The Sabbatical year is a picture of provision. All the instructions regarding this commandment points to provision. The releasing of debt. The cessation of all field labour for a year. These are very challenging instructions. To keep the Sabbatical year requires absolute dedication. Dedication in our obedience towards our Elohim.
What does the Bible say regarding the Sabbatical years? Do we have to keep this commandment? We are of the understanding that it is required of us to keep. We have determined in a previous post that it is not only for believers in the land but, for everyone. It is not easy to do in the Diaspora but, still required. We cannot change YHVH’s eternal instructions because we find it challenging to do. All of His Sabbaths are a sign between us and Him, FOREVER. In this post, we are going to look at the reason for keeping the Sabbatical year, the requirements for keeping it, the blessings if we do and the punishments if we don’t.
This is a whole lot of material to cover so let’s get started.
The Sabbaths are a sign and a test.
The Sabbaths were given as a sign between us and YHVH FOREVER. The word “sabbaths” in these three verses is in the plural and refers to all the Sabbaths: the weekly -7th day- Sabbath, the annual Sabbaths (Feasts) and the Sabbatical years.
13 “But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am YHVH who sanctifies you.
12 “Also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am YHVH who sanctifies them.
20 ‘Sanctify My sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am YHVH your Elohim.’
Abba YHVH gave us the Sabbaths as a sign that we are His people and He is our Elohim. It is a sign that He sets us apart. Now that we have determined that the Sabbaths are and everlasting sign, we will also show that it is a test.
4 Then YHVH said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.5 “On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”
2 “You shall remember all the way which YHVH your Elohim has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
It can clearly be seen from this passage that YHVH gave His commandments to test His people. Would they obey Him? Would we obey Him? The first scripture pertains directly to Sabbath and the other to the commandments in general. It reminds me of what happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Chava (Eve) were also given a commandment not to eat from the tree; to test them to see if they would obey or not. It is our choice to obey or not to obey. We can apply human reasoning, justify our disobedience and fail the test, or we can obey. This is our choice.
The Sabbatical year commandment is a test to see if we trust YHVH to provide for us. Do you trust Him enough to release those who are indebted to you? It will require you to trust Him for all your material needs.
I also find it very intriguing that the first occurrence of the commandment for the sabbatical year is given together with the commandment for the weekly Sabbath. (Ex 23:10-12). I don’t think it is a coincidence. Why would we choose to obey the one and not the other?
Now that we have determined that we are to keep all the Sabbaths, let us look at the specific instructions regarding the Sabbatical year.
Instructions regarding the Sabbatical year
10 “You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, 11 but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.
2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to YHVH. 3 ‘Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, 4 but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to YHVH; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5 ‘Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. 6 ‘All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. 7 ‘Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.
20 ‘But if you say, “What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?” 21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years.
1 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. 2 “This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because YHVH’s remission has been proclaimed.
9 “Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to YHVH against you, and it will be a sin in you. 10 “You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing YHVH your Elohim will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.
10 Then Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before YHVH your Elohim at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. 12 “Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear YHVH your Elohim, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. 13 “Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear YHVH your Elohim, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”
31 As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego the crops the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.
What do we learn about the Sabbatical year from these passages?
- It is a sabbath for the land. (Lev 25:2) The land shall rest and lie fallow (Ex 23:11)
- It is to be kept every seventh year. (Ex 23:11; Lev 25:4)
- The surplus of the sixth year is to provide for. (Lev 25:20-22)
- Enactments respecting:
- Cessation of all field labour. (Lev 25:4,5)
- The fruits of the earth to be for consumption by all thus, common property. (Ex 23:11; Lev 25:6,7
- The aftergrowth of your crop you are not to reap and grapes of untrimmed vines not to be gathered (Lev 25:5)
- Remission of debts. Release all you have loaned to your neighbor and your brother. (Deut 15:1-3; Neh 10:31)
- Public reading of the law at the feast of tabernacles.(Deut 31:10-13)
- No release to strangers necessary. (Deut 15:3)
- Release of, not to hinder the exercise of charity. (Deut 15:9-11)
Instructions regarding the Jubilee year
8 ‘You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. 9 ‘You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. 10 ‘You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. 11 ‘You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. 12 ‘For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field. 13 ‘On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property. 14 ‘If you make a sale, moreover, to your friend or buy from your friend’s hand, you shall not wrong one another. 15 ‘Corresponding to the number of years after the jubilee, you shall buy from your friend; he is to sell to you according to the number of years of crops. 16 ‘In proportion to the extent of the years you shall increase its price, and in proportion to the fewness of the years you shall diminish its price, for it is a number of crops he is selling to you. 17 ‘So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your Elohim; for I am YHVH your Elohim. 18 ‘You shall thus observe My statutes and keep My judgments, so as to carry them out, that you may live securely on the land. 19 ‘Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it. 20 ‘But if you say, “What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?” 21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. 22 ‘When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.
What do we learn regarding the Jubilee from this passage?
- It takes place after every 49 years.
- The fiftieth year is the Jubilee. (Take note this 50th year is also the first year of the next 49 year period. It is on the same pattern as the Shavuot calculation.)
- You are to announce it on the 10th day of the seventh month (Yom Kippur) of the 49th year in order to give everybody a change to prepare for it.
- Proclaim a release through the land, each shall return to his own property.
- Cessation of all field labour
- Food from the field is for consumption (Lev 25:19-22)
Now that we have determined what the instructions are for the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, we can look at the importance of following these commandments.
The blessings for keeping it
4 “However, there will be no poor among you, since YHVH will surely bless you in the land which YHVH your Elohim is giving you as an inheritance to possess, 5 if only you listen obediently to the voice of YHVH your Elohim, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today. 6 “For YHVH your Elohim will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.
18 ‘You shall thus observe My statutes and keep My judgments, so as to carry them out, that you may live securely on the land. 19 ‘Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it. 20 ‘But if you say, “What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?” 21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. 22 ‘When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.
Please take note that there is another reference to Sabbaths in Lev 26 and it is also important that this passage follows the detailed instructions on the Sabbatical-and the Jubilee years in Lev 25:1-55. Both Leviticus 25 and 26 are in the context of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years. This for me shows us the importance of keeping the commandments.
2 ‘You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am YHVH. 3 ‘If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, 4 then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. 5 ‘Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land. 6 ‘I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. 7 ‘But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword; 8 five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword. 9 ‘So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you. 10 ‘You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new. 11 ‘Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. 12 ‘I will also walk among you and be your Elohim, and you shall be My people. 13 ‘I am YHVH your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.
The blessing of keeping the Sabbatical year is mostly in the provision we receive from our Heavenly Father. He provides enough for us in the sixth year in order for us to have sufficient food even until the eighth year.
In addition, there will be no poor under us. This is quite profound. If you look at the world today; is that true? Maybe, we have an answer here.
It is interesting to note that the slaves were released at the end of the Sabbatical year, at Sukkot. That to me is a beautiful picture of provision. The slaves were provided for in the Sabbatical year by the master. And when they were sent home, they didn’t leave empty handed. They were in this manner provided for adequately until the following agricultural season.
Keeping the Sabbatical years is all about trusting our Heavenly Father for all our material needs: land to live on, enough to eat and peace. I would like to broaden my statement to include the other Sabbaths as well. The weekly and annual sabbaths are to a great extend our spiritual provision from Abba YHVH. These are cycles of righteousness -as I have explained in a previous post– and through the continual observance thereof, we are taught righteous living. We learn through the Sabbath and the feasts how our Father wants us to live in His household.
We should not keep the Sabbatical year just for the benefits but, out of obedience. We should endeavor to do every commandment to the very best of our ability.
37 And Y’shua said to him, ‘You shall love YHVH your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the first and great command.
The punishment for not keeping it
The punishments for not keeping the commandments are described in Lev 26:14-39. I have discussed it at length in a previous post.
2 ‘Guard My Sabbaths and reverence My set-apart place. I am YHVH.
Each week we all get to have a rest. Shabbat. However, the Earth does not get a rest because it has to grow our food. When you add up all the Sabbaths, the Earth misses during the six years it is working to grow your food, all those Sabbaths add up to 364. You take seven years of Shabbat and multiply by 52 weeks in a year, and you get 364 days. So it is during the Sabbatical year that the earth catches up on its rest and is now equal to us in total accumulation.
The Sabbatical year is one of YHVH’s Sabbaths, that He wants us to keep. He wants the land to have a rest. If we don’t give a rest to the land, He shall cause us to!
34 and the land enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies waste and you are in your enemies’ land. Then the land would rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 ‘As long as it lies waste it rests, for the time it did not rest on your Sabbaths when you dwelt in it.
This command is all about the land. The earth belongs to YHVH, and He has decreed it to have a rest period every seven years. Who are we to argue?
1 The earth belongs to YHVH, And all that fills it” The world and those who dwell in it.
Although we may not live in the land of Israel, the land we live on belongs to YHVH. We are therefor to be obedient and let His land rest according to His instructions.
We are to be obedient to the very best of our ability out of love and fear for our Heavenly Father. We are His set apart people and should do what He has instructed us to do!