Economic Lessons from Ancient Israel

Leviticus chapter 25 describes the Jubilee Year celebration of ancient Israel.  This important event occurred only once, every fiftieth year. During the Jubilee year all private debts were forgiven. Additionally, land that had previously been sold was returned to the original owners!


Imagine the tremendous relief of those citizens of ancient Israel who were released from the burden and weight of their debt! Beyond its impact on individuals, the fiftieth year celebration also reflected God’s understanding of the broader economic stresses that are cyclical in nature. The Jubilee was God’s way of helping to restore economic stability and balance to the nation as a whole.


History isn’t clear about the extent to which Israel kept the Jubilee. However, we know from the Bible that Israel often rebelled against God. Today, economies are far more diverse and interconnected than in ancient times. And because of the way society is structured, we have nothing comparable to the Jubilee year to protect us from major economic turmoil. Recent dramatic fluctuations in the stock market should make us even more aware of the fragile state of the economy and of our limited ability to deal with powerful economic forces.


For Christians, the lesson of the Jubilee lies in its prophetic symbolism. The forgiveness of debt and promise of physical inheritance in the Old Testament were symbols of spiritual forgiveness and our eternal inheritance. Further, Jesus assures those of us who have placed our trust in Him that we will survive the storms of life:


Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock  (Matthew 7:24-25).

Truly, we have nothing to fear!


Principle #20 in Matthew, p. 1297 adds the following thoughts:


To withstand the vicissitudes of life, we must put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—who He is, what He has done for all of us, and what He taught. Jesus claimed to be the one and only “foundation” upon which we are to build our lives (v. 25).  Paul affirmed this great truth:

According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).


I hope and pray that in times of distress and uncertainty you will find comfort in the words and promises of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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