Richard Agee

Leviticus 25: Shemitah (sabbatical year) and Yobel (Jubilee)

Richard AgeeThe shabbats (sabbaths) of the land and the Yobel (Jubilee) are not about the U.S. or other countries, but about the land of Israel. Yet even in the diaspora (outside the land), there are lessons we can learn about how we should trust in God, how far God can take care of His people and how we are to take care of our families and each other.

This teaching was revealed while they were at the foot of Mt. Sinai, in the first year after they left Egypt. It would be 40 years before they had any chance to practice these rules because these rules were to be practiced after they enter Canaan. 

We are not called to introduce these rules in our country. These were God’s rules to the children of Israel who were entering into Canaan, not the USA, Russia, China, etc. 

These about sowing and reaping are not for turnips or carrots, but primarily apply to barley, wheat and grapes. 

“but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard.” (Leviticus 25:4 NASB)

The children of Israel are not to scatter their seed but if seed grows up of its own, this is fine. We aren’t to work for the Lord but with the Lord and understand why there are times when we are to sow and not to sow. 

The only year that the children of Israel are not to eat of any crops at all, even that which grows of its own is in the 50th year aka the year of Jubilee. In the seventh year, people can eat of the crops that grow on its own. 

People have tried to calculate the time of the jubilee but that’s no the issue. It’s not just an issue of returning land and produce to the original owner but it’s also a process of redemption. 

We can puzzle ourselves trying to institute this into our secular culture but we just need to read it and understand Him. 

In the seventh years of the shmitah cycle, the gathering is limited to what one can gather for one day, no stockpiling allowed. 

This is not just because “God says so.” God is not setting people up for failure. 

Part of this cycle is to trust God that in the sixth year He will provide enough abundance to get people through the 7th year and the 8th year as well. No matter how poor you are, God is asking you to trust Him that He will provide you what you need day by day. 

We need to eat, and our food comes up from the ground. We can’t eat cattle unless there’s enough food coming from the ground to feed them. God created the earth for us. We came up from the earth too. 

In the seventh year, you are in the same situation as the poor person who doesn’t own their own land, their own crops or their own vines. You are to gather enough for one day at a time, no less, no more. 

This is to humble us. In the jubilee and you see someone with nothing, you are to take care of them. 

The 49th year is just like the other seven-year cycles, no sowing, no reaping expect for daily food but the 50th year, there’s no sowing, reaping even for daily food. 

In the 50th year, the ram’s horn, the shofar is blown and the year of liberty is proclaimed. This is the year after the seventh shabbat year. 

The word for jublilee also shows up in the book of Joshua but not in the way you think. 

“Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.” (Joshua 6:4 NASB)

The word that is translated as ram’s horns in this verse is יוֹבֵל yobel (Strong’s lexicon No. H3104), aka Jubilee. 

When you gather your daily grain in the seventh years, you are to gather and leave the shaft behind. It’s not gathering for stockpile and replanting but only for one’s daily meal. 

The point of the jubilee year is to protect the poor from being taken advantage by the wealthy. It isn’t property that is returned but any possessions as well, such as jewelry, etc. 

This was given to test the house of Israel to find out if they would obey or not. This generation of Israel did not obey, that is why they didn’t enter the promised land. 

How great did the children of Israel have to to stretch their faith? They keep the seveth year shabbat, then the year of Jubliee (the eighth year) and then in the ninth year, they could resume their normal planting, reaping, and harvesting. How would they have enough food to last all that time? 

“Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it. ‘But if you say, “What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?” Then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. ‘When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.” (Leviticus 25:19–22 NASB)

This is how God keeps us from being arrogant about the increase that Yeshua warned about with the parable of the man who built himself lots of silos. 

“If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. ‘Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. ‘But 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 NASB)

God did not set up a government welfare program or a “war on poverty.” He said that it’s the responsibility of the family to take care of their unfortunate members. 

The children of Israel were also to take care of the sojourners, the non-Israelites who were in their land conducting business. Abraham was this kind of of sojourner when he was in Canaan, and we are told that we are to be sojourners in this world, too. 

The word for usury is not always used for charging interest or increase on loans. 

“You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest.” (Deuteronomy 23:19 NASB)

The Hebrew word that is translated as interest in this verse, נֶשֶׁךְ neshekh (H5392), comes from נָשַׁךְ nashakh (H5391), which literally means to strike with a sting, as a serpent (Key Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic). Don’t add interest on top of the interest. 

“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.” (Leviticus 25:39 NASB)

Just because the person is poor and needs a job, doesn’t give the wealthy countryman the right to treat the poor person as a slave. They are to treat them with dignity and give them productive work do to. 

What is the purpose of the jubilee? To return us back to where they were before. 

“For the sons of Israel are My servants; they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 25:55 NASB)

Where else do we find a pattern of 50? The time between Passover and Shavuot is a 50 day count. On that 50th day, we lift two loaves of bread, all the house of Israel returns back to God and back to their house. Israel is supposed to show that picture over and over again. For most Israelites, they would only observe and experience one Jubilee. 

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy. 


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