23 July 2013

Leviticus 25:1-17

“And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.” (vv. 10-11)


The Israelites believed that the land given to them ultimately belonged to God. The patterns of the sabbath, of allowing the land to lie fallow every seven years, and on the fiftieth year, the holy year, returning the land to the original holder, reminded them of God's centrality to all human transactions.

The radical nature of the Jubilee would have meant that there was no permanent accrual of wealth or decline into destitution. On the fiftieth year, debts would be cancelled, land would be restored and liberty would be proclaimed throughout the land.

The concept of Jubilee challenges us to let go of the personal things which bind us and prevent us from fulfilling our God-given potential. Are we bound by emotional debts, our attachments to grudges and obsessions, which prevent us from embracing reconciliation and freedom?

We are also challenged on a personal economic level. What do we own and accumulate, and what are our responsibilities as a consequence? Former Archbishop Rowan Williams issued the challenge: "For whom is my money good news?"

The passage also challenges us as a wider community. The biblical term of Jubilee probably became best known for us around the turn of the millennium with the Jubilee 2000 campaign. The idea of the millennium as a chance to start again was a powerful one, particularly for countries which faced being permanently sunk by unpayable debts. The current campaign, Enough Food IF, reminds us that, for many developing countries, the struggle to escape the chains of structural poverty is not over.

To Ponder

  • What things do you need to let go of in order to be fully free?
  • For whom is your money good news?
  • Where could you offer Jubilee to others, either as individuals or as a wider group or society, in order that they might have 'liberty'?

Bible notes author

Rachel Lampard

Rachel Lampard is the team leader of the Joint Public Issues Team which works on behalf of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church on issues of justice and peace. She is also a commissioner with the Gambling Commission, a statutory body regulating the gambling industry in the public interests.