The Working Principle of Jubilee

In ancient Israel, the land was understood to be a posession of God, with its owners being stewards, or caretakers. When a parcel was sold by one Israelite to another, its transferrance was considered a lease of the land’s use–that is to say, a sale of future crops therein–not an absolute ownership, since that domain was reserved to the Creator alone.

In order that the people of God might establish a manageable economy, their Creator mandated a fifty year cycle–a system of seven revolving seven-year periods, plus one extra year, later called the (50th) year of “jubilee.” By this revolving arrangement the natural inclination of human productivity toward inflation would be neutralized with a built-in systematic deflation. A sale of land in year 1 of the cycle would obstensibly be worth 49 times its value in year 49, since 49 prospective crops were understood to be the virtual substance of the transaction.

Furthermore, the working out of this economy also required that existing debts among Israelites be cancelled every seven years, and also that indentured servants or slaves be freed in that same seventh (sabbath) year. In the 50th year, at the end of the cycle, the land itself was returned to its original family of ownership of fifty years ago.

By this means, incentives for upward mobility of productive people were woven into the economy, and periodic debt forgiveness eliminated accruals of huge, unsurmountable debt among the working people. Accumulations of vast landed estates and monopolistic entities were also prevented, if the system was working as the Creator had designed it.

In this way, the followers of God were set up to prosper, both individually, familially, and collectively, according to the respective levels of their own chosen productivity and stewardship. And a constant deliverance of the poverty-stricken (unemployed) persons from a poorhouse fate would preclude a permanant underclass.

In real time, it didn’t exactly work out that way, but the theoretical principles of Sabbaths, Jubilee, systematic deflation (not as bad as it sounds), and debt forgiveness might be worth considering in light of our presently hyper-leveraged circumstances.

The principle of regular sabbath renewals goes back to God’s original creative work as it is figuratively documented in Genesis. God revealed himself to humans as a Creator. A definitive part of that creative process included rest and introspective recovery for the sake of developmentally corrective alignment.

If you care to learn more about this divine economy, and perhaps to consider its applications to modern existence, read Leviticus 25 and Deutoronomy 15, in the Bible.

Glass half-Full

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