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What is the Jubilee?

The Israelites were redeemed and blessed by God and eventually were brought into the good land of Canaan, and each family was allotted their portion of the land. Under God's care, not only were the Israelites blessed, but even their land was blessed. Every seventh year the land did not have to yield its produce. In that year the Israelites and the land were to rest. In the seventh year, no one sowed his field because this was the year ordained by God as the Sabbath year. Then after seven Sabbath years, there was the Pentecostal year, the fiftieth year. The Pentecostal year was not just a Sabbath year; it was beyond human description....After the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, every fiftieth year was a year of jubilee to them. Fifty years signifies the entire course of fallen human life. The year of jubilee, which is the fiftieth year, signifies the conclusion of our fallen human life.

The year of jubilee is the year of grace.

As we have seen, the Israelites were redeemed by God; they left Egypt, journeyed through the wilderness, and entered into Canaan. After entering into the land of Canaan, each family received a portion of the good land flowing with milk and honey for their rich enjoyment. However, some of the people were lazy and gluttonous. Lazy people like to eat, but they do not like to work. To be sure, one who is lazy and gluttonous becomes poor. In ancient times the people did not have much to sell, so when they became poor, they sold their land. However, if the land had been sold permanently, in just a few generations there would have been an extreme disparity between the rich and the poor. Therefore, God told the Israelites, “The land shall not be sold into permanent ownership, for the land is Mine; for you are aliens and sojourners with Me” (Lev. 25:23). They were not to sell their portion of land, the possession that they had received from God, into permanent ownership. This is unlike the sale of land today, in which once land is sold, it is sold forever. The longest duration for which a piece of land could be sold was fifty years. After a man sold his land, in the fiftieth year, the year of jubilee, he as the original owner would receive back his land.

Futhermore, some of the people were so gluttonous and lazy that even after selling their land they were still in poverty, and they had no alternative but to sell themselves as slaves. Nevertheless, when the year of jubilee arrived, they no longer remained slaves but obtained their release. In the year of jubilee, which the Israelites were to sanctify, they proclaimed release throughout the land to all its inhabitants, and each one returned to his possession and to his family (Lev. 25:9-10). No one needed to pay for redemption; everyone freely recovered his possession and his freedom. Therefore, in the fiftieth year, no one was without land and no one was in slavery. Therefore, the year of jubilee was a grace to them.

Isaiah 61:2 calls the year of jubilee “the acceptable year of Jehovah.” This can also be translated, “the year of Jehovah’s grace.” This verse is included in the Scripture which the Lord Jesus read in Luke 4:17-19, where the above phrase reads, “the acceptable year of the Lord, the year of jubilee.” In Isaiah it is the year of grace, whereas in the New Testament it is the year of jubilee. Therefore, the year of jubilee is the year of grace.

The Jubilee, pp. 10-11, by Witness Lee.

From Issue No. 79, November 2004

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