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The Seven Feasts of Israel – Hebrew Calendars, Sabbath Year, and the Jubilee Year


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).


The Hebrew and Gregorian Calendars

The calendar typically used in the world today is called the Gregorian calendar, after Pope Gregory XIII, who instituted it in 1582, and is based on the earth revolving around the sun, thus making it a “solar calendar.” Each day begins at midnight and is 24 hours long. As the Earth revolves around the sun, the earth changes its position resulting in creating the four seasons. It takes approximately 365 and one-quarter days for the earth to make one complete revolution around the sun with our calendar year defined as 365 days. Consequently, we add an extra day every four years, called a leap year, to account for this extra quarter of a day. The Gregorian calendar contains twelve months of 28 to 31 days duration.

The Hebrew calendar, juxtaposed with the Gregorian calendar, is based on the earth rotating around the sun and the moon revolving around the earth, thus making it a “lunisolar calendar.” Hebrew days begin at sundown (approximately 6:00 P.M.) and also last for 24 hours.

The Jewish week (shari’a) begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday (i.e., Shabbat) (4)

It takes about 29 and one-half days for the moon to make one complete revolution around the earth, thus defining a lunar month. The Hebrew calendar contains twelve lunar months setting a 354 day year.

The appearance of the New Moon is called “Rosh Chodesh” (i.e., head of the month) (4)

The difference between the two calendars means that the solar year is 11 and one-quarter days longer than the lunar year. To mostly compensate for this yearly difference in the Civil calendar, an extra 29 and one half-day month is added at the end of every three regular years, called a leap year, to account for this additional 11 and one-quarter days.

There are two concurrent Hebrew calendar years with one a Biblical calendar that God established when He delivered the nation of Israel out of Egypt.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,“This month is to be your beginning of months; it will be your first month of the year. (Exodus 12:1,2 NET)

The month of Nisan, originally called Abib (Aviv) but was changed during the Babylonian captivity, is the first month of the year on the Hebrew (Biblical) calendar. Nisan corresponds to the months of March-April on the Gregorian calendar. Note that each month on the Biblical calendar may come in one or two Gregorian months due to the eleven and one quarter days difference between the two calendars. (3)

The civil calendar begins with the Hebrew month of Tishri, which corresponds to the Gregorian months of September and October. This is the beginning of the agricultural season. That is, the civil calendar is aligned with the agricultural season beginning with the early rains that softened the ground for plowing, which was done in October and November. This was followed by the sowing of wheat and barley seed in November and December. Then the winter rains would come in December and January to maintain the ground moist. This was followed by the blossoming of the almond trees in January and February, and the citrus harvest in February and March. (3)

The spring or latter rains fell in March-April (Nisan), concurrent with the beginning of the barley harvest. The dry season was from April-May (Iyyar) to September-October (Tishri). The barley harvest lasted through the spring months and was followed by the wheat harvest in May-June (Sivan). The grape harvest came next during the months of June-July (Tammuz). The months of July-August (Ab) were the time of the olive harvest. The season ended with the harvest of dates and figs in August-September (Elul).


Biblical Calendar Leap Years

The Biblical Calendar year begins with the first New Moon after the barley in Israel reaches the stage in its ripeness called Abib. The period between one year and the next is either 12 or 13 lunar months. Because of this, it is important to check the state of the Barley crops at the end of the 12th month. If the barley is Abib at this time, then the following New Moon is the “New Moon of the Abib” (Hodesh Ha-Abib). If the barley is still immature, then the barley is checked again at the end of the 13th month. Consequently, it can only be determined whether a year is a Leap Year a few days before the end of the 12th Month. The month of the Nisan (Abib) is the month which commences after the barley has reached the stage of Abib. (6)

God set fixed times and seasons when the Jews were to keep their feasts (Leviticus 23:4). Consequently, this Biblical Calendar Leap Year adjustment that sets the Feast of Passover (1) in the correct season also sets the other feasts in their correct seasons. Consequently, enabling the Jewish people to keep their feast days in the seasons prescribed by God.

Abib/Aviv

What is Abib? Abib indicates a stage in the development of the barley crops.

When Moses extended his staff toward the sky, the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire fell to the earth; so the Lord caused hail to rain down on the land of Egypt. Hail fell and fire mingled with the hail; the hail was so severe that there had not been any like it in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. The hail struck everything in the open fields, both people and animals, throughout all the land of Egypt. The hail struck everything that grows in the field, and it broke all the trees of the field to pieces. Only in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was there no hail. (Exodus 9:23–26 NET) 
(Now the flax and the barley were struck [down] by the hail, for the barley had ripened [Hebrew: abib] and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the spelt were not struck [down], for they are later crops.) (Exodus 9:31–32 NET)

The barley crops were struck down or destroyed by the hail while the wheat and spelt were not damaged. When grains are early in their development they are flexible and have a dark green color. However, as they become ripe they take on a light yellowish hue and become more brittle. The reason that the barley was destroyed and the wheat was not is that the barley had reached the stage in its development called Abib and as a result had become brittle enough to be damaged by the hail. However, the wheat and spelt were at a stage when they were flexible and not susceptible to being damaged by hail.

The Sabbath 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).  

The Jubilee Year

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)

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.” (7)

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.

He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.’ Having no regard for the command of God, you hold fast to human tradition.”He also said to them, “You neatly reject the commandment of God in order to set up your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.’But you say that if anyone tells his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you would have received from me is corban’ (that is, a gift for God), then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like this.” (Mark 7:6–13 NET)

Some 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. This is based 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)

However, many 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. However, there are others that believe that the Jubilee Years can be determined based on restoration events of the people of Israel.

Important Jubilee Years of the Modern Age based on Restoration Events of the Nation of Israel

1867 – In the Jubilee of 1867 Charles Warren begins the mapping out of the parameters of biblical Jerusalem and in the process accidentally uncovers the ancient city. The Ottoman Empire enacts the law that begins the release of the land on June 10, 1867. (8)

1917 – In the midst of the First World War, the British Empire issued the Balfour Declaration to give the land of Israel to the original owners the Jewish people. (5) “The Balfour Declaration was the single most important document in the establishment of the state of Israel. David Lloyd George (1863–1945), prime minister of England, and Arthur Balfour (1848–1930), his foreign secretary, issued the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917. It promised that England would support and help facilitate the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Chaim Weizmann (1874–1952), an influential Jewish chemistry professor and Zionist, had greatly influenced Lloyd George and Balfour, winning them over to the Zionist cause. In 1949, Weizmann became Israel’s first president.” (10) General Edmund Allenby liberates Jerusalem and to wage his campaign, he uses the maps of the land that were drawn up as the result of Warren’s mission in the previous Jubilee. The Ottomans are released from the land and the land is released to the Jewish people. (8) However, still missing was the restoration of the Holy City, Jerusalem. (5)

1967 – Egypt and Syria, falsely claiming that Israel was preparing war, sent troops to the Sinai Peninsula and forced the United Nations Emergency Forces based there to leave. On June 5, 1967, Israel responded with a preemptive strike, demolishing the Egyptian air force in just three hours. Israeli forces captured the Gaza Strip and the Sinai, then conquered the Old City of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. The conquest took six days. Israelis celebrated their rescue of the holy sites in Jerusalem, planning to exchange the captured Arab territories for recognition of the state of Israel and a peace treaty with their Arab neighbors. The Arab nations, however, continued to reject Israel’s existence, and as a result the captured territories were not relinquished. (10) The Six-Day War came to an end on June 10, 1967. The Holy City, Jerusalem, was restored to the Jewish people, to its original owners. (5) “But in the return of Israel to Jerusalem in 1967 the world refused to recognize that return or Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And in the Jubilee, if the original owner returns to his possession and the authorities refuse to recognize that return, then the return will not be complete and there will be conflict. And so it was with Israel’s return to its ancient capital. Not only did the world refuse to recognize the return but the nations gathered together, over and over again, to condemn that return and to declare it illegal.” (8)

2017 – This was the fiftieth year after the return of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, the Jubilean year. The world’s preeminent power was the United States of America. The highest legal or legislative body of the world’s preeminent power was the United States Senate. “In the mid-1990s the United States Congress passed a law calling for America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But the president at that time signed a waiver delaying its implementation. That waiver was renewed every six months by every successive president. It looked unlikely that it would ever become a reality. “(8)

“But in 2017 America had a new president, Donald Trump—and it was the year of Jubilee. The waiver expired in late spring. The new president had promised a change in America’s policy concerning Jerusalem, but then, as did the presidents before him, he signed the waiver. “Still, it was the year of Jubilee. And the waiver just happened to be set to expire in June, the month that marked fifty years from the last Jubilean event. In fact it was set to expire during the fifty year anniversary week of that event.” However, a resolution was introduced by the US Senate that concerned Jerusalem and the granting of legal recognition to what had taken place fifty years, one Jubilee, earlier, the return to Jerusalem.” (8)

The resolution on December 6, 2017, stated the following:

Whereas June 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War and the reunification of the city of Jerusalem. . . Whereas, in 1967, Jerusalem was reunited by Israel during the conflict known as the Six Day War. . . Whereas this year marks the 50th year that Jerusalem has been administered as a united city. Resolved, That the Senate . . . recognizes the 50th Anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. . . reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act . . . as United States law, and calls upon the President and all United States officials to abide by its provisions. (8)

Trump’s recognition of the centrality of Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel has caused many people, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu , to compare President Trump to Cyrus the Great.

Resultingly, the Senate resolution called for the president and every American official to recognize the restoration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, to grant the legal recognition to Israel’s sovereignty over its Holy City that had been missing for the past fifty years. (8)

This coin was produced as an expression of immense joy and gratitude to President Trump, following the announcement that the American Embassy will be transferred to Jerusalem in honor of Israel’s 70th Independence Day.

You see, God is the God of restoration. And to those who are His, He will restore all things . . . all that was lost will be found again . . . in their Jerusalem . . . and in their appointed time of Jubilee.” (5)

Jubilee Year Promises

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!.

For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth: 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 by His grace) 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! 

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.

Maranatha! (i.e., Come Lord Jesus!) (1 Corinthians 16:22)  

Let anyone who has no love for the Lord be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. (1 Corinthians 16:22–23 NET)

Feasts, Festivals, and Important Occasions of the Old Covenant Series

Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant

Topical Index of Hal’s Blogs (1)

(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.

(2) http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/538797/jewish/When-is-the-next-Sabbatical-year.htm

(3) http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/5212/jewish/Fill-Out-a-Pruzbul.htm

(4) https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/513212/jewish/When-Is-the-Next-Jubilee-Year.htm

(5) Cahn, J. (2016). The book of mysteries. Lake Mary, FL: Frontline.

(6) https://www.nehemiaswall.com/aviv-barley-in-the-biblical-calendar

(7) NET Note (70) for Luke 4:19

(8)  Cahn, J. (2019). The oracle: the jubilean mysteries unveiled. Lake Mary, FL: Frontline.

(9) Arab-Israeli Wars. (2015). In Compton’s Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia.

(10) Rusten, S. with E. Michael. (2005). The complete book of when & where in the Bible and throughout history (p. 415). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.


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Hal Warren

Hal has been teaching the Bible for over three decades. Through an interdenominational ministry dedicated to helping the local church build men for Jesus, Hal trained men, the leaders of men’s ministries, and provided pulpit supply. Before that, he was a Men’s Ministry Leader and an Adult Bible Fellowship teacher of a seventy-five-member class at a denominational megachurch. Presently, Hal desires to honor Jesus Christ through this Internet teaching ministry, thereby glorifying the Heavenly Father, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Hal and his wife have five adult children, several grandchildren, and with more grandchildren on the way! He believes, second to cultivating his relationship with God, that raising his family unto the Lord is the most significant task for him while on Earth. Furthermore, Hal believes that being a successful leader in the church or workplace is no substitute for failing to be a successful leader at home. 

Topical Index of Hal's Blogs