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Jubilee, Year of

Jubilee, Year of

Year beginning on the Day of Atonement every fiftieth year and proclaiming a nationwiderelease for Hebrew society. The word "jubilee" comes from the Hebrew word yobel,("ram's horn") for the sounding of the ram's horn signalled the Jubilee'sbeginning. Another related Hebrew word is deror ("release, liberty").

The key text, Leviticus 25:8-55, describes the festival's three basic features. First,as in the sabbath year ( Lev 25:2-7 ), theland was to be fallow. The people were not to farm the land, but were to eat what grewnaturally. Both people and land should enjoy their release.

Second, all Hebrew slaves were to go free. The law allowed poor people to become slavesto pay their debts. Owners were to treat their Hebrew slaves kindly. All slaves were to befreed in the Year of Jubilee.

Third, the land reverted to its original owner. This practice ensured that no citizenwould remain poor or a slave forever. A person who sold land to another was really sellinga certain number of crops, so the number of years before the Jubilee, determined the saleprice. Property within walled cities did not revert in the Year of Jubilee except for theproperty of the Levites, which was always redeemable. A few other modifications of thenormal procedure also existed. Daughters who inherited land had to marry within their owntribes in order to keep the land ( Num 36:4 ). The lawalso prevented individuals from abusing the reversion principle. People who vowed aportion of their fields to the Lord and then sold them to escape their vows could neverget their land back; rather, the ownership transferred to the priests ( Lev 27:21 ).

The Year of Jubilee contained two important theological implications. First, the landbelonged to the Lord, who determined its proper use. The people were to avoid selfishaccumulation of land ( Isa5:8 ), for it did not really belong to them. Second, God's people were to be free. Evenwhen one was in slavery, redemption was possible. In any case, the Year of Jubilee freedall. Freedom was always the ultimate goal.

Unfortunately, evidence from the Old Testament seems to indicate that Israel hardlyever celebrated the sabbath year or the Year of Jubilee. Christ's quoting of Isaiah 61:1and the word deror may suggest that Christ's ministry provided the ultimatefulfillment of the jubilee concept ( Luke 4:16-21 ).

Bryan E. Beyer

See also Feastsand Festivals of Israel

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
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Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Jubilee, Year of'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.