Research For the Land is God’s

Our series on the research for the Year of Jubilee. Today’s post focus mainly on the theme that THE LAND IS YAHWEH’S. This will involve the theological justification. One thing that I need to remember as a Christians is that all that I have been blessed with is God’s. I have done nothing to to earn or deserve any blessing. Yet, God in His grace has given me and all us so many blessings that I easily forget how much He does. I lose that gratitude and thankfulness. I let my human flesh get in the way and think it is mine, when in fact it all belongs to God.

  • The Year of Jubilee prevented the Israelites from oppression of one another (Lev. 25:17). It had a leveling effect on Israel’s culture by giving everyone a chance for a new start. It discouraged excessive, permanent accumulations of wealth and the deprivation of an Israelite of his inheritance in the land. Families and tribes were preserved by the return of freed bondservants to their own families. Permanent slavery in Israel was rendered impossible.[1]
    • This year was a constant reminder of God’s interest in economic freedom [2]
  • God’s designed arrangement was against both large estates and pauperism. The Israelites were repeatedly given the opportunity to begin anew, and the impoverished were enabled to maintain themselves in society. This year also reflected God’s provision for the soil’s conservation (Lev. 25:11–12, 18–21) During the year of Jubilee, the Israelites were once again taught that they were to live in faith, that the Lord would satisfy their needs[3]
  • It appears that the Year of Jubilee was a time of such complete remission of all debts that it became a season of celebration of freedom and grace. In this year oppression was to cease, and every member of the covenant family was to find joy and satisfaction in the Lord of the covenant. God had redeemed His people from bondage in Egypt (Lev. 25:42), and none of them was again to be reduced to the status of a perennial slave. God’s child was not to be oppressed (Lev. 25:43, 46); and poverty could not, even at its worst, reduce an Israelite to a status less than that of a hired servant, a wage earner, and then only until the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:40).[4]
  • The theological justification for the Year of Jubilee is based in Yahweh’s ownership of the land (Exod 15:13, 17). This concept is highlighted in Lev 25:23 which reads, “The land must not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are aliens and sojourners with Me.” The Israelites could not permanently sell land they did not own.[5]
    • While the land was a divine gift, safety and security in the land were contingent upon maintenance of the covenantal relationship (Lev 25:18). Yahweh’s judgment upon Israel ultimately meant expulsion from the land which was warned as early as Lev 18:24–28. The Year of Jubilee was to serve as a reminder that the land is special to Yahweh and a divine gift to the Israelites. The lasting ownership remained to the family which Yahweh initially chose to share ownership.[6]
    • The theological basis for this is found in v. 23: “for the land is mine.” He is the Lord of land and of economics.[7]
      • 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.
        • Parallel in the manna story of Exodus 16, where God instructs his people not to gather manna on the Sabbath, and instead he provides a double supply on the sixth day to carry them through the seventh. 91
      • Genuine reconciliation with God leads inevitably to a transformation of all other relationships.
      • Genuine holiness spills over into one’s relationship with others – in this case, especially the poor, the indebted, or the enslaved. 92
    • This special year reminded the Israelites that they did not really own the land but were tenants of God, the true owner (v. 23). Moses gave three cases in verses 25, 26-27, and 28 that explain how the people were to do this. A kinsman redeemer could recover the lost property, the seller himself could do so, and the year of jubilee would return it to him.
      • There are three Old Testament references to the responsibilities of a human kinsman redeemer (Heb. goel) in Israel. Additionally the psalmists and other prophets also referred to Yahweh as Israel’s redeemer.
        • When a person sold himself or his property because of economic distress, his nearest kinsman should buy back (redeem) the person and or his property if he could afford to do so (25:25).
        • Perhaps an Israelite could not afford to pay the ransom price so that he could keep a first-born unclean animal for his own use. In this case his nearest kinsman could do so for him if he could afford it (27:11-13).
        • When someone killed a person, the victim’s kinsman redeemer could take the life of the killer under certain circumstances (Num. 35:10-29).[8]
      • The provision of redemption by a kinsman (vv. 47-55) is a very important legal point in the Book of Ruth (cf. also Jer. 32:7-15). Boaz fulfilled the responsibility of a kinsman redeemer by buying Mahlon’s land for Ruth. Furthermore he fulfilled the duty of a levir by marrying Ruth.
        • The system of land ownership in Israel prevented complete capitalism or complete socialism economically. There was a balance of state (theocratic) ownership and private ownership.
        • We who live under the New Covenant also have a promise from God that if we put His will first He will provide for our physical needs (Matt. 6:25-33).[9]
        • “The acceptance of God’s sovereignty over his people and all their possessions leads to the magnanimous and compassionate treatment of the poor and the destitute, because at the end of the age everyone will be released from bondage.”[10]

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

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

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

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

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

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

[10] Ross, Allen P. Holiness to the LORD: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, Baker Book House, 2002. 463

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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.

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

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.

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.

The Year of Jubilee: What is it?

Over the next few posts, we will be looking at the year of Jubilee. This celebration where every 50th year, there was a year of freedom, rejoicing, celebration and rest. The purpose of this is to look at the reasons for the year, why was it set up, what was its significance and how does it apply to the modern believer today. We will start with a short introduction and build upon this the next few days.

the year of Jubilee: its significance and application for today:

Let the trumpet sound! Let the people rejoice! Hear the sound of joy and gladness for Yahweh is the God of peace. Liberty has been proclaimed. This is the year of the extraordinary. The year of faith and trust in the provisions of God. A year of restoration, redemption, and rest for the people and land of God. In Leviticus 25, the Lord spoke to Moses to institute the observance and instructions for the Sabbath year (Lev 25:1-7). In the fiftieth year, God introduced a special year that followed the Sabbath year, called the Year of Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee “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.”[1] The Year of Jubilee was a means of regulating the value of property, reminding the Israelites that God is the true owner of the land, preserving the inheritance from God, releasing the Hebrew slaves and is the year of the Lord’s favor.[2] This extraordinary year displays the provisions and faithfulness of God in addition to His forgiveness and redemption for His chosen people.

This discussion will examine the instructions and meaning for the Year of Jubilee, why it was significant for the people of Israel and how it applies to modern day Christian. Jubilee presents the perfect picture for God’s faithfulness, His call to believer’s obedience, and the freedom and redemption He provides in Jesus Christ.

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

[2] Martin H. Manser, “Year of Jubilee,” in Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies, (London: Martin Manser, 2009), under sec. 7482, “The Year of Jubilee,” Logos Bible Software.