In studying I do related to my job and in every day conversation as of late the idea of Jubilee and fair distribution/justice have come up quite a bit. I’ve even had conversations with several of you regarding this subject matter and for you fellow organizers some of this scripture and info is very familiar.
This is more a wave of thoughts than any well-constructed material but I would really like to hear your opinions. I’m no biblical scholar and if you can compound upon this or you see something I misinterpreted please share. I look forward to the discussion.
** I put asterisks next my commentary so that you can tell it apart from the rest
Deuteronomy 6:10-12 (New International Version)
10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
** This scripture is from the sermons that Moses gave the Israelites after they had entered the promised land but it is really a restating of what he’d already shared with them about God’s decrees. The reason I’m starting with it is it resonates with several of the jubilee scriptures in the fact that it reminds the Israelites that they do not own the property or goods they have and are only stewards of what belongs to God.
The Year for Canceling Debts
1 At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 2 This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3 You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your brother owes you. 4 However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.
** this is of course an explanation of the Sabbath years and it is reiterated in Leviticus before the description of the year of jubilee. Note* 15:4 another reminder that this is an inheritance/something entrusted to the Israelites by God.
The Sabbath Year
1 The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4 But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. 5 Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. 6 Whatever the land yields during the Sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your manservant and maidservant, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, 7 as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.
The Year of Jubilee
8 ” ‘Count off seven Sabbaths of years—seven times seven years—so that the seven Sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. 9 Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. 10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. 11 The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. 12 For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.
**Unfortunately, the ancient Israelites did not observe fully the Sabbath and Jubilee years. During the captivity in Babylon, the Lord indicated that their seventy years of exile were to make up for neglected and uncelebrated Sabbath years. The Bible states that: “To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years.” (2 Chronicles 36:21)
**The rest of this Chronicles chapter talks about the way in which the Israelites disobeyed God’s law and mocked his messengers despite the grace he was showing them until finally he handed they over to the Babylonian king. Note* 36:14 points out how the leaders of the Priests and the people became unfaithful and followed detestable practices.
** The scripture below is what I really wanted to draw your attention to. Though it does not directly state it what can be strongly inferred is the lack of obedience in God’s call to a just system i.e. Jubilee. I want to give credit to those who did the legwork in this: We use this scripture quite a bit within DART (the org. I work for) and it was a real eye-opener for me to be introduced to it.
23 Again the word of the LORD came to me: 24 “Son of man, say to the land, ‘You are a land that has had no rain or showers [a] in the day of wrath.’ 25 There is a conspiracy of her princes [b] within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her. 26 Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. 28 Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says’-when the LORD has not spoken. 29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.
30 “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. 31 So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
** Israel only followed God’s economic system twice before they moved to the Year of Jubilee. The year of Jubilee was a remission of debts every 49 years. One specific example can be seen in their decision to have a King to govern them “just like the other nations” (I Samuel 8:5). The Israelites rejected the God who had delivered them out of Egypt and instead they made kings of Saul, David, and Solomon. Eventually things deteriorated to the point that the nation was divided, conquered, and many Israelites were taken out of the Promised Land as I pointed out earlier with the Babylonian empire.
The reason I’m drawing your attention to Ezekiel 22 is it gives us a much more detailed picture of what went wrong rather than just stating that the Israelites were not observing the law.
** Ezekiel 22: 23-25 refers to “princes” which is indicative of a political system. Look at what the system had become. It was so corrupt that it was being compared to “roaring lions tearing the prey”. That’s a really intense description of you consider it. Lions are strong and powerful. They kill by quickly severing the spine and going for the jugular. What does that say about the way the political system functioned? Instead of seeking justice for all people, the political authorities are oppressing the poor and powerless in order to increase their own power and wealth. An oppressive system like this would leave no room for an observance of something as just and fair as Jubilee and Sabbaths.
** Ezekiel 22: 26 is another reference to the unholy acts of religious leaders. Instead of bringing the people closer to God through the teaching of values, the priests have “done violence” to God’s teaching and “locked people out of the kingdom of heaven.” These verses are particularly alarming to me. Seriously consider all of these verses and the disturbing comparisons we can make to our current political/religious/economic systems.
weakest, immobilizing one by nipping away at its tendons, and eating it alive. This entire economic system was running on exploitation.
**This entire nation was in a downward spiral and was constantly ignoring the cries of the prophets God had placed among them. What’s even sadder is to see the way in which the systems must have had to work together in order to create this sort of chaos. As DART puts it, “The more economic systems exploit, the more they need the political system to use its power to oppress the people and allow the exploitation, the more the religious system must ‘bless’ this activity as God’s will, thus controlling the people.”
The reason I am pointing this scripture out is to pose the question: where in all of this corruption could an act of justice such as Jubilee/Sabbaths be functioning? And what parallels can you see between the nation of Israel and how our systems work today?
My loveable right-wingers: