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The word, abated, is found six times in the Bible: Genesis 8:3, 8, 11; Leviticus 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:7; Judges 8:3. No other form of the word is used in scripture.

The word, abate, came to English from French. Literally, abate means to beat down or batter. It can also mean to come down. In modern English, it means to make less in amount, degree, or force. It refers most often to the lessening of the strength of an action in some way or another. The violence of a storm abates; pain abates; anger abates.

Three times (Genesis 8:3, 8, 11) the Bible refers to the waters abating from off the earth after the flood. They came back down to their original levels. According to Genesis 8:1, the waters of the flood were “asswaged” (modern spelling, assuaged), a word meaning calmed and lessened. Then, the rain was “restrained” (Genesis 8:2), the waters “returned from off the earth” (Genesis 8:3) and were “abated.” Then the waters “decreased” until the tops of the mountains were seen (Genesis 8:5). Finally, they were “dried up from off the earth” (Genesis 8:7). The different words describe the different stages of the process.

At the time of Moses’ death, when he was 120 years old, “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (Deuteronomy 34:7). That is, his physical strength had not decreased as it usually does with age. The shoes and clothes of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 29:5) were not the only things that did not age in the wilderness. Neither did the body of Moses.

In Judges 8:1, the men of Ephraim were angry at Gideon because they did not share in his victory against the Midianites. Gideon praised them for their capture of the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb (Judges 8:3). As a result of Gideon’s soft answer (Proverbs 15:1), “their anger was abated toward him.”

The other use of “abated in scripture is in Leviticus 27:18 – “But if he sanctify his field after the jubile, then the priest shall reckon unto him the money according to the years that remain, even unto the year of the jubile, and it shall be abated from thy estimation.” This verse stands in the heart of a passage that requires explanation to the modern reader. The use of abate in verse eighteen can be better understood by a summary of the teaching of Leviticus 27:16-25.

  • Sanctifying a field (Leviticus 27:16)
    • The sanctification of a field to the Lord and for the use of the priests or Levites was one way an Israelite could give to the Lord in the Old Testament.
    • When he sanctified a field, the amount of his gift was determined by an estimation of the value of the land.
    • The value of the land was determined by a law of production: the land was valued at 50 shekels of silver for every homer (a measurement) of barley the land would produce.
  • The year of jubilee (Leviticus 27:17-18)
    • The year of jubilee occurred every fifty years and it was a time when land would return to the ancient families who owned the land originally.
    • If the field was sanctified in the year of jubilee, the value of the land was retained as determined above. (v.17)
    • However, if the field was sanctified between jubilees, then the value of the land was abated according to the number of years left until the jubilee (v.18). That is, the value of the property was depreciated according to the years lapsed since the last jubilee.
  • Redemption (Leviticus 27:19-21)
    • If the owner had a change of heart and wanted the land back, he could redeem, or buy back, the land for its estimated value plus one fifth (20%) of the estimation (v.19).
    • The field could not be redeemed (v.20):
      • If it is not redeemed before or during the jubilee
      • It is had been sold to another man
    • If the field was not redeemed by the end of the jubilee, then it became priestly land forever and was holy to the Lord (v.21).
  • Purchased Land (Leviticus 27:22-24)
    • If the field was not the family inheritance of the man who sanctified it, but rather purchased land, he could only sanctify the land until the year of jubilee and the field was so estimated (v.22-23).
    • In the year of jubilee, the field would be returned to the family who originally owned the land (v.24).
  • Standard: all estimations must be made according to the standard weights and currencies held in the sanctuary (v.25)

This passage describes an amazingly complex and thorough set of laws for the sanctification of a field. The abating of the estimated value of the field is what is called in today’s business world depreciation. The time given until the value was zeroed out was the number of years until the jubilee. The full value of the land was depreciated according to how many of those fifty years had gone by.