SHEMITA, YOVEL YEAR (JUBILEE RELEASE)
(Last updated: 7/3/00)
The "Shemita" year occured every seventh year (Sabbatical year) during which the
land was to remain fallow. After every seventh Shemitah the fiftieth year was to be
sanctified as a Yovel year (Jubilee), a very holy year. On the 10th of Tishrei (Yom
Kippur) of the Jubilee year, God commanded a horn to be blown:
Lev. 25:8-10 - 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. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee
to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the
trumpet sound throughout all your land. 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. (1)
The forgiveness of debts and return of slaves is also called the "Jubilee
Israel failed to fulfill the Shemita and Yovel year requirement from the very
Jeremiah 34:13-17 - Thus saith the LORD, the God of
Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of
the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying, At the end of seven years let ye
go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath
served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened
not unto me, neither inclined their ear. And ye were now turned, and had done right in my
sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant
before me in the house which is called by my name: But ye turned and polluted my
name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at
liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for
servants and for handmaids. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened
unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour:
behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and
to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.
God warned what He would do in response to disobedience:
Leviticus 26:23 - I will disperse you among the
nations, and will draw out a sword after you; your land will be desolate and your cities
destroyed. Then the land will enjoy her rests, as long as it remains desolate.
The 70 years of Babylonian captivity were punishment for the 70 sabbatical
years Israel missed from the time they entered the land to the destruction of the first
Temple (490 years). During the captivity God causes the land to receive its appropriate
rest, remaining desolate for seventy years.
Not fulfilling Shemita and Jubilee is a symptom of Israel's diseased
spiritual status. The "sign of the Covenant" (the Torah) became a curse. This is
a reason Messiah had to come and renew the Covenant, only on better terms, reverting of
the Torah back to its original intention -- a blessing:
Hebrews 8:6-8 - But now hath he obtained a more
excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was
established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then
should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith,
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of
Israel and with the house of Judah.
There is a relationship between Israel correctly following God in faith,
the people of Israel being in their land, and the Temple of Israel standing. Two of these
are only in partial fulfillment today (a remnant of faith and some being in the land), and
the Temple is completely missing.
Israel's falling away, occurred in three stages:
- 1. Their faith became perverted
- a) Prophets were sent to warn them
b) The righteous are taken out
- 2. They were driven from the Land
- 3. The destruction of the Temple came
The Tikun Olam (restoration/unification of the upper and lower worlds) can
only occur after you have all three of these "pillars" back in place. This will
happen in the Millennium, when the Temple, and sacrificial system are restored. What is
needed for sacrifice? A priesthood, redemption of Israel's first born (lost at the sin of
the golden calf and accomplished through Yeshua's death) and physical possession of the
land. We will cover this in more detail in later sections of this study.
The Shemita and Jubilee years were significant for different reasons.
Shemita was what God used to "keep time," whereas Jubilees is more directly
associated with the end of a time period and the Olam Haba (world to come).
The Shemita can be seen as a time tracking mechanism in Daniel's famous
prophecy about the Messiah:
Daniel 9:20-27 - And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and
confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before
the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer,
even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly
swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked
with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At
the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee;
for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. Seventy
weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the
transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to
bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint
the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment
to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven
weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the
wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut
off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the
city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the
war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for
one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the
oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate,
even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
In the above prophecy, Daniel calculates the time of Messiah's arrival in terms of
"weeks." Both the language and the context indicate that these "weeks"
are actually groups of seven years and not days, which is the Shemita cycle. Messiah would
come at some point during or after the 69th Shemita cycle. The 70th (and
"final") Shemita cycle, associated with the events in Revelation, Matthew 24 and
other Scriptures, hangs mysteriously in the future.
YOVEL YEAR AND SHAVUOT
The Yovel year is the culmination of everything achieved in the forty-nine
years leading up to it, similar to the feast of Shavuot (Pentecost), which follows the
forty-nine days of the Omer, following Pesakh (Passover), a
time of spiritual growth, where people focused on the Torah and celebrate their
"arrival" on Shavuot.
The Yovel year is also called a year of freedom (dror) -- the
freedom of the knowledge (called da'at) of the Fifty Gates of Understanding.
This teaching lies in Jewish mysticism and is specifically linked to attaining a higher
understanding of the Torah. (One of the key works Messiah is destined to do is to reveal
the greater truths of the Torah to all of His people):
Pirke Avos 6:2 - The Tablets are God's handiwork and the script
was God's writing engraved (charus) on the Tablets. Do not read "charus"
(engraved), but "cheirus" (freedom), for there is no freer man than one who
engages in the study of Torah.
Shavuot is significant in both the Tenakh
("Old Testament") and "New Testament." At Sinai, the people; were
gathered in God's designated place, they heard the voice of God (each in their own
language of which there were many), and 3000 were killed for lack of faith.
Judaism also teaches that God's word proceeded as tongues of fire:
Talmud Shabbat 88b - The school of Rabbi
Ishmael taught: (Behold My word is like fire, declares the Lord,) and like a hammer that
breaks the rock into pieces (Jer. 23:29) just as a hammer is divided into many sparks, so
every single word that went forth from the Holy One, blessed be He, split up into seventy
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Exodus 20:18 - "The
word that went out from the mouth of the Holy One, may His Name be blessed, was like
shooting stars and lightnings and like flames and torches of fire."
An amazing image of tongues of fire upon the heads of angels, may be
seen in the painting, A Light to Jerusalem, by Baruch Nachshon. This image
appears in the 5760 Jewish Art Calendar provided by the Orthodox Lubavitch. It is placed
on the page with the months of Elul-Tishrei, when the fall feasts of Rosh Hashana, Yom
Kippur and Succot occur.
Click here to see the full sized
(200k) image | Click here to see a reduced size (50k) version
Conversely, in the book of Acts, Jews are
again gathered in God's designated place (the Temple), again hear the apostles in their
own language, tongues of fire again appear, and this time the same number (3000) are saved
through faith. This shows that Shavuot was not the beginning of some new religion (i.e.,
"the Church") to replace the faith of Israel (which would contradict God's own
word.). Rather, it was a direct confirmation of the faith of Israel, and its long-awaited
Messiah, by God. (His indicating "which way" the faith of Israel was to
God makes it quite clear that the "New Covenant," is not "new" in the sense of
replacing the "old." It is a re-newal of the same covenant, that being the
Torah-based faith of Israel, only on better terms (Jeremiah 31:31-37, Hebrews 8:6), and
takes place in the Millennium. As of now, it is still in the process of "fading
away" (Hebrews 8:13). The "Law" written on the hearts of His people, is not
a "new law," but the same Torah.
YEAR AND BESORAH (THE "GOSPEL")
What is the Gospel message? The standard Christian response to this
question has to do with the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah, and an
individual attaining salvation by "putting their faith" in Him. There are some
obvious problems with this definition:
Scripture (Matthew 26:13; Mark 10:29; Luke 20:1) says that Yeshua
preached the Gospel Himself, prior to His death. He never preached "believing in His
resurrected self" to anyone.
The same goes for His disciples who also preached the Gospel before He
died. (Luke 9:6). Nowhere do we see them preaching believing in the risen Messiah before
Yeshua died - yet they are preaching "the Gospel."
We are even told that the Gospel was preached to the children of Israel
in Moses' time:
- Hebrews 4:2-6 - For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just
as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those
who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as
God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, `They shall never enter my
rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For
somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day
God rested from all his work." And again in the passage above he says, "They
shall never enter my rest." It still remains that some will enter that rest, and
those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because
of their disobedience.
The Gospel is not a "new message" of the "New
Testament." In its widest sense it is everything the Torah points to; the Messiah and
Tikun Olam. Specifically, it relates to the Jubilee, which was given as a foreshadowing of
the acceptable year of the Lord. Yeshua pointed to this when was in the Temple and read
the following passage:
Luke 4:18-19 - The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the
brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the
blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Yeshua of course is quoting Isaiah chapter 61, which includes the
additional words, "and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that
mourn." Yeshua stopped mid-verse, as He is first fulfilling the role of the
Temple High Priest, and only upon His return does He take on the role of the High Priest Anointed for War.
Historically, Judaism acknowledged "dual roles" for the Messiah.
Not comprehending that Messiah may come twice (2) the "two
Messiah" theory evolved, made up of an kind and atoning Messiah ben Joseph, and a
judging and vengeful Messiah ben David.
YEAR, MESSIAH AND THE WORLD TO COME
The Dead Sea Scrolls have provided an important link to the relationship
Yeshua may have had with the Qumran community, especially the sect of "John the
Baptist." We know Yeshua spent a lot of time in the Wilderness and that is where
people first heard the "announcement" of His arrival from John.
In Luke's gospel we see the disciples of John coming to Yeshua and asking
Him if He is the one they have been awaiting. Note carefully His reply:
Luke 7:22 - Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go
your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the
lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the
gospel is preached.
Here Yeshua does not give a simple, direct answer. In fact, you could say
this is a "coded message" meant for John's understanding. Yeshua's words are
reiterating the things Messiah was forecast to do, from Isaiah (the "Jubilee
release"), with one important difference. Nowhere does Isaiah in his descriptions of
Jubilee release, say that Messiah will raise the dead. However, an Isaiah scroll found at
Qumran, includes the resurrection reference. Yeshua was quoting from a Qumran scroll, thus
linking Himself and Luke's account to Qumran.
As John's origins were with the Qumran community in the
"Wilderness" (as were Yeshua's), they shared a common view of Isaiah's prophecy.
John would understand Yeshua's response as an affirmative one, telling him -- I am the
Messiah come to initiate the Jubilee release. This is the "Gospel" message.
To make the connection between between Messiah, Melchizadek, the Jubilee
Release, and the salvation atonement of Yom Kippur, we will now look at several sources.
The first of these was already mentioned -- the Isaiah prophecy that indicates the Messiah
will carry out judgment in the "Day of the Lord":
Isaiah 61:1-3 - The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon
me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent
me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of
the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the
day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in
Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of
praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the
planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
Next is Psalm 110, where we see "the Lord" speaking to "the
Lord" and stating His priesthood is in the order of Melchizedek, a heavenly,
eternal priesthood -- as opposed to the earthly Levitical priesthood. (This subject will
be covered extensively in our upcoming study on the book of Hebrews.) This "second
Lord" will be the one to bring judgment to the kings of the earth in the Lord's
"day of wrath."
Psalm 110 - The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand,
until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out
of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day
of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew
of thy youth. The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after
the order of Melchizedek. The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day
of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead
bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the
way: therefore shall he lift up the head.
Now we move to a mystical passage in the Zohar that ties the Jubilee year
with; Psalm 110, the Shekinah, the Tikun Olam (restoration) and the Millennium. This
section also refers to God's "right hand" creating the world:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 50b - According
to another explanation, the Lord refers to the Jubilee and my lord
to the Sabbatical Year (cf. Ex. XXI, 5, I love my lord). The words sit
at my right hand are appropriate, because the Right is located in the Jubilee, and
the Sabbatical Year craves to be linked with the Right. When it first came into being, the
Sabbatical Year was not linked securely (to the supreme power) through either the Right or
the Left. So when it sought to secure itself, the supreme power stretched forth its right
arm to meet it and created this world. It is because it is from the side of the Left that
it has no sure basis till the time of the seventh millennium, when at length it will be
linked through the Right. Then the Sabbatical Year, between the Right and the Left, will
be securely based, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and it will not depart from
there for ever. According to this explanation, we must take the words sit at my
right hand to refer only to a specified period, viz. till I make thine enemies
thy footstool, but not in perpetuity; for when that event has come to pass, it will
not depart from there for ever, as it is written, for thou shalt spread abroad on
the right hand and on the left (Is. LIV, 3), all being united. Similarly we can
interpret the text the heavens and the earth to mean that the higher Shekinah
and the lower Shekinah will be joined in the union of male and female; this has already
been explained, as the colleagues have noted.
Finally, we turn to the writings of Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) where the
Yovel year is tied to the Messiah of Isaiah 61, who is in turn directly associated with
Two very significant items here are;
Use of "year of Melchizadek's favor" in place of, "year
of YWHW's favor," thus equating Melchizedek to God.
The statement that Melchizedek atones for the sins of the righteous and
executes judgment, which again are placing him in God's role.
Note: gaps in the scroll text are indicated by "...":
11Q13, Col. 2 - ... And concerning what Scripture
says, "In this year of Jubilee you shall return everyone of you, to your property
(Leviticus 25:13). And what is also written; and this is the manner of the remission;
every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a
neighbor who is a member of the community, because God's remission has been
proclaimed" (Deuteronomy 15:2) the interpretation is that it applies to the Last Days
and concerns the captives just as Isaiah said: "To proclaim the Jubilee to the
captives (Isaiah 61:1) ... just as ... and from the inheritance of Melchizadek, for ...
Melchizadek, who will return them to what is rightfully theirs. He will proclaim to them
the Jubilee, thereby releasing them from the debt of their sins. He shall proclaim this
decree in the first week of the Jubilee period that follows nine Jubilee periods. Then the
"Day of Atonement" shall follow after the tenth Jubilee period, when he
shall atone for all the Sons of Light, and the people who are predestined to
Melchizadek ... upon them ... For this is the time decreed for the "year of
Melchizadek's favor," and by his might he will judge God's holy ones and so
establish a righteous kingdom, as it is written about him in the songs of David: "An
ELOHIM has taken his place in the council of EL; in the midst of the ELOHIM he holds
judgment (Psalm 82:1). Scripture also says about him: "Over it take your seat in the
highest heaven; an ELOHIM will judge the peoples" (Psalm 7:7-8). Concerning what
Scripture says about him: "How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality with
the wicked? Selah" (Psalm 82:2). The interpretation applies to Belial and the spirits
predestined to him, because all of them have rebelled, turning from God's precepts and so
becoming utterly wicked. Therefore Melchizadek will thoroughly prosecute the vengeance
required by God's statutes. Also, he will deliver all the captives from the power of
Belial, and from the power of the spirits predestined to him. Allied with him will be all
the "righteous ELOHIM" (Isaiah 61:3). The ... is that whi(ch) ... all) the
ELOHIM. The "messenger who brings good news, who announces Salvation" is the one
of whom it is written; "to proclaim the year of YHWH's favor, the day of the
vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn (Isaiah 61:2). This scriputure's
interpretation: he is to instruct them about all the periods of history for eternity ...
and in the statutes of the truth ... dominion that passes from Belial and returns to the
Sons of Light ... by the judgment of God, just as it is written concerning him; "Who
says to Zion 'Your ELOHIM reigns'" (Isaiah 52:7). Zion is the congregation of all the
sons of righteousness, who uphold the covenant and turn from walking in the way of the
people. "Your ELOHIM" is Melchizadek, who will deliver then from the power of
Belial. Concerning what scriputre says, "Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud
in the seventh month ..." (Leviticus 25:9). (3)
1. According to Maimonides, the commandments involving the Jubilee
year, apply only when all of Israel dwells in the land of Israel (Mishneh Torah
2. Interestingly, the idea of Elijah the prophet coming more than
once is found in Mid. Zuta, Shir haShirim 2:8 and Seder 'Olam Rabba, ch 17, as
cited by Raphael Patai on page 134 of his book The Messiah Texts (1979, Wayne
State University Press.) The texts also imply that Elijah is with Messiah each time,
lending support to the idea that Judaism does have a tradition of the Messiah having a
first and second coming.
3. Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Wise, Abegg and
Cook 1996, Harper San Francisco, (with ELOHIM, EL and YWHW restored).