What is Jubilee? | Leviticus 25

Leviticus 25 outline divides the chapter into three divisions:

I. The Jubilee – a sabbath for the land (Leviticus 25:1-22).

II. The Jubilee – and the redemption of property (Leviticus 25:23-38).

III. The Jubilee – and the redemption of slaves (Leviticus 25:39-55).

Leviticus 25 deals exclusively with the Jubilee, the super-sabbatical year which followed the seventh sabbatical year, the same being every fiftieth year of the Jewish calendar. Its being legislated in Leviticus ties it emphatically to the ordinary sabbath and to the sabbatical years, meaning that there could not have been, in any strict sense, the keeping of the sabbath day unless these extensions of it in sabbatical years and the ultimate Jubilee were also observed.

It is imperative to understand the unity of all the sabbath laws, and it is the failure of present-day sabbatarianism to receive this that utterly discredits and nullifies it.

Some people in our times indeed pretend to observe the sabbath day, but they do not keep the sabbath until these Divine extensions of it are also honored.

The old Israel was condemned for not observing the sabbath years, and God sent the whole nation into captivity for a period of 70 years to make up for the period of 490 years in which they had failed to observe them (2 Chronicles 36:20-21). Thus, keeping the sabbath days meant nothing unless the sabbath years were also observed.

The very name “Jubilee” is of great interest.

It has come to be the name of all great celebrations such as Golden Weddings, etc.; and Queen Victoria celebrated her Jubilee on the 50th anniversary of her coming to the throne of the British Empire (1837-1887).

Spelled as “Jubile” in the KJV, the word derives from the Hebrew word for “trumpet,” for it was the blowing of the trumpet on the Day of Atonement that signaled the beginning of the Jubilee.

In fact, Tyndale translated the word for Jubilee as “a yere of hornes blowinge,” “the trompett yere,” and “the horne yere” (Leviticus 25:10,15,28).

The word “Jubilee” is an onomatopoetic word, that is, “imitation of a joyful shout, or cry of joy, later accommodated to mean the sound of the trumpet ushering in the season of joy.”

The word for Jubilee is a very ancient word, and along with certain instructions attending the divine regulations concerning it (as in Leviticus 25:30) suggests a time-frame during the second millennium B.C.

It is therefore foolish to suppose that, “The Jubilee arose after the downfall of the Judean kingdom.”

As a matter of fact, the Jewish Scriptures affirm that it was the failure of Israel to observe the sabbatical years for a period of 490 years (seventy of them being not observed) that God sent them into captivity (2 Chronicles 36:20,21) until the land should have its 70 sabbaticals as God had commanded, hence, the duration of the captivity.

The answer of whether or not the Jews ever faithfully observed their Jubilees appears to be that they did not.

There is no Biblical reference to their ever having done so, and, in fact, the Jubilee is not mentioned at all except in this chapter, six times in Leviticus 27, and once in Numbers 36:4, where it is mentioned as an event in the future.

Their failure to observe it might have resulted from the difficulty they might have had in determining the date from which they were to begin counting.

This would have been true because the better part of a generation was to elapse before they as a whole people actually entered Canaan, and some parts of it were occupied before other parts, and some tribes received their inheritance at different times from others.

That very great and important spiritual significance lay in these instructions for the Jubilee is certain, because, when Jesus Christ began his ministry (Luke 4), there appears to be a direct reference to the Jubilee in his words: “He anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor … to proclaim release to the captives … to set at liberty them that are bruised … to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

Such a declaration is all but a dogmatic affirmation of the Christian dispensation as earth’s Jubilee. Of course, it would be the slaves to sin who would be released, and the captives held in the service of Satan who would receive their liberty through Christ.

Wenham commented upon the theological reasons that lay behind the special rules forbidding and for redeeming the slavery of Israelites as follows:

“God redeemed his people from Egyptian slavery, to become his servants. It is unfitting, therefore, that an Israelite should be sold into slavery, especially to a foreigner. The jubilee was a guarantee that no Israelites should continue in slavery.”

Also, note the words “in thy sight” (Leviticus 25:53). This made every Israelite a de facto monitor and policeman regarding any Israelite who was temporarily indentured to a foreigner, with the implication that any abuse of the servant, or any service “with rigor” that might be required, would result in the immediate judgment of the offender.

The following basic principles are evident in the sacred instructions here concerning the Jubilee:

OWNERSHIP OF LAND

It is contrary to the interests of society when the ownership of land is concentrated exclusively in the hands of a wealthy few and the mass of the people reduced to poverty through oppression.

This is violated, not merely by those states where the wealthy nobles are virtually the sole owners of the land, but also by the vicious and unprincipled usurpation promulgated by the godless Communists who arbitrarily confiscated all lands to the state.

In all nations, where lands tend to become the privilege of the few and not the inheritance of the many, this principle is violated.

THE WORSHIP OF GOD

Inherent in all of these laws concerning various sabbaths of days, of years, and of the fiftieth year, is the principle that God expects the beneficiaries of His grace to worship Him. True religion is basic to any just society.

The neglect of the worship of God by any people is the beginning of the destruction of that people. The gross paganism, debauchery, violence, and oppression that characterized the pre-Christian nations were stated by the apostle Paul to have had their beginning in the people’s failure to “give thanks to God” (Romans 1:21). All of the wretchedness that followed had its source in their turning away from worship of God.

PERSONAL VIRTUE

“Love thy neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) is the all-pervasive moral law that underlies all of these instructions.

Special love for a brother that required his next of kin to redeem him, and the watchfulness of all to prevent any abuse of a brother derived from this essential love. The Jubilee also emphasized the fleeting nature of man’s life on earth. “You are strangers and sojourners.”

OVERTONES OF THE MESSIANIC AGE

A number of spiritual overtones of the richest color are herein. That the nearest of kin alone could redeem one suggests the kinship of Christ for the beneficiaries of his blood-bought redemption.

The Jubilee itself is a vivid foreshadowing of the whole Messianic Age, a fact stressed by Jesus Christ in the very beginning of his ministry (Luke 4:18-19).

In one’s acceptance of the Christian faith and obedience of the gospel, there are five “R’s”:

Remission of all sins.

Restoration to our Fellowship with God.

Reunion with the Society of the Redeemed.

Repossession of our Forfeited Inheritance.

Rejoicing in the Soul’s True Jubilee.

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