Jubilee (Biblical)

Jubilee (Biblical)

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The Jubilee year is the year at the end of seven cycles of Sabbatical year
Sabbatical year (Bible)
Shmita , also called the Sabbatical Year, is the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the Land of Israel, and still observed in contemporary Judaism....

s (Hebrew Shmita), and according to Biblical
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 regulations had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the territory of the kingdoms of Israel and of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

; there is some debate whether it was the 49th year (the last year of seven sabbatical cycles, referred to as the Sabbath's Sabbath), or whether it was the following 50th year. The English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 term Jubilee derives from
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

 the Hebrew term yobel (via Latin ), which in turn derives from yobhel, meaning ram; the Jubilee year was announced by a blast on an instrument made from a ram's horn
A shofar is a horn, traditionally that of a ram, used for Jewish religious purposes. Shofar-blowing is incorporated in synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.Shofar come in a variety of sizes.- Bible and rabbinic literature :...

 called a shofar, during that year's Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur , also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue...

. J.P.Mallory and D.Q. Adams proposed an alternative etymology of the Latin jubilo (meaning shout, as well as Middle Irish ilach victory cry, New English yowl, Greek iuzo shout), being derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *yu- shout for joy, effectively making the Hebrew term a mere borrowing from neighboring Indo-European languages. The biblical rules concerning Sabbatical years (shmita) are still observed by many religious Jews in the State of Israel, but the regulations for the Jubilee year have not been observed for many centuries.

Jubilee (or "jubile," in the King James Bible) deals largely with land, property, and property rights. As with most cultures, the property rights regarding land, slaves and indentured servants was less absolute than for other property rights such as for tools and personal artifacts. As examples, in Leviticus, God is speaking to Moses:

        Leviticus 25:10
Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you - and you shall return every man unto his own clan, you shall return every man to his family.

        Leviticus 25:23
The land must not be sold permanently, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners, my tenant farmers.

        Leviticus 27:21
When the field reverts in the Jubilee year it shall become holy unto the LORD, as a field set apart; and it shall become owned by the priests."


The biblical regulations concerning the Jubilee year form part of the Holiness Code
Holiness code
The Holiness Code is a term used in biblical criticism to refer to Leviticus 17-26, and is so called due to its highly repeated use of the word Holy. It has no special traditional religious significance and traditional Jews and Christians do not regard it as having any distinction from any other...

, which appears in the Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 as part of the collections of laws given on Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai , also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gabal Musa , Jabal Musa meaning "Moses' Mountain", is a mountain near Saint Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. A mountain called Mount Sinai is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus in the Torah and the Bible as well as the Quran...

 or Mount Horeb. According to these regulations, the Jubilee was to be sounded once 49 years had been counted, raising an ambiguity
Ambiguity of words or phrases is the ability to express more than one interpretation. It is distinct from vagueness, which is a statement about the lack of precision contained or available in the information.Context may play a role in resolving ambiguity...

 over whether the Jubilee was within the 49th year, or followed it as an intercalation
Intercalation is the insertion of a leap day, week or month into some calendar years to make the calendar follow the seasons or moon phases. Lunisolar calendars may require intercalations of both days and months.- Solar calendars :...

 in the 7 year sabbatical cycles; scholars and classical rabbinical sources are divided on the question.

The biblical requirement is that the Jubilee year was to be treated like a Sabbatical year, with the land lying fallow, but also required the compulsory return of all property to its original owners or their heirs, except the houses of laymen within walled cities, in addition to the manumission
Manumission is the act of a slave owner freeing his or her slaves. In the United States before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished most slavery, this often happened upon the death of the owner, under conditions in his will.-Motivations:The...

 of all Israelite indentured servant
Indentured servant
Indentured servitude refers to the historical practice of contracting to work for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities during the term of indenture. Usually the father made the arrangements and signed...


The biblical regulations state that the land was to rest a "Sabbath" when the Children of Israel came to the land God was giving them Israel. The Seder Olam Rabbah
Seder Olam Rabbah
Seder Olam Rabbah is a 2nd century CE Hebrew language chronology detailing the dates of biblical events from the Creation to Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia...

 (second century AD), stated that this verse meant that the counting was not to start until after the Israelites had gained control of Canaan, which the Seder Olam, based upon received tradition, placed at 14 years after their entry into the land. This interpretation has been largely adopted in later rabbinic scholarship. One reason for this interpretation of the Levitical text was that if counting started before the land was completely conquered, it would require the Israelites to return the land to the Canaanites within 50 years; similar nationalistic concerns about the impact of the Jubilee on land ownership have been raised by Zionist settlers
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

. From a legal point of view, the Jubilee law effectively banned sale of land as fee simple
Fee simple
In English law, a fee simple is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. It is the most common way that real estate is owned in common law countries, and is ordinarily the most complete ownership interest that can be had in real property short of allodial title, which is often reserved...

, and instead land could only be lease
A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the lessee to pay the lessor for use of an asset. A rental agreement is a lease in which the asset is tangible property...

d for no more than 50 years. The biblical regulations go on to specify that the price of land had to be proportional to how many years remained before the Jubilee, with land being cheaper the closer it is to the Jubilee.

Length of the Jubilee cycle

Since the 49th year was already a sabbatical year, the land was required to be left fallow during it, but if the 50th year also had to be kept fallow, as the Jubilee, then no new crops would be available for two years, and only the summer fruits would be available for the following year, creating a much greater risk of starvation overall; Judah haNasi
Judah haNasi
Judah the Prince, or Judah I, also known as Rebbi or Rabbeinu HaKadosh , was a 2nd-century CE rabbi and chief redactor and editor of the Mishnah. He was a key leader of the Jewish community during the Roman occupation of Judea . He was of the Davidic line, the royal line of King David, hence the...

 contended that the jubilee year was identical with the sabbatical 49th year. However, the majority of classical rabbis believed that the biblical phrase hallow the fiftieth year, together with the biblical promise that there would be three years worth of fruit in the sixth year, implies that the jubilee year was the 50th year. The opinion of the Geonim
Geonim were the presidents of the two great Babylonian, Talmudic Academies of Sura and Pumbedita, in the Abbasid Caliphate, and were the generally accepted spiritual leaders of the Jewish community world wide in the early medieval era, in contrast to the Resh Galuta who wielded secular authority...

, and generally of later authorities, was that prior to the Babylonian captivity
Babylonian captivity
The Babylonian captivity was the period in Jewish history during which the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon—conventionally 587–538 BCE....

 the Jubilee was the intercalation of the 50th year, but after the captivity ended the Jubilee was essentially ignored, except for the blast of the shofar
A shofar is a horn, traditionally that of a ram, used for Jewish religious purposes. Shofar-blowing is incorporated in synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.Shofar come in a variety of sizes.- Bible and rabbinic literature :...

, and coincided with the sabbatical 49th year; the reason was that the Jubilee was only to be observed when the Jews controlled all of Canaan, including the territories of Reuben
Tribe of Reuben
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Reuben was one of the Tribes of Israel.From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BC, the Tribe of Reuben was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes. No central government...

 and Gad
Tribe of Gad
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Gad was one of the Tribes of Israel.From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BC, the Tribe of Gad was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes. No central government existed,...

 and the eastern half-tribe of Manasseh
Tribe of Manasseh
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Manasseh was one of the Tribes of Israel. Together with the Tribe of Ephraim, Manasseh also formed the House of Joseph....


The length of the Jubilee cycle continues to be of interest to modern scholarship, as does the question of the practicality of the legislation, and whether it was ever put into effect on a nation-wide basis. Regarding the length of the cycle, three significant scholarly studies devoted to the Jubilee and Sabbatical years agree that it was 49 years, while disagreeing somewhat on the interpretation of the other issues involved. These major studies were those of Benedict Zuckermann, Robert North, and Jean-François Lefebvre. The reasons given by these authors to support a 49-year cycle are both textual (examining all relevant Biblical texts) and practical.

Length of cycle: textual and practical considerations

An example of the textual argument is given by North in his comparison of with . The first passage establishes the timing, in days, for the Festival of Weeks (Shavuot
The festival of is a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan ....

), while the second prescribes the timing, in years, for the Jubilee. In the first passage, the start of counting for the Festival of Weeks is said to be "the day after the Sabbath" (mimaharat ha-shabat), and is to end "the day after the seventh Sabbath" (mimaharat ha-shabat ha-sheviyit). These seven weeks would constitute 49 days in most modern methods of reckoning. Nevertheless, verse 16 says that they are to be reckoned as 50 days. This method of reckoning (sometimes called "inclusive numbering") is fairly common in Scripture; for example, the Feast of Tabernacles is to last for seven days , but the last day is called the eighth day (v. 36). North found this comparison between Leviticus 23 (Feast of Weeks) and Leviticus 25 (Jubilees) to be "the strongest possible support for the forty-ninth year" as the Jubilee year. His conclusion that the Jubilee was identical with the seventh Sabbatical year was followed by Lefebvre, for this as well as additional reasons.

The consideration that the Jubilee was identical with the seventh Sabbatical year solves the various practical problems, as also addressed by these authors. If the Jubilee were separate from, and following the seventh Sabbatical year, then there would be two fallow years in succession. Lefebve points out, however, that there is no support in Scripture for two voluntary fallow years in succession, even though some have misinterpreted as if this refers to a Jubilee year following a Sabbatical year, which is not the sense of the passage. Lefebvre shows that this cannot be the case because planting is mentioned for the eighth year; it is the year after a Sabbath, a year in which planting and harvesting resume. Another practical problem that would occur if the Jubilee cycle were 50 years is that, after the first cycle, the Jubilee and Sabbatical cycles would be out of phase unless the seventh Sabbatical cycle was stretched to eight years. But Scripture gives no instructions for making such an adjustment. Instead, it is assumed that the two cycles will always be in phase so that the shofar can be sounded in the seventh year of the seventh Sabbatical cycle.

Length of cycle: historical considerations

Although not cited by these authors, two historical arguments also argue for a 49-year cycle. The first is that the Samaritans celebrated a 49-year cycle. Although the Samaritans stopped counting for the Jubilee some hundreds of years ago, according to a recent report an effort is underway to determine the date when counting ceased in order to resume. The counting will again be according to a 49-year cycle. A second historical argument has been presented to the effect that the two instances of a Jubilee mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (tractates Arakin 12a and Megillah 14b) appear to be proper historical remembrances, because the known calculation methods of rabbinic scholarship were incapable of correctly calculating the dates of the Jubilees mentioned. Rabbinic (Talmudic) scholarship always assumed non-accession reckoning for kings, whereby the first partial year of a king was double-counted both for him and as the last year of the deceased king. This reckoning would give 47 years from the Jubilee mentioned in the 18th year of Josiah (Megillah 14b) to the Jubilee that took place 14 years after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians (Arakin 12a), whereas the correct difference was 49 years (623 BC to 574 BC). This has been presented as additional evidence that the cycle was 49 years, and further that the cycles were being measured until the last Jubilee in the days of Ezekiel, when the stipulations of the Jubilee year, long neglected except in the counting of the priests, could no longer be observed because the people were captive in a foreign land.

The date when counting began

The Seder Olam Rabbah
Seder Olam Rabbah
Seder Olam Rabbah is a 2nd century CE Hebrew language chronology detailing the dates of biblical events from the Creation to Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia...

 recognized the importance of the Jubilee and Sabbatical cycles as a long-term calendrical system, and attempted at various places to fit the Sabbatical and Jubilee years into its chronological scheme. As mentioned above, the Seder Olam put forth the idea that the counting for these cycles was deferred until 14 years after entry into the land. The reasons for this are given in Seder Olam chapter 11. In Joshua chapter 14, Caleb mentions that he was 40 years old when he was sent out as a spy in the second year in the wilderness, and his present age was 85 (Joshua 14:7,10), which meant he received his inheritance seven years after entering Canaan. Rabbi Jose assumed that everyone else received their inheritance when Caleb did, or had already received it, so that the allotment of the land to the tribes was finished at this time. Because the division of the land took seven years, the conquest that followed must also have taken seven years. "One has to say that 14 years Israel spent at Gilgal, seven when they were conquering and seven when they were distributing." Then, after putting up the Tabernacle at Shiloh, "At that moment, they started to count years for tithes, Sabbatical years, and Jubilee years."

Another explanation has been offered for Rabbi Jose's postponement of counting until 14 years had elapsed. In this same chapter 11 of the Seder Olam, Rabbi Jose stated (for unknown reasons) that Israel's time in its land must have lasted an integral number of Jubilee periods. If this were true, one of those periods should have ended at the beginning of the exile in 587 BC. Yet Rabbi Jose also believed that Ezekiel 40:1 marked the beginning of the seventeenth Jubilee, and this was 14 years after the city fell. In other words, the Jubilee came 14 years too late, according to the idea that the time in the land must comprise an integral number of Jubilee cycles. Rodger Young proposes that the knowledge of when a genuine Jubilee was due was the real reason for the supposition of a delay before the start of counting:

The reason for the fourteen-year delay in Seder ‘Olam 11 is that Rabbi Yose (primary author of the Seder ‘Olam) had the idée fixe that the total time that Israel spent in its land must come out to an exact number of Jubilee cycles. If that had been the case, then we should have expected that 587 BC, when the exile began, would have been at the end of a Jubilee period. However, Rabbi Yose cited Ezek 40:1 as designating the time of the seventeenth Jubilee, and since he knew this was fourteen years after the city fell, he presumed that counting had been delayed for fourteen years so that he could account for the fourteen years between the fall of the city and the observance of the seventeenth Jubilee. He also mentioned the previous Jubilee, in the time of Josiah. As much as he would have liked to put these last two Jubilees fourteen years earlier in order to be consistent with his idée fixe, Rabbi Yose could not do it because he knew these were historical dates, not dates that came from his own calculation.

There is, of course, an alternative account of when counting started: at the entry into the land. This follows from a straightforward reading of the relevant text in Leviticus:
The Lord then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, 'When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord…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. You shall then sound a ram's horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement
Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur , also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue...

 you shall sound a horn all through your land. 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 (Leviticus 25:1-4, 8-10, NASB).

If counting is measured back 17 cycles from Ezekiel's Jubilee that began in Tishri of 574 BC, the first year of the first cycle would have been 1406 BC. According to the religious calendar that started the year in Nisan, and in accordance with Joshua 5:10 that places the entry in the land in Nisan, Nisan of 1406 BC is the month and year when counting started. But 1406 BC is the year of entry into the land that is traditionally derived by another method, namely taking Thiele's date of 931/930 BC for the start of the divided kingdom after Solomon's death, in conjunction with 1 Kings 6:1 (Solomon's fourth year was 480th year of Exodus-era), to derive the date of the Exodus in 1406 BC. The method of determining the date of the Exodus and entry into Canaan from the Jubilee cycles is independent of the method of deriving these dates from 1 Kings 6:1, yet the two methods agree.

Origin and purpose

Biblical scholars argue that the Jubilee is an obvious development of the Sabbatical year. Rather than waiting for the 50th or 49th year, the Deuteronomic code
Deuteronomic Code
The Deuteronomic Code is the name given by academics to the law code within the Book of Deuteronomy. It contains "a variety of topics including religious ceremonies and ritual purity, civil and criminal law, and the conduct of war"...

 requires that slaves be liberated during their 7th year of service, as does the Covenant Code
Covenant Code
The Covenant Code, or alternatively Book of the Covenant, is the name given by academics to a text appearing in the Torah at Exodus - . Biblically, the text is the second of the law codes given to Moses by God at Mount Sinai...

, which some textual scholars
Textual criticism
Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...

 regard as pre-dating the Holiness Code; the Book of Ezekiel
Book of Ezekiel
The Book of Ezekiel is the third of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah and preceding the Book of the Twelve....

, which some textual scholars also regard as earlier than the Holiness Code, refers to a
year of liberty (שנת דרור), during which property is returned to the original owner (or their heirs), but the word דרור is used by Jeremiah
Jeremiah Hebrew:יִרְמְיָה , Modern Hebrew:Yirməyāhū, IPA: jirməˈjaːhu, Tiberian:Yirmĭyahu, Greek:Ἰερεμίας), meaning "Yahweh exalts", or called the "Weeping prophet" was one of the main prophets of the Hebrew Bible...

 to describe the release of slaves during the Sabbatical year, which various scholars take to imply that Ezekiel must have been referring to the sabbatical year. Scholars suspect that the transfer of these regulations to 49th or 50th year was a deliberate attempt to parallel the fact that Shavuot
The festival of is a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan ....

 is 50 days after Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

, and follows seven weeks of harvest
Counting of the Omer
Counting of the Omer is a verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot...

; this parallel is regarded as significant in Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...


According to the theories of Julius Wellhausen
Julius Wellhausen
Julius Wellhausen , was a German biblical scholar and orientalist, noted particularly for his contribution to scholarly understanding of the origin of the Pentateuch/Torah ....

 and others who have followed his approach, the Biblical chapters that contain the Jubilee and Sabbatical-year legislation (chapters 25 and 27 of Leviticus) were part of the so-called "P" or Priestly Code that represented the last stage in the development of Israel's religion. If Wellhausen's theories of the formation of the Biblical canon were to be accepted, it would mean that these chapters necessarily were written in a late exilic or post-exilic period.

Wellhausen's theory that the Jubilee and Sabbatical-year legislation was written in the exilic or post-exilic period, specifically after the time of Ezekiel, has always been challenged by scholars who have maintained the traditional position of Judaism and Christianity for the Mosaic authorship of Leviticus. Recently, however, the theories of Wellhausen and others who date the Jubilee and Sabbatical-year legislation to the exilic period or later have also been challenged by scholars who generally do not have a conservative view of the Scripture. Yehezekel Kaufmann has argued that the book of Ezekiel quotes from the Sabbatical and Jubilee legislation of the book of Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of the Torah ....

, which must have been in existence before Ezekiel's writings. This argument has been expanded by Risa Levitt Kohn. Kohn examined in detail the 97 terms and phrases that are shared between Ezekiel and the Priestly Code. She concludes:

In each of these examples, the direction of influence moves from P to Ezekiel. A term or expression with a positive connotation in P takes on a negative overtone in Ezekiel…Ezekiel parodies P language by using terms antithetically. It is virtually impossible to imagine that the Priestly Writer would have composed Israelite history by transforming images of Israel's apostasy and subsequent downfall from Ezekiel into images conveying the exceptional covenant and unique relationship between Israel and YHWH. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that the Priestly Writer could have turned Ezekiel's land of exile (ארץ מגוריהם) into Israel's land of promise, Israel's enemies (קהל עמים) in to a sign of fecundity, or Israel's abundant sin (במאד מאד) into a sign of YHWH's covenant. It is, however, plausible that Ezekiel, writing in exile, re-evaluated P's portrayal of Israel's uniqueness, cynically inverting these images so that what was once a "pleasing fragrance to YHWH" symbolizes impiety and irreverance.

John Bergsma provides a further argument against an exilic or post-exilic date for the codifying the Jubilee and Sabbatical-year legislation, saying that the Sitz im Leben (life situation) of the exilic or post-exilic period is not at all addressed by this legislation.
Finally, if the only purpose of the jubilee legislation was to serve as a pretext for the return of the exiles' lands, certainly much simpler laws than the jubilee could have been written and ascribed to Moses. All that would be necessary is a short statement mandating the return of property to any Israelite who returned after being exiled. In point of fact, precisely such brief, pointed laws are extant in the Mesopotamian codes, for example, the code of Hammurabi §27 and the Laws of Eshnuna §29. But on the contrary, the jubilee legislation never addresses the situation of exile. The only form of land alienation addressed in the text is sale by owner…If the priesthood in the early Persian period really wanted a legal pretext for the return of lost lands, they would surely have written themselves a law that directly addressed their situation.

Bergsma therefore points out the incongruity of Wellhausen's ascribing an exilic or post-exilic date to the Jubilee and Sabbatical-year legislation, since this would conflict with the Sitz im Leben of Israel during, and after, the exile. In addition, Bergsma shows that the problem that this legislation was addressing was a problem recognized by the kings of Babylon in the second millennium BC, which naturally suggests the possibility of a much earlier date of codification. These Babylonian kings (to whom could be added Ammizaduga
Ammi-Saduqa was a king of the First Dynasty of Babylon. Some 21 year-names survive for his reign, including the first 17...

) occasionally issued decrees for the cancellation of debts and/or the return of the people to the lands they had sold. Such "clean slate" decrees were intended to redress the tendency of debtors, in ancient societies, to become hopelessly in debt to their creditors, thus accumulating most of the arable land into the control of a wealthy few. The decrees were issued sporadically. Economist Michael Hudson
Michael Hudson (economist)
Michael Hudson is research professor of economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College...

 maintains that the Biblical legislation of the Jubilee and Sabbatical years addressed the same problems encountered by these Babylonian kings, but the Biblical formulation of the laws presented a significant advance in justice and the rights of the people. This was due to the "clean slates" now being codified into law, rather than relying on the whim of the king. Furthermore, the regular rhythm of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years meant that everyone would know when the next release was due, thereby giving fairness and equity to both creditor and debtor. Hudson therefore maintains that not only was the Levitical legislation a significant advance over the prior attempts to deal with indebtedness, but this legislation was also eminently practical, in contradiction to many Biblical interpreters who are not economists and who have labeled it "utopian."

Theological significance of the Jubilee

The Bible argues that the Jubilee existed because the land was the possession of Yahweh
Yahweh is the name of God in the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jews and Christians.The word Yahweh is a modern scholarly convention for the Hebrew , transcribed into Roman letters as YHWH and known as the Tetragrammaton, for which the original pronunciation is unknown...

, and its current occupiers were merely aliens or tenants
Leasehold estate
A leasehold estate is an ownership of a temporary right to land or property in which a lessee or a tenant holds rights of real property by some form of title from a lessor or landlord....

, and therefore the land shouldn't be sold forever; however, Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

ic sources argue that the jubilee was created to preserve the original division of land between the Israelite tribes, as evidenced by the rabbinical tradition that the Jubilee should not be imposed until the Israelites were in control of Canaan. The Bible also states that the Israelites were the servants of Yahweh, which classical rabbis took as justification for the manumission of indentured Israelite servants at the Jubilee, using the argument that no man should have two masters, and thus as the servants of Yahweh, the Israelites shouldn't also be the servants of men.

See also

  • Jewish holiday
    Jewish holiday
    Jewish holidays are days observed by Jews as holy or secular commemorations of important events in Jewish history. In Hebrew, Jewish holidays and festivals, depending on their nature, may be called yom tov or chag or ta'anit...

  • Jubilee (Christian)
    Jubilee (Christian)
    The concept of the Jubilee is a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon. In the Biblical Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fifty years, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly...

  • Bank holiday
    Bank Holiday
    A bank holiday is a public holiday in the United Kingdom or a colloquialism for public holiday in Ireland. There is no automatic right to time off on these days, although the majority of the population is granted time off work or extra pay for working on these days, depending on their contract...

  • Shmita/Sabbatical years for instances of pre-exilic Sabbatical years
  • Seder Olam Rabbah
    Seder Olam Rabbah
    Seder Olam Rabbah is a 2nd century CE Hebrew language chronology detailing the dates of biblical events from the Creation to Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia...

    A chronological work, largely accepted as authoritative in the Talmud

External links