Bible Readings for April 21st
Leviticus 25 introduces us to one of the more intriguing events that Yahweh mandated for his people: the Year of Jubilee. In part, the Year of Jubilee is fascinating as an economic model for restoring lost inheritance property to families who had to sell it away because of debt, but the Year of Jubilee is also a historical curiosity since the evidence we have suggests that Israel rarely, if ever, observed the Year of Jubilee. 1
The Year of Jubilee fell on the year following every seventh seven-year period (Lev. 25:8)—in other words, the Year of Jubilee was the year after every forty-ninth year (Lev. 25:10–11). That fiftieth year was the highest of all Israel’s festivals. On that year, the land rested (Lev. 25:11), just as it would have during a Sabbath year (Lev. 25:1–7).
But more than simply allowing the land to rest, the Year of Jubilee was a year of property restoration. So, if an Israelite had come upon hard times and had sold his inheritance in the Promised Land as a means of paying off debt, the purchaser would restore the property to the original owner during the Year of Jubilee. No matter whether the property had been sold in the first year or the forty-ninth year of the Jubilee cycle, the original owner regained his inheritance—although Israelites were allowed to buy and sell property at different prices depending on when the next Year of Jubilee was coming (Lev. 25:14–17).
Yahweh gives the reasoning behind this restoration of property in Leviticus 25:23: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.” In other words, the Promised Land was not Israel’s possession to sell or to buy—the land belonged to Yahweh, and he gave it to Israel as a gift. The Israelites themselves were merely strangers and sojourners with Yahweh, without any rights and receiving their inheritance only by grace.
In this way, Yahweh made it possible for even the poorest families in Israel to survive from generation to generation.2 No matter how impoverished one generation became, the next generation would be restored their property at the Year of Jubilee.
The Year of Jubilee, then, was eschatological—that is, it anticipated the end of time. Every time Israel celebrated the Year of Jubilee, they tangibly looked forward to the restoration of the ultimate inheritance that God has promised to his people: a new creation, with new heavens and a new earth. What God’s people lost through their debt of sin, Jesus Christ restored through his life, death, and resurrection.
And on the final Year of Jubilee when Jesus returns, God’s people will never again languish under the poverty of the curse—instead, we will be named co-heirs to inherit all things through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17).
2 Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), 294–95.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.