Defining the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years

Posted by on May 24, 2016

Remember the former of old, for I am El, and there is no one else – Elohim, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from of old that which has not yet been done, saying, “My counsel does stand, and all My delight I do.”

(Isa 46:9-10)

As we said there are two schools of thought as to how to count the jubilee years. If one is refuted, the other must be the only possible option left. This author will prove that the correct pattern of reckoning is the 50-year counting. There are three major objection to accepting the 49-year model and they are:

OBJECTION 1. No where in Torah are we explicitly told to count the Jubilee years in a 49-year pattern as some understand it. It is a very weird way to count a Jubilee cycle of 49 years with the 50th year being the 1st year of the next cycle (Year 50 =Year 1), is it not? It is a confusing and unnatural way of counting. If the Creator had designed His Jubilees to be reckoned that way, He would have stated explicitly in Lev 25. But He has not. It is simply not there. We should not expect YHVH to introduce the Jubilee cycle to Israel who had never observed it before and expect them to understand it the way some understand it. The Israelites, who at that point in time had never even heard of a “Jubilee year,” were expected to learn that, in order to arrive at a Jubilee year, one has to first count 49 years and the 50th year is the 1st year of the next cycle. To say something, that is not even mentioned in Torah, is an addition to His Word which in return is a violation of the same Torah not to add to or subtract from. Or at least this is an argument out of silence and such an argument is not an argument at all.

The 49-year cycle proponents seek a similarity in the Shavuot counting as a proof text to their theory. They say that “since the Pentecost cycle does not alter the typical weekly cycle on the day of Pentecost, neither does the Jubilee cycle change the timing of the Sabbatical cycles on the year of Jubilee.” But, is it so? For the counting of the 49+1 shavuot we use cardinal numbers; and for the days of the year – ordinal numbers. Also, the counting of shavuot is one-time event in the year, while the counting of the days in the year is all year around. By nature, these are two different ways of counting. The simplicity of counting will be this:

for Shavuot (Lev_23:15-16), 7 sets of 7 days + 1 day = 50 days;

for Jubilee (Lev_25:8-11), 7 sets of 7 years + 1 year = 50 years.

The 50th Jubilee Year is a very special, set-apart, year. If it is mixed with an ordinary year (the 1st year), it cannot be called set-apart anymore. It is like a mixed seed.

It is worth noticing what pattern is to be followed according to the rabbis. In Sanhedrin 97b there is an intriguing debate as to when the Messiah is to come. Notice, they do not even mention the 49-year cycle.

Sanhedrin 97b: Elijah said to Rab Yehudah, the brother of R. Salia the pious: ‘The world shall exist not less than eighty five jubilees [footnote: Of fifty years], and in the last jubilee the son of David will come [footnote: Messiah. The belief in his Davidic descent is already mentioned in the Psalms of Shlomo XVII, 21.] He asked him, ‘At the beginning or at the end? [footnote: Of the last fifty years]— He replied, ‘I do not know.’ ‘Shall [this period] be completed or not? [footnote: I.e., if at the end of the jubilee, shall it be at the beginning of the fiftieth year or at the end thereof?]— ‘I do not know,’ he answered. R. Ashi said: He spoke thus to him, ‘Before that, do not expect him; afterwards thou mayest await him.’ [footnote: He will certainly not come before then, but may delay a long time afterwards]

OBJECTION 2. Yehudah was punished to be in exile for 70 years for not having given the land a rest. The proponents of the 49-year Jubilee CYCLE pull “evidences” from the Scripture to find multiples of 49 between the events in that particular period when the Sabbaths of the land were allegedly held. These “evidences” are based mainly on The Book of Jubilees but also on the research by R. Clover, The Sabbath and Jubilee Cycle, Qadesh La Yahweh Press, where some passages more or less allude to the keeping of the Sabbatical years. However, if we pay close attention to these verses, we will discover that with the exception of Jos_5:10-11, 2Ki_19:29, Isa_37:30, Jer_34:8-17, all other events (which otherwise are used to “prove” the 49-year model) were events set by men. Also, consider this as a strong clue as to whether or not the Sabbaths of the land were observed. Having said about the alleged Sabbatical years, it will be interesting to mention about one of them: the alleged sabbath year of 162 BC “found” in 1Ma_16:14,

Now Simon was visiting the cities that were in the country, and taking care for the good ordering of them; at which time he came down himself to Jericho with his sons, Mattathias and Judas, in the hundred threescore and seventeenth year, in the eleventh month, called Sabat.

This verse was mistaken to read “sabbath”instead of the Jewish month “Shevet” which was the true meaning of the word. In the context the word “Shevet”refers to the month, not to the year. The confusion comes from the mistransliteration of the Aramaic word “shevet” from Greek to English.

From 2Ki_22:8-13 we understand that the Book of Torah was found in the days of the righteous King Yoshiyahu probably around the Feast of Unleaved Bread as seen in 2Ki_23:9 which some of the priests might have kept. It is unclear when Torah had become lost but per the Biblical account the king tore his garments, which was a sign of a great deal of grief, because the wrath of YHVH could have kindled against the nation for not having obeyed the words of Torah, the words pertaining to the Sabbaths of the land, too: the main reason why Israel was exiled in the first place.

In 2Ch_35:18-19 and 2Ki_23:21-23 we read as it is written,

Passover had not been prepared since the days of Samuel the prophet, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Yehudah, until the eighteenth year of King Yoshiyahu

This means that Passover had not been prepared since and probably even before the first king of Israel: King Shaul. If the Book of Torah was lost for so many years and the Passovers were not observed, what makes us think that the Sabbaths of the land were? The logical conclusion is that the Sabbaths and Jubilees of the land were not held either.

If the 49-year model were correct and they had kept the Sabbatical and Jubilee years per the 49-year count, why did Elohim have to punish them? The answer is that either Yehudah was punished for not having kept the Sabbatical years at all (Lev_26:33-35, Jer_25:8-12, 2Ch_36:21-22) or for having kept them in wrong times, e.i., per the 49-year pattern, thus violating the Torah commands pertaining to the sabbatical and jubilee years. In support of this, other clues will be considered as this work advances.

OBJECTION 3. However, chief among these problems is that the 49-year pattern violates the commandment (if an addition to His Torah is not bad enough) given in Lev_25:3 as it is written,

Six years you sow your field, and six years you prune your vineyard, and gather in its fruit, but in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to Yehovah. Do not sow your field and do not prune your vineyard. (Lev 25:3-4)

The fiftieth year is a Jubilee to you. Do not sow, nor reap what grows of its own, nor gather from its unpruned vine. (Lev 25:11)

This tells us to plant and reap six years before giving the land a rest. It is unlawful to plant or reap during a Jubilee year. If the 50th Jubilee year coincided with the first year in the new Jubilee cycle, as some claim, that would have made it an agricultural year, for the first year is a year of ploughing and sowing (Lev_25:3).

This is the problem: in the 49-year model, one plants and reaps five years, and not six years, before letting the land rest. Also, if the 49-year theory were correct, it puts Lev_25:3 (sow, reap, and gather in the first year) and Lev_25:11 (to sow, nor reap, nor gather in the Jubilee) in conflict. They explain this conflict with: “Six years of sowing and reaping is the general rule, but the year of Jubilee gives an exception to the rule.” But where is this “exception to the rule” in Torah? There is simply no such. The Creator has said nothing about such “exceptions.” He is not a creator of confusion; if He wanted to make such exceptions, He would have said it plainly. Also, in Lev_25:13, each one is to return to his possession. How can the land be returned to its original owner in the heat of the harvest time, if they were one and the same? The accounts in Isa_37:30 and 2Ki_19:29 describe Sabbatical year, and the agricultural labor in third year which is the eight year (Lev_25:22). This is the exact 50-year pattern YHVH commands us to keep: we are not to plant or reap either in the 49th or the 50th years, Lev_25:20-22.