Saturday, August 25, 2007

Caesar's Jubilee

God told Moses in Lev 25.10, "You shall consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family."

In the Jubilee year, of course, the land would have a sabbath (Lev 25.11), land would return to the original family to which it was given (v.13), and unredeemed Israeli slaves would be freed (v. 54).

The Jubilee ordinances show Yahweh's ownership of the promised land (v. 23) and of the people of the promised land (v. 55).

Suggestively, Luke reports an event when all Israel returns to their family's estate. But this return is ordered by Caesar rather than by Yahweh: "Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. . . . And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee . . . [to] Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David" (Lk 2.1,3-4).

Caesar's decree requiring a return reflects an anti-Jubilee -- Caesar's mandated return betokens bondage for Israel rather than release. Caesar claims the promised land to serve his own purposes, and claims Israel as his servant rather than God's. Israel moves on Caesar's command rather than on God's command.

That Israel returns to her family estates because Caesar wants to take a census, is also suggestive in light of Israel's experience with censuses (1 Chr 21.1). Israel is not moving to God's commands but rather moves to Caesar's command.


Blogger solarblogger said...

It is interesting that for Jesus and his family, the reverse Jubilee is followed by a reverse Exodus. They must leave Israel for Egypt. And they escape a slaughter of children.

September 15, 2007 12:19 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Yes. The exodus out of Israel to safety in Egypt is a sobering, critical orientation of what's going on in the Gospels.

September 15, 2007 12:36 PM  

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