Understanding Torah Society - part 14,
Land ownership and stewardship - a closer look at the shemittah and jubilee
Vayyiqra (Leviticus) 25:23
"And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me."
As the Creator, YHWH is the owner of the land-all land. He assigns the stewardship of His land to whomever He chooses. Once He assigns the stewardship of His land to a group of people, He expects certain things on how His land is to be treated. If His land is not treated according to what He expects, then the people to whom He has assigned stewardship lose that stewardship, at least in the very minimum, for a season, and in some cases, permanently.
B'midbar (Numbers) 26:53-55
53 "Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names.
54 To the more you shall give more inheritance, and to the fewer you shall give less inheritance; to every one according to those that were numbered of him shall his inheritance be given.
55 Notwithstanding, the land shall be divided by lot; according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit."
The words "inheritance" and "inherit" have a slightly different connotation in Torah than one understands these words in the West. In the West, one would understand that when a person inherits some property, then the ownership of that property passes on to the person who inherits it. However, that is not the case in Scripture when dealing with land. As we showed above, and there are many more passages of Scripture, YHWH is the owner of the land. Therefore, when the Torah speaks of inheritance, it is not the ownership which is being passed down to the next generation. Rather, it is the stewardship which is being passed down to the next generation. The English word "inherit" is translated from the Hebrew word נחל nachal - to move downward.
YHWH commands that the stewardship of His land be divided by lot, and that the stewardship of that land be perpetual throughout the generations of Israel. However, because she did not keep His stewardship as assigned by Him in a way that was pleasing to Him, He removed them from His land.
Dibre Hayamim Beit (2nd Chronicles) 36:20-21
20 And them that had escaped from the sword He carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia;
21 to fulfill the word of YHWH by the mouth of Yirmeyah, until the land had enjoyed its shabbatot; for as long as it lay desolate it kept shabbat, to fulfill seventy years.
YHWH is serious about His people keeping and obeying each and every one of His Torah commandments. Each commandment carries with it its own particular discipline if not obeyed. Disobedience to the Shemittah is expulsion from His land in order for the land to have the rest which it has missed.
In part 7 of this series, we examined the Shemittah as it relates to a person; specifically, that all debts are released every seven years. However, we did not really examine the Shemittah as it relates to the land, which is what we shall do in this study.