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Leviticus 25:35-55

Debt and Slave Regulations

25:35 “‘If your brother 1  becomes impoverished and is indebted to you, 2  you must support 3  him; he must live 4  with you like a foreign resident. 5  25:36 Do not take interest or profit from him, 6  but you must fear your God and your brother must live 7  with you. 25:37 You must not lend him your money at interest and you must not sell him food for profit. 8  25:38 I am the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan – to be your God. 9 

25:39 “‘If your brother becomes impoverished with regard to you so that he sells himself to you, you must not subject him to slave service. 10  25:40 He must be with you as a hired worker, as a resident foreigner; 11  he must serve with you until the year of jubilee, 25:41 but then 12  he may go free, 13  he and his children with him, and may return to his family and to the property of his ancestors. 14  25:42 Since they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt, they must not be sold in a slave sale. 15  25:43 You must not rule over him harshly, 16  but you must fear your God.

25:44 “‘As for your male and female slaves 17  who may belong to you – you may buy male and female slaves from the nations all around you. 18  25:45 Also you may buy slaves 19  from the children of the foreigners who reside with you, and from their families that are 20  with you, whom they have fathered in your land, they may become your property. 25:46 You may give them as inheritance to your children after you to possess as property. You may enslave them perpetually. However, as for your brothers the Israelites, no man may rule over his brother harshly. 21 

25:47 “‘If a resident foreigner who is with you prospers 22  and your brother becomes impoverished with regard to him so that 23  he sells himself to a resident foreigner who is with you or to a member 24  of a foreigner’s family, 25:48 after he has sold himself he retains a right of redemption. 25  One of his brothers may redeem him, 25:49 or his uncle or his cousin 26  may redeem him, or anyone of the rest of his blood relatives – his family 27  – may redeem him, or if 28  he prospers he may redeem himself. 25:50 He must calculate with the one who bought him the number of years 29  from the year he sold himself to him until the jubilee year, and the cost of his sale must correspond to the number of years, according to the rate of wages a hired worker would have earned while with him. 30  25:51 If there are still many years, in keeping with them 31  he must refund most of the cost of his purchase for his redemption, 25:52 but if only a few years remain 32  until the jubilee, he must calculate for himself in keeping with the remaining years and refund it for his redemption. 25:53 He must be with the one who bought him 33  like a yearly hired worker. 34  The one who bought him 35  must not rule over him harshly in your sight. 25:54 If, however, 36  he is not redeemed in these ways, he must go free 37  in the jubilee year, he and his children with him, 25:55 because the Israelites are my own servants; 38  they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

1 tn It is not clear to whom this refers. It is probably broader than “sibling” (cf. NRSV “any of your kin”; NLT “any of your Israelite relatives”) but some English versions take it to mean “fellow Israelite” (so TEV; cf. NAB, NIV “countrymen”) and others are ambiguous (cf. CEV “any of your people”).

2 tn Heb “and his hand slips with you.”

3 tn Heb “strengthen”; NASB “sustain.”

4 tn The form וָחַי (vakhay, “and shall live”) looks like the adjective “living,” but the MT form is simply the same verb written as a double ayin verb (see HALOT 309 s.v. חיה qal, and GKC 218 §76.i; cf. Lev 18:5).

5 tn Heb “a foreigner and resident,” which is probably to be combined (see B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 170-71).

6 tn The meaning of the terms rendered “interest” and “profit” is much debated (see the summaries in P. J. Budd, Leviticus [NCBC], 354-55 and B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 178). Verse 37, however, suggests that the first refers to a percentage of money and the second percentage of produce (see J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 421).

7 tn In form the Hebrew term וְחֵי (vÿkhey, “shall live”) is the construct plural noun (i.e., “the life of”), but here it is used as the finite verb (cf. v. 35 and GKC 218 §76.i).

8 tn Heb “your money” and “your food.” With regard to “interest” and “profit” see the note on v. 36 above.

9 tn Heb “to be to you for a God.”

10 tn Heb “you shall not serve against him service of a slave.” A distinction is being made here between the status of slave and indentured servant.

11 tn See the note on Lev 25:6 above.

12 tn Heb “and.” The Hebrew conjunction ו (vav, “and”) can be considered to have adversative force here.

13 tn Heb “may go out from you.”

14 tn Heb “fathers.”

15 tn Or perhaps reflexive Niphal rather than passive, “they shall not sell themselves [as in] a slave sale.”

16 tn Heb “You shall not rule in him in violence”; cf. NASB “with severity”; NIV “ruthlessly.”

17 tn Heb “And your male slave and your female slave.” Smr has these as plural terms, “slaves,” not singular.

18 tn Heb “ from the nations which surround you, from them you shall buy male slave and female slave.”

19 tn The word “slaves” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied here.

20 tn Heb “family which is” (i.e., singular rather than plural).

21 tn Heb “and your brothers, the sons of Israel, a man in his brother you shall not rule in him in violence.”

22 tn Heb “And if the hand of a foreigner and resident with you reaches” (cf. v. 26 for this idiom).

23 tn Heb “and.” The Hebrew conjunction ו (vav, “and”) can be considered to have resultative force here.

24 tn Heb “offshoot, descendant.”

25 tn Heb “right of redemption shall be to him.”

26 tn Heb “the son of his uncle.”

27 tn Heb “or from the remainder of his flesh from his family.”

28 tc The LXX, followed by the Syriac, actually has “if,” which is not in the MT.

29 tn Heb “the years.”

30 tn Heb “as days of a hired worker he shall be with him.” For this and the following verses see the explanation in P. J. Budd, Leviticus (NCBC), 358-59.

31 tn Heb “to the mouth of them.”

32 tn Heb “but if a little remains in the years.”

33 tn Heb “be with him”; the referent (the one who bought him) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

34 tn Heb “As a hired worker year in year.”

35 tn Heb “He”; the referent (the one who bought him) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

36 tn Heb “And if.”

37 tn Heb “go out.”

38 tn Heb “because to me the sons of Israel are servants.”

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