Thought for the week 17th February; Jubilee

We will be hearing a lot about jubilees in the coming months, as we mark the Platinum Jubilee of the Queen, after 70 years on the throne. I have always associated jubilees with royal events and wedding anniversaries; silver, golden and diamond. However, the word jubilee itself is from the Bible and takes us back to world 3000 years ago. 

In the Book of Leviticus, mixed in with some bizarre (to our eyes) regulations on worship, are instructions on how the people of Israel should order their society so that it was just and fair. There are constant reminders to look after the widow, the orphan and the alien (immigrants who were not Jews). There are also instructions for care of the environment; every seventh year no crops were to be grown to restore the fertility of the soil. After the end of seven times seven years (49 years), every 50th year was particularly special. It was to be marked by the blowing of rams’ horns throughout the land; all land was to be restored to its original owners, all slaves were to be freed. It was a resetting of society, to ensure that wealth and privilege did not become ingrained and a time of celebration. The Hebrew word for the rams’ horns is yobel or jobel; Leviticus says that the 50th year was to be the year of the Ram’s Horn, Jobel, which has come to us jubilee.  

As we mark the jubilee this year, we would do well to reflect on its original purpose, as described in one the least-fashionable books in the Bible. Our society is not that of 3000 years ago, simple solutions applicable then may not work today; but we must surely share the aspirations for fairness and justice.