Leviticus 25:10 “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.”
The year of Jubilee was a year that God instituted in Israel at the end of 7 sabbatical cycles. If your not aware of what a sabbatical year was, it was the end of a 7 year cycle that concluded with giving the land rest for a year. Today you may hear of someone taking a “sabbatical” from their ministry or work, this is simply a reprieve from labor that doesn’t signify an end but only a period of time for rest.
The year of Jubilee was 7 of these sabbatical cycles concluding in the 50th year of Jubilee.
If someone wanted to lease their land to another, they could do so for a price. In essence, the owner of the land was giving the future proceeds of his land to another. The one paying the price for the land was doing so in hope that the land would yield greater profit than the lease entailed. The property was given to each tribe by God when Israel entered the promised land, the land was never truly lost but reverted back to the owner in the year of Jubilee.
The year of Jubilee was exclusive to Israel and Calvin in his commentary on Jubilee noted regarding Jubilee’s exclusive benefits for Israelites and place in God’s history of revelation:
Thus the land of Canaan was an earnest, or symbol, or mirror, of the adoption on which their salvation was founded. Wherefore it is not to be wondered at that God was unwilling that this inestimable benefit should ever be lost; and, lest this should be the case, like a provident father of a family, He laid a restraint on His children, to prevent them from being too prodigal; for, when a man has any suspicions of his heir, he forbids him to alienate the patrimony he leaves him. Such, therefore, was the condition of the ancient people; yet it cannot be indiscriminately transferred to other nations who have had no common inheritance given them.John Calvin
Included in the year of Jubilee was the release of indentured servitude. If a Hebrew man owed a sizeable debt, he could attempt to work it off, these were referred to as indentured servants or Paul referred to them as slaves.
The TOW project gives a great overview of God’s work and how indentured servitude was present in Israel.
“Although God liberated the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, slavery is not universally prohibited in the Bible. Slavery was permissible in certain situations, so long as slaves were regarded as full members of the community (Gen. 17:12), received the same rest periods and holidays as non-slaves (Exod. 23:12; Deut. 5:14-15, 12:12), and were treated humanely (Exod. 21:7, 26-27). Most importantly, slavery among Hebrews was not intended as a permanent condition, but a voluntary, temporary refuge for people suffering what would otherwise be desperate poverty. “When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt” (Exod. 21:2). Cruelty on the part of the owner resulted in immediate freedom for the slave (Exod. 21:26-27). This made male Hebrew slavery more like a kind of long-term labor contract among individuals, and less like the kind of permanent exploitation that has characterized slavery in modern times.”
In respect to the Year of Jubilee, the Hebrew indentured servant was to be released from his obligations and set free from any bondage for the debt he incurred. He was not meant to remain under the yoke of slavery.
Most scholars would agree that this year had three distinctives that set it apart.
- Personal Liberty
- Restitution of property
- Return to simplicity
As an overview, the term Jubilee was a term in Hebrew that means “Horn of a ram”. According to Leviticus 25:9 a loud trumpet should proclaim liberty throughout the country on the 10th day of the 7th month (the Day of Atonement), after the lapse of 7 sabbaths of years = 49 years. In this manner, every 50th year was to be announced as a jubilee year.
All real property should automatically revert to its original owner (Leviticus 25:10) and those who, compelled by poverty, had sold themselves as slaves to their brothers, should regain their liberty.
Does the year of Jubilee have any significance to us today?
Romans 6:15-18 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
- When we walk in sin, we walk in slavery to that sin. The corruption of sin concludes in death, not necessarily the death of our body although sin often contributes to that but the eternal death of Hell. Sin leaves the individual in a perpetual state of corruption. Our relationship with God has been corrupted by our disobedience, it is this state that creates strife and enmity between God and mankind. When Jesus came as a sacrifice for our sins, He came to pay the redemption price that held us in slavery.
Romans 8:1-2 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
2. Our promise has been restored through Christ’s sacrifice. We once received honor but by the separation of sin, we inherited dishonor. We once walked with God and He gave us the privilege of managing His Creation, we lost that when we rebelled. We once had an eternal hope of dwelling in His presence for eternity, that was lost when we chose our own way. Jesus restored that which was lost.
Ephesians 1:13-14 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
3. The world brings confusion, the Lord brought peace. When we live according to our own rules, we subject ourselves to our own understanding. When we accept the righteous standard of God’s moral law as our standard for Truth, we revel in the freedom that God ordains. It is the simplicity of walking in the freedom of Christ that gives the true believer the joy of knowing Him. He gave us a deposit, His Holy Spirit to guide and direct us in this liberty, by walking in Him we come to know Him more.
Galatians 5:1 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
Jesus has changed our reality.
We must only accept the path that He has set before us.
If you want to know the release of bondage this world has placed you under, you need look no further than God’s answer for Life. He established a process in Israel centuries ago to reveal a greater truth, a truth that was promised and has now come.
When Jesus appeared, He Himself proclaimed this liberty.
Luke 4:16-21 “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
This same truth echo’s true today. If you want to know freedom now and forevermore, Jesus is the only way. It is by His grace only that you might be saved. One day, the church of God will hear the final trumpet sound, the conclusion of this age will come to and end and those who trusted in Him will inherit the promise given so long ago.
The eternal Jubilee will begin, the curse of sin will be gone and we will dwell in His presence forever.
What a glorious time that will be.