2 Chron. 36:21 "...until the land had paid off its sabbaths." 50 years?

by AuldSoul 5 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • AuldSoul

    What does this expression mean? It certainly conveys the idea that the land owed a debt. How could the passage of sabbaths pay off a debt?

    Every 7 years was a sabbath year. At the end of the 49th year (seven sabbath years), a horn was sounded and the fiftieth year began by a liberation of the people. ( Leviticus 25:8-55)

    50 years was a jubilee year. In year fifty, all land sold or held as surety for debt reverted back to its original owners, those previously dispossessed were returned to their land.

    After the fiftieth year (the jubilee year), the counting of the years began anew. Given this reality, year 70 would have no special sabbath significance at all. Year 71 would be a sabbath year, not even a special sabbath year.

    If we start the clock at 587 BC and end the clock at 537 BC, how many years have we (just for sake of argument)? 50. A jubilee of years. A liberation of the people at the beginning of the fiftieth year.

    It is a fact that under the Jewish system only one sort of sabbath paid off a debt. The jubilee.

    Looking for help fleshing out this line of reasoning, so please jump right in.

  • Leolaia

    It is off the mark to look to what significance the 70th year or the 71st year has in the sabbatical system, for the text is talking about an accumulation of sabbatical years and that accumulation can be of potentially any length. Note that the text alludes to Leviticus 26:34-35 which states that "if you do not listen to me, and do not observe each one of these commandments (v. 14)", such as those concerning the observance of sabbatical years, "I will scatter you among the nations. I will unsheathe the sword against you to make your land a waste and your towns a ruin. Then the land will observe its sabbaths indeed, lying desolate there, while you are in the land of your enemies. Then indeed the land will rest and observe its sabbaths". The period of desolation is then viewed as a time when the accumulation of sabbath years which had not been observed previously can come to pass.

    What the Chronicler intended to be the length of this period -- 49 years or 70 years -- is an exegetical question. Jonsson makes a pretty good case that 49 years (the actual length of the exile and desolation) was meant, but I'm not persuaded that the Chronicler did not mean 70 years which is the figure given in the text itself tho not explicitly equated with the duration of sabbath rest (but is it implied?). Daniel however does seem to interpret this as a 49-year period. The author of the Hebrew apocalypse is clearly influenced by Leviticus 25-26 as well (especially by the references to the "sevenfold curse" in 26:18, 21, 24 which expand the 70 years into 490 years, and by 26:14-39 as a whole which is alluded to in 9:11-12) and thus construes the 70 years (in reality 490 years) in sabbatical terms, i.e. as 70 sabbath weeks for the "holy city" to be restored and the "holy of holies" to be anointed. What is notable is that the period is subdivided into 7 + 62 + 1 segments, and the first 7 weeks (= 49 years) elapse "until the coming of an anointed prince" (9:25), a figure usually regarded to be Jeshua, the first high priest after the exile (cf. also the ancient Jewish interpretation inherited by Hippolytus, Commentary on Daniel 4.30; Eusebius, Dem. Evang. 8.2.58-59). This would make the period of captivity a jubilee period and the 50th year a release from captivity as stated in Leviticus. Then the 70th year would coincide with the first restoration of Jerusalem as described in Zechariah (note that the 70 years in Daniel 9 are years of desolation of Jerusalem), and as Daniel 9:25 states, the "squares and ramparts will be restored and rebuilt" in the space of the 62 weeks following the first 7 weeks. But Jerusalem is not fully restored at the end of the 70 years, for the "sevenfold curse" in Leviticus 26 multiplies this period by 7, and hence Jerusalem would again be desolated and have its priesthood interrupted and Temple defiled in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes centuries later.

  • AuldSoul

    Thanks for the clarification, Leolaia! That will help a lot.


  • RunningMan

    I've always wondered about returning the land to the original owners every 50 years. It must have been absolute bedlam.

    Some families must have expanded to the point where the original land would not be adequate, while others may have ceased to exist. Under this system, land could never really be "sold", just leased until the next jubilee.

    I wonder if the Hebrews really observed this, or if they made side deals just before the jubille, so that things would carry on normally afterward.

  • Narkissos

    RM: Most critical scholars consider the Jubilee system as a post-exilic priestly invention which was practically never applied.

  • peacefulpete

    It is an intersting idea that the writer of the post Exilic jubilee myth had in mind the length of the royal exile of Judah. The seventy motif and the jubilee motif may have been different desciptions of the same period, who knows? Such a convergence of traditions might well be expected. Was the writer of Daniel making the best of both?

    We did lightly discuss the jubilee before:jubilee

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