Themes in Leviticus (04) - Sabbaths and Jubilee
Themes in Leviticus (4): Sabbaths and Jubilee
Leviticus 25 - ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the LORD. 3 ‘Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, 4 but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard.” . . . 8 ‘You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. 9 ‘You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. 10 ‘You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. 11 ‘You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. 12 ‘For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field. 13 ‘On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property.
“Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof.” These are the words inscribed on the Liberty Bell.
The Concept of Sabbath - The concept of Sabbath is woven throughout the OT. The very paradigm of the “fulness of time” (Gal. 4:4, coming of Messiah ) is a sabbatical pattern (”seventy sevens,” Dan. 9:24). Back in Genesis, we first find the idea of sabbath (Gen. 2:2-3). Adam was created on the sixth day, thus his first full day of life was not a day of labor, but a day of sabbath. Originally it was not a six-then-one day pattern for Adam, it was a one-then-six pattern. It is redemption then service. The order is always grace— then faithful obedience.
The Sabbath Memorial - The sabbath in the fourth commandment is striking that among many, “Thou shalt nots”— the form of this command is, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). The very heart of the sabbath is “remembering.” The word here (zakar in Hebrew) means “call to mind” or “recall” the emancipation proclamation of Israel. They were to remember their release from bondage by the power of God (Deut. 5:15). This release from bondage even applied to the Land, which also was to be given sabbaths (Lev. 25:4). It applied to debtors in the cycle of restitution, the Jubilee, which is a sabbath (Lev. 25:8-10).
The Sabbath of Sabbaths (Jubilee) - The “Jubilee” (after 7 x 7 years) is named for the sound of the ram’s horn (yovel) which “shofared” release at the Day of Atonement (25:10). Debts were released. Indentured servants were released. The Land reverted to the original tribal trusts to the plots of land held by each tribe, clan, and family (Num. 33:54). “Jubilee, like the Sabbath and festivals, is an assertion of God’s exclusive proprietorship and dominion, designed to keep the Israelites constantly aware that they are His indentured servants” (vv 42, 55, JSB).
Jubilee Now? The major point is to return the Land to the tribes. These social and economic conditions no longer exist.
Theologically, all the sabbaths (weekly, yearly, Jubilee) were a practice of trusting God (apart from one’s labors) (Ps. 127:2).
Economically, the Jubilee mitigated family debt and loss which otherwise caused family disintegration (e.g., Ruth). (Bankruptcy laws apply the similar principles.) The Jubilee restored, rather than redistributed the Land.
Typologically, the Jubilee promises release from slavery (Satan) and the Land returns to the rightful Heir, the True Man’s Dominion. Jesus is the incarnation of this (Luke 4:18–19).
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more