The Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai. He said, “Tell the Israelites: When you enter the land that I am giving to you, you must let the land have a special time of rest. This will be a special time of rest to honor the Lord. You will plant seed in your field for six years. You will trim your vineyards for six years and bring in its fruits. But during the seventh year, you will let the land rest. This will be a special time of rest to honor the Lord. You must not plant seed in your field or trim your vineyards. You must not cut the crops that grow by themselves after your harvest. You must not gather the grapes from your vines that are not trimmed. The land will have a year of rest.
“The land will have a year of rest, but you will still have enough food. There will be enough food for your men and women servants. There will be food for your hired workers and for the foreigners living in your country. And there will be enough food for your cattle and other animals to eat.
“You will also count seven groups of seven years. This will be 49 years. During that time there will be seven years of rest for the land. On the Day of Atonement, you must blow a ram’s horn. That will be on the tenth day of the seventh month. You must blow the ram’s horn through the whole country. You will make the 50th year a special year. You will announce freedom for everyone living in your country. This time will be called ‘Jubilee.’ Each of you will go back to your own property. And each of you will go back to your own family. The 50th year will be a special celebration for you. Don’t plant seeds, don’t harvest the crops that grow by themselves, and don’t gather grapes from the vines that are not trimmed. That year is Jubilee. It will be a holy time for you. You will eat the crops that come from the field. In the year of Jubilee, you will go back to your own property.
“Don’t cheat your neighbors when you sell your land to them. Don’t cheat one another when you buy or sell land. If you want to buy your neighbor’s land, count the number of years since the last Jubilee, and use that number to decide the right price. You are only buying the rights for harvesting crops until the next Jubilee. If there are many years before the next Jubilee, the price will be high. If the years are few, the price will be lower. So your neighbor is really only selling a number of crops to you. At the next Jubilee, the land will again belong to that family. You must not cheat each other. You must honor your God. I am the Lord your God.
“Remember my laws and rules. Obey them and you will live safely in your country. And the land will produce good crops for you. Then you will have plenty of food, and you will live safely on the land.
“But maybe you will say, ‘If we don’t plant seeds or gather our crops, we will not have anything to eat during the seventh year.’ I will order my blessing to come to you during the sixth year. The land will continue growing crops for three years. When you plant in the eighth year, you will still be eating from the old crop. You will eat the old crop until the ninth year, when the crop you planted in the eighth year comes in.
“The land really belongs to me, so you cannot sell it permanently. You are only foreigners and travelers living on my land with me. People might sell their land, but the family will always get their land back. If someone in your country becomes very poor and must sell their property, a close relative must come and buy it back. If there is not a close relative to buy back the land, the person might get enough money to buy it back. Then the years must be counted since the land was sold. That number must be used to decide how much to pay for the land. The person must then buy back the land, and it will be their property again. But if this first owner cannot find enough money to buy the land back, it will stay in the hands of the one who bought it until the year of Jubilee. Then during that special celebration, the land will go back to the first owner’s family. So the property will again belong to the right family.
“Anyone who sells a home in a walled city still has the right to get it back until a full year after it was sold. Their right to get the house back will continue one year. But if the owner does not buy back the house before a full year is finished, the house that is in the walled city will belong to the one who bought it and to their descendants. The house will not go back to the first owner at the time of Jubilee. Towns without walls around them will be treated like open fields. So houses built in these small towns will go back to the first owners at the time of Jubilee.
“But about the cities of the Levites: The Levites can buy back at any time their houses in the cities that belong to them. If someone buys a house from a Levite, that house in the Levites’ city will again belong to the Levites at the time of Jubilee. This is because houses in Levite cities belong to those from the tribe of Levi. The Israelites gave these cities to the Levites. Also, the fields and pastures around the Levite cities cannot be sold. They belong to the Levites forever.
“If anyone from your own country becomes too poor to support themselves, you must let them live with you like a visitor. Don’t charge them any interest on money you might loan to them. Respect your God and let those from your own country live with you. Don’t charge them interest on any money you lend them. And don’t try to make a profit from the food you sell them. I am the Lord your God. I brought you out of the land of Egypt to give the land of Canaan to you and to become your God.
“If anyone from your own country becomes so poor that they must sell themselves to you, don’t make them work like slaves. They will be like hired workers and visitors with you until the year of Jubilee. Then they can leave you, take their children, and go back to their family. They can go back to the property of their ancestors, because they are my servants. I brought them out of slavery in Egypt. They must not become slaves again. You must not be a cruel master to them. You must respect your God.
“About your men and women slaves: You may get men and women slaves from the other nations around you. Also, you may get children as slaves if they come from the families of the foreigners living in your land. These child slaves will belong to you. You may even pass these foreign slaves on to your children after you die so that they will belong to them. They will be your slaves forever. You may make slaves of these foreigners. But you must not be a cruel master over your own brothers, the Israelites.
“Maybe a foreigner or visitor among you becomes rich. Or maybe someone from your own country becomes so poor that they sell themselves as slaves to a foreigner living among you or to a member of a foreigner’s family. These people have the right to be bought back and become free. Someone from their own country can buy them back. Or their uncle, their cousin, or one of their close relatives from their family can buy him back. Or if they get enough money, they can pay the money themselves and become free again.
“You must count the years from the time they sold themselves to the foreigner up to the next year of Jubilee. Use that number to decide the price, because really the person only ‘hired’ them for a few years. If there are still many years before the year of Jubilee, the one sold must give back a large part of the price. It all depends on the number of years. If only a few years are left until the year of Jubilee, the one who was sold must pay a small part of the original price. But that person will live like a hired worker with the foreigner every year. Don’t let the foreigner be a cruel master over that person.
“Those who sold themselves will become free, even if no one buys them back. At the year of Jubilee, they and their children will become free. This is because the Israelites are my servants. They are the servants who I brought out of slavery in Egypt. I am the Lord your God!
“Don’t make idols for yourselves. Don’t set up statues or memorial stones in your land to bow down to, because I am the Lord your God!
“Remember my special days of rest and honor my holy place. I am the Lord.
“Remember my laws and commands, and obey them. If you do these things, I will give you rains at the time they should come. The land will grow crops and the trees of the field will grow their fruit. Your threshing will continue until it is time to gather grapes. And your grape gathering will continue until it is time to plant. Then you will have plenty to eat. And you will live safely in your land. I will give peace to your country. You will lie down in peace. No one will come to make you afraid. I will keep harmful animals out of your country. And armies will not come through your country.
“You will chase your enemies and defeat them. You will kill them with your swords. Five of you will chase 100 men, and 100 of you will chase 10,000 men. You will defeat your enemies and kill them with your sword.
“Then I will turn to you. I will let you have many children. I will keep my agreement with you. You will have enough crops to last for more than a year. You will harvest the new crops. But then you will have to throw out the old crops to make room for the new crops. Also, I will place my Holy Tent among you. I will not turn away from you. I will walk with you and be your God. And you will be my people. I am the Lord your God. You were slaves in Egypt, but I brought you out of Egypt. You were bent low from the heavy weights you carried as slaves, but I broke the poles that were on your shoulders. I let you walk proudly again.
“But if you don’t obey me and all my commands, bad things will happen to you. If you refuse to obey my laws and commands, you have broken my agreement. If you do that, I will cause terrible things to happen to you. I will cause you to have disease and fever. They will destroy your eyes and take away your life. You will not have success when you plant your seed. And your enemies will eat your crops. I will be against you, so your enemies will defeat you. These enemies will hate you and rule over you. You will run away even when no one is chasing you.
“After these things, if you still don’t obey me, I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will also destroy the great cities that make you proud. The skies will not give rain, and the earth will not produce crops. You will work hard, but it will not help. Your land will not give any crops, and your trees will not grow their fruit.
“If you still turn against me and refuse to obey me, I will beat you seven times harder! The more you sin, the more you will be punished. I will send wild animals against you. They will take your children away from you. They will destroy your animals. They will kill many of your people. The roads will all be empty.
“If you don’t learn your lesson after all this, and if you still turn against me, then I will also turn against you. I—yes, I myself—will punish you seven times for your sins. You will have broken my agreement, so I will punish you. I will bring armies against you. You will go into your cities for safety, but I will cause diseases to spread among you. And your enemies will defeat you. I will give you a share of the grain left in that city. But there will be very little food to eat. Ten women will be able to cook all their bread in one oven. They will measure each piece of bread. You will eat, but you will still be hungry.
“If you still refuse to listen to me, and if you still turn against me, then I will really show my anger! I—yes, I myself—will punish you seven times for your sins. You will become so hungry that you will eat the bodies of your sons and daughters. I will destroy your high places. I will cut down your incense altars. I will put your dead bodies on the dead bodies of your idols. You will be disgusting to me. I will destroy your cities. I will make your holy places empty. I will stop smelling your offerings. I will make your land empty. And your enemies who come to live there will be shocked at it. I will scatter you among the nations. I will pull out my sword and destroy you. Your land will become empty, and your cities will be destroyed.
“You will be taken to your enemy’s country. Your country will be empty. So your land will finally get its rest. The land will enjoy its time of rest. During the time that the land is empty, it will get the time of rest that you did not give it while you lived there. The survivors will lose their courage in the land of their enemies. They will be afraid of everything. They will run around like a leaf blown by the wind. They will run as if someone is chasing them with a sword. They will fall even when no one is chasing them. They will run as if someone is chasing them with a sword. They will fall over each other—even when no one is chasing them.
“You will not be strong enough to stand up against your enemies. You will be lost in other nations. You will disappear in the land of your enemies. So the survivors will rot away in their sin in their enemies’ countries. They will rot away in their sins just as their ancestors did.
“But maybe the people will confess their sins. And maybe they will confess the sins of their ancestors. Maybe they will admit that they turned against me. Maybe they will admit that they sinned against me. Maybe they will admit that I turned against them and brought them into the land of their enemies. These people will be like strangers to me. But maybe they will become humble and accept the punishment for their sin. If they do, I will remember my agreement with Jacob. I will remember my agreement with Isaac. I will remember my agreement with Abraham, and I will remember the land.
“The land will be empty. The land will enjoy its time of rest. Then the survivors will accept the punishment for their sins. They will learn that they were punished because they hated my laws and refused to obey my rules. They have sinned. But if they come to me for help, I will not turn away from them. I will listen to them, even if they are in the land of their enemies. I will not completely destroy them. I will not break my agreement with them, because I am the Lord their God. For them, I will remember the agreement with their ancestors. I brought their ancestors out of the land of Egypt so that I could become their God. The other nations saw these things. I am the Lord.”
These are the laws, rules, and teachings that the Lord gave to the Israelites. These laws are the agreement between the Lord and the Israelites. The Lord gave these laws to Moses at Mount Sinai.