Have you ever declared bankruptcy? Have you ever made an insurance claim for a real tragedy? Today’s blog is about the ancient Jewish calendar, the Year of Jubilee, and the implications for us today.
TWO LUNAR CALENDARS
Last year I covered the difference between the Essenes’ solar calendar and the traditional lunar calendar that mainstream Judaism used. See above for their lunar-based calendar with its 2 beginnings, in the spring and fall. This is much like our school year versus our New Year.
The lunar month…begins when the first sliver of moon becomes visible after the dark of the moon. In ancient times… When…two independent, reliable eyewitnesses…observed the new moon, they would notify the Sanhedrin…send out messengers to tell…when the month began.
The problem with strictly lunar calendars is that there are approximately 12.4 lunar months in every solar year, so a 12-month lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than a solar year and a 13-month lunar is about 19 longer than a solar year….
To compensate…the Jewish calendar uses a 12-month lunar calendar with an extra month occasionally added. The month of Nissan occurs 11 days earlier each year for two or three years, and then jumps forward 30 days…. In ancient times, this month was added by observation: the Sanhedrin observed the conditions of the weather, the crops and the livestock, and if these were not sufficiently advanced to be considered “spring,” then the Sanhedrin inserted an additional month…to make sure that Pesach (Passover) would occur in the spring…
The…sabbatical year, like the weekly sabbath, was designed by God with a benevolent purpose in view. Every seventh year debts were to be cancelled and the land was to lie fallow, the uncultivated increase to be left to the poor Israelite…. According to 2 Chronicles 36:21, observance of the sabbatical year had been neglected for about 500 years, the 70 year Captivity allowing the land to enjoy its neglected sabbaths…. After the Captivity, the people under Nehemiah bound themelves to the faithful observance of the seventh year, covenanting that “we would forego the seventh year”
YEAR OF JUBILEE
Seven sabbatic cycles of years (i.e., 49) terminated in the year of jubilee…lit., “the year of the ram’s horn” …from the custom of sounding the ram’s horn…announcing its arrival (Leviticus 25:8-17)…called “the year of liberty” …in Ezekiel 46:17 (cf. Jeremiah 34:8, 15, 17). The year of jubilee was not…the 49th year, and thus simply a 7th sabbatical year, but was, as Leviticus 25:10 states, the 50th year, thus providing 2 successive sabbatic years in which the land would have rest…. To compensate…God promised: “I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for 3 years” (Leviticus 25:21). In addition, other sources of provision were available, such as hunting, fishing, flocks, herds, bees, and the like.
Hereditary lands and property were to be restored to the original family without compensation, in the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:23-34).
WHETHER THE JEWS OBSERVED THIS DURING THE FIRST CENTURY
Clearly the Jews didn’t observe this to a large extent, if at all, when you look at the oppression of the Sadducees and chief priests. The Sadducees claimed only the first 5 books of the Old Testament were inspired, yet disregarded even them on this matter. But keep in mind Herod the Great brought in Jews from Babylon who weren’t in the priestly line to be the chief priests. In this way, Herod uprooted Jewish obedience to scriptures in some of their most fundamental ways. See also how Herod the Great changed the rules regarding the treatment of slaves. And since the Pharisees’ traditions were conveyed to us through their Talmud, this brush off by their “Torah” is very telling:
The biblical rules concerning Sabbatical years are still observed by many religious Jews in Israel, but the regulations for the Jubilee year have not been observed for many centuries. According to the Torah, observance of Jubilee only applies when the Jewish people live in the land of Israel according to their tribes. Thus, with the exile of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (about 600 BCE), Jubilee has not been applicable.
WHAT JESUS SAID ABOUT THE YEAR OF JUBILEE
In Luke 4:16-30 Jesus was speaking in Nazareth, quoting Isaiah about the Year of Jubilee and himself:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
HINTS IN MODERN-DAY PARALLELS
Praise God for our bankruptcy laws today, to protect people from extreme financial difficulties. Also for our insurance policies, for many catastrophic events. But these are but a hint of the glory when God hurls all our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).