What Was the Year of Jubilee?

During the Day of Atonement (Numbers 36:4), the blowing of a ram’s horn would indicate the start of the year of Jubilee. A year dedicated to rest, to restoration of property, and to freeing people from debts, servitude, and slavery. Therefore, the Israelites would dedicate this year of rest to God, acknowledging that God would provide for their needs.

Hope Bolinger
What Was the Year of Jubilee?


In Scripture, we see the Israelites place an important emphasis on certain days of the week (Exodus 20:8-11), certain holidays and observances throughout the year, and even certain years.

The Year of Jubilee, which came every 50th year, was a year full of releasing people from their debts, releasing all slaves, and returning property to who owned it (Leviticus 25:1-13).

This year was also dedicated to rest.

During this year, the Israelites were not supposed to reap or harvest; it was a time for people to return to their families and loved ones

In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons why God created a year of Jubilee and how we can see it applied in modern culture.

What Else Do We Know about This Year?

During the Day of Atonement (Numbers 36:4), the blowing of a ram’s horn would indicate the start of the year of Jubilee.

So why did this happen during the fiftieth year? 

The Bible places a special emphasis on the number 7. After all, there are seven days in a week, and the seventh day is supposed to be the Sabbath, a day dedicated to rest and worship: 7 x 7 = 49 years.

So, after seven years of Sabbaths, we reach the 50th year. A year dedicated to rest, to restoration of property, and to freeing people from debts, servitude, and slavery.

Now, this isn’t the only year that they let the land rest. There are Sabbath years, as indicated in Leviticus 25:18-22.

But the Year of Jubilee seemed to serve as a nice bookend for the cycles of Sabbath days, months, and years. Because everyone was released from debts and slavery, everyone got to rest during this year and was able to start off the next year with a clean slate. 

It’s important to note that relieving of debts may not be exactly what we think this is. This article breaks down what the financial process probably looked like.

Why Did God Enact the Year of Jubilee?

As mentioned in this article, it’s important to note that God owns everything. Anything he’s given to us, such as resources, crops, etc., belongs to him.

Therefore, the Israelites would dedicate this year of rest to him, acknowledging that God would provide for their needs.

From a practical standpoint, it also makes sense in terms of the land. Vegetation won’t grow if people overwork the land. Therefore, by instituting years of rest, the land has time to recover and produce a bountiful harvest in future years to come.

In fact, part of the reason the Israelites went into captivity was that they didn’t observe these resting years (Leviticus 26). Because they didn’t trust that God would provide, and dedicate time to resting, they reaped the consequences.

God also instituted the Year of Jubilee as a foreshadowing for his future work on the cross. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he relieves us of all spiritual debts and our slavery to sin. We are freed from both and can commune with our heavenly family.

Why Does This Matter?

This matters because God takes rest seriously. He doesn’t want his people to make work an idol, thinking that if they plant and harvest enough, they can provide for their needs on their own.

In the same way, he wants us to dedicate time to step away from the computer and spend time in worship instead. Sometimes this looks like dedicating a specific day to God or a 24-hour period

Other times it looks like avoiding the email or the computer for a day to spend our time focusing on God instead of worrying about the next paycheck. No matter what rest looks like, God wants us to trust him each week, each month, and each year.

Is a Year of Jubilee Possible in Modern Society?

It would be rather difficult to ask your boss if you could take an entire year off unless you happen to be a professor on sabbatical.

Although we can’t celebrate a year of Jubilee as non-Israelites in modern society, we can dedicate our year to the Lord. We can find times to rest, times to forgive others of their moral debts (however they’ve wronged us), and times to let God move so we don’t overwork ourselves.

And we can remember that through Jesus’ work on the cross, we can have the chance to experience an eternal Jubilee in heaven.

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Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 500 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) released in June, and they contracted the sequel Den for July 2020. Find out more about her here.


Originally published January 07, 2020.