In Leviticus 25:23-28, God explains how he actually owns all land, and mortals are merely renting it from him. Yes, that’s just what we need, the great landlord in the sky! You can bet that priests down through the ages have used this commandment to annex foreign territories or evict countless people from their land.
God goes on to explain that, since nobody really owns their land, you can never sell land to someone permanently. If you sell your land, you or your ancestors must be allowed to buy the land back when you’ve acquired more money. But, if you don’t have enough money to afford the land, it is automatically returned to you upon the next Jubilee. This is actually an interesting law. I kind of like the idea that even someone sells their land due to hard times will still get it back eventually. This would be an interesting solution to the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008. Of course, in an era when people are usually kicking the bucket at 25, having to wait up to 50 years to get your land back will mean you’ll probably never see it again, however, your children (provided you have sons) will still get it. Thus, your family continues to have a place to stay, even if they have a wasteful or ill-fated generation.
Except, in Leviticus 25:29-31, God says that if the property is in a walled city, and the seller can’t afford to buy back his land within a year, then even though God says that all sales are never final, God says that all sales are final. I should take a moment to point out that there are no contradictions in the bible. Furthermore, the commandment about returning land at Jubilee is made especially useless due to Jews “walling” off every community with an eruv in order to bypass the no-work on the Sabbath laws. Since every Jewish community is technically walled in, they’re always selling their land permanently.
It does make one wonder why the priests thought it necessary to make urban sales permanent. It’s really not that much trouble to exchange ownership or a house or store inside of a town every 50 years, especially when everyone is of the same tribe. The only reason I can think is because the lawmakers wanted to take advantage of the rule by greedily buying up all the land in a city.