Sabbatical Year in the Reign of King Tsidqiyahu
As already said above, Yerushalayim was besieged in the ninth year of King Tsidqiyahu until the city was destroyed in the eleventh year of his reign, in 3357. The covenant that YHVH made him to make with the people to proclaim liberty unto them was made in the tenth year of his reign, which was year 3356, (the eighteenth year of Nevukadnetsar, Jer_32:1-2, Jer_34:6-7), that every man should let his servants go free at the end of the seventh year, as it is written in Jer_34:8-17,
Thus said Yehovah the Elohim of Israel, I Myself made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, saying, At the end of seven years each one should set free his Hebrew brother, who has been sold to him. And when he has served you six years, you shall let him go free from you. But your fathers did not obey Me nor incline their ear. And you recently turned and did what was right in My eyes, each man proclaiming release to his neighbour. And you made a covenant before Me in the house which is called by My Name. But you turned back and profaned My Name, and each one of you took back his male and female slaves, whom he had set free, at their pleasure, and brought them into subjection, to be your male and female slaves. Therefore thus said Yehovah, You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming release, each one to his brother and each one to his neighbour. See, I am proclaiming release to you, declares Yehovah, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the scarcity of food! And I shall make you a horror to all reigns of the earth.
They, however, took their servants back which angered Elohim and His displeasure burned against the king and the people. The city and the Temple of YHVH were destroyed and burned by Nevukadnetsar, and Yehudah went into the 70-year Babylonian exile.
And I shall give the men who are transgressing My covenant, who have not established the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between the parts of it: the heads of Yehudah, and the heads of Yerushalayim, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf. ‘And I shall give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life. And their corpses shall be for food to the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth. ‘And I shall give Tsidqiyahu sovereign of Yehudah and his heads into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those who seek their life, and into the hand of the sovereign of Bavel’s army that has withdrawn from you. ‘See, I am commanding,’ declares Yehovah, ‘and shall bring them back to this city, and they shall fight against it and take it and burn it with fire. And I shall make the cities of Yehudah a ruin without inhabitant.’ ” (Jer 34:18-22)
This proclamation of the release of the servants at the end of the seventh year indicates that that year was Sabbatical. This release in Jer_34:13-14 is to be understood as the last Sabbatical Year before the Jubilee. How do we know that? The key word here is until and YHVH explains what the word it means in Lev_25:39-41 and Exo_21:2,
And when your brother who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, do not make him serve as a slave. But as a hired servant, as a settler he is with you, and serves you until the Year of Jubilee. And then he shall leave you, he and his children with him, and shall return to his own clan, even return to the possession of his fathers.
When you buy a Hebrew servant, he serves six years, and in the seventh he goes out free, for naught.
From these two quotes we get the understanding that the servant is to work six complete years and to be released on the seventh year but no later than the beginning of the jubilee year. Therefore, the year in which the proclamation was made was Sabbatical and the following year was a Jubilee. And indeed, Yovelim Table confirms so.
Insert: According to Torah, the financial debt is to be released at the end of the seventh year (Deu_15:1) but the servants are to work only six years (Deu_15:18) and to be released in the seventh year, presumably in the beginning of the seventh year (Deu_15:12). However, Deu_15:13-15 requires the servant not go away empty-handed but to be supplied richly as Israel left Egypt richly supplied. Therefore, it is possible that the release is to be in the beginning of the year but the servant to leave at the end of the year simmilarly to the release of the financial debt in Deu_15:1. The reason being is that, during the year of release the master is to supply him with everything necessary to make a successful start and the servant, under the guidance of his former master, to develop his new business.
Can any more clues be found that would lead to a plausible conclusion that 3356 and 3357, years so crucial for Israel, were sabbatical and jubilee? There is a peculiar passage regarding buying a piece of land in Jer_32:6-15. Yirmeyahu was commanded by Elohim to purchase his uncle’s land in a situation where few if any people would be interested to buy anything but food (Lev_25:25). Keep in mind that Torah warns in Lev_25:23 that the land is not to be sold beyond reclaim meaning, in modern-day terms, the land is only supposed to be leased, not sold. No land loans can extend beyond the next Jubilee when all land is to be released to its original owner, and all debts of every type are to be cancelled.
Yirmeyahu was obedient to YHVH and bought it but nevertheless he puzzled as to why the Almighty would want him to do such a thing when the city was about to fall in the hands of the Chaldeans (Jer_32:24-25). To answer Yirmeyahu’s concern YHVH gave him the reason why Yehudah suffered such calamities in the first place: namely, both houses, Israel and Yehudah had done evil to provoke Him (Jer_32:28-36) by their disobedience to His Word, Torah. But Elohim gave His promise to Yirmeyahu that He would gather again His people in the land and that the assurance for this was the purchase of the land he just bought, as it is written in Jer_32:43-44,
And fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, “It is a wasteland, without man or beast. It has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans. ‘Fields shall be bought for silver, and deeds signed and sealed, and witnesses be called, in the land of Binyamin, and in the places around Yerushalayim, and in the cities of Yehudah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the low country, and in the cities of the South. For I shall turn back their captivity,’ declares Yehovah.
In other words, YHVH told his prophet to buy this piece of land, because one day the captives would return home and the deed of purchase would be still valid to reclaim the property. That deed was the surety of the end of the exile.
How can this story help understand whether or not this was the last Sabbatical year in the Jubilee cycle? Torah says also that,
according to the number of years after the Jubilee you buy from your neighbour, and according to the number of years of crops he sells to you. (Lev_25:14-16)
This means that the closer is the purchase to the next Jubilee, the lower the price of the land must be. The following is its simple meaning: when you sell or purchase land, you should be aware of how many years remain until the next Jubilee. Thus, if there are only a few years left until the next Jubilee year, and the seller sells it for a high price, the purchaser has been wronged. And if there are many years left until the next Jubilee year, and the purchaser will eat many crops from it until Jubilee, if he had purchased the land for a low price, the seller has been wronged.
Yirmeyahu bought his uncle’s land for seventeen sheqels of silver (Jer_32:9). One sheqel is 11.424 grams or 0.403 oz; 17 sheqels times 11.424 grams equals 194.208 grams, divided by 28.34952 grams per ounce equals 6.85 ounces which would be the equivalent of 95.9 dollars nowadays. Was that a high or low price Yirmeyahu paid? To answer this question, more information can be found in 2Ki_15:20 where we see that King Menachem of Israel exacted the silver of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty sheqels of silver, to give to the king of Ashshur to appease him not to destroy the land. So, we may say that at the given circumstances during the siege of Yerushalayim, Yirmeyahu paid a substantial price for the piece of land the size of which we actually do not know. Should that have been the last Sabbatical year before the Jubilee, according to Torah, the prophet must have been paid very low price considering the remaining months to the Jubilee year in order to not get wronged. However, he paid quite a bit. How can that be explained? This strange purchase can be explained in the context of YHVH’s promise that the people would return one day in the land. Despite the high price, Yirmeyahu received his surety that the purchase was not in vain and that there was hope for the nation. Therefore, that particular Sabbatical year was the last Sabbatical year before the Jubilee. Yehudah was exiled, the Temple destroyed, and in the next year was the first year of the first Sabbatical cycle of the new Jubilee, when the land began to enjoy seventy years of rest (see Jubilees Table). Additional understanding can be found again in Lev_25:15 which says,
According to the number of years after the Jubilee you buy from your neighbour, and according to the number of years of crops he sells to you,
The word שְׁנֵי can mean “years of” or can mean “two.” Thus, the Rabbis have expounded from here, that one who sells his field is not permitted to redeem it in less than two years, that it must remain in the purchaser’s possession for exactly two years to the day. However, if the word שְׁנֵי means “years” and not two, then how do the Rabbis expound it to mean “two years”? Because the term שְׁנֵי is plural, and the minimum quantity implied by שָׁנִים is two [Arachin 29b; Mizrachi]. What can we deduct from it? That, if that interpretation of the Rabbis is correct, YHVH guaranteed that the siege of Yerushalayim would have been at least two years (from the tenth year of King Tsidqiyahu, when the covenant was made “to proclaim liberty”), until the eleventh year of his reign when the city fell, in order that the seller (Yirmeyahu’s uncle) could not have redeemed the land he just had sold. During that period of two years, the people had enough time to repent which probably was another reason of the land transaction.
Also, in Lev_25:18 “then you will live on the land in safety” means that because it is through the transgression of the laws of Shabbats that the Israelites are exiled from their land, as the verse says,
Then, the land will appease its Sabbaths. All the days of desolation while you are in the land of your enemies, the land will rest and appease its Sabbaths (Lev_26:34).
Another clue that the destruction of the Temple and Yerushalayim took place in a significant year in the Creator’s reckoning of time is found in the Book of Lamentations in which the prophet Yirmeyahu describes the cry of sorrow and grief of the people on the desolation of Yehudah after the destruction of Yerushalayim, where we read literally:
Yehovah has cast off His altar, He has rejected His Set-apart place, He has delivered the walls of her palaces into the hand of the enemy. They have made a noise in the House of Yehovah on the day of an appointed time. (Lam 2:7)
Young and old lie on the ground in the streets. My maidens and my young men have fallen by the sword. You have slain them in the day of Your displeasure, You have slaughtered without compassion. Would You proclaim, in a day of appointed time, the fears that surround me? And no one escaped or survived in the day of the displeasure of Yehovah. Those whom I have nursed and brought up My enemy has destroyed. (Lam 2:21-22)
That appointed time mentioned in the Book of Lamentations was the Jubilee of the land when its rightful rest began. And after the destruction of the Temple and Yerushalayimin in year 3357, in year 3358 since the creation which was the first year of the next Jubilee cycle (see Jubilees Table), the seventy years of the Babylonian exile began, when the land remained forcibly at rest. These seventy years corresponded to the seventy years of Sabbats not observed by Israel.
Therefore, the two key points which we found in the reigns of King Hizqiyahu and King Tsidqiyahu confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt that the fourteenth year of Hizqiyahu and the eleventh of Tsidqiyahu were Sabbatical and Jubilee respectively, and we can conclude that the chronology of the kings of Israel in particular and the chronology from the Creation of the world until this point are correct.
The account of Jer_34:13-14 also proves that Israel had not kept the Sabbaths of the land since they entered it which was the reason for the exile. Again, the question is: Why should Elohim have told the Yehudim when to observe the Sabbatical years unless they had not observed them at all?