This study presents the evidence from ancient biblical and secular sources for dating the Sabbath and Jubilee cycle. There has been a long-standing debate over exactly which “Sabbath and Jubilee cycle” system represents the one that was actually practiced by the ancient Israelites. At first glance, this dispute may seem trivial to the novice. Nevertheless, there are two important reasons that make its solution extremely valuable. 

First, this cycle is an essential tool for any chronological framework of ancient Israelite historical events. The strong foundation it lays, in turn, also acts as a guide for determining the chronology of rulers from contemporary foreign dynasties who are mentioned in Scriptures.

Second, once the correct cycle is ascertained, it allows us to “clock in” and discover which years are presently Sabbaths and Jubilees. This possibility holds great significance for students of biblical eschatology. In this regard, the prophetic character of the Jubilee year is strongly attested. The book of Hebrews, for example, notes that, “The Law (Torah),” of which the Sabbath and Jubilee years are a part, is “a shadow of the coming good things.” (Heb. 10:1) The Sabbath day, likewise, was reckoned as a type of the great “sabbatism” of rest into which the messiah and the people of Yahweh would one day enter. (Heb. 3:7-4:13)

In the same way, after Yahushua the messiah (whose name is often translated into English as “Jesus Christ”) had been anointed by the sacred ruach (KJV “spirit”) at the Jordan River, he was able to confirm by proclamation the promise of a future great year of “liberty,” i.e., the great Jubilee year, that was to come in the latter days. In that year, at the end of the time of Jacob’s trouble, the Israelites would be released from their final captivity in the world and would return to the Promised Land, fulfilling the words regarding the Jubilee, “And you shall return a male to his possession; and each to his family you shall return him.” (Cf. Lev., 25:10) Quoting from Isaiah, Yahushua states:

The ruach of sovereign Yahweh is upon me, for Yahweh has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the meek. He sent me to bind up the broken of leb (mind), TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES and a complete opening to the bound ones; TO PROCLAIM THE ACCEPTABLE YEAR OF YAHWEH and the day of vengeance of our eloahi, to comfort all mourners, to appoint unto the mourners of Zion, to give to them beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the ruach of infirmity, and calling them “trees of righteousness,” a planting of Yahweh in order to beautify himself. And they shall build the world-age-lasting ruins, they shall raise up desolations of the former times, and they shall restore wasted cities, ruins of generations and generations. (Luke 4:16-22) 

Notice carefully that Yahushua does not claim that the great Jubilee year prophesied by Isaiah had already arrived. Rather, with his anointing by the sacred ruach (designating him as the messiah), Yahushua could confidently “proclaim” that the prophecies regarding this future Jubilee year would be fulfilled.

The arrival of this future Jubilee year was also an expectation among the Jewish people of Yahushua’s time. The ancient book of Jubilees (161–140 B.C.E.), for example, notes that the Sabbath and Jubilee cycle would continue “until the sanctuary of the sovereign (Yahweh) is creat­ed in Jerusalem upon Mount Zion.” (Jub. 1:29) The text of 11Q Melchizedek, found in the caves at Qumran, explains the Jubilee statutes of Leviticus, 25, by stating:

1. [saying to Zion] “your eloahim reigns.” . . . [
2. [ ] . . . and where it says, ‘In [this] year of Jubilee you shall return, each man to his possession.’
3. [and where it says, ‘Let] every holder of a debt [let drop] what he loans [to his neighbor. Let him not exact payment from his neighbor nor from his brother, for there is proclaimed a] remission
4. [of el.’ Its interpretation concerns the e]nd of days as regards ‘those taken captive’ who [. . . etc.].

“Those taken captive,” as already pointed out, are a reference to the future captivity of the Israelites among the nations during the latter days. The prophets foretold that out of this captivity a remnant of the house of Israel and house of Judah would return to the Promised Land and the elect would eternally dwell with Yahweh. This return was symbolized by the Israelites regaining their “liberty” during the Jubilee year. The coming of the messiah during the latter days, at which time he will save Israel and Judah from their captivity and return them to their homeland, was, by extension, understood as occurring during one of these future Jubilee years. In either case, whether for an accurate Israelite chronology or for eschatological purposes, a precise knowledge of this ancient cycle is required. Therefore, we must take the utmost care in uncovering the true and original years of the Sabbath and Jubilee cycle.

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