True Meaning of Sabbatical Year Cycles from the Old Testament

August 4, 2015 at 7:31 PM 7 comments

God's plan with Israel includes the fact that they ignored 70 Sabbatical Year rests.

God’s plan with Israel includes the fact that they ignored 70 Sabbatical Year rests.

In this third (and hopefully last) part related to the Shemitah (here is part one and part two), I want to go into the background of the Sabbatical Year cycle from the Old Testament. I’m confident that if people would only go back to God’s Word (instead of simply reading Jonathan Cahn’s books and taking them as truth), there would be far less sensationalizing with respect to the topic of the Sabbatical Year or the Shemitah.

The problem is that there is way too much pride today among Christians who, unfortunately, do not know the Bible well enough. Because of that, they will take what someone like Jonathan Cahn states as true without even thinking about it. Their pride speaks loudly here. People like to be “in the know.” They like to be part of the crowd that “knows the secret” even if they are willing to share that secret. It makes people feel very important. It actually “puffs” ordinary people up.

As I stated in part one, God instituted the Sabbatical Year cycle to A) give the land rest from farming for one full year. This occurred on the 7th year of each Sabbatical Year cycle (or Shemitah), and B) to release debtors from their debts. Essentially, on each 7th year (Sabbatical Year/Shemitah), debts were forgiven (a financial “reset” occurred) and the land was to lie fallow. This obviously meant that food had to be stocked up to get people through that seventh year since farming could not take place.

God warned Israel in Leviticus 26:27-35, that if they failed to observe the Sabbatical Year cycle and the Jubilees, He would remove them from the Land.  Unfortunately, Israel failed to observe not just one or two Sabbatical Years but a total of 70 of them! Yes, it means 70 individual 7th years (Sabbatical Year/Shemitah). But in reality, it means that every seventh year was not observed. When God warned Israel that He was going to bring them into captivity and oust them from the Land, He would do so to allow the Land to lie fallow for 70 straight years even though the Sabbatical Year occurred once every seven years.

If we look at Ezekiel, we learn that God told the prophet Ezekiel to lay on his side for 390 days (one Jewish calendar year). Each day represented one year of iniquity for the nation of Israel that they spent in disobedience and rebellion for a total of 360 years. Ezekiel then lay on his left side for 40 days, which represented 40 years for the people of Judah and their iniquity. Together, that totals 430 years.

I’m not simply guessing here or seeing some type of “code” in all of this. This is clearly spelled out by God Himself in Ezekiel 4:4-6 (note the bold text below).

“Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity. For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.”

God warned Israel (and Judah) repeatedly that the day would come when they would be removed from the Land because of their iniquity. The “iniquity” was failure to observe the Sabbatical Year cycles. Specifically, they failed to observe 70 separate Sabbatical Years, which stretched over a period of 490 years (which Daniel deals with in Daniel 9).

Eventually, God brought His promises (threats) to fruition and Babylon (under Nebuchadnezzar) attacked and conquered Jerusalem and took captives with him back to Babylon. This was prophesied about by Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 25:8-12). Daniel was part of this group taken captive. It was only after he himself had been reading the prophet Jeremiah that he realized the 70 years of captivity were nearly up (Daniel 9).

In 2 Chronicles 36:15-21, we learn that the people indeed were taken into captivity for 70 years. While out of the Land, the Land was able to heal itself as God kept anyone from farming it during that entire time.

This is why – I believe – when we get to Daniel 9, we learn about the 70 “sevens.” There, through Gabriel, God reveals to Daniel that even though the 70 years of captivity was coming to an end, God says that there would still be 70 “sevens” (the KJV wrongly translates the word to “weeks” but since a week is made up of seven days, it’s the same idea, though it more correctly should have been translated “sevens”), or what He called the “times of the Gentiles” in which Jerusalem would be trodden underfoot by Gentile nations.

Why “sevens”? Simply because this is connected back to the Sabbatical Year cycle of seven years. At the end of each seven-year cycle, the last or seventh year was the actual Sabbatical Year. This is also known as the Shemitah, which is discussed quite a bit by Jonathan Cahn and made to be something it is not.

The main reason Israel was removed from the Land in the first place was because they failed to recognize and observe the Sabbatical Year cycle where every seven years, the Land would be left alone and debts would be forgiven. Those were the reasons why God was angry with Israel and why He eventually used Babylon as His arm of judgment and later, judged Babylon.

Jonathan Cahn says that America and Israel are inextricably bound together and what happens to Israel can also happen to America if we do not repent. Unfortunately for Cahn, this country – America – has never observed any portion of the Sabbatical Year cycle as a nation since its inception! While some farmers may have allowed their land to lie fallow every seven years (or every few years), this was not a national practice. Beyond this, it was also not a national practice to erase debts automatically every seven years either.

In fact, during the early years of America, Debtor’s Prisons were established for people who could not pay their debts. According to numerous resources, Debtor’s Prisons existed throughout the United States up until around the 1850s. In reality, this country was not founded on promises of observing Sabbatical Years. It simply did not exist, though that is Jonathan Cahn’s main argument.

Jonathan Cahn believes (and would like us to believe) that the actual meaning of the Sabbatical Year cycle has changed in God’s eyes. Supposedly, it has nothing do with leaving the Land to lie fallow or forgiving financial debts. Regarding the United States, apparently, the Sabbatical Year cycle (Shemitah) has to do with disobedience and rebellion to God’s general moral principles.

Even up to the time that God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to invade and conquer Israel, the people of Israel generally flourished. This was in spite of their sin and willful disobedience to God! This is His patience, grace, and love shown to a people who (like us) didn’t deserve it. God warned them repeatedly, but Israel refused to repent. That would have meant starting to observe the Sabbatical Year cycle again! It meant forgiving debts and allowing the Land to lie fallow every seventh year.

Somehow though, Jonathan Cahn has turned things topsy-turvy so that when the Sabbatical Year cycle is applied to America, it means something completely different from what it meant for Israel! This is ridiculous and is an example of terrible exegesis! There is no excuse for it except the excuse of self-aggrandizement. God will not be mocked as Jonathan Cahn is mocking Him. That is a surety and he has had plenty of opportunities to confess his sin and repent of it, though to this day, he remains unrepentant.

If we look carefully at Scripture (and I have not gotten that deeply into it with these three articles), the 70 years of captivity for Israel, the 70 “sevens” that will ultimately play out, and the reasons why God allowed Israel to be conquered and captured in the first place have to do with God’s overall plan for Israel and has absolutely nothing to do with America at all!

How many of you knew about the fact that Israel had ignored 70 “sevens” worth of Sabbatical Year cycles? How many of you saw the connection between Jeremiah 25 and Daniel 9? How many of you realized that the Sabbatical Year cycles were based on forgiveness of debts and allowing the Land to lie fallow? If you understood this, then how could Jonathan Cahn even remotely be correct?

There is no special code that’s 3,000 years old that applies to America’s future. America is on its own time-table and God knows specifically when/if this country will fail. This country will fall sooner once we remove ourselves from supporting Israel, which this current administration cannot seem to do quickly enough.

It is not the Sabbatical Year cycle that has anything to do with America’s coming demise. It is the fact that Israel has been thrown under the bus progressively by our nation’s leaders, who prefer to support rogue nations like Iran that promises to destroy Israel. Unless God holds them back, Iran will certainly attempt to do that at their earliest convenience.

The specter of the Sabbatical Year cycle (the Shemitah) means absolutely nothing for the United States. I’m convinced, based on God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:3; see also Genesis 15 and 17), that those who bless Israel will receive God’s blessing, while those who persecute Israel (even by turning away from Israel), will ultimately be destroyed.

I cannot control what this administration does. All I can do is pray and leave it in God’s hands. I personally, do not persecute Israel. I understand that Christians owe the nation of Israel a debt of gratitude because of what God has brought forth from and through that nation. Read the entire book of Romans to gain more insight into this.

Jonathan Cahn plays fast and loose with Scripture, trying to make connections where none exist. The lack of discernment shown by many is astounding. As I have said before, any of us (myself included!) can fail to rightly divide God’s Word. We need each other as iron sharpens iron. We must be open to rational constructive criticism that is designed to force us back on God’s Word. When we get behind this person or that one as if they are the be all, end all in things of God, there is a huge problem.

America will fall one day, but it won’t because of some imagined connection with Israel and the “Sabbatical Year/Shemitah.” America will fall because of a failure to support Israel! When Jesus returns to this earth, God will judge the nations. That “Sheep and the Goats Judgment” is found in Matthew 25:31-46. There, each nation is judged based on how they treated Israel (especially during the coming Tribulation). This particular judgment occurs after the Tribulation and after Jesus returns to this planet physically. It won’t happen this September!

Too many today toy with the idea that judgment to America is coming and something “may” (or may not) happen this September 13, 2015 like an economic crash, which will push us back to the Dark Ages. That probably will not happen. Instead, there will likely be a continued worsening of the economy until the next president will “sadly” have to admit defeat and introduce a global currency that will replace the dollar.

The world needs to become one in order for the Antichrist to rule that future newly formed one-world system. It will happen. Live for today, not September 13th! Trust God to get you through it and be about the Father’s business, which is…the Great Commission.

Entry filed under: christianity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, second coming.

Was Shemitah Ever Associated with Bad Omens in the Bible? Jonathan Cahn and the Hebrew Roots Movement


  • 1. Sheryl  |  August 28, 2015 at 11:36 PM

    If the government of Israel had remained within the boundaries set in 1967 we wouldn’t need to chastise the leaders of Israel. The greed and land grab is so obvious and distasteful that even America is second guessing it’s friendship with this country. If Iran turns its wrath on Israel it is because there was never enough land to satisfy the gluttony disguised as promised land. Never enough… Greedy. Israel needs to stop stealing land and remove those new settlements on Palestinian land.

    the U.S. will also serve a spiritual penalty for its own land grabbing, greed, stealing of precious resources and bombing of innocent people in Arab countries.


    • 2. modres  |  August 29, 2015 at 5:52 AM

      Actually, the Land Israel had in 1967 was what she gained legally during the 6 Day War but it still doesn’t represent all of the Land that God promised Israel via Abraham in Gen 12, 15, and 17.

      As far as this alleged greed you speak of, even though Israel legally and rightfully gained additional Land the Bible says is rightfully Israel’s, the leaders of Israel have given most of that aquired land BACK to the countries in exchange for peace, a peace that has never come.

      You are far off the mark here. It’s not Israel’s alleged greed in the matter. It is hate that espouses antisemitism from the Arab countries that surround Israel. Look at a world map sometime to learn just how small Israel is compared to all the Arab nations that surround Israel.

      And by the way, the “Palestinians” are simply more Arabs. They do not have their own language or culture that is unique to them and they have never had a capitol. In fact years ago anyone who lived in the land of Palestine – Jew or Gentile – was referred to as a Palestinian. Yasser Arafat co-opted the name “Palestinian” applying it only to Arabs and it stuck. It’s now what people – including you – believe is truth.

      America stands against Israel now more than ever because President Obama sympathizes with Muslims and Islam.

      Iran is at least four times larger than Israel but they still want Israel wiped off the map and have said that. Who are the greedy ones?


  • […] I thought my last article on the Sabbatical Year cycle (Shemitah) was actually going to be the final one, it turns out I was […]


  • 4. Melvin  |  August 5, 2015 at 7:23 AM

    Thank you for being longsuffering with me. I only meant that “in defense of” Cahn…..perhaps God was trying to show him something “spiritual”….such as….and forgive the wrong wording….this nation was dedicated to God, not created. God can and does use any nation according to His purposes. I do not support Mr. Cahn in any fashion nor have I purchased his books, although I have seen the Isaiah 9:10 Judgment. I have not understood that if he believes in the Isa. 9:10, then why not also use Isa.10 as both deal with the Assyrians?? I agree that what he is doing is dangerous and he will have to answer to God for misleading many, who are busy chasing after him and certainly not God. Perhaps I wrote too early in the morning and without my coffee? Thank God that we are to help one another and sharpen one another. Thank you again.


    • 5. modres  |  August 5, 2015 at 7:36 AM

      I appreciate your elaboration on your meaning. My problem though has even to do with the belief that this nation was “dedicated” to God. It is clear from my study that most of our founders were DEISTS. If they dedicated this nation to “God,” it was the god they believed in and if you know anything about Deists, they do not believe in the Judeo-Christian God, but merely god as the architect of the universe, who is completely impersonal.

      I fully believe America was ALLOWED to come into existence just as Babylon, Assyria or any other nation – good or bad – has come into existence. Certainly God controls that.

      The problem with Jonathan Cahn is that he is peddling a virulent yet surreptitious form of Hebrew Roots ideology.

      Melvin, thank you for offering some clarification. Your first set of comments left me a bit confused. 😀

      I may have had too much coffee this morning 😀

      God bless you, sir!


  • 6. Melvin  |  August 5, 2015 at 3:41 AM

    I have read all three of your articles and thank God for the truth. Let me share with you what is in my heart. I will take the defense of Jonathan Cahn only in the sense that I believe God was trying to show him something spiritual. I do believe that we are linked with Israel, as a nation, this being that this nation was founded by God and His principles. If we follow this, then we are also to follow God’s commandments, just as Israel. And you are very correct in that we have NEVER observed any Sabbatical years as a nation. We have failed to follow His commandments, believing that Jesus “did away with” all of that. Jesus did fulfill the laws of Moses, such as the blood sacrifices, etc. But the commandments of God are eternal and even the feasts will be observed in the Millennium. If we, as a nation, are a “spiritual” Israel and this being because we are “joint-heirs” with Christ then God will deal with us just as He did with ancient Israel. And I believe that we are dealing with that same “spiritual” Assyrian spirit in this nation. Just look at the leadership and what this administration has been doing and read Isaiah 10. And if we are “equal” with Israel or bound with them, then why have we not observed the Sabbatical Year? What interests me is that the nation of Israel did, in fact, observe their Sabbath Year, beginning last September. Would this not, then, stop any type of calamity? Nothing has been said by Cahn that they have in fact been observing this! And yet, we have not. When ancient Israel repented to God for not following the Sabbatical Year, after their release, they read the law to all the people which led to a revival! The leaders led the people….where is our spiritual leadership? Where is the leaders, the shepherds true repentance? And why are we not following God’s commands? All of this, the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee is to prepare the believers today for the coming Feast of Tabernacles and the return of our Lord Jesus Christ….God’s rest as stated in Hebrews 4! This is why God has not been moved with the “repentance” that has been going forth over the past couple of years…because it has not been true repentance. I pray for Cahn in that he repents before our Loving Father because he will be responsible not for sharing the truth of God’s word (Ezek. 34), not teaching but instead being interested only in making money and selling books. God has already warned him beginning two years ago!


    • 7. modres  |  August 5, 2015 at 6:39 AM

      Hi Melvin,

      Thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts. I’m a bit confused though. On one hand, you thank me for sharing “the truth.” On the other hand, you spend the remainder of your post supporting Jonathan Cahn’s erroneous beliefs. I would fully disagree with you that…
      1) God was trying to show Cahn something spiritual
      2) America is linked to Israel
      3) America was founded by God
      4) The ceremonial laws, feasts, and other observances given to Israel were also allegedly given to America
      5) America is somehow “equal” to Israel
      6) America is a “spiritual” Israel

      I hope you’ll understand my confusion. You appear to have not understood what I’ve stated. In no way that I can see is America on equal footing with Israel, nor are we somehow “connected” with Israel. America was not founded by God anymore than Babylon was founded by God. However, I firmly believe America has been “allowed” to come into existence, just like every other nation that ever has or ever will exist.

      If you read Romans carefully, you’ll see that no one outside of true Israel can be “spiritual” Israel. Paul’s references are to those who call themselves Israelites but are not Israelites from the heart, though they are actually Jews. Read Romans chapters 9 – 11 for more clarity. A Gentile as a Christian is NOT a “spiritual” Jew, though I know many who think that way. It’s due to their faulty understanding of Romans 9 – 11.

      Your use of “joint-heirs,” being “spiritual” Israel, etc., for America is not at all based on the truth of God’s Word, but on an interpretation of God’s Word. You have allowed yourself to blur the lines of distinction between Israel and America and being Jewish and being Christian.

      I’m sorry you have read my articles and have STILL come away thinking that Jonathan Cahn has something important to say. He is absolutely wrong and I say this based not on how I feel about it, but on what God’s Word states, Melvin. I’m not trying to insult you or attack your sacred cows, but I do wish you paid more attention to the actual meaning of God’s Word, rather than what Jonathan Cahn says it means based on one or two verses of Scripture that he has conveniently ripped from its context.

      There is absolutely NO proof that America was “created” by God. Beyond this, there is nothing that proves that America is a “spiritual” Israel. The idea is absurd and anti-biblical. I am joint-heirs with Christ because salvation is open to all people – Jews and Gentiles – and since salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22). This has nothing to do with any alleged connection between nations.

      Israel was specifically created by God for the purpose of extending salvation into all the world. This was done by ultimately bringing the Savior/Messiah into this world. God took on the form of humanity, was born of a woman, lived a sinless life by keeping all the law and commandments, then died as a criminal (yet without sin), and rose again three days later. This was the purpose of Israel.

      America has no such purpose. Our Founding Fathers were mainly DEISTS, not Christians. Some of them hated the Bible. They saw God much like Masons do, as the Great Architect, not a personal God who offers salvation to humanity.

      You and I are at an impasse unfortunately. You believe God created America and we were supposed to follow the laws of Israel. I fully and strongly disagree. This is really part of the problem with Replacement Theology that ultimately says the Church has replaced Israel, etc. What you are doing is changing the meaning of God’s Word based on the fictionalized stories of Jonathan Cahn.

      Just because America was founded upon biblical principles, it does NOT mean:
      1) God created America
      2) Our founders were Christians
      3) Our founders entered into a covenant with God
      4) America is somehow spiritually connected with Israel
      5) What happens to Israel will necessarily happen to America

      Jonathan Cahn is in error. There is NOTHING in Scripture that teaches that America is “joint-heirs” with Israel as a nation. The idea is so patently absurd that I marvel anyone can believe it. But this simply proves that too many Christians today too often make decisions and adopt beliefs based not on the Bible’s teaching, but on how they FEEL about something.

      To believe that America is somehow connected to Israel is romantic. It means that America is also a “chosen people” of God. It also means that God sees America as a nation and deals with America as such.

      I wish there was something I could agree with you on, Melvin, but even your attestation “All of this, the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee is to prepare the believers today for the coming Feast of Tabernacles and the return of our Lord Jesus Christ….God’s rest as stated in Hebrews 4!” – is out in left field. It has nothing to do with Christianity.

      God’s “rest” as stated in Hebrews 4 has nothing to do with Christians observing the Sabbatical Year cycle, the Jubilee, or any other Jewish feast/festival. This is Hebrew Roots theology, which says that Christians need to get back to their “Jewish” roots. It’s garbage. While I can and do appreciate the feasts, the festivals, etc., of Judaism, I should not go back to them and embrace them as part of my worship experience as a Gentile Christian thinking that this is what God wants for Christians.

      There are many dangers within the Hebrew Roots Movement, especially for Gentile Christians. I’m actually glad you mentioned this though, because while I thought I was done with this subject, clearly, I have failed to connect what Jonathan Cahn teaches to the Hebrew Roots Movement, something that is terribly detrimental.

      Thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts, Melvin. I truly wish we could find common ground, but apparently, there is none.


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