We recently celebrated Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim) and referenced this as a year of jubilee for Israel. But what exactly is a Jubilee Year? Let’s go to Leviticus 25:8-11 for insight:
“You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years…. 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. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you…
Context is important, so let’s be faithful Bible students. The Lord is speaking to Moses regarding Sabbaths and special days that Israel is to observe. Here, He is talking specifically about the Day of Atonement and the proclamation of liberty. In the following verses, the Lord exhorts Israel to keep His statutes in order to dwell securely in the land. (Read about the Principle of Righteousness)
Dwelling in the land is a big deal, as God promised the inheritance of the land we call Israel to the Jewish people (via the Abrahamic Covenant). Furthermore, Jerusalem has long been the religious and political capital of Israel, yet it has been conquered by others who occupied, though never named it as a capital city. Thus, the idea of Jubilee years has to do with 50 year spans in which the Jews should celebrate liberation, and be reminded of God’s great promises.
This year is the 50th anniversary (a year of jubilee) of the reunification of Jerusalem, and its return to Israeli control, as a result of the Six Day War victory in 1967. What a celebration the nation of Israel enjoyed!
God’s Word promises that Israel will live securely in the land in the last days (Ezekiel 34:27-28, Ezekiel 38:8-11). After the Romans wrested control of Jerusalem from Israel in 70 AD, it appeared God’s promise had failed. So much for jubilees to celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness.
But that all changed, and it happened in a series of Jubilee years, beginning in 1867. Let’s look at those years:
- 1867: After years of lying desolate, no one seemed to have any interest in the land currently known as Israel. But in 1867, Captain Charles Warren of the British Royal Engineers, made a key discovery. The Ottoman’s prohibited excavation of Temple Mount, but Warren encovered a massive fortification south of Temple Mount. For nearly 2,000 years no one knew where the ancient City of David was, and most assumed it to be within the Old City of Jerusalem. That discovery confirmed the Biblical record that this was the place from which King David ruled (prior to Solomon’s building of the Temple on Temple Mount). Indeed, the God of Israel is faithful! (We’ll take a more in-depth look at current excavations at the City of David tomorrow, so come back for that!)
- 1917: One hundred years ago, Jerusalem was controlled by the Ottoman empire. The British fought various battles and eventually secured Jerusalem. In December of that year, British General Edmund Allenby (a devout Christian), entered Jaffa Gate on foot, rather than horseback or vehicle, in honor and reverence of the Old City. Meanwhile, in a letter from UK’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild (a leader in the Jewish community) called for a national home for the Jewish people, to be established in Palestine (Israel). That led to a formal declaration promising to support “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” Is it coincidence that this occurred 50 years following the discovery of the City of David and its significance to the promises of God? I don’t think so!
- 1967: The ultimate jubilee…to date! Jerusalem is reunified and reestablished as the capital city of Israel! God’s promises seemed totally unachievable after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the subsequent 2,000 years of Gentile rule in the Jewish city. But rejoice in this Jubilee Year! God has proven Himself faithful once again!
Despite the fact that Jerusalem has been trampled by Gentiles (Luke 21:24), ultimately the Lord will be faithful to preserve the City of Jerusalem for His people. In fact, it will be in Jerusalem that every nation will go up year after year to worship the King! (Zechariah 14:16) Oh, praise His name this Jubilee Year!