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Ordinarily, if a field is sold, it returns to it's original owner in the Jubilee.

The exception to this, found in Leviticus 27, is that if a man devotes a field to the service of the tabernacle, it will only return to him if he redeems it at value + 20%.

But verse 27:20 says this (ESV, emphasis mine) "But if he does not wish to redeem the field, or if he has sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed anymore."

What does this mean? How could a person devote a field to God's service and then also sell it to someone else? If he did somehow do this, would the other person own the field permanently? Or does the other person buy it, only to surrender it to the tabernacle?

Or is the verse implying that he (the priest) could sell the field to someone else and then not restore it in the Jubilee? That seems like a real kick-in-the-pants for the family which devoted the field in the first place.

So... how can a devoted field be sold to another man?

2 Answers 2

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The land couldn't be sold as we understand it in English at all.

Leviticus 25:23 YLT

...

The land is not sold - to extinction, for the land is Mine, for sojourners and settlers are ye with me.

...

As you say, when a piece of land was "sold" (really leased), it came back to the family during the Jubilee. It might take 50 years before the land came back, but you can see in Leviticus 27:18 that devoting a field is in context of doing it for the interval until the next Jubilee.

If a man devoted his land to God and wanted his field back right away, he could pay 20% more and get it back without waiting, but he had a limited time to do this. After that time expired he would have to wait until the Jubilee to get it back.

In a similar way, if a man "sold" (leased) his land to another man (instead of God), he would have to wait until the Jubilee to get it back. The owner already made a deal with that man and there was no provision for immediately undoing that transaction if the owner changed his mind as there was when he devoted his land to God. He would have to wait until the Jubilee to get it back - no exceptions.

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  • This is the correct interpretation, and highlights some common patterns in the legal portions of the bible that are different from casual english speech. You often see repetitions like this: if A then not B. If C then B, but if A then not B. In this case A = sell to another man, C = devote to tabernacle, B "can redeem before jubilee for a premium"
    – Robert
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 3:36
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If after all the advantages which the law affords to the vower to redeem his patrimonial inheritance before the jubile year, he is base enough to forego the privilege of redemption, thus showing no desire to perpetuate his family name, the land cannot be redeemed again.

Or if he have sold the field to another man.—Better, and if he yet sells the field to another man, that is, if in addition to this absence of family honour he surreptitiously sells the field which he has vowed to the sanctuary to another man, thus adding sacrilege to baseness, he forfeits the land.

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  • You suggest then, that he has both devoted the land and then also fraudulently sold it? I don't guess that I can demonstrate otherwise, but it seems strange to me that there would be a reason to append a case of that kind of criminality to the matter. If the land isn't redeemed, it isn't redeemed, whether the man attempts to fraudulently sell it on the side seems irrelevant. And who would keep the field in that case? The tabernacle? The other buyer? Is there any extra-biblical evidence of this having been practiced?
    – Truth
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 15:11

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