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The Jubilee Year

The Lord commanded the ancient Israelites to observe a "Jubilee Year" twice per century: "25:10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family" (Leviticus 25:10 KJV). The primary purpose was to protect property rights of tribal families i.e. land could not be permanently sold or forfeited due to adverse circumstances beyond an owner's control (usually the only reason that anyone would ever give up their property), or an irresponsible or incompetent ancestor (from which innocent children and grandchildren could thereafter suffer a cycle of poverty). It effectively prevented the development of a class system of "land barons" and "landless serfs," while guaranteeing the opportunity to work one's own land, in keeping with "every man under his vine and under his fig tree" (Micah 4:4 KJV).

"Ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land"

The Jubilee Year is not the same as the Sabbath Year, every seventh year, in which the land was to lay fallow: "25:3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; 25:4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard" (Leviticus 25:3-4 KJV). Since the land was also to remain unharvested during the Jubilee Year, that meant that no harvesting was done every 49th and 50th years. Did that mean that the people were to starve for 2 years? No. The Lord provided a triple-bountiful crop on the sixth year: "25:20 And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: 25:21 Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. 25:22 And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store" (Leviticus 25:20-22 KJV).

Produce of The Land

"25:8 And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. 25:9 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement [see Christ's Day Of Atonement] shall ye make the trumpet sound [see also Christ's Feast of Trumpets] throughout all your land. 25:10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. 25:11 A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. 25:12 For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.

25:13 In the year of this jubilee ye shall return every man unto his possession. 25:14 And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppress one another [see The Royal Law]: 25:15 According to the number of years after the jubilee thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee: 25:16 According to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee. 25:17 Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 25:8-17 KJV)

While land was returned to the original owner, that did not mean that the one who purchased the land took a financial loss because everyone knew that the land was going to be returned to the seller at the Jubilee Year - and the price paid was based upon the number of years remaining until the Jubilee Year. The only exception were houses in walled cities.

Tribal Lands of Israel

"25:23 The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and Sojournerss with me. 25:24 And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.

25:25 If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold. 25:26 And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it; 25:27 Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession. 25:28 But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubilee: and in the jubilee it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession.

25:29 And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it. 25:30 And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubilee. 25:31 But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubilee." (Leviticus 25:23-31 KJV)

The Levites supervised the sales, with their own rules for land ownership.

"27:16 And if a man shall sanctify unto the LORD some part of a field of his possession, then thy estimation shall be according to the seed thereof: an homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. 27:17 If he sanctify his field from the year of jubilee, according to thy estimation it shall stand. 27:18 But if he sanctify his field after the jubilee, then the priest shall reckon unto him the money according to the years that remain, even unto the year of the jubilee, and it shall be abated from thy estimation. 27:19 And if he that sanctified the field will in any wise redeem it, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of thy estimation unto it, and it shall be assured to him. 27:20 And if he will not redeem the field, or if he have sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed any more. 27:21 But the field, when it goeth out in the jubilee, shall be holy unto the LORD, as a field devoted; the possession thereof shall be the priest's.

27:22 And if a man sanctify unto the LORD a field which he hath bought, which is not of the fields of his possession; 27:23 Then the priest shall reckon unto him the worth of thy estimation, even unto the year of the jubilee: and he shall give thine estimation in that day, as a holy thing unto the LORD. 27:24 In the year of the jubilee the field shall return unto him of whom it was bought, even to him to whom the possession of the land did belong." (Leviticus 27:16-24 KJV)

Fact Finder: (a) Who were Zelophehad's daughters? (b) How did the Jubilee Year affect them?
(a) See Zelophehad's Daughters
(b) Numbers 36:4

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