Where Does the Jubilee Tradition Come From?

vintage shabbath kiddush cup of wine

We are at the beginning of an extremely special year… our 70th Jubilee Year—the Hebrew year 5776. But for those who are unfamiliar with the Hebrew calendar, you might be wondering what a Jubilee year is and from where this tradition originates.

The Jubilee year is the year that comes at the end of seven cycles of Shmita, or Sabbatical years. According to biblical tradition, the Jubilee at one point had a major impact on the way land was owned and managed in Israel. There is some scholarly debate that points out that the Jubilee was meant to be the 49th year (the final year of the seven sabbatical cycles, also occasionally called the Sabbath’s Sabbath) or the following year, the 50th year.

vintage shabbath kiddush cup of wine

The Jewish calendar is based on three astronomical phenomena: the rotation of the Earth about its axis (a day); the revolution of the moon about the Earth (a month); and the revolution of the Earth about the sun (a year). These three phenomena are independent of each other, so there is no direct correlation between them. On average, the moon revolves around the Earth in about 29½ days. The Earth revolves around the sun in about 365¼ days, that is, about 12.4 lunar months. ~ Judaism 101

According to the description in Leviticus, the Jubilee deals mostly with property and property ownership rights. In this year, prisoners and slaves would be freed, debtors would forgive those who owed them and the mercies of God would make themselves clear.

Here is a passage from Leviticus 25:

8 “Count off seven Sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven Sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. 9 Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. 10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. 11 The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. 12 For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.
13 “In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property.”

Today, the regulations associated with Jubilee years are not followed, but are still considered extremely important and a cause for celebration in the Jewish faith. It is a time for prayer and to celebrate the grace and gifts of God, a time for thankfulness and joy!

To learn more about the Jubilee year, feel free to contact us at Curt Landry Ministries and we will be happy to answer your questions.