Being observations on "A Treatise on the Sabbatic Cycle and the Jubilee" by Dr B. Zuckermann, translated by Rev.A. Lowy from the German. 


The value of this work is impaired by the author's preconceptions, particularly his insistence on disregarding the continuity of this Divine Institution which was quite apart from its celebration or the undoubted lapses that occurred. Thus he stresses what he believes were historical occasions when the custom began again as a new epoch. He denounces those who "assume an unbroken continuity", which the Mosaic instruction implies in the Torah, and declares, "We would much rather follow the Talmudic opinion that the succession of the Jubilee series was definitely Interrupted" p.31. 

A major preconception which hampers this research is that the Sabbatic Year began in the month of Tishri, being a Jewish Civil Year. This is a long held traditional view, but nowhere in the book is its origin mentioned. Another presumption is that a 50th year could not possibly begin except after the end of a 49th year; so if the 50th year began in Tishri, which it did, then so must the 49th likewise have begun that month, it is supposed. 

Taken together these notions, to borrow the author's words, have "given rise to a variety of opinions and explanations" p.7 ; so he gives scant attention to Leviticus 25.8.ff. and turns away from the Word of God to laboriously examine the opinions of men. Yet this septennial plan is Divine, and its authentic pattern is set out in the Torah - so prominently placed in the Synagogue. 

This supreme authority treats the jubilee and the 50th year as synonymous terms; for it states, "a jubilee shall that fiftieth year be to you" Leviticus 25.11.. What 50th year was that; was it not the one following the end of the 49th year at Adar ?   No, it was that beginning with the 7th month, Tishrl; and was in the then current sabbatic year which had begun In Nisan. How very appropriate it was for the Yobel, with its civic duties, to correlate with the Hebrew Civil Year; and for the Shemittah to align with the Sacred Year and its agricultural usage. 

There was no 50th year in the sabbatic series; this resumed as the first year of the next term following the 49th year. It is apparent that the Jubilee coincided with the last six months of the 49th and the first six months of the new first year. This understanding is not given consideration in the treatise, though something approaching it appears to have been held by Ewald and by Gatterer, see pp.14-19. 

The reasoning of Rashi on p.8, that the repeated "prohibition of cultivating the field" implies that the 49th and 50th could not be coincident, is valid only if the same starting date is assumed. But their commencing dates were six months apart and they were only partly coincident. That this was so is given further support by the omission of extra provision following the Jubilee. That was not needed, since with its close at Tishri in the new first year it was still possible to do the autumn sowing as in the eighth year, covered by Lev.25.20-22.. 

The question raised on p.7 is "whether the year of Jubilee fell in the 49th or in the 50th year". So now it can be affirmed that it fell in the 49th year but did not identify with it. It fell also in the ensuing first year, but it was itself called the 50th year. The form of this question serves to show the need to avoid the word "fell" when discussing chronology. The sabbath falls on a Friday, but Saturday falls on a sabbath: a Jewish Civil Year fell in 68 AD and also in 69 AD: a 42nd Sabbatic Year fell in 69 AD and also In 70 AD, in which year began the first of the next series when on 9th Ab the Temple was destroyed by fire. Thus the presumption on p.40 is valid, and the tradition said to be due to Rabbi Jose is authentic, as are many Jewish traditions. 

It is a mistake throughout the study to show Seleucid years as equatable with AD or BC years. The Seleucidan Era began in September of 312 BC, and the table on p.53 should read 178/177 BC and 68/69 AD., and so on.[178 + 68 - 1 = 5 Jubilees or 35 Sabbatic years. gtm] It is reasonable to equate Selucid years with Civil Years, as has been done in the Table on p.60. This Table is quite usable if it is realised that the second of the two years, when it was assumed the Sabbatic year ended in the Autumn, was the year when it began in the Spring and ended in the Spring of the following year. The Jubilee also would coincide with a Selucid year. 

Despite the professor's insistent claim of discontinuity in sabbatic recognition over the years it is evident that records were kept, even when observance lapsed, and some at least of his supposed new epochs were actually returns to the known sabbatic calendar. The case of Josiah exemplifies this as he recovered the discarded Book of the Law from the dust of the Temple and reinstituted at its due time, the 49th and Jubilee years, 2Chron.34.. The claim by Maimonides on p.32 that "the Jubilee was put in force again in the days of King Josiah, thirty-six years before the destruction of the first temple" is correct.!  But the latter event was not in 622. nor 586, but in 477 soon after the end of the sabbatic year in Adar. Thirty-six years earlier, in 513 BC, in Josiah's 17th year and a concurrent 49th year, the 18th Jubilee began in Tishri and was still in being in his 18th year when he celebrated that special Passover. It is perfectly possible to "corroborate it exegetlcally" once the chronological key points are also established exegetically from the Scriptures. 

The basic point to settle is when the counting of the years began. This is clearly indicated in Lev.25.1. as "when ye come into the land"; and this was at the crossing of the Jordan, a few days before they kept the Passover. There were no qualifications such as waiting until the allocation of the land: they kept the Mosaic instruction as given, since "Israel served Jehovah all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua" Jos.24.31. 

Now it was when they had "come into the land" at the Jordan that "the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt" 1Kings 6.1.. Reference to Deut.4.46. (the 5th book of the Torah) and to Josh.5.5. should suffice to show that the phrase, "came forth out of Egypt", refers to the entire forty year journey from the Red Sea to the Jordan. The date of the exodus is by no means specified here; and though many chronologists adopt this notion it is an error traceable to Seder 0lam, p.35. 

So it was from the entry to the land that the 480th year coincided with Solomon's 4th year; and his 14th year was thus the 490th year in the land. That was the completion of ten 49 year cycles, yet there is no biblical allusion to a Jubilee or Sabbatic year at that time. However, the records of the kings of Judah show that Hezekiah reigned just 294 years later, viz. six jubilees further on. 

So Hezekiah's 14th year was that in which the 16th Jubilee began In the month of Ethanim, later to be called Tishri. This is confirmed by the allusion in 2Kings 19.29; and given the added fifteen years of Hezekiah it would appear that the 17th Jubilee was due in Manasseh's thirty-fourth year. 

A very sound principle is advocated on p.4 of the treatise, which is that, "Tradition before it can be received must undergo critical tests, and its concurrence or disagreement with other data must be verified". That data above all else must embrace the allusions and statements of Scripture - which always is the truth, though often not the whole truth.

A notable tradition which is not mentioned by Dr Zuckerman, but which also is attributed to Rabbi Jose, is that the setting fire to the 2nd Temple exactly matched features which had applied to the burning of the 1st Temple. These features can be listed as follows :- 

  1. It occurred on the 9th of the month Ab: 

  2. It happened on the Sabbath Day 

  3. The 1st priests course of Jehoiarib began (Maaziah's, the 24th, ended): 

  4. It was very soon after the close of a Shemittah (4 months In fact)  

The minimum period to meet these conditions is calculated to be just 1994 16 days = 28488 weeks  = 1187 priest's courses. This represents 546 years or 78 Sabbatic cycles. 

If this tradition is factual, the year of the destruction of the first Temple would have been 546 - 70 + 1 = 477 BCE. This is 109 years later than the 586 BCE given in the Canon of Ptolemy. So what is the evidence to be deduced from Scripture ? 

The thirtieth year, which when undefined means that of a 49 year cycle, was stated to be "the fifth year of Jehoiachln's captivity" Ezek.1.1/2. This was the same as Zedekiah's 5th year, thus his 10th year was a 35th year and a Shemittah. It confirms the tradition that his 11th year, when the Temple was destroyed, actually was the first in a new Sabbatic term. The 14th year after the same event was "the twenty-fifth year of the captivity" Ezek.40.1; so the addition 35th + 14 th = 49th confirms that the prophet's vision was in what would have been a Jubilee, if they were in the land. 

Now twenty-five years before this was Jehoiakim's 11th year when the Captivity began, that of Jehoiachin being one year shorter, and thirty-six years earlier was Josiah's thirty-first year. Thus the previous 49th year was sixteen years before in Josiah's 17th year, when in Tishri the Jubilee began and extended into his 18th year. The tradition on p.36 is in part correct as to the jubilee; It was that year certainly, only it did not begin then but ended In that year. 

It is Important to distinguish the Captivity, properly so called, from the Servitude which began In the third year of Jehoiakim and did end in the first year of Cyrus. The Captivity did not end then, even as is suggested on p.40, but eight years later in the 4th year of Cambyses, and is merely alluded to in the Samaritan letter to him, Ezra 4.12.. Also to be distinguished Is the 70 years Indignation which ended in the 2nd year of Darius Hystaspis, when the Temple rebuilding began, and the end of the 70 years Desolation in his 6th year when the Temple was completed. 

Having now corroborated exegetically several traditions by means of Scripture, both from the origination of the Sabbatic system forward and regressively from later history, it remains but to correlate them to establish the complete chronology. The point of connection is that 49th year, when the 17th Jubilee commenced during Manasseh's 34th year. It is assumed, at this point, that the next and 18th Jubilee was that which began in Josiah's 17th year. Since Amon reigned two years after Manasseh and before Josiah, then 49-19 = 30, are the years to be added to the 34 that Manasseh had already reigned. So if it can be assumed that he did not reign for 113 years he must have held the throne of Judah for 64 years, a deduction that cannot be disputed being, based on biblical data. 

The Importance of avoiding assumptions when reading the Bible and of noting its exact wording now emerges. It is deducible that Manasseh was the king of Judah for sixty-four years: it is stated in 2Chron.33.1. that "he reigned fifty and five years In Jerusalem". Both statements are correct; so for nine years he must have been away from Jerusalem. In the same chapter at vv.10-12 is to be found the answer; he was a captive in Babylon, so was not then reigning In Jerusalem. 

The key to the settling of chronology is the Sabbatic/Jubilee system; this in turn is founded on the authority of the infallible word of Holy Scripture as amplified by history and tradition in so far as they are compatible with it. Chronologers In general have tried to make the statements in the Bible fit the supposed findings from other sources, and so remain in uncertainty. The concern of these observations is to reverse that process and thus reach a higher level of assurance. 

It can now be confirmed 

It is not intended to ignore the valuable aid of Ptolemy's Regal Canon just because of a defect in a single place. In fact it appears to be entirely accurate from the accession of Codomannus onwards. Being based on the regularity of eclipses it was tested by none other than Isaac Newton, a student of Bible prophecy himself; and he satisfied himself that, sure enough, in the 31st year of Darius Hystaspis there was an eclipse in 490 BCE. But If Ptolemy had placed it in 436, and some chronologists think he should have done, Newton would have found an eclipse there also. That is so because eclipses recur close to the same point of observation after an interval of years and one month. If Ptolemy had slipped up by including two such additional periods, as obviously he has done, Darius's 31st year would be that of the eclipse occurring in 382. Thus his 6th year was 25 years earlier ending during 407, and so is In conformity with the 408 in which it began as has already been ascertained. This rectifies a longstanding problem in chronology. 

Isaac Newton in his "Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms amended" comments, "all the Jews (a pity he does not identify them) condense the Persian Empire to Artaxerxes Longimanus and Nothus - - taking - - Nothus for Codomannus".  This Indicates that the link between the 36th year of Darius Hystaspis in 378 and the 1st year of Codomannus in 336 was the 41 years of Longimanus, who began his reign in the name of Xerxes, perhaps, and only later was known as Artaxerxes. 

The erroneous 109 years found in the Canon was made up of Xerxes (21), Nothus (19), Ochus (21), Mnemon (46) and Arogus (2). The latter four may be contemporary kings reigning simultaneously. 

The last Persian king, Darius Codomannus, reigned until 332 BCE when he was conquered by Alexander the Great. The petition of Jaddua, the high priest, regarding the Sabbatic year was not "historically doubtful",  as is alleged on p.37 - the reference being Ant.xi.8/5. A Shemittah did occur from the Spring of 331 to Spring of 330, being the 35th year of the 22nd Jubilee series. 

The treatise on p.47 states, "This date of 150(Se1.Era) as a Sabbatical year has given much trouble to chronlogists" - hardly surprising when they treat data so loosely. Neither Maccabees nor Josephus say the 150th year was a Shemittah; but they do both say that Antiochus died in 149, which must have been prior to September 163 BCE. It is neither an assumption nor an expedient, but a fact, that the year began with Nisan; and from that month of 163, midway through 149 Sel., a Shemittah was in being until Adah of 162. It was the 7th year of the 26th Jubilee series. 

Not only is the alleged discontinuity of the septennial system an error. it is clear from all the evidence that records were kept at all times whether or not observed. So when Daniel's seven septads[heptads.  gtm] and sixty-two septads[heptads. gtm] were prophesied it was possible for such Jews so minded to recognise the time to look for that "anointed one" - and he was not a high priest - in 27 AD, as alluded to above. A group of Jews were doing just that, and they affirmed among themselves - "we have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote - - " John 1.45.

None of the subject matter considered herein has been other than what was available in 1857 to Dr.Zuckermann; or is inaccessible now to the reader disposed to verify what is presented. The only opinion embodied in these observations is that the Holy Scriptures are the supreme and infallible authority to which all other sources of information are to be subservient.

Maurice Lloyd Glasgow 1998

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