We are deep in the thick of studying about the all-important Jubilee Year, also nicknamed “the favorable year of the Lord“.
Invariably one question that often comes up is exactly how faithful was Israel throughout their history in keeping the Jubilee Years according to the Lord’s commands?
Well, here’s the truth and you might find this surprising.
There is zero Biblical record that shows Israel actually celebrated a Jubilee.
In order to find any evidence of Jubilee observance, we have to go OUTSIDE of the Bible.
The Talmud contains a lot of information about the traditions of Jubilee.
It informs us that the Jubilee years were observed to varying degrees but not necessarily in a scrupulous fashion.
Rather than focusing on the HOW of Jubilee observance, the many Rabbinical rulings deal with the WHERE of the Jubilee laws.
For example, one key question was exactly how far north, south, east and west from Jerusalem should the land be considered under Jubilee law jurisdiction?
After Israel was exiled from the land, the key question then changed to DO THE JUBILEE LAWS NEED TO BE FOLLOWED OUTSIDE OF ISRAEL?
In order to answer this question, the Rabbis divided decisions concerning Jubilee into two areas:
One area dealt with land and the other area dealt with money or debt issues.
As you can imagine, major conflicts and differences of opinion erupted between the rich and poor.
Obviously, the poor wanted the Jubilee laws to be applied because it meant that their debts would be forgiven and they would be given a fresh start.
On the other hand, the rich wanted to keep things just the way they were.
One group of Jewish religious authorities said that the Jubilee laws dealing with land only applied to the land of Israel while rulings concerning money and debt were valid no matter where a Jewish population might be located in the world.
However, other Rabbis and Sages held that ALL OF THE JUBILEE LAWS regardless of whether they dealt with land or money were ONLY to be enforced in Israel.
What’s my take on the matter?
Well, the Scriptures make it very clear that the land being referred to in the Jubilee laws is without a doubt the land God gave to Israel.
So I would have to side with those Rabbis who maintain that the Jubilee laws should only be applied to Israel proper.
If you have a huge mortgage on a home outside of Israel, sorry to disappoint you, but you don’t get to have that debt cancelled.
On the other hand, if you’re a land owner, you don’t have to give back the land to its original owner when the Jubilee year comes around.
However, having said that, understand that just because a direct application of a given ruling is not possible due to logistical considerations like not being in the land for example, the Godly principles behind the commands can be applied to many different areas of our lives.
For instance, whether inside the land or not, farmers have attested that allowing their land to have a complete rest every 7th year has a rejuvenating and positive effect on it.
Also we find a direct connection between the principle of being released from debt and slavery and the work of the Messiah as revealed in many prophecies, both in the TANACH (OT) and the BRIT HADASHAH (NT).
Releasing Israel from debt and slavery is at the heart of what Messiah accomplished.
Finally, another Jubilee principle that has direct application to our day and age is the command to NEVER permanently sell the land to anyone outside of Israel.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what we see happening today as Israel is pressured by the UN and world governments to give up pieces of their HOLY real estate.
From YHWH’s perspective, I can’t think of a more sensitive and important matter.
Because ultimately, the land belongs to Him.