Research notes for the jubilee observance and its advantages

We continue our study on the year of Jubilee. First we look at some information that scholars have provided for its observance, did it take place and was it a full year. Next, we will begin looking at some of the advantages and disadvantages of this special year. This means, what it took for the people to follow and the faith it required. We will briefly look at why the theology of the land is so important and emphasized for the Israelites.

  • Observance
    • The return of the jubilee year was proclaimed by a blast of trumpets which sounded throughout the land. There is no record in Scripture of the actual observance of this festival, but there are numerous allusions (Isa. 5:7, 8, 9, 10; 61:1, 2; Ezek. 7:12, 13; Neh. 5:1–19; 2 Chr. 36:21) which place it beyond a doubt that it was observed.[1]
    • Many scholars argue that the legislation of the Jubilee year, as well as that of the sabbatical year, is so idealistic as to be impractical. North calls it “hardly realistic” (North, 6.6). Wenham says that “as a social institution the jubilee year remained an ideal, which was rarely, if ever, realized” (Wenham 1979, 318). Admittedly the legislation is exacting, and there is no clear OT acknowledgment that the Jubilee year was ever fulfilled. However, the OT’s silence on this practice need not imply lack of observance. Put simply, we do not know if and when it was observed.[2]
    • While the regulations for the Year of Jubilee are specific, no biblical or extrabiblical evidence confirms that the Jubilee was ever actually observed. Kinship redemption is demonstrated in Ruth 4 and Jer 32. While Isa 37:30 may hint at a Jubilee Year by discussing a double fallow year. The passage may also be the result of invasion—a Year of Jubilee enforced by Yahweh, when Israel would not enforce it themselves.[3]
    • The Israelites were to observe the year of jubilee every fiftieth year, the year following seven seven-year periods. Wenham believed the jubilee was a short year only 49 days long inserted into the seventh month of the forty-ninth year[361] This is a minority view.[4]
    • “The Year of Jubilee is not mentioned in the Old Testament outside the Pentateuch. There is no direct biblical evidence regarding its observance in Israel’s history, but if its practice was normal, there might have been no occasion to mention it. On the other hand, the apparent failure of Israelites to keep the sabbatical years during the monarchial period (cf. 26:34-35, 43; 2 Chron. 36:20-21) suggests that the Jubilee might also have been violated.” [5]
  • Advantages / Significance (part 1)
    • The advantages of this institution were manifold. “1. It would prevent the accumulation of land on the part of a few to the detriment of the community at large. 2. It would render it impossible for any one to be born to absolute poverty, since every one had his hereditary land. 3. It would preclude those inequalities which are produced by extremes of riches and poverty, and which make one man domineer over another. 4. It would utterly do away with slavery. 5. It would afford a fresh opportunity to those who were reduced by adverse circumstances to begin again their career of industry in the patrimony which they had temporarily forfeited. 6. It would periodically rectify the disorders which crept into the state in the course of time, preclude the division of the people into nobles and plebeians, and preserve the theocracy inviolate.”[6]
    • Regulating the value of property See also Lev 25:15-16; 27:16-19,23
    • Underlining the fact that God is the true owner of the land Lev 25:23-24 The restoration of property to those to whom God had originally entrusted it is a reminder that the land belongs to him. See also Jos 21:43; 1Ch 29:15; Heb 11:13
    • A means of preserving the inheritance from God Lev 25:25-28 Families are urged to buy back land assigned to them by God. As a last resort, land is restored in the Year of Jubilee. See also Lev 25:32-33; 27:24; Nu 36:4,7-9; 1Ki 21:3; Eze 46:16-18
    • The release of Hebrew slaves in the Year of Jubilee Dt 15:12-15 The release of slaves reflects God’s redemption and preserves the freedom he has given; Lev 25:54-55 The Israelites may not be held permanently as slaves because they belong to God. See also Lev 25:39-43,50-52; Jer 34:8-9,13-14
    • The Year of Jubilee is the year of the Lord’s favour Lk 4:18-19 Jesus Christ alludes to the Year of Jubilee in proclaiming spiritual release and restoration. See also Isa 61:1-2[7]
    • Theological Significance: Because the sabbath days and sabbatical years are “holy to Yahweh,” they express the conviction that time belongs to Yahweh, who is Lord over it. Furthermore, as we have seen, the *exodus release of Israel from Egypt forms a theological basis for these laws. Thus Yahweh as both Creator and Redeemer provides the theological background to these laws.[8]
    • A theology of the land is also significant. The land is Yahweh’s (Lev 25:23). It is the land of promise, and in this bountiful land there is more than sufficient for all, provided various economic laws are heeded and the bounty of the land is shared. Related to this is the ethical love of fellow people reflected in these laws. In particular, these laws command a concern for the landless classes.
    • Finally, there is an eschatological dimension to these sabbath laws. They anticipate the ideal life in God’s place and under his rule. The emphasis on social concern looks forward to the harmony of God’s people under him. The cancellation of debt and restoration looks forward to the full and final redemption of the people of God. Even the distinctive trumpet sound announcing the Jubilee year, compared to the usual šôpār announcing all other years, can be regarded eschatologically (e.g., Is 27:13).[9]

[1] Easton, M. G. (1893). “Jubilee,” In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

[2] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Babcock, B. C. (2012). Jubilee, Year of. In (J. D. Barry & L. Wentz, Eds.)The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Thomas Constable, “Notes on Leviticus,” Internet, available from http://soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/leviticus.pdf, accessed 22 November 2014.

[5] Lindsey, F. Duane. “Leviticus.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, pp. 163-214. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1985. 211

[6] Easton, M. G. (1893). Jubilee. In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

[7] Manser, M. H. (2009). “Year of Jubilee,” Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

[8] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[9] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Advertisements

Research notes for the provisions of the year of jubilee

The continuation of the small research involved in the year of Jubilee paper. I share this in an effort to show where the paper was formed, some influences on my own opinion, but also to show what some scholars think and say about this topic. We don’t always get to see too much of the details behind the scene that these scholars do. We may see snippets of their work here or there, but they have such deep knowledge of things that this becomes almost an “ode” to all those who have invested so much time and effort into these individual topics.

  • Provisions
    • four main provisions applied.
      • 2.1. Land Return. This is perhaps the main provision of the Jubilee year, without parallel in the sabbatical year. In the Jubilee year, any land that had been sold in the previous forty-nine years was to be returned to its original family of ownership according to the Mosaic land distribution [1]
        • The theological motivation for the Jubilee law of land return was that the land belonged to Yahweh, so the law regarded Israel as being “aliens and tenants” with Yahweh (Lev 25:23). Israelites technically were stewards of the land, not its owners. This theology of the land undergirds the whole Jubilee legislation. The land, of course, is crucial in the OT for the *promises and purposes of Yahweh as well as being an indicator of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel.
        • The overarching principle for land ownership and tenancy is found in verses 23–24. The land is YHWH’s; the people of Israel were resident strangers on his land. Therefore, they had no right to sell it irretrievably. Thus, both buyer and seller were to recognize the temporary nature of their arrangement and anticipate the eventual return of the land to the seller or his family. [2]
        • If possible, kinship structures were to prevent the control of land from leaving the family. If, however, land must be sold, it must be sold commensurately with the number of years remaining until the Jubilee, for in that year, the land is to be returned to its original owner.
      • 2.2. Release of Israelite Slaves. In addition, Israelite slaves were to be released (Lev 25:39–43). Presumably the return of land coinciding with slave release would give freed slaves the resources to make a new start. A distinction is made between Israelite slaves and foreign slaves; the provision of release did not apply to the latter (Lev 25:44–46). Even if an Israelite became a slave of a resident alien, the right of redemption still applied, so that Israelite slaves could redeem themselves if they prospered or a family member could redeem them. The details in Leviticus 25 regarding slaves make it clear that slaves were to be treated generously and not harshly. The theological undergirding of this law is that the people of Israel are the servants of Yahweh who redeemed them from Egypt (Lev 25:55). This is not unlike the theological motivation regarding the sabbatical law of slave release (Deut 15:15). This theological expression also relates to the land-return law. Both land and Israel belong to Yahweh.[3]
        • If it becomes necessary for an Israelite to come under another’s authority as a tenant, this person is to be treated with compassion and released in the Jubilee year. However, if slaves are acquired from the surrounding nations, they are kept as property, and, presumably, not released in the Jubilee (vv. 44–46). Finally, if an Israelite farmer is indentured outside of his clan, a kinsmen has the first right of redemption, and if this is not possible, then the farmer is to be released in the year of Jubilee. [4]
      • 2.3. Cancellation of Debts. If, as has been suggested above, debt repayments were suspended during the sabbatical year, then in the Jubilee year they were cancelled entirely. Though Leviticus 25 does not explicitly discuss debt cancellation, the return of an Israelite to his land plus the release of slaves implies the cancellation of debts that led to slavery or the loss of land (see Sloan, 7–9). Related to this provision is the proscription of interest charged to fellow Israelites (Lev 25:36–37). This provision is also grounded in Yahweh’s redemption of Israel from Egypt.
      • 2.4. Fallow Land. As in the sabbatical year, the land was to lie fallow in the Jubilee year (Lev 25:11–12). Similar to God’s provision of *manna in the wilderness, the year preceding the sabbatical and Jubilee years would produce sufficient for the fallow years (Lev 25:21).[5]
        • Rest for the land. The command for the land to rest is given first. Here, YHWH gives his assurance that if they are faithful to keep his command to give the land its rest, the Israelites will not lack food. Rather, YHWH will bless the crop of the sixth year so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years (vv. 21–22). Thus, the crop of that year will provide for the year itself, the next year when the land is resting, and a third year, the first year of the new cycle, while the people are waiting for the crops to come in again. [6]
      • During this year of joy and liberation the law stipulated three respects in which the land and people were to be sanctified: (1) It was to be a time of rest for the soil as well as people (Lev. 25:11). The unattended growth of the field was for the poor to glean and for the beasts of the field (Exod. 23:11). (2) All land was to revert to the original owner (Lev. 25:10–34; 27:16–24). The original distribution of land was to remain intact. All property which the original owner had been obligated to sell (and had not yet been redeemed) was to revert (without payment) to the original owner or his lawful heirs. Some exceptions to this pattern are noted in Lev. 25:29–30; 27:17–21. (3) Every Israelite who had sold himself—either to his fellow countryman or to a foreigner settled in the land—because of poverty and remained unredeemed was to be freed along with his children (Lev. 25:39–46).[7]
      • The use of the ram’s horn was significant. With this horn God announced His descent on Mt. Sinai, called Israel to be His people, received them into His covenant, united them to Himself, and began to bless them (Exod. 19:13, 16, 19; 20:18).[8]
        • The year began on the Day of Atonement “. . . to show that it was only with the full forgiveness of sins that the blessed liberty of the children of God could possibly commence.”[9]
        • No sowing or reaping was to take place, as during the sabbatical years (v. 11). God promised to provide for His people as they rested in response to His gracious promise (vv. 18-23).

[1] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Chris bruno

[3] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 703

[4] Chris Bruno

[5] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[6] Christorpher Bruno, “’Jesus is Our Jubilee’…But How? The OT Background and Lukan Fulfillment of the Ethics of Jubilee,” in JETS 53/1 (March 2010) 81-101.

[7] Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Year of Jubilee. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers. 1694

[8] Thomas Constable, “Notes on Leviticus,” Internet, available from http://soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/leviticus.pdf, accessed 22 November 2014.

[9] Keil, C. F., and Franz Delitzsch. The Pentateuch. 3 vols. Translated by James Martin. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. N.p.; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d. 2:458

Research Process

I recently thought about how much research it takes to write a 7-10 page paper. There are some topics that you can find so much information on that it is really difficult to condense that down into a short and concise paper. This is especially true when you may have a broad topic and 30 pages worth of research material that you have to go through. Then, having to take all of that information and make it into something that is short, concise, and readable all the while showing the audience the author has some level of understanding about the subject. 

One difficulty is taking the research, learning about the subject (there are many things that a general knowledge may be known, but not an in-depth knowledge to where you feel you are a expert or even novice on the subject), putting it all together and finally trying to even put your original thoughts into it. After writing a number of papers this past year and a half, I have found such a greater respect for all writers but especially those that pour out articles and documents every month. I can’t even imagine how many hours of research they invested. For a small paper like the Jubilee paper, I think I invested around 10-15 hours because not only is it about finding articles that touch on the subject, but then it is reading and re-reading. Some times it is trying to condense their thoughts into something smaller all the while still doing justice to the author’s intent.

Even after writing on a subject, you may think you have an intermediate amount of knowledge until one day you read something, watch something or hear something and that author or subject blows you out of the water spouting off things about that subject you never knew. Or you may have already forgotten even though you researched it only a week ago! This is one of the most amazing things about God and Christianity. He is infinite that no matter how much knowledge we ever gain in this world studying Him, or how much He blesses us with about Him; we can never fully and completely understand or know Him. It is mind-boggling and awe-inspiring to belong to a God (the only God) that loves us so much, has a plan for us, wants us to know Him and have a relationship with Him, yet is still a mystery. It is humbling. We could spend our whole lives on one characteristic or attribute of the Father and still never truly or fully grasp that concept.

Over the next few days, I would like to share with you some of the research I found on the year of Jubilee (just a couple of more post then, Jubilee will be over!). My hopes for this are to bring a little more enlightenement to what this special year meant. It has been a fascinating study for me and I hope these post help with either your own research or with a closeness to the Great Mystery, Our Heavenly Father.

  • Introduction
    • The basic principle of Sabbath years is found in verses 3–4: every seventh year, the people of Israel were to refrain from cultivating the land as a “Sabbath to YHWH” (v. 2). Following this explanation, the rest of the chapter presents a general principle for the practice of the Jubilee year, followed by a series of specific instructions.
      • Every fiftieth year, on the Day of Atonement (see note below), Israel was to sound the trumpet and declare a year of Jubilee. The Jubilee command, at its simplest, is found in verse 10. Israel must consecrate the fiftieth year in order to “proclaim liberty throughout the land.”
        • The “year” of Jubilee actually begins in the seventh month of the year. Therefore, it seems likely that the year began in the seventh month of either the 49th or 50th year and extended until the seventh month of the 50th or 51st year. Allen P. Ross summarizes three major options for the chronology of the Jubilee: (1) the Jubilee took place at the end of the seventh Sabbath year, so that the land was not worked for two consecutive years; (2) the Jubilee and the seventh Sabbath year were simultaneous, and “fifty” is a general way of speaking about the 49th year; (3) the Jubilee began in the first month in the civic calendar but the seventh in the cultic, so that whether one considered it the 49th or 50th year depended on which calendar was being used (Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002] 459)
      • Description of the year:
        • The singular institution of the Jubilee year had more than one purpose. As a social and economical arrangement it tended to prevent the extremes of wealth and poverty. Every fiftieth year the land was to revert to its original owners, the lineal descendants of those who had ‘come in with the conqueror,’ Joshua. Debts were to be remitted, slaves emancipated, and so the mountains of wealth and the valleys of poverty were to be somewhat leveled, and the nation carried back to its original framework of a simple agricultural community of small owners[1]
        • This was the most illustrious Sabbath, since the state of the people, both as to their persons and their houses and property, was renewed; and although in this way God had regard to the public good, gave relief to the poor, so that their liberty should not be destroyed, and preserved also the order laid down by Himself; still there is no question but that He thus added an additional stimulus to incite the Jews to honour the Sabbath. For it was a kind of imposing memorial of the sacred rest, to see slaves emancipated and become suddenly free; houses and lands returning to their former possessors who had sold them; and in fine all things assuming a new face. They called this year Jobel, from the sound of the ram’s horn, whereby liberty and the restitution of property were proclaimed; …its main feature was the solemnity which shewed them to be separated from other nations to be a peculiar and holy nation to God; nay, the renewal of all things had reference to this, that being redeemed anew in the great Sabbath, they might entirely devote themselves to God their Deliverer. [2]
        • a joyful shout or clangour of trumpets, the name of the great semi-centennial festival of the Hebrews. It lasted for a year. During this year the land was to be fallow, and the Israelites were only permitted to gather the spontaneous produce of the fields (Lev. 25:11, 12). All landed property during that year reverted to its original owner (13–34; 27:16–24), and all who were slaves were set free (25:39–54), and all debts were remitted. [3]
        • the fiftieth year occurring at the end of seven sabbatical cycles of seven years each, in which all land was returned to its ancestral owners and all Israelite slaves were freed. The jubilee is described in Lev. 25:8–17, 23–55; 27:16–25; and Num. 36:4. It was proclaimed with the blowing of the shofar (a trumpet made from a ram’s horn) on the Day of Atonement. The land was also left fallow in the jubilee year. The jubilee was observed in the seventh sabbatical in Second Temple times, so that there was a forty-nine-year cycle.[4]
        • Freedom or liberty is a central notion in the Jubilee year, and God’s liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt is the critical theological background (Lev 25:38, 42, 55).[5]
        • The counting for the year was “seven sabbaths of years.” Most probably the year after the seventh sabbatical year was the Jubilee year, though some scholars have argued that the Jubilee year coincided with the seventh sabbatical year counting the years inclusively (e.g., Chirichigno). However, the provisions for the Jubilee year do not totally coincide with those of the sabbatical year. Certainly Josephus, Philo and rabbinical scholars were unanimous in regarding the Jubilee as the fiftieth year. Also, Leviticus 25:21 seems to say that one year’s harvest would suffice for three years, implying that the Jubilee year was successive to a sabbatical year.[6]
          • Others suggest that the Jubilee may have been a short year, perhaps of forty-nine days, functioning not unlike modern leap days.
        • The 50th year after seven cycles of seven years (Lev. 25:10) in which Israel’s land and people gained freedom. It was begun with a blast from a ram’s horn on the Day of Atonement[7]
        • this was also called the year of liberty (Ezek. 46:17).[8]
        • “The Jubilee legislation found in Leviticus 25 presents a vision of social and economic reform unsurpassed in the ancient Near East.”[9]
        • The word “jubilee” probably comes from the Hebrew yabal, meaning “to bring [forth],” as in the bringing forth of produce. The year of jubilee did for the land what the Day of Atonement did for the people. This year removed the disturbance or confusion of God’s will for the land that resulted from the activity of sinners eventually. During this year God brought the land back into the condition that He intended for it. The fact that the priests announced the year of jubilee on the Day of Atonement (v. 9) confirms this correspondence. [10]

[1] Alexander Maclaren, “Leviticus 25,” Expositions of Holy Scripture, Internet, available from http://biblehub.com/commentaries/maclaren/leviticus/25.htm, accessed 22 November 2014.

[2] Calvin, J., & Bingham, C. W. (2010). Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony (Vol. 2, p. 451). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] Easton, M. G. (1893). “Jubilee,” In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

[4] Schiffman, L. H. (2011). jubilee. In (M. A. Powell, Ed.)The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated). New York: HarperCollins.

[5] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 702

[6] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 702

[7] Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Year of Jubilee. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers. 1694

[8] Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Festivals. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[9] Robert Gnuse, “Jubilee Legislation in Leviticus: Israel’s Vision of Social Reform,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 15:2 (April 1985):43.

[10] Thomas Constable, “Notes on Leviticus,” Internet, available from http://soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/leviticus.pdf, accessed 22 November 2014.

Concluding thoughts on the Year of Jubilee

Today, we wrap up our series on the Year of Jubilee by offering some concluding thoughts. In brief, to summarize what we have discussed these past few posts and point to the great and magnificent work of Christ. It is a great reminder of the freedom and joy we believers can experience in our Mighty Deliverer

Conclusion

While the Year of Jubilee may not have been practiced, there are many aspects of this year that the modern believer can glean. It is a time when the Israelites were called to trust God that He would provide for all their needs. Jubilee is not only a reminder for the Israelites that the land belonged to Yahweh and the Israelites were the stewards, it is a reminder for the modern believer as well that all that we have belongs to God. The Christian is to trust God, obey His will, be good stewards, and rejoice in the freedom of God’s grace and redemption through Jesus Christ. The believer may be called to practice a leap of faith much like the Israelites with the Year of Jubilee, but the Christian can be sure that even in uncertainty and trials, they can confidently trust in a faithful God. Jubilee reminds the believer even when we are not faithful, God always is because He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13). The Year of Jubilee’s “main feature was the solemnity which shewed them to be separated from other nations to be a peculiar and holy nation to God; nay, the renewal of all things had reference to this, that being redeemed anew in the great Sabbath, they might entirely devote themselves to God their Deliverer.”[1]

The Year of Jubilee typified the spiritual rest all believers enter into through Christ. He eased the burden of worldly care and labor enabling and encouraging the believer to live by faith. Just as the fruits of the land for Jubilee were enjoyed in common, so the salvation brought about by Christ is a common salvation to be enjoyed by all. Jubilee exemplified a Christian’s redemption from the service of sin by the grace of God in Christ who sets a believer free (John 7:32). As the Year of Jubilee was an expression of a resounding shout of joy and freedom, so Christians can rejoice in the liberty provided by Christ.

[1] John Calvin and C.W. Bingham, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses…, 451.

Bibliography

Barker, P. A. “Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. 696-706. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

Babcock, B. C. “Jubilee, Year of.” In The Lexham Bible Dictionary, edited by J.D. Barry and L. Wentz. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012.

Bergsma, John Sietze. The Jubilee from Leviticus to Qumran: A History of Interpretation. VTSup 115; Leiden: Brill, 2007.

Bloom, Jon “Lay Aside the Weight of Restless Work.” Desiring God. 2013. Accessed 23 November 2014. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/lay-aside-the-weight-of-restless-work.

Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. Eds. “Festivals.” In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. Logos Bible Software.

Bruno, Christopher. “’Jesus is Our Jubilee’…But How? The OT Background and Lukan Fulfillment of the Ethics of Jubilee,” JETS 53/1 (2010): 81-101.

Calvin, J., & Bingham, C. W. Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010.

Constable, Thomas. Notes on Leviticus. Internet. Accessed 22 November 2014. Available from http://soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/leviticus.pdf.

Easton, M. G. “Jubilee,” In Easton’s Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893. Logos Bible Software.

Gnuse, Robert. “Jubilee Legislation in Leviticus: Israel’s Vision of Social Reform,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 15:2 (1985): 43.

Hamilton, Victor P. Handbook on the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.

Henry, Matthew. “Leviticus 25.” In Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, 181–182. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.

Keil, C.F., and Franz Delitzsch. “The Pentateuch.”  Translated by James Martin. In Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol. 3, N.p. 1865; Reprint. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011.

Lindsey, F. Duane. “Leviticus.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, 163-214. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1985.

Manser, Martin H. “Year of Jubilee.” Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser, 2009. Logos Bible Software.

Merrill, Eugene. Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament. Nashville: B & H, 2006.

North, Robert. Sociology of the Biblical Jubilee. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1954.

Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch as Narrative, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 361.

Schiffman, L. H. “Jubilee.” The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated), edited by Mark Allan Powell. New York: HarperCollins, 2011. Logos Bible Software.

Wenham, Gordon J. “The Book of Leviticus.” In New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series. 239-334. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979.

How does the Jubilee apply to modern believers?

So what you may ask about this year of Jubilee? What is the point of it now that Christians are under the Messianic covenant. How does this apply to me? Hopefully, in today’s post we will be able to answer these questions. The Jubilee reminds us of the great gift and work of Christ. Through studying the year of Jubilee, we can hopefully be more appreciative about Christ and what He has freed us from and done.

Application for Modern Believers

The Jubilee is fulfilled in Jesus as He forgives our debts, restores the relationship between God and His people, provides freedom from sin, and rest to all believers. Jesus’ ministry included other aspects of the Jubilee such as physical and economic relief, but the greater comparison between Christ and the Jubilee is found in Christ offering the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation of the relationship between God, his people and the world.[1]

An important facet of Jubilee is that of rest. God designed and instructed His children to rest by building an important “rhythm” of Sabbaths into the individual and community lives of Israel every seventh day (Lev 23:3), every seventh year – the Sabbath Year (Lev 25:3-4), and every fiftieth year – the Jubilee (Lev 25:8-17).[2] This rhythm of regular and repeated restful experiences was intended by God for Israel to receive His refreshment and provisions so that they would not trust in their own efforts for tomorrow’s needs or the next generation’s material security.[3] If the Israelites obeyed God’s Sabbaths He promised them blessings (Deut 15:4-6), but if they ignored them He promised them curses (Deut 28:15-68).[4] This was a discipline built by God to lay aside one’s own work and efforts and lay hold of faith in the Almighty Provider.

As Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath, He is both Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5) and is Himself our Sabbath rest (Matt 11:28). As Christians are part of the new covenant, they are no longer required to keep the Old Testament Sabbath laws (Acts 15:28-29). This does not mean Christians are not to rest, but it does mean believers rest from trying to attain holiness and acceptance through keeping the requirements of the law that only Jesus himself was able to meet. The Christian’s rest is more profound because they are to trust and believe in the work of Christ, which is a form of resting in His promises, not producing works (John 6:29).[5] All that the Christian is to do is to proceed from the rest of faith, otherwise “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23). “We are no longer in bondage, no longer slaves to sin, having been freed by Christ, and we can truly enter the rest God provides as we cease laboring to make ourselves acceptable to God by our own works (Heb 4:9-10).”[6] This does not mean a lifestyle of laziness since the Christian is to do all things for the glory of the Father (1 Cor 10:31), but it means that Christians are to rest in Christ and take regular intervals of resting from work activities for refreshment, reflection, and renewal.

“The Jubilee presents a beautiful picture of the New Testament themes of redemption and forgiveness. Christ is the Redeemer who came to set free those who are slaves and prisoners to sin (Rom 8:2; Gal 5:1; 3:22). The debt of sin we owe to God was paid on the cross as Jesus died on our behalf (Col 2:13-14), and we are forgiven the debt forever.”[7] As the slaves who were sold were redeemed and allowed to return to their families during Jubilee, so this reminds Christians of Christ’s redemption from the slavery of sin and evil, and the believer’s restoration to “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”[8] While some speculate the year Christ died was a Year of Jubilee and the last ever kept, we can be sure that whoever the Son sets free, is free indeed (John 8:36).

Jesus Christ, assuming a human nature, became the kinsman redeemer by redeeming the inheritance which all by sin had forfeited and alienated, and made a new covenant with all those who by faith became allied to Him.[9] As people under this new covenant, God promises Christians that if they surrender to Him and put His will first, He will provide for all of their needs (Matt 6:25-33).

[1] Christopher Bruno, “Jesus is Our Jubilee,” 100.

[2] Jon Bloom, “Lay Aside the Weight of Restless Work,” Desiring God, 2013, accessed 23 November 2014, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/lay-aside-the-weight-of-restless-work.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Matthew Henry, “Leviticus 25,” Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 181.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 182.

[9] Ibid.

The Year of Jubilee in Scripture

In our continuing series on the Year of Jubilee, today we will look or try to identify other parts of Scripture that show the year of Jubilee actually being observed. Since there is some modern controversy about this special year, we also need to examine if  there is other Scriptural support for this Jubilee year occurring. Maybe it was a one time thing for the Israelites? Or maybe after they got into the promised land, it was no longer needed? So, the point is we may not find any passages on the actual observation but because it happened, the authors/Author decided it did not need to be included because it wasn’t the important emphasis of that piece of Scripture. Part of today is to look at other parts of the Bible that makes reference to the Jubilee to show possible observance. This also helps us see the great redeeming freedom found only in Christ 

The Year of Jubilee in Scripture

As mentioned previously, there are no biblical references that support the Year of Jubilee ever being observed, but there are several references throughout the Bible that make mention of the Year of Jubilee. In the original context (Lev 25), the Jubilee proclamation refers to the restoration of property and persons as well as giving the land rest. Later references refer especially to the restoration of property and persons.[1]

In Jeremiah 34, a command is issued for the release of Hebrew slaves, but is ultimately disobeyed. In Ezekiel 46, there is a reference to the continued practice in the Jubilee laws in the restored or idealized Israel. In this case, when the “prince” gives some of his lands to his servants, the land is returned in the Year of Jubilee. Finally, in Isaiah 61, God’s anointed one proclaims “liberty” as part of the restoration of Israel. Here, the release is specifically related to captive persons and seems to point forward to God’s permanent restoration of His people and covenant.[2] Bergsma argues that in its Old Testament development, the Jubilee, which was originally a legal stipulation, took on an eschatological/messianic significance.[3] The legal/economic significance of the Jubilee in Leviticus 25 certainly has an eschatological flavor in Isaiah 61 and perhaps Ezekiel 46.[4]

Because Isaiah 61 is linked to Jubilee, then it is likely that Luke’s emphasis on liberty in Luke 4 has a similar connection to the Jubilee. “The main feature of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Jubilee in Luke 4 is the proclamation of liberty, which in Luke-Acts probably refers mainly to forgiven sin and secondarily to release from physical/economic oppression.”[5] The claims that Jesus makes about fulfilling the role as the Messiah connect His role as the Redeemer to God’s people by offering forgiveness of debts and a restored relationship with Yahweh.

[1] Christopher Bruno, “Jesus is Our Jubilee,” 94.

[2] Ibid.

[3] John Sietze Bergsma, “The Jubilee from Leviticus to Qumran: A History of Interpretation,” VTSup 115 (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 2-3.

[4] Christopher Bruno, “Jesus is Our Jubilee,” 94.

[5] Ibid, 98.

God’s Provisions for his people

Today, we will look at how God provided for His people. This is a continuation of our Jubilee series. One of the things to remember of this Jubilee is not only the freedom we can experience in Christ, but how we can trust God. Jesus gives us rest by His peace that is beyond all understanding. We can experience freedom from the disfunction of our human flesh, freedom in the Spirit to live, and freedom that allows us to stand firm in the promises of God. My hope in showing this post is to be a reminder that just as God provided in the past, He will do so again. it may not be the same way, but He is worthy of trust. Let go of the worry (speaking to myself more than anyone!), experience God’s freedom today, and see how He provides.

Jubilee Provisions

Yahweh specified three main provisions for this year of joy and freedom in which the people and the land were to be sanctified. These provisions were: the land was to rest, all land was to revert back to the original owner, and finally all the Israelites who were slaves were to be set free.

Similar to the year proceeding Sabbatical and Jubilee years, God instructed the Israelites to give the land rest and trust Him to provide the sufficient resources for this year. God gives His assurance that if the Israelites remain faithful to keep His command to give the land rest, they will not lack any food. Yahweh will bless the sixth year so much that it will produce a crop sufficient enough for the next three years including the crop of the sixth year, the following year when the land is resting and a third year while the people wait for that crop to come in.[1] “The unattended growth of the field was for the poor to glean and for the beasts of the field (Ex 23:11).”[2] In a way beyond the Sabbatical Year, in the Jubilee observance God is putting his people in an even more potentially devastating situation in which they needed to trust him.[3] The directions for Israel parallels Exodus 16 where God instructs his people not to gather manna on the Sabbath and instead He provides a double supply on the sixth that will give them enough for the seventh.[4]

“The land must not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are aliens and sojourners with Me” (Lev 25:23). Yahweh owns the land and the Year of Jubilee was to remind the Israelites that the land is God’s divine gift to them.[5] The Israelites were stewards of the land, they had no right to sell it permanently. All the land was to revert back to the original owner with the original distribution of land to remain intact. This would also allow families to have their land restored to them that were forced to sell it (that had not been redeemed) by way of the Year of Jubilee. The kinship structures were to prevent the control of land leaving the original owners; however if the land was sold, it was to be sold commensurately with the number of years remaining until the Jubilee, for then it would be returned to the original owners.[6] This is, the land of promise that is sufficient for all, its bounty is to be shared and these laws for Jubilee command a concern for the landless classes.[7]

As the land belongs to God so do His people, the Israelites, and as such they cannot be held as permanent slaves. The liberation of slaves reflects the redemption of God and preserves the freedom he has given.[8] “Presumably the return of land coinciding with slave release would give freed slaves the resources to make a new start.”[9] This provision did not apply to foreign slaves, but if the Israelite were a slave to a resident alien, the right of redemption applied.[10] This law reminds the Israelites that as God redeemed them from the harsh slavery of the Egyptians (Lev 25:55), they are servants of God and all slaves should be treated generously not cruelly.

Summarily, God designed the Year of Jubilee as a way for preventing oppression on others. It was a time to start anew and discouraged excess wealth. Slaves were set free and could return to their families thus permanent slavery was rendered impossible. The Israelites were taught that they were to live by faith trusting in the sustaining power of God to satisfy all their needs. This was to be a celebration of freedom and grace because all debts were paid and God had redeemed His people. God is the Lord of land and of economics. “The Jubilee legislation found in Leviticus 25 presents a vision of social and economic reform unsurpassed in the ancient Near East.”[11] There is no clearer statement to be found that affirms the role of Israel as the blessed, yet undeserving vassal whom God had graciously brought into covenant fellowship with Himself.[12] “The cancellation of debt and restoration looks forward to the full and final redemption of the people of God.”[13]

[1] Christopher Bruno, “’Jesus is Our Jubilee’…But How? The OT Background and Lukan Fulfillment of the Ethics of Jubilee,” in JETS 53/1 (2010), 86.

[2] C. Brand, et al, eds., “Festivals.”

[3] Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Pentateuch, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 291.

[4] Ibid.

[5] B.C. Babcock, “Jubilee, Year of.”

[6] Christopher Bruno, “Jesus is Our Jubilee”, 87.

[7] P.A. Barker, “Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee,” 702.

[8] Martin H. Manser, “Year of Jubilee.”

[9] P.A. Barker, “Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee,” 703.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Robert Gnuse, “Jubilee Legislation in Leviticus: Israel’s Vision of Social Reform,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 15:2 (1985): 43.

[12] Eugene Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament, (Nashville: B & H, 2006), 373.

[13] P.A. Barker, “Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee,” 703.

Was the Year of Jubilee Ever Observed?

We continue our look at the Year of Jubilee to discuss if it was ever observed. There has been some controversy on this subject of not only observance, but the length.

Observance

The Israelites were to observe the Year of Jubilee on the fiftieth year, the year following the seven sabbatical-year periods. Some scholars have argued that the Jubilee year coincided with the seventh sabbatical year counting the years inclusively (e.g. Chirichigno).[1] However, the provisions for Jubilee, the specific instructions in Leviticus 25, and historians such as Josephus and Philo all point to the Year of Jubilee on the fiftieth year.  Similarly, “Leviticus 25:21 seems to say that one year’s harvest would suffice for three years, implying that the Jubilee year was successive to a sabbatical year.”[2]

Moreover, controversy has risen over the length of the Jubilee year as some scholars (such as Chirichigno and Wenham) have suggested that this year was a short year, possibly only 49 days long.[3] This view is in the minority and appears to take away from faithfulness and provisions of God. Some have argued that the Year of Jubilee was never actually realized or practiced citing a lack of biblical and extra-biblical evidence to confirm the observation of the Jubilee year.[4] Conversely, “if its practice was normal, there might have been no occasion to mention it.”[5] With the Israelites failure to keep the sabbatical years during other time frames, like the monarchial period (2 Chron 36:20-21), it would suggest that the year of Jubilee was not enforced.[6] However, while there is no clear evidence of it ever being observed, there are allusions to it in other parts of the Old Testament (Isa. 5:7-10; 61:1, 2; Ezek. 7:12, 13; Neh. 5:1–19).[7] Simply stated, we do not know if the Year of Jubilee was ever observed.

[1] P.A. Barker, “Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee,” 702.

[2] P.A. Barker, “Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee,” 702.

[3] Thomas Constable, “Notes on Leviticus.”

[4] B.C. Babcock, “Jubilee, Year of,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, ed. J. D. Barry & L. Wentz, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), under “J,” sec., “Jubilee, Book of”, Logos Bible Software.

[5] F. Duane Lindsey, “Leviticus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1985), 211.

[6] Ibid.

[7] M.G. Easton, “Jubilee.”

Jubilee: The ultimate Sabbath Year

The Ultimate Sabbath Year

The underlying principle of the Sabbath year is that every seventh year, the people of Israel were to refrain from cultivating the land as the land itself “must observe a Sabbath to the Lord” (Lev 25:2). For six years the land can be sowed and the crops can be gathered, but in the seventh year, the land is to have a year of rest. The sowing of the fields is prohibited and the Israelites are not to reap what grows. But if the land produces something it may be eaten and will be food for that family. Sailhamer comments,

In its overall plan, the Sabbath year was to be a replication of God’s provisions for humankind in the Garden of Eden…. So also in the Sabbath year, each person was to share equally in all the good of God’s provision (Lev 25:6). In the Garden, God provided for the man and woman an eternal rest… and time of worship, the Sabbath. The Sabbath year was a foretaste of that time of rest and worship.[1]

The Year of Jubilee was the most illustrious Sabbath year for both the people of Israel and the land since they were both renewed. God gave relief to the poor by providing liberty while preserving the order He laid down and inciting the Jews to honor the Sabbath.[2] “No sowing or reaping was to take place, as during the sabbatical years (v. 11). God promised to provide for His people as they rested in response to His gracious promise (vv. 18-23).”[3] Through the laws on the Sabbath year and Year of Jubilee, God taught the Israelites He was sovereign over their space as well as their time and their lives. The Israelites were to follow His specified laws because the land they were to posses belonged to God, just as they did.[4]

[1] John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 361.

[2] John Calvin and C.W. Bingham, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses…, 451.

[3] Thomas Constable, “Notes on Leviticus.”

[4] Ibid, 112.

Jubilee = faith and freedom

A Year of Faith, Freedom, and Rejoicing

The Year of Jubilee, as described in Leviticus 25:8-55, was “the name of the great semi-centennial festival of the Hebrews,” that lasted for a year.[1] It occurred every fiftieth year at the end of seven sabbatical cycles of seven years each; on this Day of Atonement, Israel was to declare a Year of Jubilee. The year began on the Day of Atonement “. . . to show that it was only with the full forgiveness of sins that the blessed liberty of the children of God could possibly commence.”[2] “The Year of Jubilee did for the land what the Day of Atonement did for the people. This year removed the disturbance or confusion of God’s will for the land that resulted from the activity of sinners eventually.”[3] It was to be proclaimed with the blowing of a trumpet made from a ram’s horn.[4] The use of the ram’s horn is significant because with the horn “God announced His descent on Mt. Sinai, called Israel to be His people, received them into His covenant, united them to Himself, and began to bless them (Exod. 19:13, 16, 19; 20:18).”[5]  The word “Jubilee” probably comes from the Hebrew yabal, meaning “to bring [forth],” as in the bringing forth of produce.[6] Also called the “year of liberty” (Ezek 46:17),[7] a central idea in the Year of Jubilee is of freedom or liberty, while the critical theological background is God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt.[8]

“The main purpose of these laws is to prevent the utter ruin of debtors.”[9] Yet, the Jubilee law also provided remedies for slavery, poverty, and property. The Year of Jubilee presents a picture of redemption; redemption for the land, families, slaves and debts. Considered together, these elements allude to Christ redeeming the sinner and setting them free from the slavery of sin to the freedom of grace and peace that only He can offer.

[1] M.G. Easton, “Jubilee,” in Easton’s Bible Dictionary, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893), under “J,” sec., “Jubilee,” Logos Bible Software.

[2] C.F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch, “The Pentateuch,” translated by James Martin, in Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 3, 1865, Reprint (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2011), 2:458.

[3] Thomas Constable, “Notes on Leviticus,” internet, 2014, accessed 22 November 2014, available from http://soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/leviticus.pdf.

[4] L. H. Schiffman, “Jubilee,” in The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, (Revised and Updated), ed. Mark Allan Powell, (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), under “J,” sec., “Jubilee,” Logos Bible Software.

[5] Thomas Constable, “Notes on Leviticus.”

[6] Robert North, Sociology of the Biblical Jubilee, (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1954), 96-97.

[7] C. Brand, et al, eds., “Festivals,” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), under “F,” sec., “Festivals”, Logos Bible Software.

[8] P.A. Barker, “Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 702.

[9] Gordon J. Wenham, “The Book of Leviticus,” in New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), 317.