The maintenance of land as theological-ethical implication of the Sabbath year in Leviticus 25:1-7

Mhlanga, Paul (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2007-12)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: THE MAINTENANCE OF LAND AS THEOLOGICAL-ETHICAL IMPLICATION OF THE SABBATH YEAR IN LEVITICUS 25: 1-7 Chapter one of this thesis discusses the justification of the investigation of the Sabbath year institution along practical, theological, economic and ethical grounds. The hypothesis statement is that the most important theological effects of the Sabbath year, according to the Pentateuchal books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy can be traced back to the maintenance of land within the family. The selected methodology for this thesis entails a literature study of existing research (Chapters one to four) and a ‘close reading’ approach in order to examine the central text in this thesis (Lev 25: 1-7) (Chapter 5). The key terms defined in Chapter five are ‘land’, ‘maintenance of land’ and ‘Sabbath year’. Chapter two provides a theological background of the Sabbath year in the Pentateuch. Three agricultural annual festivals are discussed, namely the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest and the Feast of Tabernacles which form the theological context of Exodus 23:14-17 and Deuteronomy 15: 1-18. Chapter three identifies the motivations of the Sabbath year in the Covenant and Deuteronomic Codes and investigates the theological trends in the Books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Chapter four is firstly an investigation of the theological trends in the Book of Leviticus and secondly of the theological trends in the Holiness Code. This chapter also covers the contents of the important institution to do with family land and other humanitarian matters, the Year of Jubilee (Lev 25: 8-54). Chapter five discusses the theological implications of the Sabbath year in Lev 25: 1-7. Chapter six is the concluding chapter which seeks to verify whether the hypothesis has been proven or not. The results of the research on the theological ethical implications of the Sabbath year for the retention of land within the family were conditionally positive. It was found that the Sabbath year helped land to remain within the family because of the following reasons: 1. the Sabbath year reminded humans to act as good stewards of God’s land; 2. the Sabbath year ensured food supplies for all the people because of God’s blessing on the spontaneous produce of the land in this special year; 3. the Sabbath year allowed the land to lie fallow a whole year thus allowing the land to be more productive in the following season thus helping poorer families to have a new beginning on the road to better life in the land; 4. As a year in which the burden of debt was removed from debtors this year helped poor landowners to recover economically and the cancellation of debts actually helped poor people not to sink deeper and deeper into debt which might end up leading to loss of land and other property. The Sabbath year theological and ethical stipulations were meant to create an environment where land was supposed to remain within families that inherited it from the LORD at the beginning, had Israel been obedient to God.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: DIE BEHOUD VAN GROND AS TEOLOGIES-ETIESE IMPLIKASIE VAN DIE SABBATJAAR IN LEVITIKUS 25: 1-7 Hoofstuk een van hierdie tesis bespreek die motivering vir die ondersoek van die Sabbatjaar as instelling op grond van praktiese, teologiese, ekonomiese en etiese gronde. Die hipotese is dat die mees belangrike teologiese implikasies van die Sabbatjaar, volgens die Pentateugboeke Eksodus, Levitikus en Deuteronomium teruggevoer kan word na die behoud van grond binne die familie. Die gekose metodologie vir hierdie tesis behels `n literatuurstudie van bestaande navorsing (Hoofstukke een tot vier) en `n ‘naby-lees’ benadering in Hoofstuk 5, wat die sentrale teks van hierdie tesis behandel, naamlik Levitikus 25: 1-7. Die belangrikste begrippe wat in hierdie hoofstuk beskryf word, is ‘grond’, ‘Sabbatjaar’ en ‘familie’. Hoofstuk twee bied `n teologiese agtergrond tot die Sabbatjaar in die Pentateug. Drie jaarlikse landboukundige feeste word bespreek., naamlik die Fees van die Ongesuurde Brode, die Oesfees en die Loofhuttefees, wat die teologiese konteks van Eksodus 23: 14-7 en Deuteronomium 15: 1-18 vorm. Hoofstuk drie identifiseer die motiverings vir die Sabbatjaar in die Verbondsboek en die Deuteronomiumkodeks, asook die teologiese tendense in die boeke Eksodus en Deuteronomium. Hoofstuk vier behels `n ondersoek na die teologiese tendense in die boek van Levitikus, asook in die Heiligheidskodeks. Hierdie hoofstuk behandel ook die inhoud van die belangrike instelling van familiegrond en ander humanitêre aangeleenthede in die Jubeljaar (Lev 25: 8-25). Hoofstuk vyf bespreek die teologiese implikasies van die Sabbatjaar in Levitikus 25: 1-7. Hoofstuk ses is die finale hoofstuk en poog om te verifieër of die hipotese van die tesis bewys kan word of nie. Die uitkoms van die navorsing oor die teologiese-etiese implikasies van die Sabbatjaar vir die behoud van grond binne die familie was positief, maar voorwaardelik. Daar is bevind dat die Sabbatjaar gehelp het om grond binne die familie te behou oor die volgende redes: 1. Die Sabbatjaar het mense herinner om as goed na God se grond te kyk; 2. Die Sabbatjaar het verseker dat daar genoeg kos is vir al die mense, juis as gevolg van God se seën op die spontane lewering van produkte deur middel van die grond in hierdie spesiale jaar; 3. Die Sabbatjaar het bepaal dat die grond vir `n jaar braak lê en dit het beteken dat die grond in die volgende seisoen meer produktief sou wees. Dit sou met ander woorde armer families help om `n nuwe begin te maak tot `n beter lewe in die land; 4. As `n jaar waarin die belemmering van skuld afgeskryf is, het hierdie jaar arm grondeienaars gehelp om ekonomies weer op die been te kom. Die kwytskelding het arm mense gehelp om nie verder skuld aan te gaan wat op die ou einde die verlies aan grond en ander eiendom sou beteken nie. Die Sabbatjaar se teologiese en etiese stipulasies was bedoel om `n situasie te skep waar grond binne die families wat dit aanvanblik van God ge-erf het, sou bly as hulle gehoorsaam aan God was.

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