The Year of Jubilee – Part 1
Note: before the study you may want to read all of Leviticus 25.
The word “jubilee” comes from the Hebrew word for “the trumpet” made from a ram’s horn and, as we shall see, was blown at the start of this year, which was supposed to occur every 50 years. Thus, in our culture, the term “jubilee” has often become synonymous with “50th anniversary”.
The Year of Jubilee was tied to the Sabbath Year, which was tied to the Sabbath itself; so we will start with a bit of a look at these and then move on to the Year of Jubilee. While Leviticus is instruction given to the people of Israel as a geo-political entity and, as God’s people, there is much we can learn about God and about ourselves – so let’s go digging!
For the Sabbath, the best place to go is the 10 Commandments, so let’s look at both times they are recorded:
- Read Exodus 20:8–11 and Deuteronomy 5:12–15
- The above readings about the Sabbath are some 40 years apart. What, if any, are the differences?
We could easily spend more time looking into this commandment, as well as what Jesus had to say on the Sabbath, but we will assume a familiarity with it, and just conclude this section with a look at Luther’s brief comments from the Small Catechism:
The Third Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (2017)
- How does Luther’s explanation differ from the two explanations above?
- Is the Sabbath still about Rest and Restoration?
The Sabbath Year
So, what is this “Sabbath Year” that is talked about?
- Read Leviticus 25:1–7
- What was the object of the Rest and Restoration in the Sabbath Year?
- How were the people of Israel to survive in the Sabbath Year? Leviticus 25:20–22
The Sabbath Year was about looking after the land that God had gifted to the people of Israel, and about the people trusting in God (not just their agricultural abilities) to provide.
We will look at this more as we go through the rest of the chapter. As we have noted the three calendar items: Sabbath, Sabbath Year and Year of Jubilee – are tied together.
The Year of Jubilee
We now move on to see what the “Year of Jubilee” is all about.
- Read Leviticus 25:8–55
We take a Sabbath of Sabbath Years, which means 7 x 7 = 49 years, and the next year is the Year of Jubilee. So, it happens every 50 years! The best way to describe the Year of Jubilee in today’s terms might be as a “safety net” for the Land and the People, and as we read more closely, we see that God is instructing that their whole economic system is based around the concepts of Rest, Restoration and Redemption.
We are going to concentrate on three areas in particular, with the latter two examined more closely in the next study.
Care of the Land
Thinking about all that you have read from Leviticus 25:
- Who owned the land?
- What was the advantage of the Sabbath Year?
The Land belonged to God – always did, always will do. God supplied the Land to Israel, just as he supplied the Garden to Adam and Eve. Similarly, Israel also had “work to do” when it came to the Land. The Land is not earnt nor owned, but is a gift from God – Grace at work.
The Sabbath Year gave the land an opportunity to “rest” so that it could be restored and ready for work again. Just as the Sabbath was for people to rest and be ready for work again.
The Year of Jubilee allowed for redemption and restoration of the land to the families to whom God had gifted it. Thus, not only did the successful not take advantage of the less successful, it also assured that those with money got a fair deal.
- How did the Year of Jubilee ensure equity amongst the families in Israel?
- How does this apply to us today?
- What great gift has God given you? How does this influence your interaction with other people (family, church, work, school, community etc.) and with your environment?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, please help me/us to better see all the gifts you give me/us each day, and through your Holy Spirit help me/us to make good use of these gifts in my/our church, in my/our family, and in my/our community. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.