“Since it occurred usually only once a lifetime, an impoverished Israelite would spend most of his life anticipating this event of restoration. So when we get to Jesus and the Jesus movement, it was a jubilee movement. Jesus started his mission by reading from Isaiah 61. He said it’s the favorable year of the Lord, the year of release.”
- The Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25 is one of the most radical ideas in the Bible. Every 50 years, every Israelite was supposed to return to their original piece of allotted land.
- The jubilee would have effectively prevented cycles of intergenerational poverty and create a social and economic parity that would make Israel unique among all nations.
- Jesus announced that he was enacting the Year of Jubilee when he launched his public ministry.
In part 1 (0-7:30), the guys quickly review the conversation so far.
In part 2 (7:30-21:30), Tim dives into Leviticus 24.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually. Outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, Aaron is to tend the lamps before the Lord from evening till morning, continually. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. The lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord must be tended continually.’”
Tim shares a quote from Jacob Milgrom.
“There are three kinds of oil. The first when the olives are pounded in order and put into a basket, and the oil oozes out. Rabbi Judah says, ‘Around the basket and around the sides, the oil that runs out of the basket, this gives the first oil…. The first oil is fit for lampstands.’”
Tim and Jon observe that the first oil would be the safest, least likely to smoke. This would keep the soot for accumulating in the rooms where it is burning.
Tim makes several observations about the lamp from Leviticus 24.
- The lamp (מאור / ma’or) is attended to every evening so that its light burns perpetually (“from evening to evening,” borrowing language from Genesis 1).
- The lamp is described with the vocabulary of the sun, moon, and stars in Genesis 1. They are symbols of the divine glory and markers “for signs and for seasons”—that is, for the appointed feasts (Gen. 1:14-16).
- The lamp is a symbol of the divine light that perpetually shines upon Israel, who is represented by the bread. Numbers 8:1-4 tells us that the light of the menorah “will give light in the front of the lampstand” (v. 2), shining in the direction of the bread.
- Leviticus 24:5-9 says that the bread is to be placed directly across from the light. Just as new bread is baked every Sabbath, so Israel is “recreated” every Sabbath. This bread is called “an eternal covenant” (Lev. 24:8), meaning it’s a symbol of the eternal relationship between God and Israel.
Tim shares this quote from Michael Morales:
“The menorah lampstand contains the same seven-fold structure, symbolizing the entire seven-part structure of time provided by the heavenly lights…. Just as the cosmos was created for humanity’s Sabbath communion and fellowship with God, so too tabernacle was established for Israel’s Sabbath communion and fellowship with God “every day of the Sabbath” (Lev 24:8). This ritual drama of the lights and the bread, symbolizes the ideal Sabbath, the tribes of Israel basking in the divine light, being renewed in God’s presence Sabbath by Sabbath.”
(Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord, 189-190 [with embedded quote by Vern Poythress].)
In part 3 (21:30-36:00), Tim dives into Leviticus 25 and the practice of jubilee.
“The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.
‘“Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.
‘“In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property. If you sell land to any of your own people or buy land from them, do not take advantage of each other. You are to buy from your own people on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And they are to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what is really being sold to you is the number of crops. Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the Lord your God.
‘“Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. You may ask, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?’ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.
‘“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.
‘“If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold. If, however, there is no one to redeem it for them but later on they prosper and acquire sufficient means to redeem it themselves, they are to determine the value for the years since they sold it and refund the balance to the one to whom they sold it; they can then go back to their own property. But if they do not acquire the means to repay, what was sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. It will be returned in the Jubilee, and they can then go back to their property.
‘“Anyone who sells a house in a walled city retains the right of redemption a full year after its sale. During that time the seller may redeem it. If it is not redeemed before a full year has passed, the house in the walled city shall belong permanently to the buyer and the buyer’s descendants. It is not to be returned in the Jubilee. But houses in villages without walls around them are to be considered as belonging to the open country. They can be redeemed, and they are to be returned in the Jubilee.
‘“The Levites always have the right to redeem their houses in the Levitical towns, which they possess. So the property of the Levites is redeemable—that is, a house sold in any town they hold—and is to be returned in the Jubilee, because the houses in the towns of the Levites are their property among the Israelites. But the pastureland belonging to their towns must not be sold; it is their permanent possession.
‘“If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
‘“If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves. They are to be treated as hired workers or temporary residents among you; they are to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then they and their children are to be released, and they will go back to their own clans and to the property of their ancestors. Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.
‘“Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
‘“If a foreigner residing among you becomes rich and any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to the foreigner or to a member of the foreigner’s clan, they retain the right of redemption after they have sold themselves. One of their relatives may redeem them: An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them. Or if they prosper, they may redeem themselves. They and their buyer are to count the time from the year they sold themselves up to the Year of Jubilee. The price for their release is to be based on the rate paid to a hired worker for that number of years. If many years remain, they must pay for their redemption a larger share of the price paid for them. If only a few years remain until the Year of Jubilee, they are to compute that and pay for their redemption accordingly. They are to be treated as workers hired from year to year; you must see to it that those to whom they owe service do not rule over them ruthlessly.
‘“Even if someone is not redeemed in any of these ways, they and their children are to be released in the Year of Jubilee, for the Israelites belong to me as servants. They are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”’”
Tim makes a few observations about the practice of jubilee and the Year of Jubilee. Giving people back their ancestral land would prevent the formation of monopolies and land owner dynasties. It would be a consistent (about once a lifetime) check to level the economic playing field of ancient Israel.
Tim also notes that there are no narrative stories about Israel actually observing this Year of Jubilee. This causes some scholars to wonder whether the jubilee ever happened, or whether it was set up as an ideal to aspire to.
Tim says that jubilee anticipates a future restoration. He shares a quote from scholar John Bergsma.
“There is something inherently ‘eschatological’ about the jubilee, long before it was seen as a symbol of the eschaton by later writers. Since it recurred usually only once in a lifetime, the impoverished Israelite—or at least the one projected by the text—would spend most of his life in anticipation of this event of restoration. Also, from the perspective of the entire Pentateuch, the conquest and settlement of Canaan was a kind of ‘realized eschatology’—the fulfillment of the promise of the land of Canaan originally made to Abraham. Leviticus 25—in its present position in the Pentateuch—looks forward to the time when the ‘eschatological’ condition of Israel dwelling within her own land will be realized, and enacts measures to ensure that periodically this utopian, ‘eschatological’ state of Israel will be renewed and restored.”
(John Bergsma, The Jubilee from Leviticus to Qumran: A History of Interpretation, 81)
In part 4 (36:00-end), Tim and Jon talk about how the jubilee crosses into social, economic, and political views. Tim notes that Jesus launched his movement by declaring that the Year of Jubilee had arrived.
Thank you to all our supporters!
- John Bergsma, The Jubilee from Leviticus to Qumran: A History of Interpretation
- Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus
- Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus, Anchor Yale Bible Commentary
- Defender Instrumental: Tents
Show produced by Dan Gummel
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