People are surprised that I take the time to answer their emails. Yes, I am busy with a young family and living in Costa Rica makes everything take longer to accomplish. For example, yesterday I had to hit a few places to find a replacement NVidia video card with the HDMI connector I needed. Not complaining…I enjoyed walking in the warm sunny weather in between the stores. It just takes longer.
But what readers do not know is that I love answering questions. I love the blessings that come from questions. One big one is the provision of new insights through the Socratic method. Questions force you to think, something we all tend to avoid whenever we can =). But in thinking you can mine some great discoveries from even old elementary topics you thought you mastered long ago.
49 Year Jubilee Cycle Objection:
Six Years of Planting Required?
Case in point is a discussion I had over the Jubilee year cycle with someone who doubts my conclusion that it is 49 years long.Â He saw the good points I had but he still saw it as unclear. His final objection that leaned him towards a 50 year Jubilee cycle was this:
I still lean towards the 50 year cycle because if Israel goes back to work right after the jubillee Sabbath year, they will be breaking the command to work 6 years and rest the 7th, since they will then be only working 5 years and resting the 6th year after the jubilee year.
I had never heard such an objection to a 49 year Jubilee cycle. I had to stop and think about it. He was right that a 49 year Jubilee cycle “broke” the six years of planting mentioned in the Sabbath year command. You ended up with only five following a Jubilee year before the next Sabbath year.
I had to admit that I had not thought of the Sabbath year command as requiring Israel to plant for six years on their fields. Was he right? I decided to give it a chance and to think it through.
Six Days of Work Required, Too?
If this was true about the Sabbath year command then it must be true about the Sabbath day command as well. By this line of interpretation, the Sabbath day commandment would require Israel to work six days just as much as they were commanded to not work on Saturday by it.
But immediately I saw a problem with this. What about when you are sick? By this interpretation you still must work. What happens when you want to take a vacation for a week? You cannot or you are breaking the 4th Commandment, “Six days you must work.” Or is that what the 4th Commandment says?
Exodus 20:9 (HCSB) 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work,10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You must not do any workâ€”
The interesting part here is “do all your work”. Not God’s work. God has not commanded average Israelites to do any work in particular during the week days. That would be God’s or “my work”. Instead he tells Israel to do “all your work.” If Israel had no work to do then they did not have to do anything for six days. If an Israelite had enough money to provide for his own, then the Sabbath commandment is not telling him to make busy work for show. If he wanted to take a vacation, then there was no prohibition on that.
The intent of the Sabbath day command is obvious when you think it through. The intent was for Israel to not overwork themselves seven days per week. They would keep Saturday set apart to reconnect with their family and God.
Six Years of Planting Not Required, Either
Once I realized the above, I knew the same applied to the Sabbath year commandment. What if an Israelite bought a field and did not have the money to plant it. Was he breaking the Torah in doing nothing with his field for six years? No. As long as he did not decide at last to plant in the 7th year when all Israel was keeping field fallow, then he was in compliance with the intent of this command. Failure to leave fields fallow causes agricultural yields to diminish eventually. Then farmers resort to unnatural means to coax the field into producing what it used to. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The people eating the food pay the price for that in their health through the modern diseases we have today (not that toxins and poorer nutrition from food is the only cause of disease).
The passage supports that the planting is optional during the six years. It says “may”, not “must”.
Leviticus 25:3 (HCSB) 3 You may sow your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard and gather its produce for six years.
What About Six “Planting Optional Years” Before a Sabbath Year?
You still might wonder if a 49 year Jubilee year cycle does not at least break Scripture. Does not the Sabbath year have to follow six “planting-optional years?” Is that not the intent?
Once again, I believe we must think it through to get the true intent. The true intent is to establish a seven year cycle. The commandment names six years and one year. Six plus one equal seven. That’s a seven year cycle.
Now we must understand that commandments of the Torah can override each other. We see this with the Sabbath Day commandment. Jesus pointed out that the priestly duties were done on Sabbath, “profaning it” (Mt 12:5). This was their main work, yet they did it on Sabbath. They had a special case that overruled the general blanket command of ceasing from labor on Sabbath.
That is what is happening here with the the Jubilee command. It is overriding the detail that there are six years available for planting before a Sabbath year. It is saying that the first year of the 8th (15th, 22nd, 29th, etc.) Sabbath year cycle is not going to be for planting, but will be a special Jubilee of no planting (among other things) following the preceding Sabbath year of no planting making two years of no planting in a row.
The 49 year Jubilee cycle maintains the strict seven year cycle for Sabbath years just like the Torah gives for Sabbath days every seven days. The objection that having the Jubilee year be one of the six planting years of a Sabbath year cycle breaks Scripture does not hold. When you properly understand the intent and focus of the Sabbath year on preventing overwork of fields, you can see that it does not require planting in any year or for any number of years. The Sabbath year command simply forbids Israel to plant in the special seventh year, just as the Sabbath day command simply forbids Israel from working on Saturday.