗs aphéseōs, “the year of release” (Deuteronomy 15:9; 31:10)): 1. Primary Intention: We find the first rudiments of this institution in the so-called Covenant Book (Exodus 21-23). Its connection with the day of rest (Sabbath) is obvious, although it strikes us as somewhat remarkable that in Ex 23:10-12 the regulation regarding the 7th year should precede the statute respecting the 7th day. Still it seems natural that after the allusion in verse 9, “Ye were sojourners in the land of Egypt,” the Covenant Book should put in a good word for the poor in Israel (verse 11: “Let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of thy people may eat”). Even the beasts of the field are remembered (compare Jon 4:11). We must, therefore, conclude that in this early period of the history of Israel the regulation regarding the 7th year was primarily intended for the relief of the poor and for the awakening of a sense of responsibility in the hearts of those better provided with the means of subsistence. It would be wrong, however, to deny its Sabbatical character, for the text says expressly, “But in the 7th year thou shalt let it rest” (literally, “thou shalt release it”), implying that the land was entitled to a rest because it needed it; it must be released for a time in order to gain fresh strength and insure its future fertility. Two motives, then, present themselves most clearly, one of a social, the other of an economic character, and both are rooted in God’s dealings with Israel (compare Exodus 21:1). JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 9
  • 10. 2. Mosaic Legislation Humane: Another evidence of the humane spirit pervading the Mosaic Law may be found in Exodus 21:2-6 where, in the case of a Hebrew slave, the length of his servitude is limited to six years. The connection with the idea of the Sabbath is evident, but we fail to detect here any reference to the Sabbatical year. It is clear that the 7th year in which a slave might be set free need not necessarily coincide with the Sabbatical year, though it might, of course. The same is true of Deuteronomy 15:12-18; it has nothing to do with the Sabbatical year. On the other hand it is reasonable to assume that the “release” mentioned in Deuteronomy 15:1-3 took place in the Sabbatical year; in other words, its scope had been enlarged in later years so as to include the release from pecuniary obligation, i.e. the remission of debts or, at least, their temporary suspension. This means that the children of Israel were now developing from a purely agricultural people to a commercial nation. Still the same spirit of compassion for the poor and those struggling for a living asserts itself as in the earlier period, and it goes without saying that the old regulation concerning the release of the land in the 7th year was still in force (compare 15:2: “because Yahweh’s release hath been proclaimed”). According to Deuteronomy 15:1, this proclamation occurred at the end of every 7 years, or, rather, during the 7th year; for we must be careful not to strain the expression “at the end” (compare 15:9, where the 7th year is called “the year of release”; it is quite natural to identify this 7th year with the Sabbatical year). Moreover, we are now almost compelled to assert the Sabbatical year by this time had become an institution observed simultaneously all over the country. From the wording of the regulation regarding the 7th year in the Covenant Book we are not certain about this in those early times. But now it is different. “Yahweh’s release hath been proclaimed.” 3. General Observance: It was a solemn and general proclamation, the date of which was very likely the day of atonement in the 7th month (the Sabbatical month). The celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (booths) began five days later and it lasted from the 15th day to the 21st of the 7th month (Tisri). In the Sabbatical year, at that time, the Law was read “before all Israel in their hearing,” a fact that tends to prove that the Sabbatical year had become a matter of general and simultaneous observance (compare Deuteronomy 31:10-13). Another lesson may be deduced from this passage: it gives us a hint respecting the use to which the people may have put their leisure time during the 12 months of Sabbatical rest; it may have been a period of religious and other instruction. In Lev 25:1-7 the central idea of the Sabbatical year is unfolded. Although it has been said we should be careful not to look for too much of the ideal and dogmatic in the institutions of the children of Israel, yet we must never lose sight of the religious and educational character even of their ancient legislation. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 10
  • 11. 4. Central Idea: One central thought is brought home to them, namely, God is the owner of the soil, and through His grace only the chosen people have come into its possession. Their time, i.e. they themselves, belong to Him: this is the deepest meaning of the day of rest; their land, i.e. their means of subsistence, belong to Him: this reveals to us the innermost significance of the year of rest. It was Yahweh’s pleasure to call the children of Israel into life, and if they live and work and prosper, they are indebted to His unmerited loving-kindness. They should, therefore, put their absolute trust in Him, never doubt His word or His power, always obey Him and so always receive His unbounded blessings. If we thus put all the emphasis on the religious character of the Sabbatical year, we are in keeping with the idea permeating the Old Testament, namely that the children of Israel are the chosen people of Yahweh. All their agricultural, social, commercial and political relations were to be built upon their divine calling and shaped according to God’s sovereign will. But did they live up to it? Or, to limit the question to our subject: Did they really observe the Sabbatical year? There are those who hold that the law regarding the Sabbatical year was not observed before the captivity. In order to prove this assertion they point to Lev 26:34 f, 43; also to 2 Ch 36:21. But all we can gather from these passages is the palpable conclusion that the law regarding the Sabbatical year had not been strictly obeyed, a deficiency which may mar the effect of any law. The possibility of observing the precept respecting the Sabbatical year is demonstrated by the post-exilic history of the Jewish people. Nehemiah registers the solemn fact that the reestablished nation entered into a covenant to keep the law and to maintain the temple worship (Nehemiah 9:38; 10:32 ff). In 10:31 of the last-named chapter he alludes to the 7th year, “that we would forego the 7th year, and the exaction of every debt.” We are not sure of the exact meaning of this short allusion; it may refer to the Sabbatical rest of the land and the suspension of debts. For a certainty we know that the Sabbatical year was observed by the Jews at the time of Alexander the Great. When he was petitioned by the Samaritans “that he would remit the tribute of the 7th year to them, because they did not sow therein, he asked who they were that made such a petition”; he was told they were Hebrews, etc. (Josephus, Ant., XI, viii, 6). During Maccabean and Hasmonean times the law regarding the Sabbatical year was strictly observed, although it frequently weakened the cause of the Jews (1 Maccabees 6:49, 53; Josephus, Ant., XIII, viii, 1; compare Josephus, Jewish Wars, I, ii, 4; Ant., XIV, x, 6; XV, i, 2). Again we may find references to the Sabbatical year in Josephus, Ant., XIV, xvi, 2, etc.; Tac. Hist. v. 4, etc., all of which testifies to the observance of the Sabbatical year in the Herodian era. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 11
  • 12. The words of Tacitus show the proud Roman’s estimate of the Jewish character and customs: “For the 7th day they are said to have prescribed rest because this day ended their labors; then, in addition, being allured by their lack of energy, they also spend the 7th year in laziness.” SEVEN: The most prominent number [in Scripture] is the number 7, which is referred to in one way or another in nearly 600 passages in the Bible, as well as in many passages in the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha, and later Jewish literature. Of course the number has its usual numerical force in many of these places, but even there not seldom with a glance at its symbolic significance. For the determination of the latter we are not assigned to conjecture. There is clear evidence in the cuneiform texts, which are our earliest authorities, that the Babylonians regarded 7 as the number of totality, of completeness. The Sumerians, from whom the Semitic Babylonians seem to have borrowed the idea, equated 7 and “all.” The 7-storied towers of Babylonia represented the universe. Seven was the expression of the highest power, the greatest conceivable fullness of force, and therefore was early pressed into the service of religion. It is found in reference to ritual in the age of Gudea that is perhaps about the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. “Seven gods” at the end of an enumeration meant “all the gods.” How 7 came to be used in this way can only be glanced at here. The view connecting it with the gods of the 7 planets, which used to be in great favor and still has its advocates, seems to lack ancient proof. Hehn has shown that the number acquired its symbolic meaning long before the earliest time for which that reference can be demonstrated. As this sacred or symbolic use of 7 was not peculiar to the Babylonians and their teachers and neighbors, but was more or less known also in India and China, in classical lands, and among the Celts and the Germans, it probably originated in some fact of common observation, perhaps in the four lunar phases each of which comprises 7 days and a fraction. Conspicuous groups of stars may have helped to deepen the impression, and the fact that 7 is made up of two significant numbers, each, as will be shown, also suggestive of completeness—3 and 4—may have been early noticed and taken into account. The Biblical use of 7 may be conveniently considered under 4 heads: (1) ritual use; (2) historical use; (3) didactic or literary use; (4) apocalyptic use. (1) Ritual Use of Seven. The number 7 plays a conspicuous part in a multitude of passages giving rules for worship or purification, or recording ritual actions. The 7th day of the week was holy (see SABBATH). There were 7 days of unleavened bread (Exodus 34:18, etc.), and 7 days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:34). The 7th year was the sabbatical year (Exodus 21:2, etc.). The Moabite Balak built Balaam on three occasions 7 altars and provided in each case 7 bullocks and 7 rams (Nu 23:1, 14, 29). The Mosaic law prescribed 7 he-lambs for several festal offerings (Nu 28:11, 19, 27, etc.). The 7-fold sprinkling of blood is enjoined in the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:14, 19), and elsewhere. Seven-fold sprinkling is also repeatedly mentioned in the rules for the purification of the leper and the leprous house (Lev 14:7, 16, 27, 51). JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 12
  • 13. The leprous Naaman was ordered to bathe 7 times in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:10). In cases of real or suspected uncleanness through leprosy, or the presence of a corpse, or for other reasons, 7 days’ seclusion was necessary (Lev 12:2, etc.). Circumcision took place after 7 days (Lev 12:3). An animal must be 7 days old before it could be offered in sacrifice (Exodus 22:30). Three periods of 7 days each are mentioned in the rules for the consecration of priests (Exodus 29:30, 35, 37). An oath seems to have been in the first instance by 7 holy things (Gen 21:29 ff and the Hebrew word for “swear”). The number 7 also entered into the structure of sacred objects, for instance the candlestick or lamp-stand in the tabernacle and the second temple each of which had 7 lights (Nu 8:2; Zechariah 4:2). Many other instances of the ritual use of 7 in the Old Testament and many instructive parallels from Babylonian texts could be given. (2) Historical Use of Seven. The number 7 also figures prominently in a large number of passages that occur in historical narrative, in a way that reminds us of its symbolic significance. The following are some of the most remarkable: Jacob’s 7 years’ service for Rachel (Gen 29:20; compare 29:27 f), and his bowing down 7 times to Esau (Gen 33:3); the 7 years of plenty, and the 7 years of famine (Gen 41:53 f); Samson’s 7 days’ marriage feast (Judges 14:12 ff; compare Gen 29:27), 7 locks of hair (Judges 16:19), and the 7 withes with which he was bound (Judges 16:7 f); the 7 daughters of Jethro (Exodus 2:16), the 7 sons of Jesse (1 Sam 16:10), the 7 sons of Saul (2 Sam 21:6), and the 7 sons of Job (Job 1:2; compare 42:13); the 7 days’ march of the 7 priests blowing 7 trumpets round the walls of Jericho, and the 7-fold march on the 7th day (Josh 6:8 ff); the 7 ascents of Elijah’s servant to the top of Carmel (1 Kings 18:43 f); the 7 sneezes of the Shunammitish woman’s son (2 Kings 4:35); the heating of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace 7 times more than it was wont to be heated (Dan 8:19), and the king’s madness for 7 times or years (Dan 4:16, 23, 25, 32); Anna’s 7 years of wedded life (Luke 2:36); the 7 loaves of the 4,000 (Mt 15:34-36 parallel) and the 7 baskets full of fragments (Mt 15:37 parallel); the 7 brothers in the conundrum of the Sadducees (Mt 22:25 parallel); the 7 demons cast out of Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9 parallel Luke 8:2); the 7 ministers in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 6:3 ff), and the 7 sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14, but the Western text represents them as only 2). The number must no doubt be understood literally in many of these passages, but even then its symbolic meaning is probably hinted at by the historian. When a man was said to have had 7 sons or daughters, or an action was reported as done or to be done 7 times, whether by design or accident, the number was noted, and its symbolic force remembered. It cannot indeed be regarded in all these cases as a sacred number, but its association with sacred matters that was kept alive among the Jews by the institution of the Sabbath, was seldom, if ever, entirely overlooked. (3) Didactic or Literary Use of Seven. The symbolic use of 7 naturally led to its employment by poets and teachers for the vivid expression of multitude or intensity. This use is sometimes evident, and sometimes latent. (a) Evident examples are the 7- fold curse predicted for the murderer of Cain (Gen 4:15); fleeing 7 ways (Deuteronomy 28:7, 25); JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 13
  • 14. deliverance from 7 troubles (Job 5:19); praise of God 7 times a day (Ps 119:164); 7 abominations (Proverbs 26:25; compare 6:16); silver purified 7 times, that is, thoroughly purified (Ps 12:6); 7-fold sin; 7-fold repentance, and 7-fold forgiveness (Luke 17:4; compare Mt 18:21); 7 evil spirits (Mt 12:45 parallel Luke 11:26). The last of these, as well as the previous reference to the 7 demons cast out of Mary Magdalene reminds us of the 7 spirits of Belial (Testament to the Twelve Patriarchs, Reuben chapters 2 and 3) and of the 7 evil spirits so often referred to in Babylonian exorcisms, but it is not safe to connect our Lord’s words with either. The Babylonian belief may indeed have influenced popular ideas to some extent, but there is no need to find a trace of it in the Gospels. The 7 demons of the latter are sufficiently accounted for by the common symbolic use of 7. For other passages that come under this head compare Deuteronomy 28:7, 25; Ruth 4:15; 1 Sam 2:5; Ps 79:12. (b) Examples of latent use of the number 7, of what Zockler (RE3, “Sieben”) calls “latent heptads,” are not infrequent. The 7-fold use of the expression “the voice of Yahweh” in Ps 29, which has caused it to be named “The Psalm of the Seven Thunders,” and the 7 epithets of the Divine Spirit in Isa 11:2, cannot be accidental. In both cases the number is intended to point at full-summed completeness. In the New Testament we have the 7 beatitudes of character (Mt 5:3-9); the 7 petitions of the Paternoster (Mt 6:9 f); the 7 parables of the Kingdom in Mt 13; the 7 woes pronounced on the Pharisees (Mt 28:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29), perhaps the 7 sayings of Jesus, beginning with “I am” (egṓ eimi) in the Fourth Gospel (John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1), and the 7 disciples at the Lake after the Resurrection (John 21:2). Several groups of 7 are found in the Epistles and in Revelation: 7 forms of suffering (Rom 8:35); 7 gifts or charismata (Rom 12:6-9); 7 attributes of the wisdom that is from above (Jas 3:17); 7 graces to be added to faith (2 Pet 1:5 ff); two doxologies each containing 7 words of praise (Rev 5:12; 7:12), and 7 classes of men (Rev 6:15). Other supposed instances of 7-fold grouping in the Fourth Gospel are pointed out by E.A. Abbott, but are of uncertain value. (4) Apocalyptic Use of Seven. As might be expected, 7 figures greatly in apocalyptic literature, although it is singularly absent from the apocalyptic portion of Daniel. Later works of this kind, however—the writings bearing the name of Enoch, the Testaments of Reuben and Levi, 2 Esd, etc.—supply many illustrations. The doctrine of the 7 heavens which is developed in the Slavonic Enoch and elsewhere and may have been in the first instance of Babylonian origin is not directly alluded to in the Bible, but probably underlies the apostle’s reference to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2). In the one apocalyptic writing in the New Testament, 7 is employed with amazing frequency. We read of 7 churches (Rev 1:4, etc.); 7 golden candlesticks (Rev 1:12, etc.); 7 stars (Rev 1:16); 7 angels of the churches (Rev 1:20); 7 lamps of fire (Rev 4:5); 7 spirits of God (Rev 1:4; 3:1; 4:5); a book with 7 seals (Rev 5:1); a lamb with 7 horns and 7 eyes (Rev 5:6); 7 angels with 7 trumpets (Rev 8:2); 7 thunders (Rev 10:3); a dragon with 7 heads and 7 diadems (Rev 13:3); a beast with 7 JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 14
  • 15. heads (Rev 18:1); 7 angels having the 7 last plagues (Rev 15:1); and 7 golden bowls of the wrath of God (Rev 15:7) and a scarlet-colored beast with 7 heads (Rev 17:3) which are 7 mountains (Rev 17:9) and 7 kings (Rev 17:10). The writer, whoever he was, must have had his imagination saturated with the numerical symbolism that had been cultivated in Western Asia for millenniums. There cannot be a shadow of doubt that 7 for him expressed fullness, completeness. As this inquiry will have shown, the significance of the number is practically the same throughout the Bible. Although a little of it may have been rubbed off in the course of ages, the main idea suggested by 7 was never quite lost sight of in Biblical times, and the number is still used in the life and song of the Holy Land and Arabia with at least an echo of its ancient meaning. The significance of 7 extends to its multiples. Fourteen, or twice 7, is possibly symbolic in some cases. The stress laid in the Old Testament on the 14th of the month as the day of the Passover (Exodus 12:6 and 16 other places), and the regulation that 14 lambs were to be offered on each of the 7 days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Nu 29:13, 15) hint at design in the selection of the number, especially in view of the fact that 7 and 7 occur repeatedly in cuneiform literature—in magical and liturgical texts, and in the formula so often used in the Am Tab: “7 and 7 times at the feet of the king my lord … I prostrate myself.” The arrangement of the generations from Abraham to Christ in three groups of 14 each (Mt 1:17) is probably intentional, so far as the number in each group is concerned. It is doubtful whether the number has any symbolic force in Acts 27:27; 2 Corinthians 12:2; Gal 2:1. Of course it must be remembered that both the Hebrew and Greek words for 14 (ʼarbāʽāh ʽāsār; dekatéssares) suggest that it is made up of 10 and 4, but constant use of 7 in the sense above defined will have influenced the application of its double, at least in some cases. Forty-nine, or 7 X 7, occurs in two regulations of the Law. The second of the three great festivals took place on the 50th day after one of the days of unleavened bread (Lev 23:15 ff), that is, after an interval of 7 X 7 days; and two years of Jubilee were separated by 7 X 7 years (Lev 25:8 ff). The combination is met with also in one of the so-called Penitential Psalms of Babylonia: “Although my sins are 7 times 7, forgive me my sins.” Seven multiplied by ten, or 70, was a very strong expression of multitude that is met with in a large number of passages in the Old Testament. It occurs of persons: the 70 descendants of Jacob (Exodus 15; Deuteronomy 10:22); the 70 elders of Israel (Exodus 24:1, 9; Nu 11:16, 24 f); the 70 kings ill treated by Adoni-bezek (Judges 1:7); the 70 sons of Gideon (Judges 8:30; 9:2); the 70 descendants of Abdon who rode on 70 asscolts (Jdg 12:14); the 70 sons of Ahab (2 Kings 10:1, 6 f); and the 70 idolatrous elders seen by Ezekiel (Ezek 8:11). It is also used of periods: 70 days of Egyptian mourning for Jacob (Gen 50:3); 70 years of trial (Isa 23:15, 17; Jer 25:11 f; Dan 9:2; Zechariah 1:12; 7:5); the 70 weeks of Daniel (Dan 9:24); and the 70 years of human life (Ps 90:10). JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 15
  • 16. Other noticeable uses of 70 are the 70 palm trees of Elim (Exodus 15:27 parallel Nu 33:9); the offering of 70 bullocks in the time of Hezekiah (2 Ch 29:32), and the offering by the heads of the tribes of 12 silver bowls each of 70 shekels (Nu 7:13 ff). In the New Testament we have the 70 apostles (Luke 10:1, 17), but the number is uncertain with Codices Vaticanus and Bezae and some versions reading 72, which is the product, not of 7 and 10, but of 6 and 12. Significant seventies are also met with outside of the Bible. The most noteworthy are the Jewish belief that there were 70 nations outside Israel, with 70 languages, under the care of 70 angels, based perhaps on the list in Gen 10; the Sanhedrin of about 70 members; the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek by Septuagint (more exactly 72), and the 70 members of a family in one of the Aramaic texts of Sendschirli. This abundant use of 70 must have been largely due to the fact that it was regarded as an intensified 7. Seventy and seven, or 77, a combination found in the words of Lamech (Gen 4:24); the number of the princes and elders of Succoth (Jdg 8:14); and the number of lambs in a memorable sacrifice (Ezra 8:35), would appeal in the same way to the oriental fancy. The product of seven and seventy (Greek hebdomēkontákis heptá) is met with once in the New Testament (Mt 18:22), and in the Septuagint of the above-quoted Gen 4:24. Moulton, however, renders in both passages 70 plus 7; contra, Allen, “Mt,” ICC, 199. The number is clearly a forceful equivalent of “always.” Seven thousand in 1 Kings 19:18 parallel Rom 11:4 may be a round number chosen on account of its embodiment of the number 7. In the Moabite Stone the number of Israelites slain at the capture of the city of Nebo by the Moabites is reckoned at 7,000. The half of seven seems sometimes to have been regarded as significant. In Dan 7:25; 9:27; 12:7; Luke 4:25 parallel 5:17; Rev 11:2; 13:5 a period of distress is calculated at 3 1/2 years, that is, half the period of sacred completeness. JUBILEE YEAR ( ןַנוֹב וֹהב יַַּׁה , shenath ha-yōbhēl; ἔτος τῆς ἀφἓσεως, étos tḗs aphéseōs; annus jubilaeus, “year of jubilee” [Lev 25:13], or simply וֹהב יַַּׁה , ha-yōbhēl, “the jubilee” [Lev 25:28; compare Nu 36:4], the King James Version and the English Revised Version Jubilee): The Hebrew word yōbhēl stands for ḳeren ha-yōbhēl, meaning the horn of a ram. Now, such a horn can be made into a trumpet, and thus the word yōbhēl came to be used as a synonym of trumpet. According to Lev 25:9 a loud trumpet should proclaim liberty throughout the country on the 10th day of the 7th month (the Day of Atonement), after the lapse of 7 Sabbaths of years = 49 years. In this manner, every 50th year was to be announced as a jubilee year. All real property should automatically revert to its original owner (Lev 25:10; compare 25:13), and those who, compelled by poverty, had sold themselves as slaves to their brothers, should regain their liberty (Lev 25:10; compare 25:39). JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 16
  • 17. In addition to this, the Jubilee Year was to be observed after the manner of the sabbatical year, i.e. there should be neither sowing nor reaping nor pruning of vines, and everybody was expected to live on what the fields and the vineyards produced “of themselves,” and no attempt should be made at storing up the products of the land (Lev 25:11 f). Thus there are three distinct factors constituting the essential features of the Jubilee Year: personal liberty, restitution of property, and what we might call the simple life. 1. Personal Liberty: The 50th year was to be a time in which liberty should be proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the country. We should, indeed, diminish the import of this institution if we should apply it only to those who were to be freed from the bonds of physical servitude. Undoubtedly, they must have been the foremost in realizing its beneficial effects. But the law was intended to benefit all, the masters as well as the servants. They should never lose sight of their being brothers and citizens of theocratic kingdom. They owed their life to God and were subject to His sovereign will. Only through loyalty to Him were they free and could ever hope to be free and independent of all other masters. 2. Restitution of Property: The institution of the Jubilee Year should become the means of fixing the price of real property (Lev 25:15 f; compare 25:25-28); moreover, it should exclude the possibility of selling any piece of land permanently (Lev 25:23), the next verse furnishing the motive: “The land is mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.” The same rule was to be applied to dwelling-houses outside of the walled cities (Lev 25:31), and also to the houses owned by Levites, although they were built within walled cities (Lev 25:32). In the same manner the price of Hebrew slaves was to vary according to the proximity of the Jubilee Year (Lev 25:47-54). This passage deals with the enslaving of a Hebrew by a foreigner living among the Jews; it goes without saying that the same rule would hold good in the case of a Hebrew selling himself to one of his own people. In Lev 27:17-25 we find a similar arrangement respecting such lands that were “sanctified unto Yahweh.” In all these cases the original owner was at liberty to redeem his property at any time, or have it redeemed by some of his nearest relatives (25:25-27, 29, 48 ff; 27:19). The crowning feature, though, was the full restitution of all real property in the Jubilee Year. The primary object of this regulation was, of course, the reversion of all hereditary property to the family that originally possessed it, and the reestablishment of the original arrangement regarding the division of the land. But that was not all; for this legal disposition and regulation of external matters was closely connected with the high calling of the Jewish people. It was a part of the Divine plan looking forward to the salvation of mankind. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 17
  • 18. “The deepest meaning of it (the Jubilee Year) is to be found in the ἀποκατάστασις τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, apokatástasis tḗs basileı́as toú theoú, i.e. in the restoring of all that which in the course of time was perverted by man’s sin, in the removing of all slavery of sin, in the establishing of the true liberty of the children of God, and in the delivering of the creation from the bondage of corruption to which it was subjected on account of man’s depravity” (Rom 8:19 ff) (compare Keil, Manual of Biblical Archaeology). In the Year of Jubilee a great future era of Yahweh’s favor is foreshadowed, that period which, according to Isa 61:1-3, shall be ushered in to all those that labor and are heavy laden, by Him who was anointed by the spirit of the Lord Yahweh. 3. The Simple Life: The Jubilee Year, being the crowning point of all sabbatical institutions, gave the finishing touch as it were to the whole cycle of sabbatical days, months and years. It is, therefore, quite appropriate that it should be a year of rest for the land like the preceding sabbatical year (Lev 25:11 f). It follows, of course, that in this instance there were two years, one after the other, in which there should be no sowing or systematic ingathering. This seems to be clear from Lev 25:18-22: “And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat of the fruits, the old store; until the ninth year, until its fruits come in, ye shall eat the old store.” Thus in the 7th and 8th years the people were to live on what the fields had produced in the 6th year and whatever grew spontaneously. This shows the reason why we may say that one of the factors constituting the Jubilee Year was the “simple life.” They could not help but live simply for two consecutive years. Nobody can deny that this afforded ample opportunity to develop the habit of living within very limited means. And again we see that this external part of the matter did not fully come up to the intention of the Lawgiver. It was not the simple life as such that He had in view, but rather the laying down of its moral and religious foundations. In this connection we must again refer to Lev 25:18-22, “What shall we eat the seventh year?” The answer is very simple and yet of surpassing grandeur: “Then I will command my blessing upon you,” etc. Nothing was expected of the people but faith in Yahweh and confidence in His power, which was not to be shaken by any doubtful reflection. And right here we have found the root of the simple life: no life without the true God, and no simplicity of life without true faith in Him. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4; compare Deuteronomy 8:3). We may well ask: Did the Jewish people ever observe the Jubilee Year? There is no reason why they should not have observed it in pre-exilic times (compare Lotz in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, X, under the word “Sabbatical Year” and “Year of Jubilee”). Perhaps they signally failed in it, and if so, we should not be surprised at all. Not that the institution in itself was cumbered with any obstacles that could not have been overcome; but what is more common than unbelief and unwillingness to trust absolutely in Yahweh? Or, was it observed in post-exilic times? JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 18
  • 19. Here, too, we are in the dark. There is, indeed, a tradition according to which the Jubilee Year has never been observed—neither in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah nor at any later period. The truth of this seems to be corroborated by the silence of Josephus, who, while referring quite frequently to the sabbatical year, never once mentions the Year of Jubilee. ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING: Israel’s Understanding of the Land By D. Larry Gregg, Sr., pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Rutherfordton, North Carolina and instructor of biblical studies, philosophy, and world religions at Isothermal Community College in Spindale, North Carolina. AN EXPLORATION of the relationship between Israel and the land must reflect a balanced understanding of the appropriate tension between two foundational biblical assertions: “All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever” (Genesis 13:15).1 And “That the land spew not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spewed out the nations that were before you” (Leviticus 18:28). God’s original promise to Abraham must be read through the lens of the moral and ethical accountability enshrined in the Levitical “fine print” of Israel’s covenant with Yahweh. On the threshold of Canaan, Israel faced the stark truth that the privileges and the responsibilities of chosenness came wrapped together in the same package. Israel and the Covenant Ancient Israel’s covenant relationship with God was the stack-pole around which the people’s understanding of the land was organized. God said to Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Genesis 12:1). God reaffirmed the promise He made to Abraham by repeating it to Abraham’s son, Isaac (26:3) and to his grandson, Jacob (46:3-4). Finally, Joseph reiterated in his deathbed speech the belief that God had promised a land to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants (50:24). When Moses encountered God in the burning bush, this promise of the ultimate possession of “a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8) was behind his being commissioned to lead God’s people to the land that was their heritage (6:8). This sense of divine promise reached its apex in the covenant at Sinai where God laid down the conditions of relationship and the people swore, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (19:8). A covenant is an agreement in which all parties share expectations and obligations. Covenants, as opposed to legal contracts, are ethical in nature and depend “solely upon the integrity”2 of the covenant partners. Therefore, the enduring viability of such agreements rests upon the emeth (Hebrew for “covenant faithfulness”) of all parties. To betray the covenant could lead to suspension, temporarily or permanently, of the relationship. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 19
  • 20. God warned Israel that when they violated the covenant relationship they “defiled the land” and risked being “vomited” out of it (Leviticus 18:25,28; 20:22). Israel’s classical prophets interpreted the people’s eventual expulsion from the land as the illustration par excellance of this truth. Ancient Israel’s greatest folly was the assumption that God was obliged to keep His side of the covenant regardless of whether or not they remained faithful. They forgot that the same God who had, in divine grace, declared them to be His people, could also declare to an idolatrous, morally and ethically bankrupt society, “ye are not my people, and I will not be your God” (Hosea 1:9). Inherit, Possess, and Rest Three Hebrew words characterize the nature of Israel’s understanding of the land: nahala (inheritance), ahuzza (possession), and memuha (rest).3 Inheritance here does not simply signify the passage of property from one generation to another on the basis of biological descent. More accurately the image is that of the feudal bestowal by a sovereign lord of land and title upon a dependent vassal. “The emphasis falls on God as one who has authority to dispose of land belonging to him.”4 While the land may be passed from generation to generation through biological descent, the sovereign lord retains the right to reclaim the inheritance and bestow it upon another if the original recipient or his descendants betray the trust. “Possession” reaches back to Genesis where God placed the man and woman in the garden and gave them responsibility of caring for it. Eden was not their garden; it was God’s. Their tenure in the garden carried with it both privileges and responsibilities. Likewise, while the Israelites were to benefit from the blessings of the land, they were also accountable to God for how they used it. Regardless of how long Israel possessed the land, God ultimately remained its Owner. “The land [was] a sacred responsibility of stewardship under Yahweh.”5 The land God gave to ancient Israel was to be held in trust. Thus, God commanded, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Leviticus 25:23). Lastly, Israel understood the land as “rest.” Joshua spoke these words to the Israelites on the threshold of Canaan: “The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land” (Josh. 1:13). Through the wilderness journey Israel had been sustained by the hope that a day would come when their wandering would cease, their battles would be over, their liberty would be secure, and every man would sit “under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid” (Mic. 4:4). However, such rest and covenant faithfulness remained closely linked. The psalmist warned: “It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest” (Ps. 95:10-11). JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 20
  • 21. Covenant Faithfulness Leviticus 18—20 makes clear that the Israelites’ right to inherit, possess, and reside in peace in the land was directly connected to their moral behavior. They were warned that they were called to a higher personal and societal morality than that which existed in Egypt from which they had been delivered, or in Canaan toward which they were traveling. The abuse of sexual relationships, not being charitable, committing human sacrifice, fraud, tale bearing, necromancy, and the abuse of the land were all betrayals of trust relationships, either with others or with the environment. The deliberate betrayal of such interpersonal relations constituted a breach of the ultimate covenant with Yahweh. Thus the Lord solemnly warned that as surely as the land was about to spew out the Canaanites for their abominable behavior, the land would also spew out Israel if they refused to abide by the conditions of the covenant. The same God who chose them and conferred the land upon them was also their Judge. Therefore, “ye shall . . . keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:5). A Concluding Thought Many today are scandalized at any suggestion of a connection between human social ethical behavior and the recalcitrance of the environment expressed in natural disaster, disease, climate-change, and the like. While one should always be careful in ascribing such things to God’s judgment on a sinful people, reminding ourselves that our decisions and our conduct, individually and collectively, have consequences is always appropriate. While our eternal salvation is forever secure by our faith in Christ, all that we have in this life may be lost as the consequence of destructive choices, our own or others. We are a fallen people living in a fallen environment where “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). Living in this fallen environment still carries for us, we who are covenant people, both responsibilities and privileges. We must be careful not to assume that God’s conditional promises are guarantees of perpetual entitlement. Instead, our right to inherit, possess, and rest in the fullness of God’s blessings are contingent upon our willingness to live faithfully within the covenant relationship we have with Him. Living as covenant people should be our goal. Concerning our living on the land, we should remember 1 Peter 2:11, which reaches back to 1 Chronicles 29:15 to remind us that we also are “strangers and pilgrims” accountable to God for how we live our lives. To Have Dominion Over All The Earth By Bryce Sandlin, professor of Bible and Hebrew, Howard Payne University, Brownwood, Texas. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GENESIS 1:26 T0 2:3 for the environmental and ecologic concerns of today is recognized rather generally by those who study the roots of the present crisis. In fact, the passage long has been of interest in the study of the implications of Scripture for cultural concerns. Philo, a Jewish philosopher of the first century, spent much effort relating the passage, especially 1:28, to the culture of his day.1 JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 21
  • 22. Joseph Rickaby, a nineteenth-century Catholic moralist based his views of the manner in which people should think of and use animals on the passage and found in the dominion theme justification for all but the “wanton” use of animals.2 It generally is agreed that at least one of the causes of our present ecologic crisis is to be found in a particular understanding of this and related biblical passages, against which there has been an absence of sustained Christian criticism. The purpose here is to present a perspective of the dominion theme that brings the abuse of the environment and the self-centered use of natural and human resources into focus in the light of the deeper implications of this passage and other Old Testament teachings. Genesis 1:26—2:3 is the climax of an exquisitely fashioned literary unit that is very precise in its description of creation. The larger passage 1:1—2:3, begins with a comprehensive statement that embraces the entire chapter. All subsequent statements basically move along the line that is given in the first verse of the chapter: everything was created by God and there was no creative power apart from Him. Within this description of creation is an ascending line expressing the relationship of creation to the Creator. Not all of creation has the same place before God. Farthest from God is plant life, which has a direct relationship to the earth. The animals are nearer. At the end of this succession are “human beings,” and they are directly responsible to God. The world is oriented toward humanity, and in people it has its purest direct relation to God. People are created in the image of God. The purpose of God’s image is the real intent of the passage. There is less said about the image itself than about the task which the image makes possible—the domination of the world. The commission to rule is the consequence of the image, that is, that for which humanity is capable because of God. The practice of kings erecting images of themselves in distant quarter of their empires where they could not appear personally is a parallel to God erecting His image in persons in His kingdom. Humans are only God’s representatives to maintain and enforce His claim to dominion over the earth. “The decisive thing about man’s similarity to God, therefore, is his function in the non-human world.”3 Seen in its context, the dominion theme is the climax of the ascending line of likeness to God, with people as the nearest and having the responsibility to exercise God’s rule over all other aspects of creation. Likeness and responsibility to God are emphasized in being created in the image of God, and likeness to the other animals is indicated by the food they share. In verses 29-30 human food is to be the same as that of the other animals. As people and animals were created on the same day, they are to partake of the same food. The exercise of dominion over animals does not include the useless shedding of their blood. “This word of God, therefore, also means, a limitation in the human right of dominion.”4 JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 22
  • 23. This arrangement, with people exercising God’s dominion over the natural world and environment, and at the same time belonging to nature, is a well-balanced provision for the good of all creation, including persons. In verse 31 “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” This statement refers more to the wonderful purposefulness and harmony of creation than to its beauty. The concluding phrase could be translated “ . . . it was completely perfect.” As the Sabbath was the climax of the week in Judaism, so the climax of the creation week was the “rest” of God. Chapter 2:1-3 often is interpreted as the establishing of the Sabbath as a day of rest for the people of Israel, but the verses have far greater significance. The verses emphasize, first, that the world is no longer in the process of being created. God finished His work of creation and turned the care and protection of it over to humans, His image. God then “blessed” the day of rest, “sanctified” it, and thereby expressed His concern for the world. “Thus Genesis 2:1ff. speaks about the preparation of the exalted saving good for the world and man.”5 The “rest” God took established His intention that all creation takes time for rejuvenation, and the institution of the Sabbath in the life of Israel was meant to be an expression of that intention. Concern for domesticated animals was also a major consideration in the purpose of the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14-15). The motivation cause for keeping the Sabbath came in verse 15: “remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out . . . “ (RSV). Although the motivation was theological, the humanitarian quality of the practice was just beneath the surface because the memory of their own servitude was to provoke compassion for others who had fallen into the same lot. The sabbatical year and the year of jubilee, obviously extensions of the Sabbath idea, further limited dominion of the earth and taught concern for environment and life. Leviticus 25 details the proper observance of the sabbatical year and the jubilee. According to this passage the main feature of the sabbatical year was the cessation of working the land for food purposes. Exodus 21:1-6 emphasizes the freeing of slaves. Deuteronomy required the cancellation of debts. If this was an absolute cancellation, lending money as a business transaction would never have been practiced in Israel; it would only have been an offer of assistance to the needy. “The sabbatical year laws appear to be the most radical social legislation prior to the twentieth century.”6 The year of jubilee had characteristics of its own, but the laws for the sabbatical year applied to the jubilee as well. The year of jubilee began with the sounding of the loud trumpet on the Day of Atonement, thereby proclaiming “liberty” to all the inhabitants of the land. Liberty was the hallmark of jubilee, as emphasized in Ezekiel 46:17, where it is called the “year of liberty.” An important aspect of liberty was the returning of land that had been sold during the years since the last jubilee to the original owners or to their descendants. If the land were not returned to the newly freed slaves, they could find themselves compelled to enter bondage again. The aim of the jubilee was the restoration of the position as if was of old—free persons living on free land. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 23
  • 24. In other words, the jubilee legislation concerning the land and liberty was a perpetual land reform program that guaranteed the equitable distribution of the land. There can be no mistaking the emphasis on humane concerns and the proper use of the land. Humanity’s dominion over the land was not considered absolute, but was limited by the legislation regarding Sabbath, sabbatical year, and year of jubilee. The principle of jubilee as stated in Leviticus 25:17, “for I am the Lord your God,” declares that jubilee was grounded in the person and character of God. God is identified three times in Leviticus 25 as the one who “brought you forth out of the land of Egypt.” The strong implication was that God’s historical activity involved coming to the aid of the oppressed and setting them free, and that the land and Israel both belonged to God. A second principle of jubilee was to view the poor as brothers and sisters. The phrase, “if your brother becomes poor” (RSV), occurs four times in Leviticus 25, where it means fellow citizens. “This means, therefore, that the Israelites were not just to look after their immediate families.”7 It particularly should be noted that it makes no difference how the poor became poor, whether through misfortune or Laziness. Jubilee was based on the theological truth that ownership of the land was not absolute, that it was given to Israelites as a stewardship. God was the owner, and the individual head of a family His overseer. God wanted the country to remain equally divided among His people, as was the case in the days of Joshua. The land itself was to have rest, the implication being that when Israel treated the land with respect it would respond in kind. Finally, humanity’s dominion over the earth must be seen in the light of “the web of life,”8 a web involving all of creation in mutual relationship and dependency, coming very close to the modern concept of “ecology.” That this web is “good” in all its parts was indicated in the tightly knit account of creation in Genesis 1, with every “thread” of the web existing in its own right, decreed so by the word of God. The creation account in Genesis 1—2 speaks eloquently of life in the natural world, the basic necessities for life, and the space in which to live “ . . . as an endowment that is always preordered and given together with life itself.”9 Genesis 1—2 reflect a perception of a basic connection and the condition of existence. Because the Old Testament worldview of humanity and nature are linked closely in a divine order from which persons cannot extract themselves and act independently of that order, the dominion of humanity is limited to what can be done without harm to the remaining parts of the order. The creation hymn in Psalm 104 emphasizes humanity’s involvement in the natural order of things, especially verses 27-30. Natural life and the fulfillment of life are not at the disposal of the living thing; life is a gift, an event conferred, upon which everything is dependent. People are elementally dependent for their existence, their environment, and the length of their natural lives. For people today the world is the material and potential for human activity, and the result is a “manipulation reduction of all life, including man, to the level of objects.10 In contrast, the psalmist sees it as a gift of Yahweh the Creator who offers life and life-span, living room, and the provision of life’s necessities to all living things. JOHN R. WIBLE IS THE EDITOR OF THIS MATERIAL WHICH IS DERIVED FROM CONVENTION SERIES LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, THE HERSHEL HOBBS COMMENTARY, ADVANCED BIBLE STUDY, BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR AND ADDITIONAL MATERIALS FROM THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION. COMMENTARY FROM THE DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES BY DR. WILLIAM BARCLAY AND COMMENTARY BY DR. E. I. SCOFIELD MAY ALSO BE INCLUDED. NO ORIGINAL WORK IS CLAIMED BY THE EDITOR EXCEPT WHERE SPECIFIED. Page 24

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