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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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(See YEAR; SABBATICAL.) The 50th Jubilee, after seven weeks of years, when alienated lands returned to the original owners and Hebrew bondservants were freed (Leviticus 25:8-16; Leviticus 25:23-55; Leviticus 27:16-25; Numbers 36:4). At the close of the great day of atonement the blast of the Jubilee curved trumpets proclaimed throughout the land liberty, after guilt had been removed through the typically atoning blood of victims. It is referred to as antitypically fulfilled in "the acceptable year of the Lord," this limited period of gospel grace in which deliverance from sin and death, and the restoration of man's lost inheritance, are proclaimed through Christ (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:19). Literally, hereafter (Ezekiel 7:12-13; Ezekiel 46:17) to be kept. Liberty to bondservants was given every seventh or sabbatical year.

The princes and people at Jerusalem first observed it, in accordance with Zedekiah's covenant made under fear of the Babylonian besiegers; afterward on Pharaoh Hophra interrupting the siege they broke their engagement and enslaved their brethren again; God in retribution gave them a fatal liberty, namely, emancipation from His blessed service, to be given up to the sword, pestilence, and famine (Jeremiah 34:8-22; Jeremiah 37:5-10; compare Nehemiah 5:1-13). The Jubilee prevented the accumulation of land in the hands of a few, and raised legally at regular intervals families and individuals out of destitution to competency; thereby guarding against the lawless and dangerous outbreaks of the penniless against large possessors, to which other states are liable. It tended to foster family feeling, and to promote the preservation of genealogies, and to remind all that Jehovah was the supreme Landlord under whom their tenure was held and the Lord of the Israelites, who therefore could not become lasting servants of anyone else.

"The times of the restitution of all things" are the coming grand Jubilee (Acts 3:21), "the regeneration" (Matthew 19:28) ushered in by "the trump of God" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The Spirit is meantime "the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:19-23). As in sabbatical years, there was to be no tillage, but the natural produce was to be left open to all. If a Hebrew in poverty disposed of his land the price was regulated by the number of years to run until Jubilee, the sabbatical seventh years not being counted. The "original proprietor" or "the nearest of kin" (goel ) could redeem the land at any time. Houses in walled cities were excepted; the owner might buy them back within a year, otherwise they became absolutely the purchaser's own. But houses in villages went with the lands. Levites too could buy back their houses at any time, which always reverted to them at Jubilee; their lands were not affected by the law of Jubilee. If a man sanctified his land to Jehovah it could be redeemed before the Jubilee on paying the worth of the crops and a fifth.

If not redeemed before Jubilee it remained sanctified for ever. Even a bondman who bound himself to willing service by boring his ears was freed at Jubilee (Exodus 21:6). No legislator would have enacted such an institution, and no people would have long submitted to it, unless both had believed that a divine authority had dictated it and a special providence would facilitate its execution. Nothing could have produced this conviction but the experience of miraculous interposition such as the Pentateuch describes. The very existence of this law is a standing monument that when it was given the Mosaic miracles were fully believed; moreover this law, in the Pentateuch which the Jews always have received as written by Moses, is coeval with the witnesses of the miracles: therefore the reality of the Mosaic miracles is undeniable (Graves, Pentateuch, 6). The root of "Jubilee" is yabal , "to flow," a rich stream of sound (Exodus 19:13, where Jubilee is translated " trumpet," margin "cornet"; compare Joshua 6:5, compare Psalms 89:15).

It was in the 50th year, so that, the 49th also being a sabbath year, two sabbatical years came together, just as Pentecost came the 50th Jubilee at the end of the seven weeks (49 days) closing with the sabbath. It stood between the two series of sabbatical years in the century. See Isaiah 37:30, where the reference to Jubilee is not at all certain; also Isaiah 5:7-10, those who by covetousness prevented the operation of the law of Jubilee. Remission of debts was on each sabbatical seventh year; the bondage for debt was all that Jubilee delivered from. The Jubilee is the crowning of the sabbatical system. The weekly and the monthly sabbaths secured rest for each spiritually; the sabbatical year secured rest for the land. The Jubilee secured rest and restoration for the body politic, to recover that general equality which Joshua's original settlement contemplated; hence no religious observances were prescribed, simply the trumpets sounded the glad note of restoration. The leisure of the Jubilee year was perhaps devoted to school and instruction of the people, the reading of the law and such services (Ewald).

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Jubilee'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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