Sabbatical Years

by George F Spall

The number seven frequently figures in discussion about natural and supernatural matters. However, we must not allow superstition to fog our prophetic telescope when we focus attention on it, for the number seven is seen to be significant in the Holy Scriptures.

It is not a figure dredged from the murky river of history by some old crone looking for omens of evil to darken the future. When Moses put pen to papyrus to record the creation account and wrote that the Eternal ceased work on day seven, it was the Creator Himself (may His Name be ever Holy) who had started the counting, and told him.

It was He who arranged Israel's secular and sacred, even social system into sevens of weeks, sevens of months, sevens of years and extended the plan to seven sevens of years to make forty-nine.

In turn, these groups of forty-nine years were seen as defined periods, each succeeding the other so that the first year of each forty-nine was known as the fiftieth, and in the fiftieth, this year of Jubilee, all debts were cancelled and slaves freed. No wonder there was jubilation.


So, not only was the seventh a day of rest, but every seventh year was also a Sabbath, and the land of Israel was made to rest, and both the forty-ninth and the fiftieth years were rest periods. It was because Israel did not keep its Sabbath years properly, according to God's instructions, during four hundred and ninety years that they were sent into exile for seventy years so that the land was uncultivated for that period and had time to be revitalized.

Ezekiel assures us (36:5,20) that God regards Eretz Israel as His own, so we can understand why, as the Landlord, He evicted the tenants till His land had recovered fertility.

It is interesting to note that the day of Pentecost was and still is the fiftieth day after the weekly Sabbath that follows Passover. And from Passover to Tabernacles is seven months. There is no doubt at all that the Creator wove this figure seven into the very fabric of human history when He first put humanity on to the loom of life.


The number seventy is also an important figure in the design. Jeremiah used it and Daniel noted it. It's as if we are standing back from an old carpet hanging on the wall. Being away from it, we can see the vast design; then the closer we approach, the more detail we can see. Perhaps seventy times seven in years is the most notable feature of the pattern. And we can expect seventy times forty-nine to give us a further insight into prophetic time.

Each forty-nine has a pattern of sevens of years with intricate scrolls and whorls within it made up of sevens of months, and within them, sevens of weeks, and days. Our God is a master designer indeed!


Colin Deal is a modern writer, maybe not very well known to many, but well worth reading. He speaks of the dating system set out by Zondervan Publishers in which their experts say that King Hezekiah was healed in the year 701 B.C.E. The Bible says that this was a Jubilee year (Isaiah 37:30).

The date is taken from a monument commemorating the exploits of Sennacharib. Not all authorities agree with Zondervan's historians, but the evidence for the year 701 is very strong, specially if we note various data that can be found in many literary sources. We need to bear in mind that that rather remarkable event in Hezekiah's life was in the fiftieth Jubilee year after Israel kept Passover three days from their crossing Jordan to enter the Promised Land.

The first book of Maccabees describes an event in the autumn of 163/162 (Israel's secular year begins with Rosh HaShana which falls in either September or October), and says that that was a Sabbatic year. From that we can calculate that it is seventy-seven by seven years from Sennacharib.

According to Josephus, the murder of Simon the Hasmonean happened in a Sabbatic year — 135/134 B.C.E.

It was law that Israel's king should know the Torah (books of Moses) and it was in the Sabbath year 41/42 C.E. that King Agrippa publicly recited Deuteronomy.

Twenty-eight years later Jerusalem was destroyed. The year — 70 C.E.

The Bar Kochba revolt was in another Sabbath year — 132/133 C.E.

Thus we can follow the series of sevens easily enough, for example, 531/532 is mentioned as another Sabbatic year, and Maimonides, a respected scholar, writes of 1196/1197 as a Sabbath year. The multiples of seven eventually bring us to 1966/1967 when in June 1967 Israel retook the Old City of Jerusalem.


We may be pardoned if our interest gets very warm when we discover that the number of earthquakes above mag. 6 on the Richter Scale suddenly jumped in 1967 to seventeen; quakes of that magnitude had numbered only seventeen in the previous TEN years! How did Y'shua know about this kind of thing when He made His prediction (Matthew 24:7), that multiplied earthquakes would be one of the five signs that would herald His return? The startling increase in that year cannot be ignored.

If we add sevens to sevens we discover that the nasty event we know as the Yom Kippur War began just ten days inside the next Sabbatic year of 1973/1974. Rosh HaShana that year was September 27th. Just seven days later the Prime Minister of Israel announced that Jerusalem would be the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel, and the Arabs promptly used oil as a blackmail to force most foreign embassies to move to Tel Aviv. That was the year that the International Christian Embassy opened in Jerusalem as a protest at their departure.

Well, 1987 is not yet here, but I venture to predict that some time after September of that year, probably into 1988, some new remarkable event will capture the world's attention. It will probably be in Israel, and probably in Jerusalem. For 1987/1988 will not only be a Sabbatic year but it will mark forty years since Israel became a nation, recognized by the world at large.

That year will also be seventy years from the date in December 1917 when Jerusalem was liberated by the Allies from the Turks, so it is unlikely that that year will fail to mark a milestone in Israel's history, perhaps in world history. Seventy years from December 1917 and forty years from May 1948 both conclude in the same Jewish year in 1988.

Allowing that Hezekiah's deliverance from Sennacharib did take place in the year 701 B.C.E. and that it was in the fiftieth Jubilee, if we add another fifty-five cycles of forty-nine (55 x 49 = 2695) to make seventy, we would be brought to 1994/5.

If it be argued that there is uncertainty about the commencement of this Gregorian calendar, we agree that on the surface this might seem to be a difficulty, but then the B.C.E. date of 701 would be involved too, and the six years' variation would mean that 1994 would then be 2000.

This fits in very well with Hosea's prophecy (6:2): "After two days He will revive us; in the third day He will raise us up and we shall live in his sight." Even though this has great meaning when taken literally, Scripture allows that a "thousand years is as a day" in God's reckoning of time.

There are some factors that need to be taken into account of course, and no one can be certain, but those Sabbatic years cannot be swept under the carpet we were looking at. It was hanging on the wall, remember?