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Bible Dictionaries
Sabbatical Year

Holman Bible Dictionary

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Every seventh year when farmers rested their land from bearing crops to renew the land and people of Israel. Mosaic law directed that every seventh year the land would not be planted in crops; food would come from what grew wild (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7 ). Just as the Law reserved the seventh day as holy unto God, so too, was the seventh year set aside as a time of rest and renewal. This not only assured the continued fertility of the land by allowing it to lay fallow, but also protected the rights of the poor. Peasants were allowed to eat from the natural abundance of the untended fields. It may be that only a portion of the land was allowed to rest each Sabbath year, the remainder farmed as usual. Hebrews sold into slavery were to be released in that year (Exodus 21:2 ). Loans and debts to Israelites were also to be forgiven (Deuteronomy 15:1-3 ). It is doubtful that the Sabbath year was celebrated in early Israel. Jeremiah reminded the people that their fathers had ignored the observance of the law (Jeremiah 34:13-14; compare Leviticus 26:35 ). Although Israel renewed her dedication to practice the Sabbath year during Nehemiah's time, it is unclear whether it was carried out (Nehemiah 10:31 ). During the intertestamental period an attempt was made by Israel to observe the Sabbath year despite the political turmoil of the times (1 Maccabees 6:49 ). The Sabbath year laws consistently pointed to helping the poor.

David Maltsberger

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Sabbatical Year'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​s/sabbatical-year.html. 1991.
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