Jubilee and Nationalist Time


Nick Valvo

University of California, Davis

npvalvo@ucdavis.edu | nvalvo.name

"Debts to the Past," MMLA Annual Meeting

November 11, 2012


Jubilee's scriptural origins are in three passages from the Pentateuch:

  • Deuteronomy 15
  • Exodus 23
  • Leviticus 25

Deuteronomy 15:1-2

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor; he shall not expect it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord’s release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it; but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release.

Exodus 23:10

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild beasts may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

Leviticus 25:8-12

And you shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall send abroad the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall send abroad the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his family. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be to you; in it you shall neither sow, nor reap what grows of itself, nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat what it yields out of the field.

Jubilee in 1300

Pope Boniface VIII adapts the metaphor from Isaiah, in which the redemption offered by the Messiah is likened to that in the Year of Jubilee.

Jubilee in 1600

For Samuel Purchase and Henry Ainsworth, the hamartiological metaphor is explicitly rejected in favor of a practical, legalistic understanding.

Jubilee in 1660

For William Chamberlayne, the word Jubilee implies neither the metaphorical nor the financial sense.

Thank you.