The Jubilee Year

The prominent image in the Bible is Redemption from slavery.
The Old Testament narrates incidents of slavery and redemption.
The New Testament is all about the fulfillment of redemption from slavery.

The people of the Old Testament, the people of Jesus’ time and Apostles were familiar with slavery and redemption story.
Slavery was a reality of the time and so was redemption.
Even Israelites had to go under slavery more than once in their national history.
The slavery-redemption story has mainly three parts:

1.   Exile from own land into slavery
2.   Redemption from slavery
3.   Restoration into the land

Let us discuss these three points briefly.

1.   Exile from the land into slavery

Man was created and placed in the Garden of Eden.
The Garden of Eden was a special place separated and created in this earth.
Though the whole earth was created by God and hence owned by God, God still choose a special geographical area at the east of the earth and created a garden to place Humans.
But sin disqualified the inhabitants and humans were thrown out of the land.
They lost the land.

By sin humans became the slave of satan.
The effect of the slavery was losing the land.
This fact is important for this study.

After that God started to execute His plan for the redemption of Man.
Again he chose a land, called Canaan.

Canaan was a kingdom of gentiles
It was a large and prosperous country in the Near East region.
Some historians say that it was also known as Phoenicia.
The land was an area which might have included parts of modern day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

God chose the land of Canaan, claimed its ownership and decided to inhabit a community of people whom He can call His own.
To fulfill this plan, God chose Abraham and commanded him to go out of his mother land leaving behind all his relatives and friends.

Now, let us understand that going out of one’s own land is exile into slavery.
In the Old Testament times own land or own country meant security, prosperity and rest.
That means Abraham was called into the slavery of Yahweh the Lord and into a new land owned by God.
God promised to give Abraham and his descendents the land of Canaan as an inheritance.

For Israelites their land, a promise of Yahweh the Lord is freedom, security, prosperity and rest.
Out of the land is exile and slavery.
The passionate love of the Israelites for their land is explained in this way.

2.   Redemption from slavery

The second part of the slavery-redemption story is redemption from slavery.

Abraham was promised that the land of Canaan which Yahweh had taken claim as His own will be given as an inheritance to him and to his descendants.
Thus he lived in the land, his son Isaac lived there and Jacob lived in the land.
But the time of inheritance of the land was related to another event – the completion of the iniquity of the Amorites.
By Amorites, God meant the inhabitants of Canaan.
During the time of Jacob, they faced a severe famine in Canaan and had to move to Egypt.
Thus they were removed from their land.
And they fell into slavery in Egypt.
Outside the land it is slavery.

The great redemption of a nation from slavery is the story after this event.
After 400 years of slavery, when the iniquity of Amorites was complete, God intervened in history.
Yahweh redeemed them from slavery.
Israelites got freedom from Egyptian slavish masters and moved into Canaan, the land owned Yahweh.

In fact redemption is a shift from an evil master to the real master.
The first is a cruel slave master and the real master is a loving one.
Israelites were redeemed to remain as slaves of Yahweh.
That is why the Hebrew word “ebed” meaning a bonded servant is used in the Old Testament to speak of Israelites.
Greek word “doulos” meaning slave is used in the New Testament epistles to signify God’s people.

Redemption is not freedom from slavery; it is only changing the evil master to the real master.
And that change is very important.

3.   Restoration of the land

The third part of the slavery-redemption story is restoration of the land.

As we have already seen, the land is protection, prosperity and rest for the people.
Restoring the land means restoring protection, prosperity and rest to the people.

The land is wealth, water and food.
The land is a protected area because it belonged to a mighty God.
God’s people lived there without fear and famine.

Israelites were brought back to the land of Canaan and they inherited it.
God instructed Joshua to divide the land among the 12 tribes of Israel.
This is the restoration of the land.
That is the restoration of protection, prosperity and rest.

Israel was God’s own people in God’s own land.
Though the land was shared among the twelve tribes of Israel, the ownership always belonged to God.
The tribes had an inheritance into the land but the ultimate owner of the land is God.
So God, the rightful owner of the land, stipulated certain laws of the land.
The important law was that no portion of the land inherited by a tribe should be sold to another.
We read all about the losing the land, slavery and restoration in Leviticus chapter 25.
The chapter speaks of the Sabbath of the seventh year and the Jubilee.
The three stages of slavery-redemption theme are seen here.
It has its fulfillment in the New Testament and a perfect and final fulfillment in the eschatological era.

The Sabbatical year

With the truth that the land ultimately belongs to Yahweh the Lord, let us move further into the study.
Men are but stewards.
God's dominion is universal over their persons and possessions.
Nothing that man is or has can be exempted from the need of consecration.
So God consecrated every seventh year as a year of Sabbath or rest.
God prohibited Israelites to do what they please with the land in every seventh year.

A Sabbath year is one in every seven.
In the Sabbath year the land was to lie fallow.

The sabbatical year commenced in the autumn, when the farmers first began to sow for the coming year.
The sowing was suspended from the autumn of the sixth year till the autumn of the eighth year.
The produce of the sixth year was harvested in the seventh month of that year.
No harvest or sowing is done in the seventh year since it is Sabbath.
The next sowing is done in the eighth year and harvest is done in the ninth year.

So the harvest of the sixth year was blessed abundantly by God.
The sixth year was to yield a miraculous supply for three continuous years.
It must be sufficient for three years, till the harvest in the ninth year.

The Jubilee year

Now let us move to the Jubilee year.

The word for Jubilee is a very ancient word.
The Hebrew word for Jubilee is “t@ruw`ah” (ter-oo-aw)
The word was derived from an imitation of a joyful shout or the blowing of a trumpet.
The word jubilee signifies some particular sound of the trumpet distinguishable from any other.
The word was later accommodated to mean the sound of the trumpet ushering in the season of joy.

The Jubilee year was celebrated in every fiftieth year.
It started with a proclamation with the sound of trumpet in all parts of the country.

Leviticus 25: 9  Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.

The trumpet was sounded in the close of the Day of Atonement.
And then the jubilee commenced.
That is, when their peace was made with God, then liberty was proclaimed.

The year of jubilee is meant for three important things:

1.   Sabbath or rest for the land (Leviticus 25:1-22)
2.   Restoration of the land (Leviticus 25:23-38)
3.   Redemption of slaves (Leviticus 25:39-55)

After Israel inherited Canaan, the land was assigned to Israel’s clans and families.
But they held it merely as tenants, and had no right or power of disposing of it to strangers.
Still in necessitous circumstances, individuals might effect a temporary sale.
And they possessed the right of redeeming it, at any time, on payment of an adequate compensation to the creditor.
Even if they could not pay the buyer, in the year of the Jubilee the land is redeemed free of cost.
This was the law of the Jubilee year.

There are there situations in which a person may go under slavery by leasing his land to another.
Remember that losing the land is equal to going out of the land.
It is losing prosperity, protection and rest.
It is exile into slavery.

Three situations of losing the land is depicted in Leviticus 25
1.   A person could simply become poor

A farmer who borrowed money to buy seed but could not harvest enough to repay the loan may go poor.
To cover up the debt and for money to buy seeds for the next sowing, he is forced to sell some of the land to a creditor.

In this situation any person who belonged to the farmer’s clan can, if he wish, pay the creditor and redeem the land. (Leviticus 25: 25 )
He is called a redeemer.
He will keep the land until the next jubilee year and in the jubilee year he will restore the land to the farmer.
Until that time, the land belonged to the redeemer, who allowed the farmer to work in it.

2.   The second situation is more serious as described in Leviticus 25: 35 - 38.

The land sold to a creditor is not redeemed and the farmer again fell into debt from which he could not recover.
So he forfeits all of his land to the creditor.
In this case, the creditor must lend the farmer the funds necessary to continue working as a tenant farmer on his own land.
No interest is charged from him.
The farmer may repay the loan with the profit made from the crops and regain his land.
In the year of Jubilee, even if the loan was not fully repaid, the land would revert back to the farmer or his heirs.
3.   The third stage is more serious.

A narration of this situation is found in Leviticus 25: 39 - 43.
The farmer could neither pay back the loan nor even support himself and his family.
He sells himself to the creditor.
He will be temporarily bound to the household of the creditor.
That is he becomes a bonded servant, equal to a slave to the creditor.
As a bound laborer he would work for wages, which were entirely for reduction of the debt.
At the year of jubilee, he would regain his land and his freedom (Leviticus 25:41).

The point of these rules is that Israelites were never to become slaves to others.
God redeemed his people from Egyptian slavery, to become his servants.
It is unfitting, therefore, that an Israelite should be sold into slavery to another person.
The jubilee was a guarantee that no Israelites should continue in slavery.

New Testament significance

As we move forward from here to the New Testament significance of the Jubilee year, let me remind you one important point.
There is a great continuity between the Old Testament revelation and the New Testament.
The whole Bible is about a single theme: the redemption of mankind.
So let us look at the significance of this Old Testament event in the New Testament period.

The Jubilee is a vivid foreshadowing of the whole Messianic Age.
The year of Jubilee is a beautiful prototype of the redemption which will be achieved in the person of Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah. (mi-si-u)

This fact was stressed by Jesus Christ in the very beginning of his ministry.

18   "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;
19   To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."   (NKJV)

Jesus was proclaiming that He is in the ministry of the Jubilee year.
After reading from Isaiah 61: 1, 2   Jesus said that these words have been fulfilled in the hearing of it.
Jesus was proclaiming the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah as an antitype of the year of jubilee.
The messianic age brings liberty to the oppressed and release to the captives.

This age was inaugurated with Christ’s first coming   (Luke 4:21).
It will be completed by his second coming   (James. 5:1-8; Luke 16:19-31).
That means, the Jubilee looks back to God’s first redemption of his people from Egypt.
It also looks forward to restoration of all things, in the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.   (Acts 3:21  2 Peter. 3:13).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus announced, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.
This declaration conveys the concept of the Jubilee year.

Again, on the last day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out to all thirsty people to come to Him.
He shall provide them drink that will quench their thirst.
Not only that rivers of living water will flow from them. (John 7:37-38).
Jesus was replacing the land which provided water to the Israelites with Himself.

The Old Testament saint looked on the land of Canaan as the special place of God’s presence and His blessing.
The New Testament teaches that the dwelling place of God and the place of security, prosperity and rest is none other than Jesus Christ.
If the Old Testament saints delighted to be in the land, the New Testament saint delights in being “in Christ.”

The whole Christian era is one long year of jubilee.
We are living amid the glorious privileges of the Lord's acceptable year.
The gospel, as preached to men, is the trumpet blown at the beginning of the jubilee.
It is blown over the completed atoning sacrifice of Christ.

Eschatological significance

The Jubilee is also a type of the everlasting rest in the eschatological era.

Hebrews 4: 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (NKJV)

The meaning is this:
There is now a promise of rest made to the people of God in the land of Canaan.
But the rest did not pertain merely to those who were called to go to the Promised Land.
It is the promise of rest that pertains to all the people of God of every generation.
The rest promised to the faithful and obedient in the Old Testament was not merely a temporary rest on the Sabbath, or in Canaan.
It is a spiritual, eternal heavenly rest.
The rest in Sabbath and the rest in Canaan were only types of eternal heavenly rest.

It is right to speak of the Christian era as a time of jubilee.
But its perfect realization is yet to come; its true and glorious fulfillment awaits us.
The perfection comes only when the blessed kingdom of the Son of God shall have come in all its fullness and the latter-day glory shall appear.

Another eschatological Jubilee year will be ushered in by the trumpet of God as described in:

16   For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17   Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  (NKJV)

No comments:

Post a Comment