A Hebrew festival, celebrated in every fiftieth year, which of course occurred after seven weeks of years, or seven times seven years, Le 25:10. Its name Jubilee, sounding or flowing, was significant of the joyful trumpet-peals that announced its arrival. During this year no one sowed or reaped; but all were satisfied with what the earth and the trees produced spontaneously. Each resumed possession of his inheritance, whether it were sold, mortgaged, or otherwise alienated; and Hebrew servants of every description were set free, with their wives an children, Le 25. The first nine days were spent in festivities, during which no one worked, and every one wore a crown on his head. On the tenth day, which was the day of solemn expiation, the Sanhedrin ordered the trumpets to sound, and instantly the slaves were declared free, and the lands returned to their hereditary owners. This law was mercifully designed to prevent the rich from oppressing the poor, and getting possession of all the lands by purchase, mortgage, or usurpation; to cause that debts should not be multiplied too much, and that slaves should not continue, with their wives and children, in perpetual bondage. It served to maintain a degree of equality among the Hebrew families; to perpetuate the division of lands and households according to the original tribes, and secure a careful registry of the genealogy of every family. They were also thus reminded that Jehovah was the great Proprietor and Disposer of all things, and they but his tenants. "The land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me," Le 25:23. And this memento met them constantly and pointedly; for every transfer of land was valuable in proportion to the number of years remaining before the jubilee. Isaiah clearly refers to this peculiar and important festival, as foreshadowing the glorious dispensation of gospel grace, Isa 61:1-2; Lu 4:17-21.
See also the notice of a similar institution under SABBATICAL YEAR.
a joyful shout or clangour of trumpets, the name of the great semi-centennial festival of the Hebrews. It lasted for a year. During this year the land was to be fallow, and the Israelites were only permitted to gather the spontaneous produce of the fields (Le 25:11-12). All landed property during that year reverted to its original owner (Le 13-27; 27:16-24), and all who were slaves were set free (Le 25:39-54), and all debts were remitted.
The return of the jubilee year was proclaimed by a blast of trumpets which sounded throughout the land. There is no record in Scripture of the actual observance of this festival, but there are numerous allusions (Isa 5:7-8,9-10; 61:1-2; Eze 7:12-13; Ne 5; 2Ch 36:21) which place it beyond a doubt that it was observed.
The advantages of this institution were manifold. "1. It would prevent the accumulation of land on the part of a few to the detriment of the community at large. 2. It would render it impossible for any one to be born to absolute poverty, since every one had his hereditary land. 3. It would preclude those inequalities which are produced by extremes of riches and poverty, and which make one man domineer over another. 4. It would utterly do away with slavery. 5. It would afford a fresh opportunity to those who were reduced by adverse circumstances to begin again their career of industry in the patrimony which they had temporarily forfeited. 6. It would periodically rectify the disorders which crept into the state in the course of time, preclude the division of the people into nobles and plebeians, and preserve the theocracy inviolate."
(See YEAR; SABBATICAL.) The 50th Jubilee, after seven weeks of years, when alienated lands returned to the original owners and Hebrew bondservants were freed (Le 25:8-16,23-55; 27:16-25; Nu 36:4). At the close of the great day of atonement the blast of the Jubilee curved trumpets proclaimed throughout the land liberty, after guilt had been removed through the typically atoning blood of victims. It is referred to as antitypically fulfilled in "the acceptable year of the Lord," this limited period of gospel grace in which deliverance from sin and death, and the restoration of man's lost inheritance, are proclaimed through Christ (Isa 61:1-2; Lu 4:19). Literally, hereafter (Eze 7:12-13; 46:17) to be kept. Liberty to bondservants was given every seventh or sabbatical year.
The princes and people at Jerusalem first observed it, in accordance with Zedekiah's covenant made under fear of the Babylonian besiegers; afterward on Pharaoh Hophra interrupting the siege they broke their engagement and enslaved their brethren again; God in retribution gave them a fatal liberty, namely, emancipation from His blessed service, to be given up to the sword, pestilence, and famine (Jer 34:8-22; 37:5-10; compare Ne 5:1-13). The Jubilee prevented the accumulation of land in the hands of a few, and raised legally at regular intervals families and individuals out of destitution to competency; thereby guarding against the lawless and dangerous outbreaks of the penniless against large possessors, to which other states are liable. It tended to foster family feeling, and to promote the preservation of genealogies, and to remind all that Jehovah was the supreme Landlord under whom their tenure was held and the Lord of the Israelites, who therefore could not become lasting servants of anyone else.
The times of the restitution of all things are the coming grand Jubilee (Ac 3:21), "the regeneration" (Mt 19:28) ushered in by "the trump of God" (1Th 4:16-17). The Spirit is meantime "the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph 1:13-14; Ro 8:19-23). As in sabbatical years, there was to be no tillage, but the natural produce was to be left open to all. If a Hebrew in poverty disposed of his land the price was regulated by the number of years to run until Jubilee, the sabbatical seventh years not being counted. The "original proprietor" or "the nearest of kin" (goel) could redeem the land at any time. Houses in walled cities were excepted; the owner might buy them back within a year, otherwise they became absolutely the purchaser's own. But houses in villages went with the lands. Levites too could buy back their houses at any time, which always reverted to them at Jubilee; their lands were not affected by the law of Jubilee. If a man sanctified his land to Jehovah it could be redeemed before the Jubilee on paying the worth of the crops and a fifth.
If not redeemed before Jubilee it remained sanctified for ever. Even a bondman who bound himself to willing service by boring his ears was freed at Jubilee (Ex 21:6). No legislator would have enacted such an institution, and no people would have long submitted to it, unless both had believed that a divine authority had dictated it and a special providence would facilitate its execution. Nothing could have produced this conviction but the experience of miraculous interposition such as the Pentateuch describes. The very existence of this law is a standing monument that when it was given the Mosaic miracles were fully believed; moreover this law, in the Pentateuch which the Jews always have received as written by Moses, is coeval with the witnesses of the miracles: therefore the reality of the Mosaic miracles is undeniable (Graves, Pentateuch, 6). The root of "Jubilee" is yabal, "to flow," a rich stream of sound (Ex 19:13, where Jubilee is translated " trumpet," margin "cornet"; compare Jos 6:5, compare Ps 89:15).
It was in the 50th year, so that, the 49th also being a sabbath year, two sabbatical years came together, just as Pentecost came the 50th Jubilee at the end of the seven weeks (49 days) closing with the sabbath. It stood between the two series of sabbatical years in the century. See Isa 37:30, where the reference to Jubilee is not at all certain; also Isa 5:7-10, those who by covetousness prevented the operation of the law of Jubilee. Remission of debts was on each sabbatical seventh year; the bondage for debt was all that Jubilee delivered from. The Jubilee is the crowning of the sabbatical system. The weekly and the monthly sabbaths secured rest for each spiritually; the sabbatical year secured rest for the land. The Jubilee secured rest and restoration for the body politic, to recover that general equality which Joshua's original settlement contemplated; hence no religious observances were prescribed, simply the trumpets sounded the glad note of restoration. The leisure of the Jubilee year was perhaps devoted to school and instruction of the people, the reading of the law and such services (Ewald).
This was the fiftieth year, coming at the end of every seventh Sabbatical year. The land was held as belonging to Jehovah, and if sold, or redeemed, the price must be reckoned according to the number of years to the next Jubilee, when all possessions returned to their former owners. Hebrew bond-servants also were set free in the year of Jubilee. If land was consecrated to Jehovah, it might be redeemed before the Jubilee, but if not redeemed by that time it became perpetually consecrated. The trumpet of the Jubilee was sounded in the tenth day of the seventh month, on the great day of atonement. It was to be a year of rest for the land, there being no sowing or reaping.
The Jubilee is clearly a type of the millennium. It follows Lev. 24 wherein Israel is seen
1, according to the mind of God as in the place of His light and administration
JUBILEE, among the Jews, denotes every fiftieth year; being that following the revolution of seven weeks of years; at which time all the slaves were made free, and all lands reverted to their ancient owners. The jubilees were not regarded after the Babylonish captivity. The political design of the law of the jubilee was to prevent the too great oppression of the poor, as well as their being liable to perpetual slavery. By this means the rich were prevented from accumulating lands for perpetuity, and a kind of equality was preserved through all the families of Israel. The distinction of tribes was also preserved: in respect both to their families and possessions; that they might be able, when there was occasion, on the jubilee year, to prove their right to the inheritance of their ancestors. Thus, also, it would be known with certainty of what tribe or family the Messiah sprung. It served, also, like the Olympiads of the Greeks, and the Lustra of the Romans, for the readier computation of time. The jubilee has also been supposed to be typical of the Gospel state and dispensation, described by Isa 61:1-2, in reference to this period, as "the acceptable year of the Lord." The word jubilee, in a more modern sense, denotes a grand church solemnity or ceremony celebrated at Rome, in which the pope grants a plenary indulgence to all sinners; at least, to as many as visit the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome. The jubilee was first established by Boniface VII, in 1300, which was only to return every hundred years; but the first celebration brought in such store of wealth, that Clement VI, in 1343, reduced it to the period of fifty years. Urban VI, in 1389, appointed it to be held every thirty-five years, that being the age of our Saviour; and Paul II, and Sixtus IV, in 1475, brought it down to every twenty-five, that every person might have the benefit of it once in his life. Boniface IX granted the privilege of holding jubilees to several princes and monasteries; for instance, to the monks of Canterbury, who had a jubilee every fifty years; when people flocked from all parts to visit the tomb of Thomas a Becket. Afterward, jubilees became more frequent; there is generally one at the inauguration of a new pope; and he grants them as often as the church or himself have occasion for them. To be entitled to the privileges of the jubilee, the bull enjoins fasting, alms, and prayers. It gives the priests a full power to absolve in all cases even those otherwise reserved to the pope; to make commutations of vows, &c; in which it differs from a plenary indulgence. During the time of jubilee, all other indulgences are suspended.