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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

5 Fascinating Facts about the the Year of Jubilee: Redemption, Restoration and Rest

“And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, ‘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… 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.” 
 Leviticus 25:1-2, 10 

#1 Origins

Most of what we read about the year of Jubilee is found in the 25th chapter of the Book of Leviticus ( the 3rd book of the Bible). Strong’s Concordance tells us that the Hebrew word for Jubilee is “yowbel” meaning:  the blast of a horn (from its continuous sound); specifically, the signal of the silver trumpets; hence, the instrument itself and the festival thus introduced:—jubilee, ram's horn, trumpet.

In Leviticus 25 we read that Jehovah commands a Sabbath (or “Rest”) every 7th year for the land and then also commands the Jubilee to be celebrated every 50th year (although some say its every 49th year). James, Faucet & Brown sum it all up rather eloquently: 

“This most extraordinary of all civil institutions, which received the name of "Jubilee" from a Hebrew word signifying a musical instrument, a horn or trumpet, began on the tenth day of the seventh month, or the great day of atonement, when, by order of the public authorities, the sound of trumpets proclaimed the beginning of the universal redemption. All prisoners and captives obtained their liberties, slaves were declared free, and debtors were absolved. The land, as on the sabbatic year, was neither sowed nor reaped, but allowed to enjoy with its inhabitants a sabbath of repose; and its natural produce was the common property of all. Moreover, every inheritance throughout the land of Judea was restored to its original owner.” 

Other Scripture passages referring to the Year of Jubilee include Leviticus 27, Numbers 36:4, Ezekiel 46:17 (“Year of Liberty”) and Isaiah 61:1-3. 

#2 Lessons of Jubilee

As is always the case for God’s commands there is reasoning behind it and lessons to be learned. One of these lessons was to remind the people of Israel that they were ultimately brothers and sisters and to treat each with equality and equity.  ‘Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God." Lev 25:17

The Year of Jubilee by Henry Le Jeune 

The 7th year Sabbath and Year of Jubilee were also instituted to encourage trust in and dependence on the Lord and not in their own strength.  ‘And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce? Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years.”  Lev 25:20-21

As William Baur writes in the ISBE:  “They should never lose sight of their being brothers and citizens of theocratic kingdom. They owed their life to God and were subject to His sovereign will. Only through loyalty to Him were they free and could ever hope to be free and independent of all other masters.” 

The ultimate themes of Jubilee were redemption, restoration and rest. 

#3 Agricultural Purposes

Not only were there spiritual and ethical reasons for the 7th year Sabbath and Year of Jubilee – there were practical and physical reasons to allow the land to rest. In fact, farmers have been using this practice for millennia. explains:  “The core philosophy behind crop rotation is to never allow crops to completely deplete the soil of any one nutrient. Alternating different plants helps keep that balance intact. Letting a field lie fallow, free from any cultivated crop, is often part of a good crop rotation program. By remaining unsown, the ground rests and fertility can be restored.” 

#4 Modern Usage

You may have heard the word Jubilee used in more modern times. It is especially used of the anniversary of royalty both in the United Kingdom (as in Queen Elizabeth the II’s Diamond Jubilee) and many other countries. When you see the name of a hospital with “Jubilee” in the title it is usually in honour of a Royal Jubilee.  

Logo for Jubilee 2000

As the turn of the century approached a global effort called Jubilee 2000 was mobilized. Its goal was to have the debt of third world countries forgiven by the year 2000. Originally a movement within the Anglican Church ( and founded on the basis of the Biblical Jubilee), it became widespread including benefit concerts led by the likes of Bob Geldof and Bono. 

#5 The Jubilee and Jesus

Isaiah 61:1-3 is widely believed to refer to the Year of Jubilee ( “the acceptable year of the LORD) as well: 

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”

It is no coincidence then that Jesus chose to read this passage of Scripture at the synagogue in Nazareth and he made it plain that it spoke of Himself (Luke 4:16 – 21)  “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”,  He said. Although the Jews had likely not celebrated the Year of Jubilee in many years, Jesus here symbolically links it to His ministry on earth – one of redemption, restoration and rest! 

Matthew Henry comments that the Year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement ( Yom Kippur) … “When they had been humbling and afflicting their souls for sin, then they were made to hear this voice of joy and gladness (Ps. 51:8). When their peace was made with God, then liberty was proclaimed; for the removal of guilt is necessary to make way for the entrance of all true comfort (Rom. 5:1, 2). In allusion to this solemn proclamation of the jubilee, it was foretold concerning our Lord Jesus that he should preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” 

This Jubilee of redemption, restoration and rest is only truly fulfilled in Jesus Christ and is only truly experienced as we believe in Him and receive Him …. Coming to know Him personally. May we all experience that personal Jubilee in Jesus and then pass on its benefits to our brother, sisters and neighbours. 

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, 
and I will give you rest.” Jesus, Matthew 11:28

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