Sabbath 25/5/32/120


Dear Friends,

The elders have been asked to consider changing our wording in several papers regarding the harvests and the Seven-year cycle. The requested change is from a double harvest to a treble harvest in reference to a non-Jubilee sabbatical cycle. The scripture in question is:

Leviticus 25:21  “Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.”

The question arises, as in most cases, from standing too close to any one particular scripture. We should examine the scriptures “here a little there a little”.

We are to follow the example of Peter in Acts 10 and his vision of the unclean things and being instructed to go and eat. He took the instruction and applied his understanding of the entirety of scripture. His response to the vision was to baptize gentiles. He did not get fixated on the instruction to go and eat, otherwise he would have had a lobster and the gentiles would have no hope in Christ. The meaning was implied. Peter then acted on that meaning.

Historically, the Churches of God have always considered that Leviticus 25:1-7 regards the Seven-year cycle, and verses 8-55 deal with the 50-year cycle of the Jubilee.

The question only applies to grains such as wheat and barley, which need to be planted in the fall or winter, for harvest the following year in spring at the barley harvest for Passover and the wheat harvest for Pentecost.  The attempt was made to apply a treble harvest in each 6th year from the instructions regarding the 48th year of the Jubilee cycle.

The example we look to for the Seven-year cycle is that of the manna. An extra portion was provided for each day of rest or Sabbath.

We look to the Omer count to Pentecost for an example in the buildup to the 50 of the Jubilee.

The error arises from trying to apply Leviticus 25:21 to every Sixth year of the Seven-year cycle. The text when read in context refers only to the 48th year. The instruction is in the midst of the instructions regarding the seventh cycle of seven years. This is the year before the Seventh Sabbath or 49th Year of the Jubilee cycle. 

To keep the Sabbath year and the Jubilee year correctly there must be a treble harvest in the 48th year. The Jubilee begins in the 49th year at the Day of Atonement and continues on for a complete year until the Day of Atonement in the 50th year when all lands are restored at the Blowing of Atonement.

After the Last Great Day of the Jubilee the lands are returned to the rightful owners and the preparation begins for the harvest, which begins at the Passover of the following year which is the First year of the new Jubilee. The years are treated in the text as being the Sabbath year with the Jubilee as an eighth, and the next or ninth year being the first year of the new Jubilee.

Taking a look at the same question from another angle, what scripture would need change for the treble harvest to apply in each and every 6th year? 

Leviticus 25:3  Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;

If every sabbatical year applies the same as a Jubilee year then we would have a constant cycle of 5 years of reaping and sowing. Leviticus 25:3 would need to change to 5 years of reaping and sowing.

In light of the context, there is an implied double harvest at the sixth year. This is the same sense as that used in the gathering of the Manna on the Sixth Day for both the Sixth and the Sabbath days.

The logical response to this approach is a fall sowing of grains in the Seventh year after Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day are completed. The example we use is the declaration of the Jubilee on the Tenth Day of the Seventh Month. The planting cannot start until after the Last Great Day because the entire nation should be and will be keeping the Feasts and will go back to their fields and labours after the Last Great Day is completed. This usage allows for a consistent extra harvest for each year of rest. God is not a respecter of persons or lands. The lands that produce winter wheat and barley have one year of rest in the normal Sabbath cycle, just as the vineyards and orchards.

The table at Appendix A shows how the application of the sowing and reaping occurs. The double reaping of the Sixth year begins with the onset of each harvest. The Barley and Wheat Harvest are reaped to a double harvest in a normal Sixth year and a Treble Harvest in the Seventh Year from Passover and Pentecost. The double harvest continues for Tabernacles but no sowing is then permitted so that there are no harvests for the Sabbath Year.

The restrictions on the Sabbath year are continued on over the Jubilee or Fiftieth Year to the Seventh Month and then the next five months are treated as an eighth year. The ensuing First year of the Sabbath or next Jubilee is then a normal year for harvest purposes with the Wave Sheaf harvest guaranteed with the Barley harvest.

Looking forward to other ideas that may arise, how do we approach an idea that we may decide is a new interpretation of Scripture? Take a step back and ask the opinion of long-standing members of the Churches of God. They have been through most of these before. There is nothing new under the sun.

God and Christ both acted with council in order to develop the thinking and actions of the Host and entourage.  We know there is wisdom in seeking counsel in a multitude. If you find that most are throwing a wet blanket on your hot idea, you need to reconsider your idea. If all are in amazed agreement, then you may well be on to something. 

Consider the stories of Esther and Ruth. They have been around for centuries. When the meaning was expounded, all agreed. Electrified agreement is what is needed for new doctrines.

When the elders and others have proposed ideas that were not immediately embraced by all, they did not and do not continue to promote them in a lobby campaign. They respected the opinion of the Board and the delegated authorities. We should all do the same. We are bound to submit issues to the National Conference and then to the World Conference under the constitution and not to discuss them.

This view of the Scriptures is doctrine in the Christian Churches of God.

Russell Hilburn, Wong Wei Keong, Juan Boshoff and Wade Cox
Committee of the Board of Elders

Appendix A: Sabbatic and Jubilee Harvest Cycles (.pdf file)