What Are Some Facts About the Jubilee Year in the Old Testament?


Quick Answer

According to the Old Testament, the Hebrews were supposed to observe a Jubilee year every 50th year. The Jubilee year was more sacred than any sabbatical year.

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Full Answer

Israelites observed a sabbatical year every seven years. Following seven sabbatical years, a Jubilee year is enacted. The Hebrew word for Jubilee, "yohvel," means "ram's horn," which refers to the instrument played at the year's beginning.

During a Jubilee year, Israel was supposed to refrain from planting or sowing. The people had to be content with the food that grew on its own. This was meant to promote faith in God's provisions. During the Jubilee year, the priests made a special effort to publicly read the Torah and discuss other religious matters with the people.

The Jubilee year also promoted liberty. Hebrews were required to cancel all debts owed to them. Also, those who were forced to sell themselves into slavery were released. All hereditary land possessions that had been sold were also returned to their original owner during the Jubilee year. These requirements prevented poverty from overrunning Hebrew society.

Approximately 17 Jubilees were scheduled between the institution of the Mosaic Law and the fall of Jerusalem. However, Israel gradually began to ignore the Jubilee commandments. By the 6th century B.C., the Jubilee was no longer observed by Israel.

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