Part I – The Spirit vs the Letter
With the publishing of Jonathan Cahn’s new book, Mystery of the Shemitah, I’m thrilled to see one of my favorite aspects of Biblical history receiving a lot more attention. Those of you who follow my Twitter stream or read the articles here at my blog already know that I am passionate about Bible chronology as it relates to our Creator’s plan of reconciliation for all mankind through Yeshua, the promised Messiah. In my opinion, using the chronology provided in the Scripture, a reasonable and compelling case can be made that YHWH set the Sabbath and Jubilee cycles in motion at creation to show us his guiding hand in history. To those willing to look, there is evidence from the very beginning that YHWH planned to send forth his Son when the “fullness of time was come”.
Galatians 4:3-5 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
Now I think it is only fair to acknowledge that I do not agree with several of the more secular propositions Mr. Cahn makes in his book the Mystery of the Shemitah. But contrary to the claims of many of his critics there is reasonable Biblical evidence with which we can calculate the Jubilee and Sabbath cycles in the Bible. I believe constructive criticism, in the spirit of brotherly love, to be an important part of being a Berean. What I find detrimental to any real understanding of the truth are those critics who out of misguided ignorance or a little self righteous arrogance make blanket generalizations about a subject such as the Jubilee and Sabbath cycles.
For those who don’t know where to start but would like to research this subject for yourselves, I’ll share with you in Part II of this series, several synchronisms which will provide you with the background information you’ll need to build your own opinion about the Sabbath and Jubilee cycles in the Bible. As with any Biblical topic, please give this subject the respect it deserves by showing a Berean’s stewardship.
Proverbs 25:2 2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
Spirit vs the Letter
Before we explore the specific historical and chronological evidence for the Biblical Sabbath and Jubilee cycles I think it is important to understand the principles behind these cycles. While many of Mr. Cahn’s critics point to the fact that the Jubilee and Sabbath cycles were only given to Israel, they fail to provide a balanced perspective which shows us how the Sabbath and Jubilee cycles are based upon a spiritual principle that is eternal. As the Apostle Paul explained to Timothy, all (Old Testament) Scripture is given by YHWH so that we may be “furnished unto all good works”. So let’s look at the Jubilee and Sabbath cycles in the “spirit of the law” with the instructions of 2 Timothy as our guide.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
In Leviticus 25, YHWH gave instructions to Moses concerning the use of the Promised Land. After the pattern first exemplified by His creative acts in Genesis, he commanded Israel to sow and reap for six years but in the seventh year the land was to rest. Today agricultural science acknowledges the benefit of such a system to all agricultural endeavors. We might call it crop rotation or some other terms but the idea was to not overwork the land. Another way of looking at would be to simply call it good stewardship of what YHWH has given us.
While letting the land rest might be the “letter” of the law given in Lev. 25 it is the spirit of the law which is the most important consideration. The land use requirements were not just for the land. YHWH gave us the earth and all of its bounty to bless mankind. Ultimately the 7th year was to be a blessing to the slave, maid servant, the hired servant, strangers, and yes, even the animals. You see, these instructions were an example of the type of stewardship YHWH expects of His creation. As a prophetic type they also show us what the millennial rule of the Messiah will be like after mankind’s 6000 years of labor are over. During that final 1000 years, that great 7th day, mankind under the leadership of Yeshua will see this typology fulfilled.
Leviticus 25:6-7 6 And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee, 7 And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.
Adding another layer to the Sabbath cycle instructions, YHWH instructed Moses to mark out 7 of these seven year cycles and then in the 50th year to grant a year of release. At this time all debts were forgiven and captives set free. The stated purpose of this release was so that they would not “oppress one another.” It is worth noting here that Yeshua alluded to this Jubilee release when he stood up in the temple and read part of Isaiah 61 which speaks of the Jubilee release.
Luke 4:17-21 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of YHWH 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, 19 To preach the acceptable year of YHWH. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Lord YHWH is upon me; because YHWH 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; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of YHWH, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
Leviticus 25:13-14 13 In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession. 14 And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another:
In keeping with the spirit of the law, the Jubilee cycle was given as a means to show us how to deal with each other. It prevented those who were rich from accumulating all the wealth into just a few hands. Frankly, it is a sad commentary on the church today that we are so vehemently opposed to the letter of the law that we fail to try and live by the spirit. Claiming liberty we’ve become lawless and in the process our love for each other has become cold.
Romans 7:6-7 6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law:…
Galatians 5:13-14 13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
I think the words of Yeshua are worth considering as they relate to the spirit vs the letter of the law. In the following passage he describes the conditions on earth before his return. It is sobering to realize that He describes the love shown by humanity towards each other as waxed cold because of “iniquity”. Iniquity in this passage is the Greek work anomia and it means a “condition of without law”. Indeed, the New Testament believer is not “under” the curse of the law, but by the same token, no reasonable Scriptural case can be made for acting lawlessly.
Matthew 24:12 12 And because iniquity [lawlessness] shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
Matthew 7:21-23 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. [lawlessness]
From my perspective, Sabbath and Jubilee cycles are a reminder of the stewardship YHWH expects us to show towards each other. They are a wonderful case study in seeing how the letter of the law is always based upon a more important principle, a principle which is perfectly summed up in the words of apostles James:
James 2:8 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
In Part II of this study we will look for specific evidence of Sabbath and Jubilee cycles in the Bible. My goal is to provide you will several chronological synchronisms which will help you to based your understanding of this subject on a true Biblical foundation.
Sabbath and Jubilee Cycles in the Bible
Part II – In Fact and Theory
The 10th year of Zedekiah
The 21st year of “Artaxerxes”
The 6th year of Ezekiel
The 1st year of Adam
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The 13th Enumeration: Key to the Bibles Messianic Symbolism