Land Laws Among Other Nations
Leviticus 25:2-55
Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you come into the land which I give you…

Some knowledge of our ordinance reached heathen authors; thus Diodor of Sicily writes: "Moses divided the land by lot, giving equal portions to the private citizens, but larger ones to the priests; and he forbade the former to sell their lands, lest some greedily buy up many allotments, eject the less prosperous, and thus cause a decrease of the population." Among other ancient nations we find some arrangements slightly analogous to the Biblical laws. Lycurgus, after having distributed the land essentially in equal parts, made it infamous for any one either to buy another's possession or to sell his own; yet by permitting the citizens to give their property away or to bequeath it, he paved the way for that which eventually happened that "some had far too much, others too little, by which means the land came into few hands." Solon enacted a law restraining persons from acquiring land beyond a given limit. Plato believed that no one ought to possess more than four times as much as the lowest income or as "a single lot." The Locrians were forbidden to sell their ancient patrimony or their original lots of land unless notoriously compelled by distress; and in some other countries it was unlawful to sell such lands on any account. The Dalmatae made a partition of their land every eighth year. With a view of equalising the property of the citizens Phaleas of Chalcedon ordained that the rich should give marriage portions, but never receive any, while the poor should always receive but never give them. Yet even these and similar measures, imperfect and desultory compared with the complete and well-balanced law of the Pentateuch, were found impracticable, and for the most part remained a dead letter. Aristotle thus comments on equality of property: "It is possible that an equality of goods is established, and yet that this may be either too great, when it leads to a luxurious living, or too little when it obliges the people to live hard. Hence it is evident that the legislator must aim at a proper medium or a moderate sufficiency for all. And yet it is even of more consequence that the citizens should entertain a similarity of feelings than an equality of property; but this can only be if they are properly educated under the direction of the laws." Would the great philosopher, had he known the legislation of the Pentateach, have found in it the realisation of his ideal? He certainly describes with precision its main features.

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.

WEB: "Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them, 'When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a Sabbath to Yahweh.

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