Why did God command a rest for the land?


By BibleAsk Team

Why did God command a rest for the land?

God commanded a rest for the land, as described in Leviticus, primarily for reasons of environmental sustainability, social justice, and spiritual reflection. The practice of letting the land lie fallow every seventh year (the Sabbath year) allows the soil to recover its nutrients, preventing depletion and ensuring long-term fertility.

Additionally, this command promotes social justice by providing for the poor and the animals, as they are allowed to eat whatever the land produces on its own. Spiritually, the land’s rest is a reminder to the Israelites of their dependence on God and a call to trust in His provision, reinforcing the principle of Sabbath rest and the acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over creation.

Rest for the Land

“And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD.

You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food” (Leviticus 25:1–7).

The Reasons

The first purpose for God’s command was to replenish the earth. God saw that all plant life needed to have their nutrients renewed periodically. In ancient times, agriculture was primitive; the science of crop rotation was not known; and artificial fertilizers were not used. So, by this measure, the Lord planned to revitalize the earth and its resources.

The second purpose was to provide for the poor what the farms produced of itself without cultivation. The produce that came forth belonged to all as a common possession. This showed the mercy and compassion of God on the needy in Israel, on the “stranger” that dwelt among them, and even on the “beasts of the field.”

The third purpose was that this sabbatical year would be one of special religious emphasis. During “the year of release” the people were instructed to learn the law especially at the Feast of Tabernacles.

“And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing” (Deuteronomy 31:10, 11). This learning was preceded by a time of religious preparation (Nehemiah 8). This sabbatical year was a sacred time, one which led to self-inspection, change of character, and a time for revival and restoration.

The Jew’s Disobedience

Sadly, the desire for financial profit made the Israelites disobey the Lord’s command. The “seventy years” captivity was a result of their breaking many of God’s commandments and also for the purpose of giving the earth a time to replenish – a Sabbatical year. The Lord intended to make up for the failure to observe these sabbatical years.  Thus, the Israelites were to remain in captivity “…until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (2 Chronicles 36:17–21).


In conclusion, God’s command for a sabbatical rest for the land served multiple profound purposes: environmental sustainability, social justice, and spiritual renewal. By allowing the land to lie fallow every seventh year, the Israelites practiced an early form of soil conservation, ensuring the land’s continued fertility. This rest also manifested God’s compassion, as the land’s natural produce was shared among all, including the poor, the strangers, and even the animals.

Spiritually, the sabbatical year was a time for the Israelites to reflect, renew their commitment to God’s laws, and engage in communal worship and learning, fostering a deeper sense of reliance on and reverence for God. However, Israel’s failure to observe these commands ultimately led to their captivity, demonstrating the importance of obedience to God’s ordinances for both environmental and spiritual well-being.

Categories Law

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