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Moses' fourth speech, Part 7

Nov 06, 2012

In the flow of Moses’ speech, he moves from the subject of the tithe and its use in supporting the poor to the subject of debt cancellation on behalf of those who have become debtors on account of poverty. Deuteronomy 15 begins,

1 At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. 2 And this is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor, he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed.

 Dates are important in making contracts. Yet to write a date, one must have an official calendar to define those dates. The Biblical system functions on the Jubilee calendar, which is based on sevens. Seven days make a week, seven years are another week, and seven weeks of years comprise another long-term week, followed by the Year of Jubilee in the 50th year. These are called Sabbaths, a word that literally means “cessation or rest.” In other words at the end of each week—on every level—something ceases or ends.

In God’s system, these Sabbath cycles govern all labor in the nation, legislating primarily against any form of slavery that men might devise. Slavery forces men to work nonstop. God’s perfect “law of liberty” (James 2:12) forbids employers from forcing men to work as slaves. God’s reason, stated in so many places, is that we are God’s slaves—not the slaves of men. He is the One who purchased us from Egypt (the world system), and so we are to work for Him by promoting the culture and government of His Kingdom and living by its moral principles.

In Deuteronomy 15 God deals with the slavery that comes with poverty. Slavery itself is well regulated by Scripture, limiting it to a court-imposed time of indebtedness that is limited by time. If a man steals and cannot pay restitution, he was to be sold as a slave in order for him to work off his debt. If a man simply came to poverty through natural disaster, he could voluntarily sell himself as an indentured servant (slave). The result was the same, whether the slavery was voluntary or court-imposed. All slavery was limited by time, and if any slave was mistreated he was to be set free and his debt cancelled (Exodus 21:26, 27).

In order to understand the remission of debt after seven years, we must see it within the context of the larger picture. The law demanded rest for slaves on the seventh day Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14). In Deuteronomy 15:1 Moses deals with the seventh year Sabbath, wherein debts were remitted temporarily. But there was also to be a greater release of debt after the seventh cycle of seven years—that is, in the Jubilee Year.

If debts are to be fully cancelled in the seventh year, why is there also a Jubilee Year? Would not the Sabbatic year serve as a Jubilee? No, the first two Sabbaths give rest as an intermission from labor. For example, men rested on the seventh day but returned to work on the eighth day. Likewise, the remission of debt in the seventh year is not an absolute cancellation of all debt, but only a temporary remission during the Sabbatic year. Gesenius Lexicon says that the word “remission” is from the Hebrew word shemittah, which means “letting drop of exactions, (temporary) remitting, release (from debt).”


After the seventh year has passed, men again labor to pay off whatever debt is still owed. It is only at the Jubilee Year that the divine reset button is pushed, all remaining debt is cancelled, and every man returns to his family inheritance that may have been sold on account of the debt (Leviticus 25:10).

During a land-rest Sabbath year, the people were instructed, “you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard” (Leviticus 25:4). Whatever grew of itself was shared by all, both the owner of the field and any other person, including the aliens (Leviticus 25:6). Therefore, because land owners had no income during a Sabbath year, their debts were remitted (deferred) as well. If payment on debts were demanded continuously, it would force many to continue farming during the Sabbatic year.

For this reason, debts were remitted during the time of land rest. But in the eighth year, they were to resume their labor, obtain income, and resume payment on whatever debts were owed. In this way, the Sabbath year was like the Sabbath day. In each case, the remission was temporary. The permanent and complete cancellation of debt came in the Year of Jubilee, for this final Sabbath represents the highest level of “rest” in the law.

Scripture gives us an illustration of this principle in the life of Jacob. Jacob was born in the year 2108 (from Adam). If you divide these years by Jubilee cycles of 49 years each, you see that the 2107 was the final year of the 42nd Jubilee cycle. (43 x 49 = 2107). Hence, Jacob was born in the 50th Year, which was the Jubilee Year in his time.

Jacob lived to the age of 147, or three Jubilee cycles (49 x 3 = 147). See Genesis 47:28.

According to the book of Jasher (29:11), Jacob was 63 when he received the blessing from his father, Isaac. His age was nine Sabbatic cycles (9 x 7 = 63), and hence, he received the blessing in a Sabbath year. Esau, of course, was very angry at Jacob, and so Jasher says that Jacob fled to the house of Heber.

Shem had died just eight years earlier at the age of 600 (Genesis 11:10, 11). The twins, Jacob and Esau, were 55 when Shem died. Shem had built Jerusalem and ruled it as the King-Priest (Melchizedek). When Shem died, Heber, the father of the “Hebrews,” ruled in his place. When Jacob needed a refuge from Esau, he went to the house of Heber at the age of 63.

Jasher 29:20 says that Jacob remained with Heber for 14 years before returning to Isaac’s house. Jacob was then 77 years old, and it was the year 2184-2185, the tenth Sabbath year since his birth.

As soon as Jacob arrived, the old animosity flared up in Esau, and so Isaac sent Jacob away to Haran to find a wife and to get away from Esau. His father loaded up the camels with the means necessary to pay a dowry for the anticipated wife, but all of this was stolen by Eliphaz, the son of Esau, even before he arrived at Bethel (Jasher 29:38).

For this reason, when Jacob arrived at Uncle Laban’s house, he wept when he met Rachel (Gen. 29:11), for he had no dowry to offer her father. But love finds a way, and so Jacob agreed to work for Laban for seven years in place of the dowry (Gen. 29:20). But Rachel had a twin sister named Leah (Jasher 28:28), and because Leah had been born first, Laban used this as an excuse to give Leah to Jacob as a wife. Because she was veiled and resembled Rachel in the dim light of the festivities, he did not realize who she was until the next morning.

Jacob objected, and so Laban proposed that Jacob continue to work for another seven years for Rachel. Jasher says that a second wedding was arranged immediately, but Jacob was then obligated to work for Laban for another Sabbath cycle. Jacob was 84 (12 x 7) when he was married, and he was 91 when his debt to Laban was paid. It was in this year that Rachel finally gave birth to Joseph. We know this because when Joseph was 39, Jacob was 130 (Genesis 47:9); therefore, Joseph was born when Jacob was 91.

Jacob continued to work for Laban for one more Sabbath cycle before returning home.

Jacob worked for Laban for just six more years (Genesis 31:41), and then God appeared to him in a dream and told him to return to Canaan in the seventh year—the Sabbatic year. This is why Jacob only worked for Laban 20 years instead of 21. It is plain from the story that the Sabbath years and Jubilees were known prior to the time of Moses, and that Jacob’s entire life was structured around the Sabbaths and Jubilees.

Jacob was in his 98th year when he left Laban. Hence, when he wrestled with the angel and received his new name, Israel, he was ready to celebrate his second Jubilee (2 x 49). When we see how Jacob’s journey to Haran and back established the pattern of the feast-day cycles, the revelation of this story comes to life.

Beersheba is Passover
Bethel is Pentecost
Mahanaim is Trumpets
Peniel is the Day of Atonement and Jubilee
Succoth is Tabernacles

Thus, when Jacob wrestled with the angel Peniel, it represented the tenth day of the seventh month at the start of the Jubilee Year—Jacob’s 98th year. We are not told the precise month or day that Jacob wrestled with the angel. It is plain, however, that this event was at least a representation of the Jubilee, and it may have been the actual day as well. For the full story of this feast-day pattern, see chapter 4 of my book, The Laws of the Second Coming.

This is the seventh part of a series titled "Moses' Fourth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.

Moses' Fourth Speech

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Dr. Stephen Jones

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