Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jubilee and God’s Impractical Economy

What is the 50th year called in the Old Testament? Jubilee.

Jubilee appears in the 25th and 27th chapters of Leviticus as part of regulations dubbed the “Holiness Code” by scholars. The mandates concerning Jubilee focus on the compulsory returning of land and property (including humans) to their original owners in somewhat of a national do-over.

The name “Jubilee” comes from the Latin version (jubilaeus) of the Hebrew word yowbel which literally means “ram”. A blow on the shofar (made from ram’s horn) announced Jubilee (Leviticus 25:9).

Jubilee does not appear to have made it past the rules phase. Outside of Leviticus, the only Biblical reference to Jubilee is in Numbers 36:4. There are no Biblical stories set during Jubilee and there is no record of it being enforced. What other Biblical concepts have gone unimplemented? Why did this, of all laws, remain neglected apparently even during the era in which it was written?

Jubilee would obviously greatly benefit the poor. It might also allow for new leaders to emerge and prevent old leaders from using their power primarily to maintain it, thus benefitting the entire society. How else would a Jubilee benefit the whole society and not just the poor? Would it have any benefits for those holding property?

Jubilee is a reminder that “The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.” (Leviticus 25:23, NASB)

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