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.

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