(In a regular year, read with Parashah 33; in a leap year read separately.)
“Adonai spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai …” (Leviticus 25:1).
The Year of Jubilee
“The land is not to be sold in perpetuity, because the land belongs to me –– you are only foreigners and temporary residents with me” (Leviticus 25:23).
According to this verse, the land belongs to Adonai. The Hebrew word for ‘land’ is eretz, the same word used in Genesis for when Elohim created the heavens and the eretz. Adonai not only owns the Eretz Y’isra’el (Land of Isra’el), He owns the whole earth. As the Creator, He owns everything in the heavens and on earth.
“The earth is Adonai’s, with all that is in it, the world and those who live there” (Psalm 24:1).
As owner of the eretz, Adonai can give land to whomever He desires, not for ownership, but for possession. This is the Land of Promise He gave Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When the Israelites enter the Promised Land, they will possess it, not own it. Each tribe will receive an inheritance that will be theirs for stewardship, and they must follow the instructions He gives for His Land to have rest and restoration.
When they enter the Land, they were to give it rest from plowing, planting, and harvesting. Every seventh year was a sh’mittah and only what the land produced was to be food for the people, livestock, and wild animals. Adonai promised the Israelites He would bless the land in the sixth year so there would be an abundance of food for both the seventh and the eighth years –– until the next harvest.
After seven sh’mittah years was a Yovel or Jubilee year. On Yom Kippur, the shofar was blown throughout the Land to begin the consecration of the fiftieth year proclaiming freedom for all inhabitants, including all who were slaves in Isra’el –– foreigners or native born. Everyone was to be set free and return to their homes and families.
Yovel comes from the Hebrew word for ‘ram’ and it is the ram’s horn or shofar that is blown to begin the Yovel. The ram is a reminder of the ‘binding of Isaac’ and the deliverance he received when the ram was found in the thicket. The Yovel also prophesies the return of Yeshua, the ‘resurrected ram,’ in the year of Jubilee.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Release or sh’mittah – שמיטה – shin, mem, yod, tet, hey
– consume chaos the finished work of the twisting, behold
Jubilee or yovel – יובל – yod, vav, bet, lamed
– the finished work binding the house urged forward
During the 49 years before the Yovel, the Israelites could sell land to one another. The land value was appraised on how many years remained until the Jubilee. If there were many years, the value of the land was valued higher than if only a few years remained. If you owned property, you were only a temporary resident with Elohim. At the beginning of the Yovel, everyone returned to his tribal inheritance and his family. Because Adonai owns the land, this ‘right of redemption’ restored the land back to the original possessors keeping the rich from having too much and the poor from having nothing. Unfortunately, the years of Jubilee were not observed throughout Isra’el’s history. Their disobedience resulted in being taken captive to other nations so the land would receive its rest –– sh’mittah and Yovel.
“You I will disperse among the nations, and I will draw out the sword in pursuit after you; your land will be a desolation and your cities a wasteland. Then, at last, the land will be paid its Shabbats. As long as it lies desolated and you are in the lands of your enemies, the land will rest and be repaid its Shabbats. Yes, as long as it lies desolate it will have rest, the rest it did not have during your Shabbats when you lived there” (Leviticus 26:33-35).
After Elohim delivered Isra’el from slavery in Egypt, they became His ‘slaves.’ As His chosen people, they were ‘enslaved’ to His righteousness and had to live according to His commands. Sha’ul makes the same comparison to the Romans. Either we are slaves to sin and break Elohim’s commands by living according to our wicked hearts and the lawless ways of the world or we are slaves to His righteousness with a new heart and live according to His Torah.
“Don’t you know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, then, of the one whom you are obeying, you are slaves — whether of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to being made righteous? By God’s grace, you, who were once slaves to sin, obeyed from your heart the pattern of teaching to which you were exposed; and after you had been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness” (Romans 6:16-18).
Yeshua and the Jubilee
“Now when he went to Natzeret, where he had been brought up, on Shabbat he went to the synagogue as usual. He stood up to read, and he was given the scroll of the prophet Yesha’yahu [Isaiah]. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of Adonai is upon me; therefore he has anointed me to announce Good News to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the imprisoned and renewed sight for the blind, to release those who have been crushed, to proclaim a year of the favor of Adonai.’ After closing the scroll and returning it to the shammash, he sat down; and the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. He started to speak to them: ‘Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled!’” (Luke 4:16-21)
The Hebrew word shammash means ‘servant.’ In Jewish tradition, the shammash took care of the synagogue including the scrolls. The tallest candle on the Hanukkah menorah or Hanukkiah is called the shammash or ‘servant candle’ as it is the one that lights all of the other candles.
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