A Year of Jubilee

Year of Jubilee

The start of a new year is seen by many as a time to restart – enact changes, make resolutions, set goals, and so on. Obviously, these things can be done any time of the year; but the start of a calendar year makes a natural break that can be used to spur us on to start anew in some way.

In the Law of Moses, there were instructions about a time to “restart” or begin again. It was the year of jubilee that occurred every fifty years.

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 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, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field” (Leviticus 25:8-12).

As we begin a new year, there are several lessons that are good for us to learn from this year of jubilee.

Laws Regarding the Year of Jubilee

To summarize the passage above, along with some other instructions given in the same chapter, the following laws were given regarding the year of jubilee and how it was to be practiced:

  1. Everyone was to return to his family – “You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year… It shall be a jubilee for you…and each of you shall return to his family” (Leviticus 25:10). This law also applied to slaves (Leviticus 25:39-41).
  2. Everyone was to return to his property – “You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year… It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property…” (Leviticus 25:10). “On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property” (Leviticus 25:13). An emphasis was placed upon returning “to the property of his forefathers” (Leviticus 25:41) since the land that they (their families) possessed was an inheritance from God (Numbers 33:54).
  3. They were not to sow, reap, or gather – “You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines” (Leviticus 25:11). This also happened every seventh year (Leviticus 25:2-7). The year of jubilee followed one of these sabbath years (year #49 was a sabbath year, year #50 was the year of jubilee). God promised to provide enough during the sixth year that they would have what they needed until the crop from the ninth year came in (Leviticus 25:20-22).
  4. Lands sold were to revert to the original owner/family – “If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property…if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property” (Leviticus 25:25, 28). Understanding this, they were “not [to] wrong one another” in making land transactions (Leviticus 25:17).
  5. They were to forgive the debts of others – “If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee. He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers” (Leviticus 25:39-41). Not only were they to release those who were indebted to them at the year of jubilee, they were also to allow any family he had to leave with him.

Significance of the Year of Jubilee

The year of jubilee was important for several reasons:

  1. It provided a way for them to reset/restart their lives.
  2. It provided a way for those in difficult situations to escape that – regardless of whether they were at fault for their circumstances or not.
  3. It reminded them of God’s blessings and their responsibilities before Him.
  4. It called upon them to have faith in God and trust His promises.

Principles for Us to Apply Today

After reviewing the laws regarding the year of jubilee and briefly highlighting the reasons why this year was important, let us consider some applications we can make today:

  1. Remember the importance of family – Since family relationships are important, the Bible emphasizes some responsibilities we have to our family. These responsibilities include honoring them (Ephesians 6:1-3; 5:22, 25; 1 Peter 3:7), caring for them (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16), and helping them spiritually (Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15; 1 Peter 3:1-2).
  2. Remember your inheritance – The inheritance we have been promised is from God (Ephesians 1:11-14). Unlike the inheritance connected to the year of jubilee, our inheritance is not for something here on the earth. Instead, Peter said we hope “to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).
  3. Remember God’s promises – Jesus said if we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” we will have the things we need in this life – though not everything we want (Matthew 6:33). He “supplies seed to the sower and bread for food” (2 Corinthians 9:10). More importantly, He has promised us spiritual/eternal blessings. We have “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). He has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). We should have faith in God that He will provide what He has promised.
  4. Remember to treat others fairly – James warned us to “not hold [our] faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (James 2:1). Instead, we are to treat others as we would want to be treated – or, as some people call it, practice the “golden rule.” “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
  5. Remember to forgive others – Jesus said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). We are to forgive “as God in Christ also has forgiven [us]” (Ephesians 4:32). If we are unwilling to do this, the Lord will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15).


As we make plans, resolutions, and goals for the new year, let us not forget what is truly important. Let us remember God who blesses us with all things and do all that we can to serve Him. Let us treat others as He would want us to treat them. And finally, let us keep pressing on to the ultimate goal of heaven.

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  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Very good thoughts to think on, Andy.