Jubilee, (Year of)
|yeer uhv joo-buh-lee ((yobhel) horn of the ram, trumpet)
RELATED: Sabbatical Year
Easton's Bible Dictionary
A joyful shout or clangour of trumpets, the name of the
great semi-centennial festival of the Hebrews. It lasted for a year. During this
year the land was to be fallow, and the Israelites were only permitted to gather
the spontaneous produce of the fields ( Leviticus 25:11 , 25:12 ). All landed
property during that year reverted to its original owner (Leviticus 25:13 - 34
; 27:16 - 24 ), and all who were slaves were set free ( Leviticus 25:39 - 54 ),
and all debts were remitted.
The return of the jubilee year was proclaimed by a blast of trumpets which sounded
throughout the land. There is no record in Scripture of the actual observance
of this festival, but there are numerous allusions ( Isaiah 5:7 , 5:8 , 5:9 ,
5:10 ; 61:1 , 61:2 ; Ezekiel 7:12 , 7:13 ; Nehemiah 5:1 - 19 ; 2 Chronicles 36:21
) which place it beyond a doubt that it was observed.
The advantages of this institution were manifold.
"1. It would prevent the accumulation of land on the part of a few to the detriment
of the community at large.
2. It would render it impossible for any one to be born to absolute poverty, since
every one had his hereditary land.
3. It would preclude those inequalities which are produced by extremes of riches
and poverty, and which make one man domineer over another.
4. It would utterly do away with slavery.
5. It would afford a fresh opportunity to those who were reduced by adverse circumstances
to begin again their career of industry in the patrimony which they had temporarily
6. It would periodically rectify the disorders which crept into the state in the
course of time, preclude the division of the people into nobles and plebeians,
and preserve the theocracy inviolate."
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
The name. --
The name jubilee is derived from the Hebrew jobel, the joyful shout or clangor
of trumpets, by which the year of jubilee was announced.
The time of its celebration. --
It was celebrated every fiftieth year, marking the half century; so that it followed
the seventh sabbatic year, and for two years in succession the land lay fallow.
It was announced by the blowing of trumpets on the day of atonement (about the
1st of October), the tenth day of the first month of the Israelites civil year
(the seventh of their ecclesiastical year).
The laws connected with the jubilee. --
These embrace three points:
(1) Rest for the soil.
25:11 , 25:12
) The land was to lie fallow, and there was to be no tillage as on the ordinary
sabbatic year. The land was not to be sown, nor the vineyards and oliveyards dressed;
and neither the spontaneous fruits of the soil nor the produce of the vine and
olive was to be gathered, but all was to be left for the poor, the slave, the
stranger and the cattle. ( Exodus
23:10 , 23:11
) The law was accompanied by a promise of treble fertility int he sixth year,
the fruit of which was to be eaten till the harvest sown in the eighth year was
reaped in the ninth. ( Leviticus
25:20 - 22
) But the people were not debarred from other sources of subsistence, nor was
the year to be spent in idleness. They could fish and hunt, take care of their
bees and flocks, repair their buildings and furniture, and manufacture their clothing.
(2) Reversion of landed property.
"The Israelites had a portion of land divided to each family by lot. This portion
of the promised land they held of God, and were not to dispose of it as their
property in fee-simple. Hence no Israelite could part with his landed estate but
for a term of years only. When the jubilee arrived, it again reverted to the original
owners." --Bush. This applied to fields and houses in the country and to houses
of the Levites in walled cities; but other houses in such cities, if not redeemed
within a year from their sale, remained the perpetual property of the buyer.
(3) The manumission of those Israelites who had become slaves.
"Apparently this periodic emancipation applied to every class of Hebrew servants
--to him who had sold himself because he had become too poor to provide for his
family, to him who had been taken and sold for debt, and to him who had been sold
into servitude for crime. Noticeably, this law provides for the family rights
of the servant." --Cowles Hebrew History
The reasons for the institution of the jubilee. --
It was to be a remedy for those evils which accompany human society and human
government; and had these laws been observed, they would have made the Jewish
nation the most prosperous and perfect that ever existed.
|(1) The jubilee tended to abolish poverty. It prevented
large and permanent accumulations of wealth. It gave unfortunate families an opportunity
to begin over again with a fair start in life. It particularly favored the poor,
without injustice to the rich.
(2) It tended to abolish slavery, and in fact did abolish it; and it greatly mitigated
it while it existed. "The effect of this law was at once to lift from the heart
the terrible incubus of a life-long bondage --that sense of a hopeless doom which
knows no relief till death." --Cowles.
(3) "As an agricultural people, they would have much leisure; they would observe
the sabbatic spirit of the year by using its leisure for the instruction of their
families in the law, and for acts of devotion; and in accordance with this there
was a solemn reading of the law to the people assembled at the feast of tabernacles."
--Smiths larger Dictionary.
(4) "This law of entail, by which the right heir could never be excluded, was
a provision of great wisdom for preserving families and tribes perfectly distinct,
and their genealogies faithfully recorded, in order that all might have evidence
to establish their right to the ancestral property. Hence the tribe and family
of Christ were readily discovered at his birth."
Mode of celebration. --
"The Bible says nothing of the mode of celebration, except that it was to be proclaimed
by trumpets, and that it was to be a sabbatic year. Tradition tells us that every
Israelite blew nine blasts, so as to make the trumpet literally sound throughout
the land, and that from the feast of trumpets or new year till the day of atonement
(ten days after), the slaves were neither manumitted to return to their homes,
nor made use of by their master, but ate, drank and rejoiced; and when the day
of atonement came, the judges blew the trumpets, the slaves were manumitted to
go to their homes, and the fields were set free." --McClintock and Strong.
How long observed. --
Though very little is said about its observance in the Bible history of the Jews,
yet it is referred to, and was no doubt observed with more or less faithfulness,
till the Babylonish captivity. --ED.)
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(shenath ha-yobhel; etos tes apheseos; annus jubilaeus,
"year of jubilee" (Leviticus 25:13), or simply ha-yobhel, "the jubilee" (Leviticus
25:28; compare Numbers 36:4), the King James Version and the English Revised Version
The Hebrew word yobhel stands for qeren ha-yobhel, meaning the horn of a ram.
Now, such a horn can be made into a trumpet, and thus the word yobhel came to
be used as a synonym of trumpet. According to Leviticus 25:9 a loud trumpet should
proclaim liberty throughout the country on the 10th day of the 7th month (the
Day of Atonement), after the lapse of 7 sabbaths of years = 49 years. In this
manner, every 50th year was to be announced as a jubilee year. All real property
should automatically revert to its original owner (Leviticus 25:10; compare 25:13),
and those who, compelled by poverty, had sold themselves as slaves to their brothers,
should regain their liberty (Leviticus 25:10; compare 25:39).
In addition to this, the Jubilee Year was to be observed after the manner of the
sabbatic year, i.e. there should be neither sowing nor reaping nor pruning of
vines, and everybody was expected to live on what the fields and the vineyards
produced "of themselves," and no attempt should be made at storing up the products
of the land (Leviticus 25:11). Thus there are three distinct factors constituting
the essential features of the Jubilee Year: personal liberty, restitution of property,
and what we might call the simple life.
1. Personal Liberty:
The 50th year was to be a time in which liberty should be proclaimed to all the
inhabitants of the country. We should, indeed, diminish the import of this institution
if we should apply it only to those who were to be freed from the bonds of physical
servitude. Undoubtedly, they must have been the foremost in realizing its beneficial
effects. But the law was intended to benefit all, the masters as well as the servants.
They should never lose sight of their being brothers and citizens of theocratic
kingdom. They owed their life to God and were subject to His sovereign will. Only
through loyalty to Him were they free and could ever hope to be free and independent
of all other masters.
2. Restitution of Property:
The institution of the Jubilee Year should become the
means of fixing the price of real property (Leviticus 25:15; compare 25:25 - 28);
moreover, it should exclude the possibility of selling any piece of land permanently
(Leviticus 25:23), the next verse furnishing the motive: "The land is mine: for
ye are strangers and sojourners with me." The same rule was to be applied to dwelling-houses
outside of the walled cities (Leviticus 25:31), and also to the houses owned by
Levites, although they were built within walled cities (Leviticus 25:32).
In the same manner the price of Hebrew slaves was to vary according to the proximity
of the Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25:47 - 54). This passage deals with the enslaving
of a Hebrew by a foreigner living among the Jews; it goes without saying that
the same rule would hold good in the case of a Hebrew selling himself to one of
his own people.
In Leviticus 27:17 - 25 we find a similar arrangement respecting such lands that
were "sanctified unto Yahweh." In all these cases the original owner was at liberty
to redeem his property at any time, or have it redeemed by some of his nearest
relatives (Leviticus 25:25 - 27 , 29 , 48 ; 27:19).
The crowning feature, though, was the full restitution of all real property in
the Jubilee Year. The primary object of this regulation was, of course, the reversion
of all hereditary property to the family which originally possessed it, and the
reestablishment of the original arrangement regarding the division of the land.
But that was not all; for this legal disposition and regulation of external matters
was closely connected with the high calling of the Jewish people. It was a part
of the Divine plan looking forward to the salvation of mankind. "The deepest meaning
of it (the Jubilee Year) is to be found in the apokatastasis tes basileias tou
theou, i.e. in the restoring of all that which in the course of time was perverted
by man's sin, in the removing of all slavery of sin, in the establishing of the
true liberty of the children of God, and in the delivering of the creation from
the bondage of corruption to which it was subjected on account of man's depravity"
(Romans 8:19) (compare Keil, Manual of Biblical Archaeology). In the Year of Jubilee
a great future era of Yahweh's favor is foreshadowed, that period which, according
to Isaiah 61:1 - 3, shall be ushered in to all those that labor and are heavy
laden, by Him who was anointed by the spirit of the Lord Yahweh.
3. The Simple Life:
The Jubilee Year, being the crowning point of all sabbatical
institutions, gave the finishing touch as it were to the whole cycle of sabbatic
days, months and years. It is, therefore, quite appropriate that it should be
a year of rest for the land like the preceding sabbatic year (Leviticus 25:11).
It follows, of course, that in this instance there were two years, one after the
other, in which there should be no sowing or systematic ingathering. This seems
to be clear from Leviticus 25:18 - 22: "And ye shall sow the eighth year, and
eat of the fruits, the old store; until the ninth year, until its fruits come
in, ye shall eat the old store." Thus in the 7th and 8th years the people were
to live on what the fields had produced in the 6th year and whatever grew spontaneously.
This shows the reason why we may say that one of the factors constituting the
Jubilee Year was the "simple life." They could not help but live simply for two
consecutive years. Nobody can deny that this afforded ample opportunity to develop
the habit of living within very limited means. And again we see that this external
part of the matter did not fully come up to the intention of the Lawgiver. It
was not the simple life as such that He had in view, but rather the laying down
of its moral and religious foundations. In this connection we must again refer
to Leviticus 25:18 - 22, "What shall we eat the seventh year?" The answer is very
simple and yet of surpassing grandeur: "Then I will command my blessing upon you,"
etc. Nothing was expected of the people but faith in Yahweh and confidence in
His power, which was not to be shaken by any doubtful reflection. And right here
we have found the root of the simple life: no life without the true God, and no
simplicity of life without true faith in Him. "Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4; compare
We may well ask: Did the Jewish people ever observe the Jubilee Year? There is
no reason why they should not have observed it in pre-exilic times (compare Lotz
in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, X, under the word
"Sabbatical Year" and "Year of Jubilee"). Perhaps they signally failed in it,
and if so, we should not be surprised at all. Not that the institution in itself
was cumbered with any obstacles that could not have been overcome; but what is
more common than unbelief and unwillingness to trust absolutely in Yahweh? Or,
was it observed in post-exilic times? Here, too, we are in the dark. There is,
indeed, a tradition according to which the Jubilee Year has never been observed--neither
in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah nor at any later period. The truth of this seems
to be corroborated by the silence of Josephus, who, while referring quite frequently
to the sabbatic year, never once mentions the Year of Jubilee.
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