“You are to consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom in the land for all its inhabitants. It will be your Jubilee, when each of you is to return to his property and each of you to his clan.”
Leviticus 25:10 CSB
Through the Bible: Leviticus 24-25
Leviticus 25 gives detailed instructions for the year of Jubilee. After seven sabbath years (seven sevens—forty nine years) the trumpet would sound to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. In that fiftieth year,
- Land reverted back to its original owners (25:13)
- Debts were forgiven (35:28-29)
- Slaves were set free (25:41)
A question that has intrigued scholars for centuries is whether or not Jubilee was ever observed. I spent a little time digging into this question this morning, and still can’t find anything definitive. I do know that in all the books of history within the Bible it isn’t mentioned.
If it wasn’t, that wouldn’t surprise me. I’ve sat in lots and lots of church committee meetings over the years, it is easy for me to imagine how the Israelites could talk themselves out of obedience for the sake of what they would see as common sense. How many times have you seen someone’s great idea never get off the ground because someone in the meeting said, “Well, that sounds interesting, but how would it work?”
So… yeah. How would Jubilee “work?” In 25:4, God commanded to let the land rest for seven years. Okay… but in the fiftieth year, you let it rest again. Oh, and you free all your slaves. So that would mean that the year AFTER Jubilee, you have two years’ worth of rocks and weeds, and no one to help you cultivate it and get it back into shape.
I can imagine the deacons shuffling their feet until one of them says, “Pastor Moses, it sounds good, but I don’t know if that’s the right direction for us to take right now…”
While it is an argument from silence to say that no mention of Jubilee is proof that it wasn’t observed, it’s a pretty loud argument. My guess is that they probably didn’t. But neither would we. Left to our own common sense and pragmatism, debts that were supposed to be forgiven would remain outstanding, and the slaves that were to be set free would remain in bondage.
Now, here is the glorious gospel truth: it really doesn’t matter whether the Jews ever followed through with Jubilee.
Because God did. God never allows His will of decree to be subverted by our so-called wisdom. And so He did the least sensible thing imaginable: He sent His Son into the world.
When Jesus began His public ministry, this is what He said:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18).
The year of the Lord’s favor is another name for the year of Jubilee. During Jesus’ public ministry:
- He forgave the debt of sin (Mark 2:5)
- Every time He cast out a demon, He freed a captive (Mark 5:1-20).
- Every time He healed someone, He set free the oppressed (Mark 5:25-34).
- He did something that wasn’t even on the list for Jubilee in Leviticus 25: He restored sight to the blind. On at least six occasions, and possible as many as eight, Jesus healed the blind. By the way, for all the healing done in the rest of the Bible, only Jesus healed the blind. The only exception is when Ananias laid his hands on Saul in Acts 9:1-20.
Related Post: Day 297: Jesus Does a New Thing (John 9)
Beloved, today we don’t have to wait fifty years to be set free. Jesus is our Jubilee! All day, every day.
Want to go to Israel with me next year? I am leading my church on a ten day tour, from February 22, 2024 to March 2. We will be flying out of Atlanta. Cost: $4000, includes airfare from Atlanta. Detailed Itinerary coming soon. I will get it all to you in a future blog post. If you are interested, please message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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