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

Updated Jan 25, 2024
What Was the Year of Jubilee?

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

What is the Year of Jubilee?

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 those 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.

The Year of Jubilee: Time of Restoration

During the Day of Atonement (Numbers 36:4), blowing 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, the restoration of property, and freeing people from debts, servitude, and slavery.

This isn’t the only year 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 could start the next year with a clean slate. 

It’s important to note that relieving 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?

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 the years to come.

In fact, the Israelites went into captivity because 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. Jesus relieves us of all spiritual debts and our slavery to sin by His death and Resurrection. 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.

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

Year of Jubilee's Relevance Today

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 a 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, forgive others of their moral debts (however they’ve wronged us), and 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.

Read more: Year of Jubilee in the Bible Dictionary 

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Chinnapong

Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, book editor for hire, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids. Check out her editing profile at Reedsy.com to find out about hiring her for your next book project.


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