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The Biblical Jubilee


The year of Jubilee (Hebrew yovel יובל) is the year at the end of seven cycles of sabbatical years.

After seven full sets of seven complete years are finished, the Jubilee year begins. These seven sabbatical cycles is also known as the Sabbath's Sabbath.

This proclamation for liberty at a fiftieth year occurs on the most important and holiest day in the Hebraic calendar - Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

Why does God institute the Jubilee? Simply because God owns everything in heaven and earth. Jubilee exists because the land belongs to the Lord, and its current occupiers are merely sojourners or tenants. This special year deals largely with land, property, and human rights for liberty.

Psalm 24:1
The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.

How does God do it? He sets up a special time period wherein a man's possessions are returned to Him by allowing the land to have regular rest. In doing so, mankind and his livestock also get to rest regularly.

China is now facing an epidemic of overwork. According to the China Youth Daily, about 600,000 Chinese die every a year from working too hard. China Radio International in April 2014 reported a death toll of 1,600 every day.

In Japan, karōshi (過労死) or "death from overwork" is occupational sudden death. It encompasses deaths from stroke, heart attack, cerebral hemorrhage or other sudden causes related to demands of the workplace.

Not desiring that we overwork ourselves to exhaustion, fatigue and burnout, God is calling us to the Sabbath's Sabbath. The rest of rests. The perfect rest in Him.

Before we look at Jubilee, it is important for us to first take a look at the sabbath of the seventh year - the sabbatical year. Six years of sowing and reaping but in the seventh year allowing the land to rest. The land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord.

From the very beginning of Genesis, this Sabbath principle is evident throughout God's creation especially mankind: 

  • Daily Rest
  • Sabbath
  • Sabbatical Year
  • Jubilee

The Biblical Day starts at evening and ends at evening. It begins with rest and ends with rest. God desires us to have proper rest daily. Work while it is day, and rest when evening comes.

Genesis 1:5
God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.
So the evening and the morning were the first day.

Keeping the sabbath day holy before the Lord is a recognition that God is the Lord over all. He owns everything. Violating the sabbath day is a serious sin because it denies the sovereignty of God.

This Sabbath principle also applies to the creation itself. Every seventh year, the land is allowed to rest. No sowing or pruning or reaping. Whatever grow of its own accord cannot be reaped. The land is not to be farmed. A year of rest for the land in the Sabbatical Year.

Leviticus 25:1-7
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying,
2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord.
3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit;
4 but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.
5 What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.
6 And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you,
7 for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food.

The Sabbatical Year begins in the Jewish New Year in the month of Tishri after the harvest. It is supposed to be seed-sowing time, which follows immediately after the end of their in-gathering. But in this Sabbatical Year, they cannot sow in their land or do any farming or prune their vineyards. As a result, they are not to expect any harvest or vintage later in this year. They must completely cease from cultivating their lands and fields.

They also relinquish personal ownership of their fields. What their ground does produce of itself, they cannot claim as their very own but is communal property, free for all to partake. People can obtain food wherever they find it, just as the Israelites did in their wilderness wanderings.

The crops are not to be harvested for sale during the Sabbatical Year. They are food for everyone. All the people, especially the poor and even the animals, can eat in the fields. Rather than having only the corners of the fields to glean, the poor can eat from any portion of the field. The land is the Lord's. The Israelites are also instructed to forgive debts which are owed them and unpaid by their Israelite brethren (Deut. 15:1).

What do they do in the Sabbatical Year? They have one whole year of leave and rest! Wow! Away from any business or work, they take time to study the Word of God, know God and to be with Him, and also to be with family and friends. It is a time to celebrate the cancellations of debts. How God has freely forgiven their debts, they must freely forgive their debtors. They are to become charitable and generous, sharing the goodness and blessings of God with others.

It is a year when they are to daily live in total dependence upon the divine providence of God, knowing that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

The best things in life are blessings from heaven, not achieved or derived by toils, tears and sweat. They are to always consider how the poor simply live, who neither sow nor reap, yet God faithfully provides for their daily bread and needs.

This Sabbatical Year is a spiritual rest wherein all believers can enter into His presence and to be with Him. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow them all the days of their life, and they will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. No more toiling or sinning or carrying burdens of worldly care but simply trusting and obeying God!

The year of Jubilee begins after 7 x 7 years on the fiftieth year. The appointment of every 50th year as a Jubilee is important for all creation - for the land, the people, the animals and the environment! By allowing the land to rest, God is preventing man from exhaustion, the animals from extinction, the land from becoming barren and infertile, and the environment from becoming polluted and infected.

Leviticus 25:8-17
8 ‘And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years.
9 Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.
10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.
11 That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine.
12 For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field.
13 ‘In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession.
14 And if you sell anything to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor’s hand, you shall not oppress one another.
15 According to the number of years after the Jubilee you shall buy from your neighbor, and according to the number of years of crops he shall sell to you.
16 According to the multitude of years you shall increase its price, and according to the fewer number of years you shall diminish its price; for he sells to you according to the number of the years of the crops.
17 Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.

As a result of trust and obedience to God, God promises an abundant crop in the sixth year. Thus no one will go hungry during the sabbatical year. God will make provisions for the seventh year and beyond - more than enough to last three years until the ninth year! There will be abundance in the homes and peace in the land. An awesome God who is faithful. He is able to do and perform whatever He has promised! His wisdom is beyond ours!

Leviticus 25:18-22
18 ‘So you shall observe My statutes and keep My judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety.
19 Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety.
20 ‘And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?”
21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years.
22 And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest.

God has created everything. He knows what is good for His creation. Humans are not the true owners of the land. Therefore they are not to hold onto property forever. God also makes provisions for the proper redemption of property.

Leviticus 25:23-34
23 ‘The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.
24 And in all the land of your possession you shall grant redemption of the land.
25 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold.
26 Or if the man has no one to redeem it, but he himself becomes able to redeem it,
27 then let him count the years since its sale, and restore the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, that he may return to his possession.
28 But if he is not able to have it restored to himself, then what was sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the Year of Jubilee; and in the Jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his possession.
29 ‘If a man sells a house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year he may redeem it.
30 But if it is not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong permanently to him who bought it, throughout his generations. It shall not be released in the Jubilee.
31 However the houses of villages which have no wall around them shall be counted as the fields of the country. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the Jubilee.
32 Nevertheless the cities of the Levites, and the houses in the cities of their possession, the Levites may redeem at any time.
33 And if a man purchases a house from the Levites, then the house that was sold in the city of his possession shall be released in the Jubilee; for the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel.
34 But the field of the common-land of their cities may not be sold, for it is their perpetual possession.

God pleads the cause for the poor and the needy. He is their Heavenly Father too. He does not desire that we take advantage of the poor and exploit them for our own selfish gain and profit. Lending to the poor without charging interest is pleasing in the sight of the Lord.

Leviticus 25:35-38
35 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you.
36 Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you.
37 You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit.
38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

As we are thankful to God for liberating us, we should also liberate others from debts owed to us. The cancellation of all debts occurs in Jubilee. It is an excellent time to settle our debts with one another and get on with the rest of our life! Forgiving others as God has forgiven us! Cancelling the debts they owe us as God cancels the debts we owe Him. Slaves will be freed, debts will be forgiven and the mercies of God will be greatly manifested.

Leviticus 25:39-55
39 ‘And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave.
40 As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee.
41 And then he shall depart from you—he and his children with him—and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers.
42 For they are My servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.
43 You shall not rule over him with rigor, but you shall fear your God.
44 And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have—from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves.
45 Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property.
46 And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves. But regarding your brethren, the children of Israel, you shall not rule over one another with rigor.
47 ‘Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger’s family,
48 after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him;
49 or his uncle or his uncle’s son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself.
50 Thus he shall reckon with him who bought him: The price of his release shall be according to the number of years, from the year that he was sold to him until the Year of Jubilee; it shall be according to the time of a hired servant for him.
51 If there are still many years remaining, according to them he shall repay the price of his redemption from the money with which he was bought.
52 And if there remain but a few years until the Year of Jubilee, then he shall reckon with him, and according to his years he shall repay him the price of his redemption.
53 He shall be with him as a yearly hired servant, and he shall not rule with rigor over him in your sight.
54 And if he is not redeemed in these years, then he shall be released in the Year of Jubilee—he and his children with him.
55 For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

As God desires that mankind does not exploit mankind and creation, He issues a severe warning against His people if they do not observe the sabbatical year and also the fiftieth year of Jubilee.

Leviticus 26:27-34
27 ‘And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me,
28 then I also will walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.
29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.
30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols; and My soul shall abhor you.
31 I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas.
32 I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it.
33 I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.
34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths.

The main reason why ancient Israel went into captivity was because they sinned against the Lord and did not allow the land to rest every seven years. They did not give the land a break, letting it enjoy its own Sabbath rest!

2 Chronicles 36:20-21
20 And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia,
21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

But why 70 years? Simply because by the time of their captivity, the Israelites had lived in the Promised Land for 490 years - the duration of 70 sabbatical years. However they did not observe those sabbatical years! They did not allow the land to enjoy its necessary rest. They followed the ways of the pagans, and did not believe in the Word of God! They did not live by faith in God. They lived by sight - by what they could see! They lived by the standards of the worldly and ungodly people around them.

The number 70 has a sacred meaning in the Bible. It is made up by two perfect numbers, seven (representing perfection) and ten (representing completeness and God's laws - the Ten Commandments). As such, it symbolizes perfect spiritual order carried out with all divine power. It can also represent a period of judgment.

Daniel 9:24
Seventy weeks (70 x 7 = 490) are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.

God was essentially saying, "If you will not acknowledge Me as Lord and give My land its proper rest, I will do it Myself. This is of utmost importance to Me."

So the Israelites had to leave the land. And the land rested for the 70 years. While laying desolate, the land recovered from stress as nutrients returned back to the soils. If the people of God knew about this, they would have obeyed God and keep His sabbaths, sabbatical years and Jubilees!

The Babylonian Captivity in 586 BC was in fact a blessing in disguise. In many ways, it was a time of spiritual growth and personal reflection for God's people. Without their Temple, the Israelites learned that obedience was better than sacrifice. After their return back to the Promised Land, they turned their hearts back to God, and pledged faithfulness to Him. Never again would they worship Baal, pray and ask for good harvests, fertility and worldly wealth.

Israel also learned another lesson during her captivity. God taught His people the importance of obeying all of His commandments or suffering the consequences. He also taught them to have respect for Him by giving rest to the land He had entrusted to them. The land is His!

Some of us may think that Jubilee and sabbatical years are just for Israel and the Old Testament people. But I have good news for you. Jesus began His public ministry with a quote about the Jubilee.

Luke 4:17-19
17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah.
And when He had opened the book,
He found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

What is the acceptable year of the Lord? It is His year, and it is acceptable to Him. It is Jubilee!

Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2. If the death of Jesus was in 30 A.D., the beginning of His ministry would be in 27 A.D., and probably on Yom Kippur. And according to some Biblical sources, 27 A.D. was a Jubilee year.

The Sabbath was instituted in Genesis - the beginning of mankind. Rest is essential for all mankind and all created things - people, land, animals and environment. Not just only for the Jews!

Like Israel, most of us have eliminated all signs of God's ownership in our life. The false gods of secular humanism have stripped the marks of God's ownership from what is rightfully His. The precious lesson of Israel's 70 years of exile is clear - God is watching over His creation and He will punish sin. He will restore all things to Himself because they are His.

The question is this: Will we acknowledge His Lordship before it is too late?

By not observing the Sabbath day, mankind does not have good rest. Physical pressure and mental stress from working place or conditions have caused many sicknesses and illnesses, sometimes resulting in suicides and deaths.

By not observing the Sabbatical year, the land remains infertile. To produce more crops, more artificial fertilizers and powerful chemicals are used. As a result, many new diseases have surfaced and infected multitudes of people. The land is contaminated, the water sources and supplies are polluted, and the environment becomes toxic and unhealthy.

By not observing the Jubilee, nations have enslaved other nations and people are exploiting other people. Debts, both national and personal, are skyrocketing, and many nations and people have no way of repaying their debts in this generation or in the generations to come!

Jubilee is a time for proclaiming liberty to the people, to the land and to God's creation! It is not a time to have fanciful celebrations, non-stop partying and egocentric merrymaking!

This is what the Lord requires of us:

Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

And this is His promise of blessed rest:

Hebrews 4:1-13
1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.
2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”;
5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”
6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience,
7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.
9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Meanwhile all of creation is waiting eagerly and longing to be set free one day from the bondage of corruption and decay.

Romans 8:19-22
19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

We must wise up while waiting for the return of our King! The ultimate Jubilee is coming soon! The acceptable year of the Lord is drawing near!

Please also read: When Is The Next Biblical Jubilee?

Source: http://www.biblestudy.org/godsrest/what-is-the-jubilee-year.html

Written on 2 July 2014