Sabbath cycles May 6, 2011
In the Scriptures there are a number of cycles based on the number seven. For example a week involves 6 days of work followed by a day of rest Shabbat. The cycle of seven days then repeats itself over and over. In the holy feasts of spring and fall there are cycles of seven days in both Unleaven Bread and Tabernacles. In addition, after seven weekly Sabbath cycles are completed in the spring, the day after the seventh Sabbath, the fiftieth day, is Shavuot, otherwise known as Pentecost. All this is widely known and understood.
There is a similar pattern involving cycles of seven years. Each cycle ends in a Shemitah. The land was to lay fallow, resting, on this the seventh year. After seven such cycles of seven years, the year after the seventh sabbatical cycle, the fiftieth year, was celebrated as Yobel, otherwise known to us as Jubilee. Instead of the day following seven cycles of weeks as in the case of Shavuot, we now have the year following seven cycles of “year -weeks”. Debts were forgiven, land returned to the original owners. The economic clock was reset.
A few years ago, the personal papers of Isaac Newton surfaced and were donated to Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Newton was a keen student of the Bible as well as a brilliant scientist. He was fascinated with the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. Of particular interest to us is the passage in Daniel 9:25-27 involving the 70 “weeks” of years (ie 490 years). It is noteworthy that the number 70 here itself represents 10 cycles of 7 “weeks” or 10 X 7 X 7, thus 10 jubilee cycles.
Newton did not agree with the traditional interpretation in which the 70 weeks are equated to the 7 + 62 +1 weeks in the following verses. In fact most bible scholars simply add the 7 and 62 together, breaking the 70 weeks into two parts, a 69 week section already fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus, and a 1 week (ie 7 year period) in the future leading up to the second advent. All references in prophecy books to a “Seven Year Tribulation” are built on this foundational assumption. Sir Robert Anderson wrote a popular treatise The Coming Prince in the late 1800s in which he speculated that the 69 weeks of years (483 years) stretched from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem issued by Cyrus the Great up to the Palm Sunday arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan 32 A.D. when He was publicly hailed as messiah. Anderson believed that a special “biblical year” of 360 days was involved. However not everyone agrees with this explanation.
Isaac Newton believed that the 70 “weeks” of 490 years represented the time period from 457 B.C. up to the death of Jesus in 34 A.D. He was convinced that the 62 “weeks” (ie 434 years) were connected to the time period stretching from Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in 436 B.C. (according to Josephus) up to the birth of Christ in 2 B.C. Newton considered it noteworthy that all four start and end dates were themselves Jewish sabbatical years, namely 457 B.C., 436 B.C., 2 B.C. and 34 A.D. Reference can be made to Benedict Zuckerman’s work detailing all Sabbatical cycles in ancient and modern times. Incidentally this pattern is recognized and still followed by the rabbis in Israel in modern times.
Isaac Newton further believed that the 7 “weeks” of years in verse 26 referred to the second coming of Jesus, some 49 years after another repossession of Jerusalem by the Jews in the future. At the time of Ezra and Nehemiah the great superpower of Persia had encouraged the return of the Jews to reoccupy their ancestral territory and rebuild Jerusalem. Newton speculated that perhaps in the distant future (he died in 1727) some benevolent world power would assist the Jews again. The resettlement of Jerusalem would occur 49 years before the return of Jesus to earth and thus hearld a Great Jubilee!
In fact the Jewish nation was reborn May 14, 1948. The next sabbatical cycle following this historic occasion took place in 1951/52 (Jewish year 5712). Shemitah cycles have continued since, the last of which was 2007/08 (Jewish year 5768). The next cycle will be 2014/15.
Clearly the Shemiath cycles are recognized in Israel. What about the Jubilees? In modern times there has been no official celebration of Jubilee involving the return of land to the original owners, cancellation of debts etc. However, it is very interesting to consider events in recent history along with the corresponding Sabbatical cycles.
Other than the creation of the modern state of Israel, the most important historical event in modern Jewish history has been the return of Jerusalem to Jewish control on June 07, 1967 during the famous Six-day War. Along with Jerusalem, the original Israel territory of Judea and Samaria was also acquired. Note that the so-called West Bank is the mountainous terrain of ancient Israel. After millennia of Gentile domination the land had been returned to its rightful owners. This also occurred in the year following a Shemitah cycle 1965/66. Could 1966/67 be a candidate for Jubilee? Let us consider what transpired some 49 years earlier. On November 02, 1917 the British government issued the famous Balfour declaration, viewing “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a home for the Jewish people”. At the time this territory was under control of the Islamic Ottoman empire. A few weeks later in early December 1917 Lord Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Turks without firing a single shot. Just as Newton had speculated some 200 years earlier, a major superpower had acquired control of Palestine and publicly invited the Jews to return home. The year 1917/18 thus qualifies as a likely Jubilee year along with 1966/67.
If we consider 49 years into the future from 1966/67, we arrive at the next potential Jubilee candidate, the year 2015/2016. This year follows the Shemitah cycle which ends in 2014/15. Interesting that from the day Jerusalem was liberated on June 07, 1967 if we measure 49 years of 360 days (the so-called biblical prophetic year) or 17,640 days, we arrive at Yom Kippur, September 23, 2015. It was on Yom Kippur that the trumpet blast was made to announce the arrival of Jubilee in ancient times in Israel. Perhaps the debts will be forgiven and Land completed returned to the Jews at that point under messiah the King.
Isaac Newton was asked to speculate on the timing of the Lord’s return. He claimed it would be a very long time in the future, probably in the year 2060 A.D. This date comes from his analysis of the prophecy of the “little horn” outlined in Daniel 7. Newton believed that the Roman Empire had devolved at its collapse into 10 ethnic “horns”, some strong, some weak. He further believed that the “little horn” of Daniel 7:8 was a little kingdom which would arise and rip up 3 horns. This process in fact started in 755 A.D. with the Pope’s acquisition of Ravenna. By 800 A.D. a total of three kingdoms had been conquered and were combined into what was called the Papal states. These were Ravenna, Lombardy and the Dutchy of Rome. Newton postulated that the time, times and half a time mentioned in Daniel 7:25 corresponded to 3.5 biblical years, totaling 1260 days. He employed a “year for a day” understanding and simply added this number to the end point of 800A.D., thus arriving at 2060 A.D. However it is also quite reasonable to add the 1260 to the start point of the process in 755 A.D. and arrive at 2015 A.D., the same date we discussed earlier. This may in fact be the year Messiah Yeshua arrives back on earth and sets up a legitimate kingdom that will never end, with Jerusalem and not Rome as capital. It is noteworthy that the Papal States were abolished in 1870 when they were forcibly integrated into the Republic of Italy. However in 1929 Benito Mussolini established a Concordat with the Pope, thereby resurrecting the “little horn” in a reduced scale as Vatican City, a tiny sovereign state, the smallest in the world yet exchanging ambassadors with 178 countries including the United States and Canada. In the words of one U.S. newspaper report at the time: “the little horn is back!!” I suspect that the little horn of Daniel 7 that lasts 1260 day/years is none other than the Babylon of Revelation chapter 17.
Revelation 17 and 18 describe the collapse and destruction of Babylon the Great, a city which in ancient times ruled both the global political/economic world but was also the center of false religion. A careful read of Revelation 17 seems to point to the demise of a spiritual system, concentrated in a city of seven hills (Rome) while Revelation 18 seems to describe a political/economic metropolis. Note that the kings of the earth gloat over the loss of religious Babylon yet mourn the destruction of the economic one in the following chapter, joining with the sea captains who wail “from afar off”. Could there be two separate Babylons?
Shortly before the overthrow of ancient Babylon, a mysterious handwriting appeared on the wall. “Mene mene tekel upharsin” is well known to Bible students. Daniel explained to the king that ‘mene” meant counted and brought to an end, “tekel” meant weighed and found wanting, while “parsin” referred to the division/ripping apart of the kingdom at the hands of the Persians that very night.
Daniel did not explain why “mene” appeared twice however. It is my belief that this message on the wall is also intended for our time, for another world center of finance and economics, a modern Babylon. Recall that the mina is a unit of currency and is worth 1000 bekas. The tekel/shekel is also a unit of currency and was worth 20 bekas. The parsin was a ‘divided” coin worth half a mina or 500 bekas. Adding all the pieces together we have 1000 +1000 + 20 + 500 = 2520. This number is important as it exactly equals a full sabbatical cycle of 7 X 360 = 2520 that we discussed earlier. So the message for our day would be similar to seeing “dollar dollar dime and quarter(ed)” on the wall, and the interpretation might well be… your “monei” is counted and finished, weighed and found to be worthless, and about to be “ripped apart” in pieces. Interesting that the world center of finance and trading is located near a huge busy harbour, New York City. Indeed the headquarters of global politics is located on the East River of the same city in the UN building. The reference to “come out of her my people” may well refer to the concentration of Jews that still makes New York the largest Jewish city in the world. In fact when huge numbers of Jews immigrated to the USA in the late 1800s and early 20th century, they mostly settled in NYC and its surroundings. Near the entrance to NYC on Long island is located a city named …. you might have guessed it, Babylon! There are only two such cities with this name in the world, the other is in ruins in Iraq near Baghdad. Rabbis claimed that New York and its suburbs would be like Babylon of Biblical fame… a “home away from home” until the restoration to Israel. If this analysis is correct than the destruction of modern Babylon will be completed in “one hour” as outlined in Revelation 18:17, 19, perhaps as a result of a further terrorist nuclear strike. A new global political and economic order will be set up, but this time in Jerusalem under the rulership of Messiah Yeshua.
A careful study of ancient Jewish history reveals that the fourth millennium was reached near the year 15/16 A.D. not at the time of Jesus/Yeshua’s birth. Thus Yeshua would have been about military age (19) as opposed to an infant when this milestone marker was passed. He would have been old enough to fight for the nation and take on the kingdoms of the world. In fact he waited until he was “about 30” to start a ministry that more closely paralleled that of a priest/Levite than a soldier like King David. But if this calculation is correct than the 6th millennium will also conclude near or on the year 2015/16. Perhaps the grand Millennium will then be ushered in, with the rightful warrior King of kings, settling up a kingdom that shall never pass away.
We have considered 7 day cycles ending in Shabbat, 7 week cycles ending in Shavuot, 7 year cycles ending in Shemitah, 7 “weeks of years” cycles ending in Yobel and 7 millennia cycles ending in the Great Millenium rest. May King Yeshua come to us speedily and complete fully all of these cycles. Maranatha!