John Sietze Bergsma, «The Jubilee: A Post-Exilic Priestly Attempt to Reclaim Lands?», Vol. 84 (2003) 225-246
The article examines the hypothesis that the jubilee legislation of Lev 25 was a post-exilic attempt on the part of returning Judean exiles — particularly the priests — to provide legal justification for the reclamation of their former lands. This hypothesis is found to be dubious because (1) the jubilee did not serve the interests of the socio-economic classes that were exiled, and (2) Lev 25 does not show signs of having been redacted with the post-exilic situation in mind. A comparison with Ezekiel’s vision of restoration points out the differences between Lev 25 and actual priestly land legislation for the post-exilic period.
A Post-Exilic Priestly Attempt to Reclaim Lands?
Traditionally, the jubilee year of Leviticus 25 has been viewed as priestly legislation aimed at ensuring the perpetual land-rights of the small landowner and his descendants by preventing latifundism — the accumulation of large estates by the wealthy. In recent scholarship on this chapter, however, a different view of the intent of the jubilee legislation has gained popularity. This view regards the jubilee legislation as the production of exilic or post-exilic priests, with the intent to justify legally the repossession of lands lost in the exile by themselves and other returning Judean exiles. For lack of a better term, this view may be called the "land-reclamation" hypothesis.
This paper attempts to open discussion on the "land-reclamation" hypothesis, asking whether it is capable of explaining the presence or absence of various features in Lev 25. The issue of the dating of the final redaction of the text, though interesting in itself and pertinent to the subject, is not the main focus of this paper1: the only question is