Blaine Robison, M.A.
Delivered 20 May 2017
Jubilee is Coming!
And you will number seven Shabbatot, seven years times seven years, that
will be to you the rest of seven Shabbatot of years that is, nine years and
Then you will cause to sound a blast on the shofar in the seventh month on
the tenth day of the month on Yom Kippur, you will sound throughout all your
And you will set apart the year, the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty
[Heb. deror] throughout the land to all the inhabitants. It shall be
for you a Yôvêl and you will return every man to his property and
every man to his family." (Lev 25:8-10 mine)
Parashah for today provides instruction for observing the Sabbatical years
and the Jubilee year. Just as God required Israel to work six days and rest
the seventh day, so after they entered the land they were to sow the land
for six years and let it rest from sowing the seventh year [cf. Ex 23:11].
Forty years later in Moab God added the requirement to cancel debts at the
end of the Sabbatical year during Sukkot [Deut 15:1; 31:10].
God commanded that at the end of the forty-ninth year on Yom Kippur a shofar
would be blown to announce an additional year of liberty. The Septuagint
translates Yôvêl with the Grk. aphesis, which means release or
forgiveness, but most English versions read "Jubilee." That is, in the
fiftieth year all lands were to be restored to the original owners, and men
were to return to their families and clans. The latter provision included
giving Hebrew slaves their freedom. The instruction goes on to require the
continued suspension of agricultural work for the fiftieth year. In verse 9
the double reference to the tenth day of the seventh month and Yom Kippur,
which occurs on the tenth day of that month, is purposeful. This law
establishes the principle that since God shows mercy to His people on Yom
Kippur by releasing them from the judgment of sin, they were expected to
show the same mercy on others at the same time.
purpose is not stated, but we can make certain assumptions. Letting the land
lie fallow would regenerate the soil for greater production. Canceling debts
would prevent the utter ruin of debtors. The return of the land would show
respect for the property rights of each tribe as God originally decreed. The
release of slaves would be a memorial of God's deliverance of Israel from
Egyptian bondage [cf. Ex 20:2; Deut 5:15]. In all these things obedience
would demonstrate trust in the faithfulness of God to take care of His
Yet, there is no mention in Scripture of the Israelites
ever obeying all the requirements of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years. There
is an anecdote in Jeremiah that King Zedekiah had proclaimed a release of
slaves, but after the release the owners reneged and took back the slaves
[Jer 34:8]. For this betrayal of trust God sent judgment on Judah. Indeed
Ezra recorded that Israel's exile lasted seventy years in order for the land
to have the Sabbatical years that had been neglected [2Chr 36:21; cf. Lev
26:27-28; Jer 25:11; 29:10]. Israel learned from this failure and during the
years of the Second Temple the Sabbatical rest for the land was observed [First
Rosh Hashanah 8b].
in the first century Hillel negated the Torah requirement for cancellation
of debts with a legal device called the prosbul. This came about because
people were unwilling to lend money when the Sabbatical year was near. The
Sanhedrin had determined that the Torah rule for canceling debts did not
apply to courts, only to individuals. So, the creditor could legally
transfer the unpaid debt to the court for collection. Under this system the
debtor still had to pay. In these circumstances I can easily see the
petition in the Lord's prayer of "forgive us our debts as we also have
forgiven our debtors" [Matt 6:12] as a rebuke of Hillel and the prosbul.
the Jubilee the Talmud says that as long as the Second Temple stood a
trumpet made from an antelope's horn was blown on Jubilee, but there was no
release of debts, fields or slaves [Rosh Hashanah 9b, 26b]. This was
ceremonial observance without the reality of obedience.
provides an important action for Jubilee. Every man is to return to his land
and his family. The Heb. verb t'shuv hints at reconciliation of
relationships. In the teaching of Yeshua and the apostles there is no
instruction concerning Sabbatical years or Jubilee. Instead their
instruction focuses on the spiritual meaning of these events. Yeshua
commanded his disciples, "be reconciled to your brother" [Matt 5:24] and "be
at peace with one another" [Mark 9:50]. He also said, "Blessed are the
peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God" [Matt 5:9]. Sha'ul said,
"Pursue peace with everyone" [Heb 12:14; cf. Rom 12:18; 2Cor 13:11; 1Th
5:13]. Thus, seeking shalom in relationships is tantamount to
believe that in these last days God has been preparing for a final Jubilee
by bringing Israel back to the land and causing an outpouring of the Ruach.
Ezekiel saw this day in his vision of the dry bones coming to life [Ezek
37:11-14] and David reigning in the land [Ezek 37:24-25]. Ezekiel also saw a
restored temple [Ezek 40─44] and the division of the land among the twelve
tribes [Ezek 47:13-14]. The Ruach is even now moving throughout the Land of
Israel and the Son of David is reigning through Messianic believers.
According to the Talmud the Messiah will come in the final jubilee
[Sanhedrin 97b]. Whether Yeshua will return in a jubilee year designated on
the Jewish calendar we can't know. But we do know that the shofar will sound
and Yeshua, the Son of Man, will return to His Land and His people. In that
day we shall be released from the slavery of Sin and Death and given the
full liberty of resurrected bodies and eternal life. Hallelujah!
Copyright © 2017 by
Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.