“The land is not to be sold in perpetuity, because the land belongs to me — you are only foreigners and temporary residents with me. Therefore, when you sell your property, you must include the right of redemption.”-Leviticus 25:24
Today I want to look the part of verse 24 where it says that all buying and selling of land in ancient Israel MUST INCLUDE THE RIGHT OF REDEMPTION.
First of all, this was NOT an optional provision.
Both the buyer and seller had to adhere to this condition.
So understand that when we encounter any transaction concerning land in Israel, the RIGHT OF REDEMPTION or the RIGHT TO REDEEM THE LAND was without exception always included.
Now what exactly does “redeem” mean?
Let’s start with a simple dictionary definition.
redeem: to get something back
redeem: gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment.
So in the context of land transactions in the Torah, the “right of redemption” basically refers to the right of the original owner to purchase back a piece of land he lost that he originally owned.
Understand that we are not to confuse redemption with the Jubilee Law.
We’re talking about two separate things.
Redemption is all about a 3rd party redeemer who steps in to pay MONEY in order to restore ownership of a piece of land to its original owner.
Redemption is a MONEY transaction.
Now let’s talk a little about this 3rd party redeemer.
99% of the time, the 3rd party redeemer was a family member who was under OBLIGATION to redeem the land.
He was duty-bound, it was NOT an option for him.
In addition, the current user or holder of the land being transacted was ALSO under OBLIGATION to accept a fair and proper redemption offer.
Actually that’s putting it lightly.
Let me rephrase: if a 3rd party redeemer approached the current holder of the land with a fair redemption offer, the current owner, by TORAH law, could NOT refuse the redemption offer.
Understand that all of this is based on a situation where the original landowner is about to lose his land due to unfortunate and uncontrollable circumstances.
It was unthinkable that an original landholder would sell the lease on his property just to make money.
We’re talking a situation that FORCED the original holder against his will to sell his land.
He may have fallen on hard financial times.
Or maybe some unexpected emergency arose and he now had to “sell” a piece of land in order to come up with some quick cash.
When this happened, usually the closest relative who had the financial means was obligated to step in and redeem the land in the name of family member who was about to lose it.
And keep in mind that the 3rd party relative who redeemed the property did not get to keep or hold the land he redeemed.
The redeemer steps in, pays the price, and that’s it!
He receives zero benefit.
It is the poor person who had nothing and was about to lose his land that got all the benefit.
Are you starting to get a picture of the gospel message here?
Let’s take a look at verses 26 and 27.
“If the seller has no one to redeem it but becomes rich enough to redeem it himself, he will calculate the number of years the land was sold for, refund the excess to its buyer, and return to his property.”
This is a situation when an original owner was about to lose his land and he had no relatives who were able to help him by becoming a 3rd party redeemer.
Either he has no close relatives who are alive or the close relatives of his who are alive don’t have the financial means to help him.
Therefore, he has no choice but to sell his property in order to make good on his debts.
However, the Scriptures tell us that if his financial situation reverses and he becomes capable of coming up with a fair and proper redemption offer, per Torah law, the current holder of the land he sold the leasehold to is duty-bound to sell it back to the original owner.
We’re even told how the redemption price is to be calculated.
“…he will calculate the number of years
the land was sold for,
refund the excess to its buyer,
and return to his property.”
The part where it says he will calculate the number of years the land was sold for is referring to the number of years the current holder of the land was able to grow crops for profit on the land.
Let’s run a really simple simulation.
Let’s say a man owes a $1000 debt and is unable to pay it.
Now let’s say that it is determined that the value of the amount of crops that can be raised on his land are worth exactly $100 a year.
So the man in debt sells his property to pay off the $1000 debt.
However, let’s say five years later, he now has enough money to redeem the land he had to sell because of his debts.
In order to redeem the land, does he need $1000, the original debt amount?
The answer is no.
The reason is because the new and current holder of the land gained 5 years worth of crops as benefit from holding the land.
And since the crop value was determined to be $100 per year, the redemption price is now only $500 as follows.
$1000 (original debt) – $500(value of crops for 5 years) = $500 (the redemption price).
Of course, redemption transactions weren’t always that simple but that was the basic idea.