Before the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land, the Lord gave many laws and rules. Among those were laws regarding a Sabbath rest for the land, called a Sabbatical Year, and the Jubilee Year, a fifty-year period of redemption. This is described in Leviticus chapter twenty-five. Every seven years the land was not to be planted; it was to rest. The people were to live on the surplus of prior years.

This follows the pattern established by the Lord when He created the world and all that is in it. He rested on the seventh day. We modern people of the Twenty-First Century like to think that we are pretty smart, but Brother E. W. Bullinger, who died in 1913, reported that a Nineteenth Century physician, Dr. Stratton, had determined that a man’s pulse beats faster in the morning than in the evening for six days. Then, on the seventh day his pulse beat slower 1. Just as the Lord rested on the seventh day, man was designed to rest on the seventh day. The involuntary system in his body apparently knows this and obeys.

Unfortunately, the Israelites did not obey the Lord’s command regarding the Sabbath Year. If they did not ignore it altogether, they found a way around it. The Israelites would sell their land to a Gentile for one year, still receive payment for the crops, and then take possession of the land the next year. This practice is still done by some in Israel today!

It is unfortunate that the Israelites did not obey the Lord’s command because He enforced it anyway. The cause for the seventy-year Babylonian Captivity was the Israelites ignoring the law of the Sabbath Year. At the end of Second Chronicles 2, we are informed that the Land of Israel rested for the seventy years the Israelites were held in Babylon. And, true to form, through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord told the Israelites how long they would be in Babylon 3. “Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you 4.”

Even better than the Sabbath Year was the Jubilee Year. After seven Sabbatical Years, the next year, the fiftieth, would be a Jubilee Year. The Jubilee Year was all about redemption. If an Israelite had sold himself (and his family) into slavery, upon the Jubilee Year he and his family were freed! They were redeemed. If an Israelite had sold his land, upon the Jubilee Year it was returned to him. It was redeemed. In effect, they did not sell their land, but rented it for the remaining years before the Jubilee Year.

As an aside, the Jubilee Year is a picture of Pentecost, the fiftieth day after the Lord’s Resurrection. On that fiftieth day the Church was established and we were redeemed!

There is no scriptural evidence that the Israelites ever observed the Jubilee Year. The word “jubilee” (“jubile” in the King James Version) is only found when the Lord is giving the law regarding this year. The closest I, personally, have come to a description of the Jubilee Year is in the story of Sennacherib placing the city of Jerusalem under siege. The prophet Isaiah said to King Hezekiah that this year you (Israel) will eat what grows by itself, the second year what springs from that; and, in the third year you will sow and reap 5. The two year rest before sowing on the third year indicates the Sabbath Year followed by the Jubilee Year.

A Bible commentator noted that if Israel had followed the Lord’s perfect plan, there would have never been any long-term poverty in Israel. The land was the source of wealth. Even if bad judgement, or illness, or other reasons caused a family to lose their land, they would get it back. The Lord’s plan for Israel was perfect. Sadly, they ignored His plan.

But praise His name, He has a plan for us, too. The Plan of Redemption. Please do not ignore it.


1 - E. W. Bullinger, Number in Scripture, London, Fourth Edition, 1921

2 - Second Chronicles 36:21

3 - Jeremiah 25:11

4 - Isaiah 48:5

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