“That fiftieth year will be a yovel for you; in that year you are not to sow, harvest what grows by itself or gather the grapes of untended vines; 12 because it is a yovel. It will be holy for you; whatever the fields produce will be food for all of you. In this year of yovel, every one of you is to return to the land he owns.”-Leviticus 25:11-13
Let’s quickly review the main points we have learned about the Jubilee Year so far.
First, the Jubilee year was the 2nd Sabbatical year in a row that occurred twice every century.
During this time, the Israelites were forbidden from sowing, planting or harvesting any new grain and this included the all-important olive trees.
Second, Jubilee was to be a year of RELEASE (DEROR in Hebrew) from all debts, slavery and indentured servitude.
Third, the only food permitted to be eaten during this time was the food that had been stored away in preparation for the two Sabbatical years.
This restriction applied to BOTH men and animals.
However, the food which sprang up on its own minus man’s helping hand in planting, tending, or pruning was allowed to be eaten.
Now in verse 13, we run into a phrase whose meaning should be clearer now that we understand the “release” aspect of Jubilee. (If you need to review, click here).
That phrase is “every one of you is to return to the land he owns“.
Some Bible translations will say “the land of your possession“.
Remember, possession does NOT mean ownership here.
As discussed earlier, it means a “holding” or “leasehold“.
I hope you are following all of this closely because what we are learning is setting the stage for much of what we’ll eventually encounter in the New Testament.
So what does “every man returning to his land“ really mean?
This statement is based on the assumption that the man in question was currently not living on the land he owned because it had either been sold to someone else or he had to sell it himself to pay off a debt.
In most cases, “possession” of the land was transferred from one person to another due to an unpaid debt.
This is what the Hebrew principle of ACHUZZAH was all about.
Recall that ACHUZZAH means “holding“.
The idea was that NOBODY really owned the land…they were just leasing it for a time.
YHWH was owner of the land.
Even the covenant YHWH made with Abraham was NOT a transfer of land ownership.
It was the execution of a lease.
However, the term of that lease is FOREVER.
This application of this principle was carried down to the land owner who again did NOT “own” the land.
He was just “holding” the land for as long as the owner who is YHWH allowed him to hold it.
If the holder of the land used the land as collateral on a debt and became unable to pay that debt, then that land “holding” or “lease” was transferred over to the debt holder.
However, again, that person did NOT “own” the land, he was just “holding” the land.
Okay, so this leads us to the obvious question of how long does one get to “hold” the land?
The answer is he gets to hold it until the Jubilee year arrives.
Once the Jubilee year came around, the man who had acquired a piece of land due to foreclosure now had to give that land back to the original owner.
And if the original owner had died, he had to give it back to the original owner’s family or the clan.
Under this arrangement, the original owner did NOT have to pay one shekel to get his land back.
It was returned to him for free.