Belinda J. asks:
Is this [Jubilee] still a thing in Jewish religion?
When we understand what the year of Jubilee is, then we can understand whether or not that year could be observed today. Leviticus 25 is a chair passage concerning this topic. I highly recommend anyone interested in this topic to read the details and blessings in this chapter.
The nation of Israel, like any other nation, consisted of land and people. Unlike other nations, however, the land and people belonged to God (Lev 25:23-24). Because of this fact, Israelites did not permanently own the land that didn’t originally belong to the family inheritance; even the land that was of the inheritance had to be managed according to God’s decrees. The Israelites also did not permanently own other Israelites who became slaves due to debt. The God-given laws in Leviticus emphasizes that everything belonged to God: people and land.
Sabbath Days and Sabbath Years
God created the weekly Sabbath rest day because He wanted the people that belonged to Him to rest one day out of the seven (Ex 20:8-11). God also created the Sabbath rest year because He wanted the land that belonged to Him to rest from being tilled (Lev 25:1-7). Later, Israel failed to observe the land’s seventh year Sabbath rests, and so they were sent into the Babylonian Captivity for seventy years so the land could rest—one year for each Sabbath year rest that was ignored (Lev 26:34-35 cf. 2 Chron 36:21; Jer 25:11-12).
The Year of Jubilee
God commanded that Israel’s economy would reset every 50 years, and this year is known as the year of Jubilee. Therefore, the major theme of Jubilee is freedom. The Hebrew word for “Jubilee” is Yovel, and relates to the shofar, or trumpet made from a ram’s horn. Jubilee would start when this trumpet was blown (Lev 25:9). As part of the economic reset, property was restored back to original clans and families, debts were forgiven, debtors set free, and the land was given an additional year of rest. God commanded the following:
And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, 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. ~ Leviticus 25:10
Throughout the other 49 years, financial contracts were calculated by prorating on the basis of proximity to the Jubilee year. The Jubilee year actually started half-way into the 49th year and ended half-way into the 50th year. This year prevented the money, property, and debtors from accumulating into the coffers of a few wealthy people. Obviously, this law benefitted the poor at the expense of the rich, and emphasized that everything belonged to God.
Observance of the Year of Jubilee
In the OT (Old Testament), there is little evidence that the year of Jubilee was regularly observed. There may be a shared reference to it in 2 Kings 19:29 and Isaiah 37:30. Many Jewish writings state that after the Babylonian exile, Jubilee was no longer observed because Judeans no longer lived on their original family property that had been assigned when Israel first entered the promise land.
For now, it is impossible for the nation of Israel to observe Jubilee since all of the Jews are not yet regathered in the totality of the land that God gave to them. We do look forward to the final Jubilee when Jesus returns, reclaims His people and His land, and sets all things in order—free from the chaos and burden of sin it is currently in.
In the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus alluded to Messianic aspects of the year of Jubilee by quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2 (Lk 4:15-19). For a better understanding of Jesus’s prophetic plan of redemption and an upcoming final year of Jubilee, see my article titled, “Jesus as Our Redeemer.”
If you belong to the people of God, are you trusting in Jesus as your Sabbath rest. Do you obey His command to make disciples in order to reap His covenant blessings of rest, peace, and joy in the midst of this fallen world?
If you do not belong to God, you can have no confidence or hope in your future. There is good news for you, however. Visit the page, The Gospel Explained, to learn more, and feel free to Contact Me if you want to have a conversation about it.