We are currently in the twelfth month of the fifth year of this sabbatical cycle. The sixth year will begin in a couple of weeks time. This sixth year is a year of preparation. Just like we have the weekly Sabbath with the sixth day as the preparation day, we have the Sabbatical year, the seventh year, with the sixth year as a year of preparation. So this year when the barley is found aviv and the new moon has been sighted, we will start to prepare for the Sabbatical year which starts 1 Aviv 2016. The purpose of this article is to be a practical guide as to what we are to have in place before the beginning of the next Sabbatical year.
You may disagree as to when the next Sabbatical year is. We base our understanding on historical proof. You may want to read the research we have done on this. In the article When is the next sabbatical year? we prove to you from Scripture, historical writings and archeological finds that the next sabbatical year starts in Aviv 2016.
Most people understand the Sabbatical year to be only applicable to believers who live in the land of Israel. This is a misinterpretation of Scripture. You can read why it is not only for the land of Israel in the article When you enter the land â€“ Understanding the full context leads to better understanding. We have also written a number of other articles on the Sabbatical year like who it is for and what we are to do and why. We will list all these articles under related articles for your convenience.
Please don’t just make this off as unimportant or just for the land of Israel. Study this as it is very important. Â YHVH gave His Sabbaths as a sign between us and Him. All His Sabbaths, the weekly, annual and the seventh year Sabbath.
The Sabbaths, a sign
12 â€œAlso I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am YHVH who sanctifies them.
These days, YHVH’s Sabbaths, are what distinguishes us as YHVH’s set apart people. Have you ever wondered why these Sabbaths are the most neglected of all YHVH’s commandments. Of the ten commandments, the fourth is ignored (changed to Sunday)and most of YHVH’s appointed times (His feasts) have been changed or done away with. These appointed times are called Jewish feasts and it is taught that we don’t have to keep them. YHVH’s Sabbatical year is getting the same treatment. It is taught that it is just for the land of Israel, which is so wrong. Why are the Sabbaths done away with? Could it be because of its importance? Because it is a sign between us and YHVH?
20 â€˜Sanctify My sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am YHVH your Elohim.â€™
When you look at the Hebrew word that was translated as Sabbaths, you can also see that it can refer to any of YHVH’s Sabbaths.
8701 ×©Ö·××‘Ö¸Ö¼×ª (Å¡ÇŽbÂ·bÄá¹¯): n.fem. and masc.; â‰¡ Str 7676; TWOT 2323bâ€”1. LN 67.184 Sabbath, i.e., the seventh day of the week, known in many cultures as â€œSaturday,â€ an important day dedicated to rest and worship (Ex 16:23); 2. LN 67.177 week, i.e., unit of seven days (Lev 23:15+); 3. LN 23.78â€“23.87 sabbath, rest period, i.e., a period of time for resting, which may or not be the seventh day of the week, with a focus on this as a period for rest (Lev 16:31; 23:32; 25:2, 4,6, 8; 26:34,35, 43; 2Ch 36:21+), see also domain LN 67.142â€“67.162; 4. LN 43 unit: ×©Ö·××‘Ö¸Ö¼×ª ×”Ö·Ö¾ ×Ö¶×¨Ö¶×¥ (Å¡ÇŽbÂ·bÄá¹¯ hÇŽ- Ê¾Ä›Â·rÄ›á¹£) volunteer produce, i.e., harvestable crops of all kinds that are grown as a result of natural processes and not intentional agricultural practices (Lev 25:6+)2
YHVH specifically used the plural of the word Sabbath, that together with the context of this passage makes it clear that YHVH is referring to more that His weekly Sabbath. This is repeated four times in Scripture. The first two passages in Exodus (EX 31:13 and Ex 31:17) are specific to the weekly Sabbath. However, the two passages in Ezekiel speaks more generally about YHVH’s ordinances and statutes. These ordinances were given just after the ten commandments were given and includes instructions for the feasts and the sabbatical year.
So, now that we understand the importance of keeping YHVH’s Sabbaths, all of them, we need to find out how we are going to prepare to keep this important year.
There are a few requirements for this year. We shall look at each to see how we are to prepare for it.
The third year tithe
The first is what is referred to as the third year tithe. We have written a detailed article about this tithe The third year tithe, providing for widows and orphans.
We will just review the most important points here. The third year tithe is to be given at the end of every third year of the Sabbatical cycle, in other words the third and sixth year of the cycle. This tithe is to be for the widow, orphan, stranger and the Levite, all the people without inheritance rights. This tithe is to be taken to the storehouse and distributed from there by the priests.
We currently don’t have storehouses or a temple, so this is what we do. During the third and the sixth year, we transfer the money for the tithe to a separateÂ bank account, and then distribute it around sukkot to the widow, orphan, stranger and poor. The only reason we do it during the third and sixth year is to make provision for it. Scripture states that we are to take it out at the end of the third and sixth year. This usually took place at Sukkot, which is the last harvest of the year.
We calculate the third and sixth year tithe from our nett income. This tithe is an additional 10% on top of the normal tithe paid to the Levite, and the second tithe which is used to go up to Jerusalem. You can read more about tithingÂ inÂ the article we wroteÂ about it.
We should ask YHVH for His guidance in this.
Here are the two main references giving more detail about this tithe.
28 â€œAt the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. 29 â€œThe Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that YHVH your Elohim may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
This tithe, also comes with a special declaration
12 â€œWhen you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 13 â€œYou shall say before YHVH your Elohim, â€˜I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments. 14 â€˜I have not eaten of it while mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor offered any of it to the dead. I have listened to the voice of YHVH my Elohim; I have done according to all that You have commanded me. 15 â€˜Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as You swore to our fathers.â€™ 16 â€œThis day YHVH your Elohim commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17 â€œYou have today declared YHVH to be your Elohim, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. 18 â€œYHVH has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; 19 and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to YHVH your Elohim, as He has spoken.â€
When I read this declaration, and think about this tithe, the passage about Ananias and Sapphira comes to mind (Acts 5:1-11). This tithe is a test to see if we would indeed deal honestly with YHVH.Â It is a test of faithfulness.
Releasing debt is also part of what we are to do in the Sabbatical year. Whoever owes you can continue with repayment until the end of the Sabbatical year. At this point you are to release all debt still owed to you.
1 â€œAt the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. 2 â€œThis 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 YHVHâ€™s remission has been proclaimed. 3 â€œFrom a foreigner you may exact it, but your hand shall release whatever of yours is with your brother.
There is some further instruction with regard to this.
7 â€œIf there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which YHVH your Elohim is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; 8 but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. 9 â€œBeware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, â€˜The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,â€™ 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 â€œYou 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.
So, if someone wants to borrow from you now, in the sixth or even during the seventh year, you ought to lend to him, without hostility, knowing that whatever debt is outstanding at the end of the seventh year is to be released.
I do believe that you will find people wanting to take advantage of this, so don’t be naÃ¯ve. If someone wants to borrow from you, you have the right to get as much information about their situation as you deem necessary for you to make a good decision. We are to be good stewards. We are protected in this as well, as this pertains to our brothers. Be wise as serpents and pure as doves.
16 â€œBehold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.
This verse is in my opinion a very appropriate warning in this. We are to be wise, but pure, meaning that we are not to use our “wisdom” as an excuse not to help others. That is where being pure comes in.Â This is once again a test of faithfulness.
There also comes a special blessing if we do this “because for this thing YHVH your Elohim will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.”
Save money to go up to Jerusalem for Sukkot
The feast of Sukkot is one of the Pilgrimage festivals and we are commanded to go up to Jerusalem for these appointed times. In Deuteronomy 31, we are commanded to go up to Jerusalem and to read the Torah or this law as it was translated here.
10 Then Moses commanded them, saying, â€œAt 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 â€œAssemble 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 â€œTheir 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.â€
Just for clarification; the phrase “at the end of every seven years” could be confusing. Here is the text from the Septuagint.
10 And Moses commanded them in that day saying, â€œAfter seven years at the time of the year of remission, in the feast of tent making,
One of the oldest Engish translations of the Latin Vulgate, the Douay-Rheims Bible (1609), also uses the translation “after seven years in the year of remission.” The way this verse was translated in many other Bibles seems to contradict Ex 12:1 which states that the beginning of the year is in the month of Aviv. To translate it as “the end of every seven years” does not line up with this commandment.
In this passage in Deuteronomy, we are instructed to be in Jerusalem at Sukkot to read the Torah. This forms part of the Spiritual restoration that takes place during the Sabbatical year. We have written about this also The Sabbatical year, a â€œresetâ€ every seven years.Â The Sabbatical year is like a spiritual reset that takes place.
So, part of our preparation for the Sabbatical year is to save up to go up to Jerusalem. Going to Jerusalem during feast times is really an amazing experience.
Then, last but not least, the physical preparation for this year.
Preparing the land for the Sabbatical year
While I am writing this, I realize once again that the keeping of the Sabbatical year is a test, a test of our faithfulness . This will be our first time keeping the sabbatical year and it is sometimes quite overwhelming thinking about this. The year of preparation is ahead of us. I am not a planner, it does not come naturally to me, but I will have to learn. I want to. I believe that this will shape our future and I also believe that this is training to us. Training in righteousness, but also training in how to be prepared. We don’t know what the future holds. Who knows, we may be able to apply our experience later.
In order to make sure we are well prepared, we need to re-look at what is commanded for this year.
10 â€œYou 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.
The land must rest. We have written an article about why the land must be left to lie fallow The Sabbatical year, why the land must lie fallow. One way we will be preparing our land for this rest is to cover the soil with an extra layer of wood chips. We follow the Back to Eden method in gardening so our soil is covered with a layer of organic material, but in order to prepare the land, we will add a new layer. This will keep the weeds under control, but will also feed the soil for that year. The wood chips will be broken down and the soil will be enriched by it. This method will only work for vegetable gardens and orchards, it would be too labor intensive to do this on a larger scale. However, nothing is impossible.
Another instruction is found in Leviticus.
3 â€˜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 â€˜Your harvestâ€™s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. 6 â€˜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 â€˜Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.
Aquaponics or Hydroponics
We are not to sow our field or reap during the Sabbatical year. Now, if we look at the intend of the commandment, we see that it is about the land having a rest.
Many people have asked if we are permitted to cultivate vegetables using hydro- or aquaponics. Technically, we won’t be transgressing the commandment, because we won’t be sowing in our field, but we don’t feel comfortable doing this. YHVH’s intent in giving us commandments is not for us to find ways to circumvent it and this would, in our opinion, be the case if we do hydro- or aquaponics.
Some Jewish farmers, for example, sell their land to an Arab for the year and buy it back after the Sabbatical year. They then continue to sow and reap, because the land now belongs to someone else. It is normal for us humans to come up with all kinds of wonderful ideas, because this commandment is difficult to keep. Keeping this commandment means we have to fully rely on YHVH and it is not comfortable to not be in control. Not that we are, but we think we are :)
So, the answer is, no we won’t do hydro- or aquaponics or sell our land, we will do the best we can to keep this commandment. We are to test ourselves in this and ask YHVH for His guidance. Just remember YHVH won’t contradict Himself, He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and He does not lie.
We may not prune our olive tree or vineyard in the Sabbatical year. We have written an article about the significance of not pruning in the Sabbatical year Are fruit trees excluded from the Sabbatical year command? You can read more about it in the article, but the short answer is no, fruit trees are included in this command.
Pruning usually takes place in autumn and early spring. We sometimes have to prune for shape during the summer season as well. So, in preparation for the Sabbatical year we are to make sure we prune every fruit bearing tree before the beginning of the Sabbatical year. Depending on the start of the first month Aviv, it may or may not exclude the spring pruning. We will have to wait and see. Thereafter, we are to leave the trees and shrubs to grow. In the article about pruning fruit trees, we have learned about the benefit of periodically not pruning fruit bearing trees and shrubs. It just always amazes me when we get a glimpse of why YHVH gave the instructions he did.
The next section is about storing food.
We may not sow or reap during the sabbatical year. We may eat what comes up by itself and we may eat fruit that we pick from trees as long as we don’t harvest. So, for this reason we cannot just go to the shop and buy all we need in the Sabbatical year. When we do that, we will be partaking of products that were sown and harvested in the Sabbatical year. The earth belongs to YHVH.
1 The earth is YHVHâ€™s, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.
So, even if we don’t live in the land and don’t have our own field, we can keep this commandment by not eating of the produce of that year. We can make sure we do this by knowing what is harvested when and by storing produce. Let me give you an example. We know where most of our produce comes from. If we know oranges are harvested in July in South Africa, for example, we can eat oranges from South Africa until June – even during the sabbatical year. Then, we can stop eating oranges from South Africa until the next harvest takes place in the following year. Just don’t make this too complicated now, this is an example. We in Europe, get most of our produce from Spain and France, so we will find out what is harvested when in Spain. Globalization can be used to our advantage in this.
The other way is by preserving and storing food. There are many ways to preserve fruit and vegetables and we will share many ideas with you to preserve food in such a way that we still eat nutritious food during the Sabbatical year. We are to make sure we have enough food stored to last us through the Sabbatical year and a few months after until the first harvest comes in.
There are many people who don’t have space for storage or the financial means to buy extra food. We are to do our best in this. Clear out an area, even if it is under your bed and buy something every week to put away for the Sabbatical year. YHVH knows our hearts and our willingness to do His will. Even if, in this way, you keep the Sabbatical year one day a week, it would be good enough, because it is your best.Â It is about our faithfulness. Â Think about the widow who put two mites into the treasury. It is not how much we do that counts, but our hearts and faithfulness when doing it (Matt 12:41).
The Sabbatical year is one of YHVH’s Sabbaths and is a sign between us and Him. It is a test of our faithfulness. Â YHVH knows our hearts. He knows if we have put away all that we should for the third year tithe. He knows if we release our brother’s debt and He knows if we don’t want to help somebody because we know we would probably have to release the debt if we do. He also knows if we are doing the best we can to keep His instructions. All these things will reveal our faithfulness to YHVH.
1 John 2:3â€“4
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, â€œI have come to know Him,â€ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
May YHVH help us to prepare and may it be a testimony to the world of our great Elohim!
- All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Yâ€™shua for Jesus.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.