|YEAR OF JUBILEE |
The fiftieth year after seven cycles of seven years (Leviticus 25:10) in which Israel's land and people gained freedom. It was begun with a blast from a ram's horn on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9). During this year of joy and liberation, the law stipulated three respects in which the land and people were to be sanctified: (1) It was to be a time of rest for the soil as well as people (Leviticus 25:11). The unattended growth of the field was for the poor to glean and for the beasts of the field (Exodus 23:11). (2) All land was to revert back to the original owner (Leviticus 25:10-34;
Leviticus 27:16-24). The original distribution of land was to remain intact. All property which the original owner had been obligated to sell (and had not yet been redeemed) was to revert (without payment) to the original owner or his lawful heirs. Some exceptions to this pattern are noted in
Leviticus 27:17-21. (3) Every Israelite who had sold himself—either to his fellow countryman or to a foreigner settled in the land—because of poverty and remained unredeemed was to be freed along with his children (Leviticus 25:39-46).
The Year of Jubilee prevented the Israelites from oppression of one another (Leviticus 25:17). It had a leveling effect of Israel's culture by giving everyone a chance for a new start. It discouraged excessive, permanent accumulations of wealth and the depravation of an Israelite of his inheritance in the land. Families and tribes were preserved by the return of freed bondservants to their own families. Permanent slavery in Israel was rendered impossible.
This year was a constant reminder of God's interest in economic freedom (Ezekiel 46:17). Purchase of property was actually tantamount to assuming a lease for a maximum of forty-nine years, and the seller always retained the right to cancel the purchase by settling with the buyer on the amount of money that was still payable, taking into account the number of years that the buyer had made use of the property. If the seller was either incapable or not desirous of making use of this right of redemption, the property nevertheless returned to his possession automatically in the next Year of Jubilee. So the sale of a house, for example, was equivalent to renting it for a specified period of time (Leviticus 25:29-34). This made it difficult to accumulate vast permanent holdings of wealth (compare
Micah 2:2). God's designed arrangement was against both large estates and pauperism. The Israelites were repeatedly given the opportunity to begin anew, and the impoverished were enabled to maintain themselves in society.
This year also reflected God's provision for the soil's conservation (Leviticus 25:11-12,Leviticus 25:18-21). During the Year of Jubilee, the Israelites were once again taught that they were to live in faith that the Lord would satisfy their needs (compare