“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.” Leviticus 25:10
Every fifty years something significant was to take place in Israel called JUBILEE. The Year of Jubilee marked an epoch in the lives of the people and the entire nation. The year was meant to bring ‘change’ in people’s lives and circumstances. The Jubilee Year was preeminently a year of celebration and joy because people experienced freedom, rest and God’s favour.
The word Jubilee literally means “horn of a ram” or “blowing the trumpet.” It comes from the Hebrew word “yobel” which means to be “jubilant” or to “exult.” God had instructed Israel to observe every seventh year as a special year of rest for the land and to release slaves (Exodus 23:10-11; Deuteronomy 15:1-18). Following seven cycles of seven years (seven times seven years equals 49 years) the Jubilee trumpet was sounded, and celebrated in the 50th year. In that year, liberty was proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the land. During the Jubilee the people returned to their liberty, family and ancestral possessions (Leviticus 25:8-17). The Jubilee had impact on every strata of society.
It is pertinent to know why God instituted the Jubilee. Primarily, it was to restore balance in the nation. The time of Jubilee was meant to rectify any disorder which may have crept into the society over time. Through the Jubilee God wanted to eliminate perpetual poverty and slavery which may have resulted from financial failure or indebtedness. The Jubilee period gave people who have suffered misfortune or loss a chance to start over economically and socially. Also, through the Jubilee, God was addressing the problem of human avarice and oppression that put people in perpetual servitude. The Jubilee broke that cycle. Overall, the Jubilee year brought restoration and gave hope for people’s lives to function in the original state in which God intended it.
During the Jubilee Year the people experienced the supernatural provision of God. They learnt to depend on God for their sustenance. In the Year of Jubilee, the land and the people were to enjoy a full year of rest. “That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. 12 For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field.” (Leviticus 25:11-12). Since the 49th year was also a Sabbath Year, this meant that for two years (49th and 50th) there was no sowing and harvesting. How were the people to survive? God promised a triple blessing: “”And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?” 21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years.” (Leviticus 25:20-21).
The spiritual dimension of the Jubilee year was also very important. It was a special year for the remission of sins. It is instructive that the Jubilee could not begin until after the “Day of Atonement” in the seventh month of the 49th year (Leviticus 25:9). Thus, it is the event of the 49th year that prepared the ground for the proclamation of the Jubilee in the 50th year. The “Day of Atonement” was the time when the children of Israel humbled themselves before God, repented of their sins and received forgiveness from God. Basically, the sins of the entire nation were remitted on that day (Leviticus 16:34). God was making it clear to them that spiritual freedom must precede physical freedom.
As elaborate as the regulations for the Jubilee was, we do not have an explicit record of its actual practice in the Old Testament. However, people like Isaiah prophesied about it (Isaiah 61:1-3) and Ezekiel alluded to it (Ezekiel 46:17). But when Jesus stepped into the Temple at Jerusalem and was given the scroll, He read from Isaiah’s prophecy and declared that He was the fulfillment of the Jubilee (Luke 4:18-21). The implication of this is that His atoning sacrifice has made the Jubilee available to everyone that believes in Him. Christ paid the price for the debt that we ourselves could not pay. He is the one who redeems us and releases us (John 8:36).
The principles of the Jubilee can still apply today to an individual or a nation. When God instituted the Jubilee, He was revealing His heart for Israel, and by extension, to all people who belong to Him. What was natural for Israel can now become our reality by faith. We can experience release, rest and restoration in the Lord. Christ is our access to the Jubilee.