Sabbaticals and Jubilees Part 2
In order to have a proper understanding of a particular doctrine, it is many times necessary to look at most if not all of the Scriptures that apply to the subject. Yahweh’s Word does not contradict itself. Therefore, the answer to the question, “When does the Sabbatical begin and end?” should be clear to us if we allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves.
The story of Joseph in Egypt and his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41 alludes to the Sabbatical cycle of seven. However, the first mention of the Sabbatical commandment is found in Exodus 23:10. “Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove” (All Scriptures are from the NKJV).
Regarding the observance of the Sabbatical cycle and specifically the Sabbatical year, verse 10 shows that the first commanded action to be taken is to sow the land. The second commanded action was to gather in the land’s produce. The only information we are given about the Sabbatical cycle is that it begins with sowing and ends with gathering in the produce.
The climate of the Holy Land is such that there are only two seasons, wet and dry. The wet season begins in the Fall and ends in the Spring. The dry season begins in the Spring and lasts until the Fall. The expression “former and latter rains” refers to the first rain in the Fall which must take place before the barley, wheat and other crops could be planted, and the latter rain refers to the last rain in the Spring.
“Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in Yahweh your Elohim; For He has given you the former rain faithfully,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you – the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month” (Joel 2:23).
Because there are only two seasons, the Holy Land’s agricultural seasons are different from what we are used to in the U.S. For instance, in the Spring following the wheat harvest there are no crops planted. This is because it is the dry season; there is not enough moisture to sustain any kind of crop. For the most part, the only things that are grown are garden vegetables and herbs. These are watered by hand.
During the dry season a farmer would spend most of his time with his flocks and herds and harvesting any early fruit crops. He would patiently wait until the Fall of the year for the major harvesting of the olives and grapes. That process would begin after Feast of Tabernacles and would last until sometime before the rainy season began. The grapes were either dried to preserve them or they were sent to the winepress and turned into grape juice and wine. The olives were either preserved in salt water or they were sent to the olive press and turned into olive oil.
Prophetically speaking, the gathering of the clusters of grapes (i.e. people at the end of the age) and then casting them into the great winepress of the wrath of Yahweh, takes place at the end of the age of man after the seventh angel sounds his trumpet.
Figuratively, the following passages show that the Sabbatical ends in the Fall, and that that is the time when Yahshua returns and the time when Yahweh’s final judgment takes place. “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Sovereign and His Messiah and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15)
“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.’ So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of Yahweh. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.” (Revelation 14:14-20)
These events will not take place in the Spring, but rather in the Fall. Therefore, the cycles of seven and the Sabbatical year would begin and end in the Fall and not the Spring.
This is contrary to the Sacred year, which begins in the spring. “Now Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, ‘This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you” (Exodus 12:1-2).
If the Sabbatical year coincided with the Sacred year, the Israelites would not have sown seed in the Fall. Why would they sow seed that would bring forth crops that could not be harvested? By beginning the Sabbatical in Abib you would have to add the six months prior because you could not sow crops. There would be no point in sowing in the Fall, and then because the crops in the fields were obviously not volunteer (that which grows up of itself) you could not harvest any of the crops.
There would be no point in sowing in the Fall if you begin the Sabbatical in the Spring. Beginning the Sabbatical with Abib would add six months extra to the Sabbatical year. The Sabbatical must begin with not sowing and then not gathering produce (crops planted). The only way that this is possible is if the Sabbatical begins in the Fall and not the Spring.
The aspect of first sowing and then gathering is the basis for the Sabbatical cycles. This is clearly seen in Leviticus 25:2-5. “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to Yahweh. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to Yahweh. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.’”
The Sabbatical year, like the weekly Sabbath, is the culmination of cycles of seven. In the case of the weekly Sabbath, we are dealing with days that begin at sundown. Preparations to keep the Sabbath begin on Sunday and end on Friday. Preparations to keep the Sabbatical begin the first year of the cycle, and end in the sixth year. That cycle begins with sowing, and ends with gathering or reaping the harvest.
The Second Coming of Yahshua.
One of the most important reasons for beginning the Sabbatical in the Fall and not in the Spring is because the Sabbatical years (and Jubilee years) foreshadow Yahshua’s Second Coming. Each of Yahweh’s Feast days has special prophetic significance, and the Feast of Trumpets is no exception; in fact it is the next feast day to have its prophetic fulfillment. Consider Colossians 2:16-17. “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Messiah.”
Yahshua applied the fulfillment of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years to Himself as the one who will proclaim a release for the captive, liberty to the oppressed and to proclaim the acceptable year of Yahweh.
“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of Yahweh is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of Yahweh.’ Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:16-21).
We know that Yahweh’s Holy Days individually represent fulfillment of important aspects of the plan of salvation.
For instance, Passover depicts deliverance from sin and a blood covering from the Lamb of Yahweh, Yahshua the Messiah. The Feast of Weeks represents the Matan Torah and the gift of the Holy Spirit along with obedience to Yahweh’s Covenant.
Yom Teruah represents the sounding of the last trumpet and the second coming of our Savior. The Day of Atonement points toward the Marriage Supper of the Lamb described in Revelation 19. Feast of Tabernacles is a type of Yahweh’s Kingdom on this earth. And the Last Great Day points toward the time when Yahweh’s throne is established on the earth.
To say that the Sabbatical year begins in the Spring (Abib) does not support the teaching of Yahshua’s second coming. The scriptures are very clear on the fact that Yahshua has fulfilled the first half of a Sabbatical cycle. And it is shown that He was cut off in the middle of that cycle of seven.
“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week. He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate” (Dan. 9:26-27).
The events depicted here will take place near the end of the final Sabbatical and Jubilee cycles, at the close of the age. Yahshua will not return in the middle of a Sabbatical because He has already completed half of a Sabbatical cycle. Instead, He will return at the end when the Last Trumpet sounds. That being said, the Sabbatical cycle must begin in the fall and not in the Spring.
Consider the following passages which relate to the return of Yahshua.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31).
“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of Yahweh and of His Messiah and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15).
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of Yahweh. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty Yahweh. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND RULER OF RULERS” (Revelation 19:11-16).
Sabbatical Year and Gezer Calendar
One of the oldest known Hebrew documents is the Gezer Calendar (see image below). It was written in the time of David or Solomon (1,000 BCE), some 400 years before the Jews were taken into Babylonian captivity (586 BCE). This ancient document describes the agricultural year for the land of Israel, and it begins that annual cycle in the Fall and not the Spring.
Leviticus 25 explains that the Sabbatical year begins by NOT sowing your field or pruning your vineyard. Consider Leviticus 25:3-12,
“Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to Yahweh. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land — all its produce shall be for food. ‘And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field.’”
How could the Israelites have been influenced by the Babylonian calendar, as some claim, when that calendar didn’t even exist when this document was in use?
The Gezer Calendar proves that the Sabbatical begins in the Fall.
Leviticus 25 makes it very clear that the Sabbatical follows the seven year cycle which begins and ends in the Fall of each year. It always mentions sowing your field first and then pruning your vineyard. Sowing in the Land of Israel always takes place in the Fall after the Feast of Tabernacles. The pruning of the vineyard takes place at the end of the Sabbatical just prior to the sowing of grain in the Fall.
Thanks for the informative articles on the sabbatical and jubilee years. However, the question still remains when and how are we to observe these commands today since we are in a very different situation than Israel was when these commands were given to them. What is the application of these commands today and how far can we go?
We are of the belief that we should observe the Sabbatical in the land we control. So, we would not plant a personal garden during a sabbatical. However, we also believe it is fine to purchase food that was grown elsewhere during a sabbatical as we have evidence of this during the famine in Egypt in Genesis 41. There were seven years of plenty followed by seven of famine in Egypt. One of those years of plenty HAD to have been a Sabbatical year. So it appears that this is a command for Israel and the lands THEY control. So… Read more »
Shalom. I appreciate you taking the time to respond. It is a very interesting subject. I think your response is reasonable and balanced. Genesis 41does shed some light. We can only try our best in the times we are living in. Conditions are not perfect but Yahweh is merciful. I think you should do another article when time permits. Keep up the good work. Blessings.