Torah Portion for week 32: Leviticus 25:1 – 26:2
Behar (On the mount)
In this week’s Torah portion, Moses is continuing to spell out the Law. He has already spoken about the Sabbath, and in last week’s portion he explained the festivals. We notice that God seems to like to use the number seven. Just as there are seven days in each week, there are seven festivals in each biblical year. The three most important festivals are found in the fall, during the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. To see a list of all seven festivals, review Leviticus 23, which I like to call “God’s year-at-a-glance calendar.”
This week’s Torah portion continues the theme of the sevens. When the children of Israel enter the land, they are to have a Sabbath year, as the text says in verses 3 and 4, “For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.”
After seven rounds of Sabbath years – or a total of 49 years – there would follow one special year, the Year of Jubilee. Leviticus 25:9-10 continues:
Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.
What is the connection between the Messiah and the Year of Jubilee?
In ancient Israel, every fiftieth year was to be a Year of Jubilee. On a practical level, debts were settled in regards to the land and in regards to servants. But, it also points ahead to a greater spiritual truth. First, notice that it begins on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. To receive God’s blessing, we must first recognize our own sin and receive his forgiveness. And just as God forgives us, we are in turn obligated to forgive others. We are not only obligated to do so, we are enabled to do so by God’s might. Indeed, those who have been forgiven much will also rejoice much. The Year of Jubilee was a time to proclaim liberty to the captives, both literally and figuratively.
This, of course, reaches its greatest fulfillment in the Messiah. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Thankfully, we do not have to wait fifty years, or even seven years, to be set free. The Messiah came to inaugurate the Jubilee.