What is the Jubilee Year?

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The Bible describes a period of time most people have never heard of - the Jubilee year. It occurs after seven sets of seven yearly intervals (49 total) are finished. This proclamation of a fiftieth "liberty" year occurs on one of God's annual feast days known as the Day of Atonement. Because God owns everything, he set up a special, regularly occurring time period where His will is that a man's possessions are returned to him.

10 This fiftieth (Jubilee) year is sacred — it is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families. 11 This is a year of complete celebration, so don't plant any seed or harvest what your fields or vineyards produce.

39 If one of your brothers becomes indigent and has to sell himself to you, don't make him work as a slave. 40 Treat him as a hired hand or a guest among you. He will work for you until the Jubilee . . . (Leviticus 25)

Israel was also commanded in the Bible to redeem tithes and other things based on how long it was to the next Jubilee period (Leviticus 27)

Leviticus 26 states THE reason ancient Israel went into captivity was for not allowing the land to rest every seven years - by not giving it a break and letting it enjoy its own Sabbath rest!

27 'If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, 28 then in my anger I will be hostile toward you . . . 33 I will scatter you among the nations . . . Your land will be laid waste . . .34 Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years (Leviticus 26)

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The beginning of Jesus' public ministry

Did you know that near the start of Jesus' public ministry he quoted Scripture related to the Jubilee?

He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17. And there was given Him the book of the prophet Isaiah . . . 18. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; for this reason, He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal those who are brokenhearted, to proclaim pardon to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth in deliverance those who have been crushed, 19. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4)

Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 61, verses 1 and 2. His reference to the "acceptable year of the Lord" is a Biblical synonym for the Jubilee year.

The Liberty Bell

Jubilee and the United States

The Liberty Bell, initially cast in 1752 A.D. (now in Philadelphia), is an iconic symbol of American independence. The bell's first inscribed line quotes part of the verse found in the King James Bible version of Leviticus 25:10 which mentions the jubilee. The bell rang on July 8th, 1776 to summon the people to hear the Declaration of Independence.

Unfortunately, the United States has not obeyed the Jubilee Law. It is widely believed the bell received its crack in 1835 A.D. while being rung. The crack, which occurred roughly fifty years after America's War of Independence ended in 1783, was severe enough to cause the bell never to ring again.

History of the Jews

Josephus, in his monumental work on the history of the Jewish people, discusses historical events that he felt occurred during Jubilee years such as Antiochus' besieging of Jerusalem's Temple. In Herod the Great's thirteenth year of rule there was famine and a corresponding pestilence, the worst since the time of King Ahab. Josephus states it occurred in a Jubilee year.

The meaning

The designating of every 50th year as a Jubilee is not just for allowing the land to rest. It is a reminder, just like the weekly seventh-day Bible Sabbath, that God has created everything. It is also a reminder that humans are not the only owners of the land and are not, according to God, to hold onto property forever. We truly do not own anything as some kind of right. Because we are thankful to God for liberating us, we should also liberate others from debt to us.

The cancellation of all debts occurs in the seventh year. If we were a nation that followed God's laws this would be an excellent time to settle our debts and get on with the rest of our lives!

Any nation would receive a tremendous blessing if they observed this part of God's law. People would not ring up huge debt and there would be no great imbalance between the wealthy and the poorest. The value of land would stabilize and the usual giant ups and downs of the economy would not happen. God's laws, ALL his laws, would be taught to all people every seventh year. Sadly, we will have to hold on until the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ before we, as a nation, fully experience the fantastic results from obeying God's laws.

The next possible occurrence

Although Christ's ministry started in 26 A.D., his public proclaiming of the gospel began in 27. His quoting of Isaiah 61 could be taken as referencing he was preaching within a Jubilee year, which would have begun on Atonement in 26 A.D. (The Apppointed Times of Jesus the Messiah, page 23). If this conclusion is true, it means the next one will begin in the fall of 2026 and run to the fall of 2027.

Why is the year of Jubilee important? It is because it offers a warning to the modern-day children of Israel (Amos 3:7, Daniel 12:4, John 7:17) not to commit the same mistakes as their ancestors in the Bible.

Additional Study Materials
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