They could only be disposed of, as it were, by leases till the year of jubilee, and were then to return to the seller or his heir.”
This would preserve familial and tribal heritage as well as prevent the wealthy from being able to incur large masses of land, thus keeping certain families in extreme poverty. It gives all Israelites their liberty, as well as treats them all as equals, as the land would be regenerated every fifty years. “The chief point was that there should never be a build-up of power by a few to control the land and the people; therefore, there was redistribution of the land as it had been divided in the beginning.”
Each family or tribe is given the opportunity to return to his or her land, and be renewed. “Those that were sold into other families, thereby became strangers to their own; but in the year of redemption they were to return.”
It is of importance to therefore note, that some of these individuals could have been enslaved for up to at least forty-nine if not fifty years. “People will experience economic freedom by returning to their land and to their families.”
The Jubilee would announce their release and return to their land, but more importantly, to their familial system. With that backdrop, there are four different types of promises offered in the verses of Isaiah 61:4-9. There are promises of a new and rebuilt city, promises of justice, promises of a new identity, and promises of hope for all people.
The first was a promise of a new and rebuilt city, which would bring a stability to the once exiled and nomadic people of God. Their present state would be altered in this promise thus bringing recovery and restoration to a nation in turmoil, and nothing was more hoped for than this. The would become a prevailing people once again, both in their physical and spiritual reality. Secondly, there were promises of justice. While the language of V.5 might sound vengeful, it is the hope of the nation that it would come to pass that once again they were empowered and entrusted to be a light to the nations around them. When V.5 states, “Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks” the Hebrews understood that they were to be a good stewards, and a good landowner as the Jubilee were to be realized. The Gentiles were aliens and strangers to the covenant of God, but could benefit from the justice of a good King. This justice would allow foreigners to work alongside the members of the nation of Israel in a peaceful community. Next, there were promises of a new identity. In verse six, Isaiah re-establishes who the people of God are and where they come from. They shall be called priest of the Lord, ministers of God, experience the wealth of nations, and be returned to the glory they once enjoyed. Having lost much, the nation needed to be reminded once again who they were, and whose they were, and Isaiah delivered the message that brought the promise of a new identity in the new kingdom. Finally, there were promises of hope for all people. Verses seven through nine reveal the hope of a community for all nations and all people that the Lord would establish through them. There would be a payment for wrong, but redemption, there would be a love for justice with a hatred for robbery and wrongdoing, and a recompense for all that has happened. Because God is holy, he required his people to treat each others justly including the nations of Israel and Judah in the midst of their faithless immorality. For the faithful, there would be an everlasting covenant, their descendants would be known, and the Lord would bless them. “It would be difficult to overstate the importance of Isaiah for the Christology of the church.”
This four-fold promise of God was delivered as the culmination to hope the Messiah would bring as the Year of Jubilee was ushered in.
The song of salvation is given by the prophet as in poetic form, praises are given to God for the promises of a new life, just as those rejoice who have been given a new hope in Jesus Christ. The prophet calls for the People of God to rejoice in the Lord, specifically stated in V.10, “my whole being shall exult in my God” He then gives three word pictures to give the nation a visualization of the hope and the new life that is promised.
The first is an analogy, that they will be clothed with the garments of salvation. There is language of this nature in Ephesians 6 as well as in Revelation 19:8, where it speaks of the armor of God and the future glorification of the way the righteous will be dressed. This picture continues with the phrase in V.10 when Isaiah speaks of the, “Robe of righteousness.” This robe covers not only the physical body in the word picture, but will cover their sins with the act of imputation by God, and with the purity and completeness of the priestly garments. As Isaiah continues, the word picture finalized with the way a bride and bridegroom would dress for such a celebration of a wedding. Henry states, “they are decked as a bride to be espoused to God, and taken into covenant with him”
This picture shows the hope of a celebration, a feast, a party, a welcoming home, for a people who have been wandering, and brings to vision in the hearts and minds of the hearers the hope of better things to come.
This section is finalized with one last word picture. Since much of the message of Jubilee is related to land, Isaiah concludes the passage with an image of the renewal that is evidenced in the planting, sowing, and harvesting of the earth. As V.11 states, “For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,” Isaiah reminds the people of the faithfulness of the Lord, and that their righteous will be made new in the light of the hope of things to come. Though it has been a long time for the people of Israel to see the full blessing of God, there is a promise that can be witnessed in the whole of creation. They will flourish again, and their God will be made known, as the Lord God will be exposed before the nations of the Earth.
Little is mentioned of the Jubilee beyond this passage. “There is no historical proof that over a thousand-year history, any tribe of Israel observed the great Jubilee law of Leviticus 25.”
Clarke notes that, “this was a wise and excellent institution, but appears to have been little regarded by the Jews after the Babylonian captivity. Indeed it is not mentioned under the second temple, and the observance must have ceased among the Jews when they were brought under a foreign yoke.”
While the theology of this passage is there to protect, proclaim and produce good news for stated people, there is not a case in the entire Old Testament where the Jubilee was fully realized. “However, the Israelites did not observe these Sabbaths, and both Jeremiah (34:14-22 and Ezekiel (20:12-16) proclaimed that the Exile was Gods punishment because of this.”
In other words, the sabbatical system was never followed completely. The Jubilee was never complete, and thus the hope of Isaiahs message in this passage will not be fully realized until the Son of God delivers his message in First Century Palestine.
The message of Isaiah 61:1-11, is the precursor to the gospel message as delivered by Jesus in Luke chapter four, which is consistent with the Levitical Law of the Year of Jubilee. This message brings application to how members of the Kingdom of God are to live, interact and exist in community with each other. First, this message brings fullness to the applied Sabbath. Sabbath is period of rest, renewal, and restoration. The Sabbath was never fully realized, and the prophecy of Isaiah is that it will be complete, including the release of the captive, the forgiveness of debt, and the restoration of land. There are promises of a new and rebuilt city, promises of justice, promises of a new identity, and promises of hope for all people. When the message is applied, there can be trust in the promise that God will deliver what God said God would do. Finally, there is a celebration will the Sabbath, the hope and the promises of God are fully delivered. Isaiah delivered the Jubilee message to the people of God who are now free from captivity, restored, and exalted, culminated in the message of Jesus.
Achtemeier, Paul A., Green, Joel B., and Thompson, Marianne Meyer. Introducing the New Testament:.