Let's take a closer look at the Torah debt remittance rules.
"At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts.
2 "And this is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD's remission has been proclaimed.
3 "From a foreigner you may exact it, but your hand shall release whatever of yours is with your brother.
4 "However, there shall be no poor among you, since the LORD will surely bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess,
5 if only you listen obediently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today.
6 "For the LORD your God shall bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.
7 "If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother;
8 but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.
9 "Beware, lest there is a base thought in your heart, saying, 'The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,' and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the LORD against you, and it will be a sin in you.
10 "You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.
11 "For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'"
(Deut. 15:1-11 NAS)
The word highlighted above as 'creditor' is the same word root as the word used in Genesis 3. I've also highlighted a paradox in the passage in which God says that there will no longer be poor in Israel, and then shortly thereafter says that there will always be poor in Israel.
The two statements do not constitute a contradiction, however, because they are both conditionals. IF Israel obeys, then there will be no poor among them. But they will not obey and so the poor will always be with them. And this brings us to Jesus, who clearly is alluding to this passage in Matthew 26, 'The poor you shall always have with you'. More on that in a later column.
Let's take a look at the parallel passage in Leviticus 25:
"1 The LORD then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying,
2 "Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, 'When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the LORD.
3 'Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop,
4 but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard.
5 'Your harvest's aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year.
6 'And all of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you.
7 'Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.
8 'You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years.
9 'You shall then sound a ram's horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land.
10 'You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.
11 'You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines.
12 'For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.
13 'On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property.… 36 'Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you.
37 'You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain.
(Lev. 25:1-37 NAS)
Leviticus places strong emphasis on sevens and sabbaths (very similar words in Hebrew). The system of seven years and of seven sets (or 'weeks') of seven years is important and it is linked both to debt (vs. 37) and to atonement and to a reversal of exile from home.
This theme continues in the prophets, which we'll look at next time.