Is the Jubilee Cycle 49 or 50 Years?
There has historically been much confusion regarding the Jubilee Cycles over whether they are 49 year or 50 year cycles. Here is a summary of twelve major points which show conclusively that the cycles are actually 49 years in length:
1) In Exodus 20 the Sabbath is commanded in honor of the fact that Yahweh created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day. Leviticus 25 is a direct parallel, as it also indicates that the land is to have a Sabbath rest after six years of work, which also ties it in directly with the first week of creation. Since the weekly cycle has remained unchanged from the beginning of creation, we can only conclude (based upon these clear facts) that the Sabbatical cycles have also remained unchanged from the time of creation. If this is so, then you cannot have a 50 year Jubilee cycle--for that would interfere with the continuously repeating 7 year cycles.
2) In the book of Daniel, chapter 9, the 70 week prophecy gives solid evidence of being connected with the Jubilees. It even mentions a period of "seven weeks" in the prophecy itself, a clear and direct connection between the 70 week prophecy and the Jubilee commandment of Leviticus 25. Since that prophecy is in harmony with 49 year cycles instead of 50 year cycles (70 X 7 = 490, not 500), it is another strong piece of evidence to support 49 year Jubilee cycles.
3) When we examine more closely the Hebrew word for “Sabbath” (shab-bawth'), it appears to also be closely related to the Hebrew word for “week”, and in the Greek shabbaton is translated as both “week” and “sabbath.” The Hebrew word for week is shaw-boo'-ah and it literally means something that is “sevened”. The word can mean both “seven” and “week” and can even be used to mean “weeks of years.” In Scripture we have a week (shaw-boo'-ah) and the plural form of that word (shaw-boo-oth). So let us consider the fact that a “week” is a period of something (like a day) which has been “sevened” (or multiplied by seven). A week is therefore a period of seven days. The plural form of that word (shaw-boo-oth) means “weeks” and indicates more than one week, or consecutive multiple periods of seven days. Conclusion: The very word itself to describe a Sabbatical year gives evidence that it must be the last day of consecutive multiple periods of seven days each.
4) Historically, Sabbatical cycles have been tracked all the way from 332 BCE to 139 CE. Evidence for this can be found toward the end of my Jubilee Calendar, in the tab called Sabbatical Year Documentation. It is also found in my upcoming book, Discovering the Jewish Messiah. These cycles clearly follow repeating 7 year cycles, which would prove that the Jubilees would also have to follow 49 year cycles as well. Please note documentation and charts clearly showing how this is true.
5) Judaism is foundational to an understanding of Torah. As such, the practices of Judaism (at the time of the Messiah) must be considered central to a better understanding of Torah. When the Messiah came about 2000 years ago, he did not introduce sweeping changes in the Jewish faith. Instead, the Messiah only corrected the people and their leaders concerning the finer points of the law. As such, it is only reasonable to conclude that He would have been in agreement with them concerning the timing of the weekly Sabbaths as well as the Sabbatical years, since He never once hinted that a change was needed in those areas. We know for a certainty that the Jews at the time of Messiah were keeping Sabbatical cycles based upon repeating seven year cycles, therefore (since he did not speak out against it) the Messiah would have been in agreement with them. Such would also be an implied agreement with the repeating 49 year cycles, since these cycles, along with the 7 year cycles, were also continuously repeating.
6) The Book of Jubilees written by a Jew (likely from the priestly class) in the 2nd century BCE, demonstrates that Jubilee cycles were historically understood by normative Judaism to be 49 year, not 50 year, cycles. This book was published 2 centuries before the Messiah, and was very popular among many Jews.
7) The Dead Sea Scrolls and several other related documents also shed great light on the significance of a Jubilee cycle and how it was to be counted. For example, The Melchizedek Scroll plainly indicates that the 70 weeks of Daniel prophecy (Daniel 9) were to be understood as 10 Jubilee cycles of 49 years each. All of these ancient documents can be dated to the 2nd and 3rd Centuries BCE. (Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Craig Evans and Peter Flint (eds). Eerdmans:1997.) [Collins, p. 83.]
8) The evidence as presented in my book The Jubilee Code indicates that there are several major historical alignments between the Jubilee cycles and the chronology of Genesis. Since these alignments are based upon 49 year cycles, this would clearly rule out cycles of 50 years. It is true, we might assign one or two of these alignments to coincidence, but after finding seven or more alignments it becomes clear that it is not just a coincidence.
9) The Jubilee cycles of 49 years with a special 50th year added are paralleled by the Pentecost cycle of 49 days with a special added 50th day of Pentecost. Since the Pentecost cycle does not alter the typical weekly cycle on the day of Pentecost, neither does the Jubilee cycle change the timing of the Sabbatical cycles on the year of Jubilee.
10) Rabbinic opinion is conflicting, sometimes supporting 50 year cycles and sometimes supporting 49 year cycles. However, the Rabbinic practice (over a period of several centuries) has consistently demonstrated their belief in 49 year cycles. When we actually follow one of the main formulas from the Talmud used to determine Sabbatical years (as given near the end of my Jubilee Calendar, in the tab called Talmudic Sabbatical Yr. Formula), we find that it is in complete harmony with the Sabbatical years given in my Jubilee Calendar. Since such evidence upholds repeating cycles of 7 years, it would also uphold repeating cycles of 49 years. We also have evidence of several Sabbatical years which line up with both this Talmudic formula (dating from the start of the Seleucid Era) and the Jubilee Calendar.
11) The 70 week prophecy of Daniel 9 not only gives us 490 years (10 - 49 year Jubilee cycles), but such years are clearly based upon the 70 year desolation predicted by Jeremiah (which is itself based upon the Jubilee cycles). We know this by comparing that prophecy with the statements made in 2 Chronicles 36 and the prophecy of Ezekiel 4:4-6. In Ezekiel 4 a period of 390 + 40 days (a day representing a year) are given. Since the sum total of 390 + 40 = 430 (based on Ezekiel 4), and the 430 years are connected with the 70 years of desolation predicted by Jeremiah, it follows that the 70 Sabbatical years which were not kept would be found within the 430 years. Using 49 year cycles, 70 land-rest years can indeed be found within 430 years--whether starting the count from the year of Jubilee or from the Sabbatical before a year of Jubilee.
12) One more very important point needs to be established. Having determined that the Sabbatical cycles are repeating, and that Daniel 9 establishes that fact, it is also important to tie together Daniel 9 with the Jubilee cycles. All of these prophecies (2 Chronicles 36, Ezekiel 4, and Daniel 9) are based upon the Jubilee cycles at their very foundation. Therefore, because of this, and because the language of the Jubilees is used in Daniel 9 itself (i.e., "seven weeks") we can also be certain that the 490 years are in direct alignment with the Jubilee cycles--such that we can know for a certainty that 457 BCE (the year Ezra came to Jerusalem, and the year the 70 weeks begins) is indeed a year of Jubilee.
Based upon the evidence as presented here, the Sabbatical cycles are clearly understood to be continually repeating cycles of 7 year periods. If the Sabbatical cycles are continuous, this is conclusive evidence that the 49 year Jubilee cycles are also continuous.