We are now discussing the Year of Jubilee or YOVEL in Hebrew.
In my last post I mentioned that one of the main reasons for Jubilee was to give the honest and hard-working individual who fell into poverty through no fault of his own a fresh start.
Now one of the main reasons an ancient Hebrew fell into poverty was by accumulating too much debt.
Let’s say the sole breadwinner of a family was unable to work for a period of time due to illness or some physical injury.
Because he’s not working, no income is coming in, and his debts continue to increase day-by-day.
I’m sure there are many of us who have experienced the nightmare cycle of getting into debt only to find out later that we can’t pay that debt, so then we borrow more to pay off the previous debt until the situation reaches a point where there’s no way out but to file bankruptcy.
However, the option of filing bankruptcy didn’t exist in ancient Israel.
In most modern societies, debt consists of two forms: UNSECURED DEBT or SECURED DEBT.
Unsecured debt are the credit cards we use.
Secured debt are loans attached to physical things we own like our homes or cars.
If we default on this type of debt, we can lose our home or our car.
Here’s the thing.
All forms of debt in the Israelite system were secured debt.
And 99% of the time, the means of collateral was land since ancient Israel was an agricultural-based society.
If you lost your land, you were in dire straits because that meant you lost your home, your food supply and worse of all you lost your ability to generate future income to get yourself back on solid ground.
There was one other type of security for debt besides the land.
The other type of security was human beings who became the collateral for a loan.
To put it more accurately, it was the work that a person could perform for you that made human collateral valuable.
Of course, I’m talking about indentured servitude here.
The year of Jubilee was established to partly deal with this everyday reality the people of Israel faced.
If there is anybody reading this who comes from a farming background, I’m sure it’s much easier for you to understand just how important land possession is in an agricultural society.
Israel, pretty much throughout their entire history, was a land-based agricultural society.
Thus right off the bat in Leviticus chapter 25, we have YHWH speaking to Moses about the land (the Land of Canaan) He was going to bequeath to the people of Israel forever.