The ultimate derivation of the word jubilee is disputed, but it is most probable that the Hebrew word jobel, to which it is traced, meant "a ram's horn", and that from this instrument, used in proclaiming the celebration, a certain idea of rejoicing was derived. Further, passing through the Greek iobelaios, or iobelos, the word became confused with the Latin jubilo, which means "to shout", and has given us the forms jubilatio and jubilaeum, now adopted in most European languages.
For the Israelites, the year of Jubilee was in any case preeminently a time of joy, the year of remission or universal pardon. "Thou shalt sanctify the fiftieth year," we read in Leviticus 25:10, "and shalt proclaim remission to all the inhabitants of thy land: for it is the year of jubilee." Every seventh year, like every seventh day, was always accounted holy and set aside for rest, but the year which followed seven complete cycles was to be kept as a sabbatical year of special solemnity. The Talmudists and others afterwards disputed whether the Jubilee Year was the forty-ninth or the fiftieth year, the difficulty being that in the latter case two sabbatical years must have been observed in succession. Further, there are historical data which seem to show that in the age of the Machabees the Jubilee of the fiftieth year could not have been kept, for 164-163 B.C. and 38-37 B.C. were both certainly sabbatical years, which they could not have been if two sabbatical years had been intercalated in the interval. However, the text of Leviticus (25:8-55) leaves no room for ambiguity that the fiftieth year was intended, and the institution evidently bore a close analogy with the feast of Pentecost, which was the closing day after seven weeks of harvest. In any case it is certain that the Jubilee period, as it was generally understood and adopted afterwards in the Christian Church, meant fifty and not forty-nine years; but at the same time the number fifty was not... [continues]
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