In addition to the weekly Sabbath, and the many festivals of Judaism (e.g., Passover, Tabernacles, etc.) there were Jewish institutions that consecrated entire years (i.e., the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee Year).
Just as God instituted a weekly rest of the Sabbath Day (Exodus 23:12), He also instituted a Sabbath Year to be celebrated every seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-4. Exodus 23:10,11). This was a sabbatical year of rest consecrated to God, in which His providence was depended upon for survival and His Lordship recognized in all areas of life. God promised to perform a miracle by granting abundant crops in the sixth year of the cycle so that the bounty would be sufficient until a new crop could be harvested two or three years later. This would be a continuing witness of God’s power as a Provider similar to the manna in the wilderness (Leviticus 25:20-22).
During the Sabbath Year:
- Slaves were set free (Exodus 21:2-6)
- Debts owed to/from fellow Israelites, but not Gentiles, were canceled (Deuteronomy 15:1-6)
- The land was not plowed or harvested; however, the farmer, the poor and animals could eat of anything that grew without being re-planted (Exodus 23:10,11. Leviticus 25:1-7).
In addition to the Sabbath Year, God instituted the Jubilee Year to be celebrated every 50th year (Leviticus 25:8-13). It represented a perfection of the Sabbath Year legislation and provided for a double portion of rest. That is, each 49th year (i.e., after 7 occurrences of the 7 year Sabbath; 7 x 7 = 49) would be a Sabbath Year, followed by a Jubilee Year in the 50th so that for two consecutive years the people would be bound to restore the land, personal and economic freedom and to depend on God. The Jubilee was announced by the blowing of a shofar on the tenth day of the seventh month, on the Day of Passover, throughout the land. The shofar (i.e., ram’s horn) was often used as an instrument of spiritual warfare (Numbers 10:9). The blowing of the shofar declares that the Lord God is King of the universe (Psalms 98:6) Hearing the shofar is meant to encourage us to return to the Lord and listen to His voice (Deuteronomy 30:2).
Consequentially, the Sabbath and Jubilee Years provided for what we today call “Sustainability” in:
- Culture – by the restoration of freedom for those who in their need had sold themselves in servitude to their fellow Israelites.
- Economics – by the relaxation of debts for fellow Israelites.
- Ecology – by allowing the rest of the land for a year.
- Politics – by the remembrance of the people that God is their Sovereign King, the great provider of all things, full of grace, mercy, and compassion and that they are called to be the imitators of Him by demonstrating this in their relationships with fellow Israelites and the land.
However, the Sabbath Year and the Jubilee Year were not practiced faithfully by the Israelites as evidenced by God’s admonishment recorded in the scriptures (Leviticus 26:1,2;26:14-16;26:34,35. Jeremiah 34:14). Nevertheless, the Jewish failure to keep the festivals, Sabbaths and Jubilees called down the mercy of God upon mankind (Romans 5:20), who promised in their place a messianic year of the Lord’s favor (Isaiah 42:1-9. Isaiah 61:1,2).
Then Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the surrounding countryside. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by all. Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (70) (Luke 4:14-19 NET)
(70) NET Note for Luke 4:19: The year of the Lord’s favor [Grk “the acceptable year of the Lord”] is a description of the year of Jubilee (Lev 25:10). The year of the total forgiveness of debt is now turned into a metaphor for salvation. Jesus had come to proclaim that God was ready to forgive sin totally.
Many Jews believe last year on the Jewish calendar, 5775 (counting from Creation) was a Shemittah or Sabbatical Year. They believe It started on the Day of Passover on September 24, 2014, and ended September 13, 2015. Many Jews today base this on the year following the destruction of the second Holy Temple (3829 from creation, equivalent to 68–69 AD) which they consider the first year of the seven-year Sabbatical cycle. (2) Part of the observance of Shemittah or the Sabbatical Year includes the forgiving of loans.
Interestingly, more than 2,000 years ago, Hillel the Elder saw that people were avoiding giving loans as the Shemittah or Sabbatical Year approached. So, in order to encourage people to continue lending money, he instituted the pruzbul system. The Torah states that while all private debts are forgiven, public debts are exempt. The act of pruzbul makes private debts public, and therefore redeemable. (3) Interestingly, this loophole for the scriptural requirement to forgive debts is similar to the one Jesus admonished the Scribes and Pharisees when they created a loophole for not caring for their aging parents (Mark 7:10-13).
However, Jews today do not observe the Jubilee Year since they believe it should only be done when all twelve tribes of the Jewish nation are living in Israel based on their interpretation of the following verse:
So you must consecrate the fiftieth year, and you must proclaim a release in the land for all its inhabitants. That year will be your jubilee; each one of you must return to his property and each one of you must return to his clan. (Leviticus 25:10 NET)
Consequently, the Jews have chosen not to observe the Jubilee Year until the entire nation is back to their homeland of Israel – including the ten “lost” tribes. Nevertheless, the Jubilee Year dates can be calculated from the scriptures using the following facts and assumptions to calculate when God’s people most likely entered Canaan:
- The Sabbath Year and Jubilee Year clocks started when the children of Israel entered Canaan (Leviticus 25:1-4; 25:8,9).
- God’s people entered Canaan 49 years before the first Jubilee (Leviticus 25:1-9).
- The Exodus was 40 years before God’s people entered Canaan (Numbers 32:13).
- Jesus died in 31 AD in the middle of the 49-year Jubilee cycle that ran from 6 AD – 55 AD (Daniel 9:27).
- Jubilee dates before Christ can be calculated starting in 6 AD and repeatedly subtracting 49 years.
James Ussher and Edwin R. Thiele are two widely accepted biblical chronologists (5). Ussher placed the Exodus in 1491 BC with Thiele placing the Exodus in 1446 BC. Neither of these proposed dates is aligned with the assumptions; however, 1491 BC and 1446 BC are very helpful because they are the earliest and the latest dates for the Exodus proposed by these conservative scholars. Therefore, because of the writings of Ussher and Thiele and our facts and assumptions above we can extrapolate that the Exodus occurred in 1456 BC because it is the only possible date for the Exodus that lies between the dates of 1491 BC and 1446 BC. Armed with this information we calculate that the children of Israel entered Canaan 40 years later in 1416 BC; therefore, the first Jubilee would have occurred in 1367 BC. This would mean that another Jubilee Year began on the Day of Atonement, September 23, 2015 (6).
In summary, a Sabbatical Year, which many Jews today believe started September 24, 2014, and ended September 13, 2015, could have been followed by a Jubilee Year beginning September 23, 2015!
Again, during a Jubilee Year four important things occur:
- All slaves are set free.
- All things stolen are returned.
- All debts are canceled.
- All previously sown seeds yield a supernatural harvest.
A Jubilee Year it is the time to more earnestly expect to receive your harvest from God. It is a time to trust God like never before!.
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven — A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted; (Ecclesiastes. 3:1,2 NET)
Seek the LORD while he makes himself available; call to him while he is nearby! (Isaiah 55:6 NET)
Consequently during a Jubilee Year believe God to do the following:
- If you are in slavery (emotionally, physically, addiction to some sin, your children enslaved to the world, unsaved loved ones, etc.) then believe all will be set free during the Jubilee Year.
- If Satan has stolen anything, then believe it will be returned during the Jubilee Year.
- If you are in debt, then believe for the cancellation of all debts during the Jubilee Year.
- If you have previously sown seeds (i.e., money, time, talents, etc.) into the work of the Lord, then believe for a supernatural harvest during the Jubilee Year.
As always, you must believe in order to receive these promises.
so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:12 NET)
In addition, realize a key to receiving the blessings of the Jubilee Year is acting towards others in the spirit of the Jubilee and not simply the letter (i.e., acting in grace, mercy, and compassion towards others) (Matthew 5:39-48. Galatians 5:6). That is, ask God to bring to your mind anyone that you have:
- Failed to forgive (1) (including yourself) and then ask for His grace, mercy, and compassion to forgive (1) in order to release them and yourself (1) from the captivity of unforgiveness.
- Stolen (1) from and then ask for His wisdom to make restitution.
- Owed a personal or private debt and then ask for His wisdom to make reparation (1).
Lastly, do not be surprised if whatever that has held you captive for years and even decades is suddenly removed by the Lord Jesus Christ during His Jubilee Year! A Jubilee Year is the season for reaping where you have not sown in all areas of your life and ministries!
Maranatha! (i.e., Come Lord Jesus!)(1 Corinthians 16:22)
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(6) See attached file for calculated Jubilee Dates