The Year of Shemitah
“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts.”—Deuteronomy 15:1 We are familiar with the concept of every seventh day of the week being set apart as a Sabbath. The ancient Israelites were commanded to honor the Lord and rest from all regular work and activities on this holy day.
But did you know there is also a Sabbath year? Every seventh year God ordered a rest of the land and a release of all debts in the Sabbath year called Shemitah.
The Hebrew translation of Shemitah is “to release.” The principle of Shemitah began over 3,000 years ago when the Lord told Moses, “Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year, there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord” (Leviticus 25:3-4). He also ordered the release of all debts (Deuteronomy 15:1).
Rabbis cite examples of ancient faithful farmers who observed Shemitah and were blessed with larger crops the following year—a natural consequence of allowing the land to rest and of obeying the Lord.
The Shemitah years were meant to be a blessing for God’s people. As soon as the early Jews settled in the Holy Land, they began to observe the seven-year cycle. But they fell away from God and ignored the seventh-year Sabbaths for 490 years. Soon the blessings of Shemitah turned to judgment.
In 586 BC, the nation of Israel was destroyed. The Temple was devastated, the land burned, and the people were taken captive to Babylon, where they lamented and waited for 70 years.
Why 70 years? To repay the 70 Shemitah years they had failed to observe for 490 years. The land was given an enforced rest until their return. The principles of Shemitah had determined the timing of judgment.
The next Shemitah year on the Jewish calendar began on the Feast of Trumpets this year, September 24, 2014, and continues until September 2015. Interestingly, this Shemitah is bracketed by blood moons.
As we learn more about God’s plans for His people, we can observe this Shemitah year by turning to the Lord and seeking safety and blessing in His loving care! I pray that this will be such a year for you and your loved ones.