The Jubilee Year of the Bible is important to understand properly if you want to understand the Biblical Calendar, and with it Bible prophecy and what it holds for the future. But few people do. Some think it is 50 years, some 49 years. Find out the truth now.
After the Sabbath year, the Jubilee year is the only other special reoccurring year in Scripture. It is basically a week of Sabbath years, following the same pattern as the Sabbath day and Sabbath year cycles, with one difference explained below:
Leviticus 25:8-10 (HCSB) — 8 “You are to count seven sabbatic years, seven times seven years, so that the time period of the seven sabbatic years amounts to 49. 9 Then you are to sound a trumpet loudly in the seventh month, on the tenth [day] of the month; you will sound it throughout your land on the Day of Atonement. 10 You are to consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom in the land for all its inhabitants. It will be your Jubilee, when each of you is to return to his property and each of you to his clan.
This confusing passage leaves you wondering if the cycle spoken of is 49 or 50 years long. Most people understand it to mean 50, but this view actually breaks Scripture: the requirement that Jubilees follow every seventh Sabbath year. A Jubilee cycle of 50 years falls out of sync with the Sabbath year cycle since 50 is not a multiple of seven. It falls at the right place for the first Jubilee but with each subsequent Jubilee cycle it drifts a year later each time. Only a Jubilee on a 49-year cycle stays in sync (7 x 7 = 49). In the chart below you can see the Sabbath years in gray and directly after each 7th Sabbath year black marks for the correct 49-year Jubilees. The supposed 50-year Jubilee in red can be found at the 50 and 100 year marks. The first one coincides with the 49-year Jubilee but notice the gap between the second 50-year Jubilee (at the 100 year mark) and the 7th Sabbath year. That gap breaks Scripture.
So why does the Bible refer to the Jubilee as a 50th year? Because the Jubilee is based on and derived directly from the Sabbath year cycle, or specifically counting seven Sabbath year cycles = 49 years. By saying to hallow the 50th year, it makes it clear that it is the year following every seventh Sabbath year. It also makes it clear that the Jubilee is not ever the same year as a Sabbath year nor is it on a separate sequence coming every 50th year. It is the 50th year counting from the last Jubilee because it is is using inclusive reckoning in its counting. If you count normally from the last Jubilee and do not include the year you are counting from, but mark it as 0, then you get 49 years between Jubilees.
This means each Jubilee is really the first year of the first Sabbath year cycle of the next Jubilee cycle. In other words, the Jubilee year does not interrupt the Sabbath year cycle, but is always followed by the second year of that Sabbath year cycle. In this way, every Sabbath year remains a multiple of seven years away from any other Sabbath year in history.
The Twist: How the Jubilee Year is like Pentecost Day
That leads to the small difference I referred to above. If the Jubilee were to follow exactly the pattern of the Sabbath day and Sabbath year cycles, then the Jubilee would happen on the 7th Sabbath year, or 49th year, itself, as a “Sabbath year of Sabbath years”. Instead, it makes the following year, the 50th year, special, in effect giving you a double Sabbath year every seventh time (fields rest in years 49 and 50). This is why it emphasizes the number 50, to differentiate it from the preceding 49th year—not because it is a “50-year cycle”!
By the way, this mirrors the Pentecost “omer count” cycle from the Torah. After counting seven weeks from the morning after the Sabbath falling during Passover week, you end up with a double Sabbath day on that weekend when Pentecost falls: the 49th day is always Saturday or Sabbath day and the 50th day of Pentecost is always a Sunday. Further, there is similarly no instruction to restart the Sabbath day cycle after the day of Pentecost. In other words, Pentecost is always followed by Monday, not a second Sunday or new first day of the week that is eight days from the first day of the last week. With this additional parallel witness we can be sure that the Sabbath year cycle, like the Sabbath day cycle, is an unbroken sequence of years and multiples of seven years apart from each other. Likewise the Jubilee must be every 49 years, not 50. (Note: This article is excerpted from the book Know the Future.)
Update: See my expanded comments on this topic at my blog on a 50 Year Jubilee: Six Required Years of Planting?