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Home » Daily Readings

The Jubilee Year

Submitted by on Saturday, 1 August 2009No Comment

Jubilee_

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Leviticus 25 is about the Sabbath of Years. While the liturgical selection only picks up verses 1 and 8-17, the substance of the content of the chapter is easily understood. Three ideas lie behind the Jubilee Year:

  • that Yahweh owns the land
  • that Israel is Yahweh’s servant
  • that no Israelite is to be without the heritage of land

It is stipulated that apart from the weekly and festive Sabbaths, there should be a Sabbath of Years. Israel will work the land for six years but on the seventh year, no one is to work (vv. 1-7). If Israel is faithful to the covenant, they will only need to work six straight years and their yield will be such that on the seventh year, they will not need to work (18-22). There will also be a Jubilee Year every fiftieth year (v. 11). During this year, any Israelite who has sold land or has been sold over to slavery because of poverty will return to his inheritance. In view of the Jubilee Year, the selling of lands will be regulated according to the number of years between the date of sell and the Jubilee Year. The price of the land will be regulated accordingly because what is really sold is not the land but the crops that it can yield. Thus no one can sell the land in perpetuum. The land, after all, belongs to Yahweh (vv. 23-24). In order that no one loses his heritage of land, the institution of redemption is also stipulated. The family member who has the right of redemption, that is, the goel, can redeem the land of a relative or the relative himself is he is to fall into slavery because of debt.((The concept of redemption is highlighted in the Book of Ruth. Boaz, one of the main characters of the story wanted to redeem Noemi by marrying Ruth. But he did not have the right of redemption. So he transacts for the right of redemption with the rightful goel, obtaining it from him in a legal process. When he got the right of redemption, the other relative gave him his sandals as proof of the acquisition. This transaction also tells us indirectly why John the Baptist says that he is not worthy to bow down and untie the sandals of Jesus. He was emphatically saying that he does not have the right of redemption and will not take it from Jesus.))

An Israelite should never become a slave either to a fellow-Israelite or to a foreigner. But if because of hard times, he is sold into slavery, then he, together with all his family raised in slavery, will be set free on the Jubilee Year. Israelites who have an Israelite slave should treat them well. They are to be redeemed in case they are sold into slavery to a foreigner.

The Lord’s Jubilee

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind
to let the oppressed go free
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. (Isaiah 61:1-2)

Luke tells us that when Jesus inaugurated his Messianic mission, he went to a synagogue service, read the above passage from Isaiah and told everyone “Today, this passage is fulfilled in your midst.” The Isaianic passage is the proclamation of a Jubilee year by the Messiah. What Jesus meant by his statement is that he has come as the fulfillment of that passage. In fact, the reign of God that Jesus proclaims to have begun to exist at his arrival is this Jubilee Year, the time of ushering in the Shalom of God announced by the angels at his birth: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men of good will“.

In the Compendium of Social Doctrines

In the Compendium of the Social Doctrines of the Church, the Jubilee Year of Israel is described as a social teaching in miniature:

The precepts of the sabbatical and jubilee years constitute a kind of social doctrine in miniature[28]. They show how the principles of justice and social solidarity are inspired by the gratuitousness of the salvific event wrought by God, and that they do not have a merely corrective value for practices dominated by selfish interests and objectives, but must rather become, as a prophecy of the future, the normative points of reference to which every generation in Israel must conform if it wishes to be faithful to its God. (Compendium, n. 25)

Isaiah 61:1-2
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1The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me: he hath sent me to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up.
2To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God: to comfort all that mourn:

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