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The Jubilees and the Shemittah

The Jubilee is first mentioned in Exodus 19:13, when Moshe received the Ten Commandments from Yahweh at Mount Sinai. The word jubilee is ha-yovel (הַיֹּבֵל). Most English versions render this simply as trumpet.

Exodus 19:13b
13b “When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.”
(13) בִּמְשֹׁךְ הַיֹּבֵל הֵמָּה יַעֲלוּ בָהָר

Strong’s Hebrew Concordance also says that this word means trumpet, especially silver trumpets.

OT: 3104 yowbel (yo-bale’); or yobel (yob-ale’); apparently from OT:2986; the blast of a horn (from its continuous sound); specifically, the signal of the silver trumpets; hence, the instrument itself and the festival [sic] thus introduced: -jubile [sic], ram’s horn, trumpet.

However, this flowing yovel sound can also come from a ram’s horn (shofar). In fact, Joshua 6:4-6 refers to “trumpets of ram’s horns” (shofarot hayovelim) (שׁוֹפְרוֹת הַיּוֹבְלִים).

Joshua 6:4-6
4 “And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets (shofarot).
5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.”
6 Then Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of Yahweh.”
 (4) וְשִׁבְעָה כֹהֲנִים יִשְׂאוּ שִׁבְעָה שׁוֹפְרוֹת הַיּוֹבְלִים לִפְנֵי הָאָרוֹן וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי תָּסֹבּוּ אֶת הָעִיר שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים | וְהַכֹּהֲנִים יִתְקְעוּ בַּשּׁוֹפָרוֹת:
(5) וְהָיָה בִּמְשֹׁךְ בְּקֶרֶן הַיּוֹבֵל בשׁמעכם [כְּשָׁמְעֲכֶם קרי] אֶת קוֹל הַשּׁוֹפָר יָרִיעוּ כָל הָעָם תְּרוּעָה גְדוֹלָה | וְנָפְלָה חוֹמַת הָעִיר תַּחְתֶּיהָ וְעָלוּ הָעָם אִישׁ נֶגְדּוֹ:
(6) וַיִּקְרָא יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן אֶל הַכֹּהֲנִים וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם שְׂאוּ אֶת אֲרוֹן הַבְּרִית | וְשִׁבְעָה כֹהֲנִים יִשְׂאוּ שִׁבְעָה שׁוֹפְרוֹת יוֹבְלִים לִפְנֵי אֲרוֹן יְהוָה

So if a yovel can come either from silver trumpets, or from ram’s horns, then what is a yovel? When we look up the root word at OT:2896, it has to do with flowing sounds, and bringing forth sound, especially with some form of pomp (as when introducing something). So the yovel really refers to a trumpeted announcement.

OT: 2986 yabal (yaw-bal’); a primitive root; properly, to flow; causatively, to bring (especially with pomp).

A trumpeted announcement of what? As we will see, it refers to a trumpeted announcement of debts. This is why it is tied to the seven-year land rest cycle, called a shemittah (שְּׁמִטָּה) in Hebrew.

OT: 8059 shemittah (shem-it-taw’); from OT: 8058; remission (of debt) or suspension of labor):

In Deuteronomy 15:1-4, Yahweh says to release all debts with our Israelite brethren every seven years. This is why the shemittah refers to the seventh year.

Deuteronomy 15:1-4
1 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release.
2 And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called Yahweh’s release.
3 Of a foreigner you may require it; but you shall give up your claim to what is owed by your brother,
4 except when there may be no poor among you; for Yahweh will greatly bless you in the land which Yahweh your Elohim is giving you to possess as an inheritance….”
 (1) מִקֵּץ שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים תַּעֲשֶׂה שְׁמִטָּה:
(2) וְזֶה דְּבַר הַשְּׁמִטָּה שָׁמוֹט כָּל בַּעַל מַשֵּׁה יָדוֹ אֲשֶׁר יַשֶּׁה בְּרֵעֵהוּ | לֹא יִגֹּשׂ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ וְאֶת אָחִיו כִּי קָרָא שְׁמִטָּה לַיהוָה:
(3) אֶת הַנָּכְרִי תִּגֹּשׂ | וַאֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֶת אָחִיךָ תַּשְׁמֵט יָדֶךָ:
(4) אֶפֶס כִּי לֹא יִהְיֶה בְּךָ אֶבְיוֹן | כִּי בָרֵךְ יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ:

There is a parallel between the weekly count to seven for the Sabbath, and the yearly count to seven for the release of the shemittah.

Weekly Sabbath Shemittah Cycle
Day 1 = manna Year 1 = plant
Day 2 = manna Year 2 = plant
Day 3 = mannaYear 3 = plant
Day 4 = manna Year 4 = plant
Day 5 = mannaYear 5 = plant
Day 6 = prepare doubleYear 6 = double harvest
Day 7 = Sabbath rest Year7 = Shemittah (rest)

Exodus 16:22-30 tells us not to cook on the Sabbath. Rather, we are to prepare twice as much food on the sixth day of the week, so we do not have to cook on the Sabbath (except perhaps to warm our food up).

Shemote (Exodus) 16:23-30
23 Then he said to them, “This is what Yahweh has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a set-apart Sabbath to Yahweh. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.'”
24 So they laid it up till morning, as Moshe commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it.
25 Then Moshe said, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahweh; today you will not find it in the field.
26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”
27 Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none.
28 And Yahweh said to Moshe, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?
29 See! For Yahweh has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”
30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

Similarly, in Leviticus 25:20, Yahweh promises to give us a double-sized harvest in the sixth year, so that we do not need to plant or reap again until the eighth year. This is just as we cook enough food on the sixth day of the week so that we do not need to cook again until the first day of the week (the “eighth” day).

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 25:20-22
20 ‘And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?”
21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years.
22 And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest.

The Shemittah is part of a larger 50 year cycle that parallels the Omer count up to the Pentecost. Leviticus 25:8-10 tells us to count 7 sabbaths of years (7 times 7 years, i.e., 49 years), and then to declare a Yovel in the 50th year, on the Day of Atonement.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 25:8-10
8 “And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years.
9 Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.
10 And you shall set the fiftieth year apart, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.”

In this model, we count to six, and receive a double harvest. Then the next year we release all debts with our brethren. Then in the 50th year, any mortgaged land returns to its original owners, and any Israelite slaves get to go free. They are released.

DoubShem Yovel1234….

Just like we do not sow or harvest in the 7th year, we also do not sow or harvest (with a sickle or a combine) in the 50th year. Rather, we go out into the field, and pick what we need day by day.

Leviticus 25:11-12
11 “That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow, nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine.
12 For it is the Jubilee; it shall be set apart to you; you shall eat its produce from the field.”
 (11) יוֹבֵל הִוא שְׁנַת הַחֲמִשִּׁים שָׁנָה תִּהְיֶה לָכֶם | לֹא תִזְרָעוּ וְלֹא תִקְצְרוּ אֶת סְפִיחֶיהָ וְלֹא תִבְצְרוּ אֶת נְזִרֶיהָ:
(12) כִּי יוֹבֵל הִוא קֹדֶשׁ תִּהְיֶה לָכֶם | מִן הַשָּׂדֶה תֹּאכְלוּ אֶת תְּבוּאָתָהּ

Just as we are not to sow or reap during the Shemittah year, we are also not sow or reap in the Jubilee year. This means we do not sow or reap during either the 49th or the 50th years. Yahweh promises to enlarge the harvest in the year before the Jubilee, so we can afford to do this.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 25:20-22
20 ‘And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?”
21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years.
22 And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest.’

This also gives us a clue as to when Yahweh’s Jubilee cycle might be. In 2 Kings 19:29-34 we read about how the King of Assyria laid siege to Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah. Being greatly outnumbered, Hezekiah feared they would be overcome by the Assyrians. However, Yahweh a message by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah. Yahweh said the people would eat that year what grew of itself (without being planted), and that in the second year they would eat that which sprang from what grew the year before (also without being planted). Then in the third year, the Jews would plant. This is matches the pattern in Leviticus 25:20-22 exactly.

Melachim Bet (2 Kings) 19:29
29 ‘This shall be a sign to you: You shall eat this year such as grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from the same; also in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them.’

Reputable historians such as Edwin R. Thiele (The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings) and Jack Finnegan (The Handbook of Bible Chronology) date the siege by the Assyrian forces at approximately 701 BCE. If this number is correct, then the year 701 BCE was a Shemittah year, and the year 700 BCE was a Jubilee. Counting forward by 50’s, the year 0 would have been a Jubilee—except that there is no year 0—and so the Jubilee would have been in the year 1. Counting forward by 50’s, the year 2001 would have been a Jubilee, and the next one will be in 2051. The next Shemittah years would be 2022 CE, 2029 CE, 2036 CE, and 2043 CE.

However, there is a lot of disagreement over when the Jubilee is. There is some very confusing evidence that comes from the rabbinic side of the house.
Yahweh commands only one calendar, which begins with the first Hebrew month (Exodus 12:2).

Shemote (Exodus) 12:2
2 “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.”

However, the rabbis have four calendar years, each of which begins at a different time of year:

1. a “civil” calendar (beginning in the spring)
2. a calendar for kings
3. a calendar for trees
4. a “religious” calendar, beginning on the Jubilee

As we explain elsewhere, the rabbis also subtract some 240 or 241 years from the calendar. They do this to make it seem as if Yeshua did not come in the year 4,000. This is because, in the rabbinic mind, if Yeshua came in the year 4,000, it would be evidence that He was the prophesied Messiah. For both of these reasons, their calendar begins in the fall, and has different years. For example, they put one rabbinic Shemittah year from fall 2007 thru fall 2008, and the next rabbinic Shemittah from 2014 to 2015, and then the next on 2021 to 2022, and then 2028 to 2029, etc.

But apart from the timing of the Jubilee, what else takes place in a Jubilee year, apart from letting the land rest? Yahweh tells us to return all property to its owner, and also to release all debts.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 25:13-17
13 “In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession.
14 And if you sell anything to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor’s hand, you shall not oppress one another.
15 According to the number of years after the Jubilee you shall buy from your neighbor, and according to the number of years of crops he shall sell to you.
16 According to the multitude of years you shall increase its price, and according to the fewer number of years you shall diminish its price; for he sells to you according to the number of the years of the crops.
17 Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your Elohim; for I am Yahweh your Elohim.”

Although we are only commanded to keep the Shemittah and the Yovel when we live in the Land of Israel, Yahweh does bless us for keeping the Shemittah and the Yovel in the dispersion. One Hebraic Roots farm family (the Stelzers, of Azure Standard Farms) told me they made the decision not to plant in the seventh year, in obedience to the Torah. They said their harvests increased an average of 40-50% in all years. While they did not know the scientific cause of the increase, they were quick to point out that it was ultimately Yahweh who provided the increase.

Another major theme of the Yovel is how Yahweh’s land and His people ultimately belong to Him. No contract involving land in Israel, loans, or Israelite slaves can extend beyond the Jubilee. At the Jubilee, all land is to be released to its original owner, and all debts of every type are to be cancelled. (The spiritual fulfillment of this may include spiritual and emotional debts.)

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 25:23-28
23 ‘The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.
24 And in all the land of your possession you shall grant redemption of the land.’
25 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold.
26 Or if the man has no one to redeem it, but he himself becomes able to redeem it,
27 then let him count the years since its sale, and restore the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, that he may return to his possession.
28 But if he is not able to have it restored to himself, then what was sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the Year of Jubilee; and in the Jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his possession.’

It is often suggested that Ephraim may be brought back to his inheritance in the year of the Jubilee. If our earlier data from Thiele and Finnegan is correct, this could be circa 2050 CE.

In Exodus 21:1-6 and in Deuteronomy 15:12-18 we read about the Torah of the Hebrew slave who does not wish to be set free from his master.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 15:12-18
12 “If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you.
13 And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed;
14 you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what Yahweh has blessed you with, you shall give to him.
15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Yahweh your Elohim redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.
16 And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you,
17 then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise.
18 It shall not seem hard to you when you send him away free from you; for he has been worth a double hired servant in serving you six years. Then Yahweh your Elohim will bless you in all that you do.

If an Israelite slave prefers to be under his master then he has the option of foregoing the release. This would seem to require all slave owners to treat their slaves very well. It may also be symbolic of Israelites who do not desire to be set free from their Master Yahweh.

Since one of Yeshua’s purposes was to proclaim release to the captives, tradition informs us that Yeshua’s ministry may have begun around the time of Yom Kippur, when the release of the captives is declared.

Pharisaic (Orthodox) Judaism traditionally calls for an immersion the day before Yom Kippur; and this is likely when Yeshua was immersed by Yochanan HaMatbil (John the Immerser). It also marked the beginning of Yeshua’s anointing as the High Priest of the renewed order of Melchizedek, as any priest has to be cleansed and anointed before his ministry can begin.

Luqa (Luke) 3:21-23
21 When all the people were immersed, it came to pass that Yeshua also was immersed; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.
22 And the Ruach HaKodesh (Set apart Spirit) descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
23 Now Yeshua Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age….

As we will show in the next chapter on Hanukkah, Yeshua was probably born on the first day of the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). Since Yom Kippur takes place five days before Sukkot, Yeshua would have been “about thirty years of age” when He began His ministry. Also notice that after being tempted of the Devil for forty days, Yeshua returned to Natseret (Nazareth), and said announced that He had been sent to proclaim release to the captives. (Remember that “announcing” the release is a function of the Yovel.)

Luqa (Luke) 4:13-21
13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
14 Then Yeshua returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.
15 And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of Yahweh is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the Good News to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of Yahweh.”
20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

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