And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year
The year following the seven sabbaths of years, or forty nine years; and which they were to sanctify by separating it from all others, and devoting it to the uses it was to be put to, and the services done on it, and by abstaining from the tillage of the land, sowing or reaping, and from the cultivation of vines, olives and proclaim liberty throughout [all] the land;
to servants, both to those whose ears were bored, and were to serve for ever, even unto the year of jubilee, and then be released; and to those whose six years were not ended, from the time that they were bought; for the jubilee year put an end to their servitude, let the time they had served be what it would; for this year was a general release of servants, excepting bondmen and bondmaids, who were never discharged; hence called the "year of liberty", ( Ezekiel 46:17 ) ; and Josephus F23 says, the word "jobel" or "jubilee" signifies "liberty": unto all the inhabitants thereof;
that were in servitude or poverty, excepting the above mentioned; from hence the Jews gather, than when the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, went into captivity, the jubilees ceased F24, since all the inhabitants were not then in it; but that is a mistake, for the jubilees were continued unto the coming of the Messiah, and perhaps never omitted but once, in the time of the Babylonish captivity: it shall be a jubilee unto you;
to the Israelites, and to them only, as Aben Ezra observes; it was a time of joy and gladness to them, especially to servants, who were now free, and to the poor, who enjoyed their estates again: and ye shall return every man unto his possession;
which had been sold or mortgaged to another, but now reverted to its original owner: and ye shall return every man unto his family;
who through poverty had sold himself for a servant, and had lived in another family. The general design of this law was to preserve the rights of freeborn Israelites, as to person and property, to prevent perpetual servitude, and perpetual alienation of their estates; to continue families and estates as they were originally, that some might not become too rich, and others too poor; nor be blended, but the tribes and families might be kept distinct until the coming of the Messiah, to whom the jubilee had a particular respect, and in whom it ceased. The liberty proclaimed on this day was typical of that liberty from the bondage of sin, Satan, and the law, which Christ is the author of, and is proclaimed by him in the Gospel, ( Galatians 5:1 ) ( Isaiah 61:1 ) ; a liberty of grace and glory, or the glorious liberty of the children of God: returning to possessions and inheritances may be an emblem of the enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance by the saints; though man by sin lost an earthly paradise, and came short of the glory of God, yet through Christ his people are restored to a better inheritance, an incorruptible one; to which they are begotten by his Spirit, have a right to it through his righteousness, and a meetness for it by his grace, and of which the Holy Spirit is the earnest and pledge, and into which Christ himself will introduce them. And the returning of them to their families may signify the return of God's elect through Christ to the family that is named of him; these were secretly of the family of God from all eternity, being taken into it in the covenant of grace, as well as predestinated to the adoption of children: but by the fall, and through a state of nature by it, they became children of wrath, even as others; yet through redemption by Christ, and faith in him, they receive the adoption of children, and openly appear to be of the family of God, ( 2 Corinthians 6:18 ) ( Ephesians 1:5 ) ( 1:3 ) ( Galatians 4:5 Galatians 4:6 ) ( 3:26 ) ( John 1:12 ) ; and all this is proclaimed by the sound of the Gospel trumpet, which being a sound of liberty, peace, pardon, righteousness, salvation, and eternal life by Christ, is a joyful one, ( Psalms 89:15 ) ; where the allusion seems to be to the jubilee trumpet.
F23 Antiqu. l. 3. c. 12. sect. 3.
F24 Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Eracin, c. 8. sect. 1.