By Rev SEIK PITOI
THE shemitah year is the seventh in a cycle of seven years.
What does the shemitah mean to us today, especially that it is a Hebrew word denoting a season only they know about?
Many will be aware of the Feasts of the Lord as they appear in Leviticus chapter 23. I have done some teaching on them in a number of my previous articles over the years. The latest teaching was about the Day of Atonement which apparently fell on the same day as our 46th Independence anniversary. While we as Christians do not observe the Levitical feasts as such, it is important that we do take notice of them as they are significant points in God’s dealings with mankind.
Every event of significance took place on a feast day. Jesus died, was buried and rose again on feast days (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits). The Holy Spirit didn’t just descend on any day. He was poured out on Pentecost (Shavuot). That leaves three Fall feasts left: Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles to be fulfilled.
We are prophetically in the period of Trumpets, which also is at the very end of the sixth day, with the seventh day (a day being a thousand years – 2 Peter 3:8), remaining for Christ’s millennial reign (Rev 20:6).
Stamped across the universe
However, we will not talk about feasts today. Rather, we will discuss an aspect of the holy days, i.e., the cycle of seven years. Interestingly, God parcels time in allotments of sevens. The number seven (7) is stamped across the universe in creation. But what is the Biblical significance of this particular number? Before we see its relationship to the shemitah, let’s look at the number seven.
Numbers in Biblical times were often symbolic of a deeper meaning. The number seven is prominent in scripture, appearing over 700 times. From the seven days of Creation to the many “sevens” in Revelation, the number seven has such meanings as completion and perfection, release, healing, and the fulfilment of promises and oaths.
Here are some examples of sevens: Genesis tells us that God created the heavens and the Earth in six days, and, upon completion, He rested on the seventh day (Genesis 1; 2:1-2). Based on this cycle of work and rest, God commands us to also labour for six days and then complete the week by resting on the seventh day, the day God set apart as the Shabbat (Exodus 20:9-11). The number seven also denotes completion at the Crucifixion, when Jesus spoke seven statements in agony from the Cross at the completion of His earthly duties:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34); “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43); “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27); “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46); “I thirst,” (John 19:28); “It is finished” (John 19:30); and “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46).
In the context of perfection, Jesus was asked how we should pray (Matthew 6:9-13). In response, He gave us the Lord’s Prayer which contains seven petitions: Hallowed be thy name; Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; Lead us not into temptation; and Deliver us from evil.
Jesus again used seven metaphors to describe Himself as the path to salvation, the perfect reward for a good and faithful servant. These are the seven “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John: I am The bread of life (John 6:35); I am The light of the world (John 8:12); I am The gate to salvation (John 10:9); I am The good shepherd (John 10:11); I am The resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26); I am The way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); and I am The vine (John 15:5).
Of course, these I am statements from Jesus concur with the statement God made to Moses at the burning bush. When the Israelites would ask who sent him, Moses was to say “I AM who I AM” sent me! That is the Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew name for God transliterated in four letters, YHVH, and articulated as Yahweh or Jehovah. The “I am” statements from Jesus confirm His deity, that He is one with God the Father (John 10:30).
We see sevens stamped in nature as well. For example, the development of the human embryo is in exact periods of sevens (28 days, i.e., 4 x 7). The full normal time is 280 days (40 x 7). Medical science tells us that the human body is renewed in every cell every seven years, also that the pulse beats slower every seventh day. Light from the sun is made up of seven distinct colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). The rainbow is a demonstration of light split into its seven colours. Looking further into the heavens, we find that the earth is 49 times larger than the moon (7 x 7), and the moon completes its journey around the earth every 28 days (4 x 7).
These are just a few thoughts to see that the number seven, which is God’s number of fullness, completion and rest, appears to be the seal of God upon His entire creation. There are many more examples we can see but we must now look at how the shemitah year came about.
The year of “Shemitah” (meaning: letting go, or release) is also called the sabbatical year. It occurs every seventh year, in September or October (during Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of Trumpets). The story behind the Shemitah is that the seventh year is the year of resting, forgiving and releasing debts. In ancient Israel, the land had to be tilled for six years, then it was to lie fallow for one year – the shemitah. God supernaturally provided for His people then, even though they did no work during the shemitah.
The shemitah is counted when Israel is in the land. After Israel returned after an absence of 2,000 years in 1948, the shemitah counting began, following a full seven year period in the land. That means, from 1952, the shemitah year becomes 1959, the first shemitah cycle. The next shemitah was 1966, 1973, 1980 and so forth. We are currently in the 10th cycle. There is an interesting correlation between stock market crashes and the rise and fall of governments, with the shemitah year.
Stock market crashes
Here are examples of stock market crashes that occurred during Shemitah years,
- 1901-1902 Year of Shemitah – Stock market drops almost 50 per cent.
- 1916-1917 Year of Shemitah – Stock market drops 40 per cent. World War 1. Germany, Russia, Austria, Turkey, Great Britain suffer economic collapse.
- 1930-1931 Year of Shemitah – The Great Depression. The worst financial crisis in modern history.
- 1937-1938 Year of Shemitah – Half of the stock market collapses sparking a global recession.
- 1944-1945 Year of Shemitah – World War 2. End of German Reich and Britain’s hold on territories. Establishment of America as the world’s superpower. Bretton Woods Conference giving the US Dollar Global Reserve Currency status
- 1965-1966 Year of Shemitah – Stock market drops almost 25 per cent
- 1972-1973 Year of Shemitah – Stock market crashes almost 50 per cent. Global recession; US oil crisis. Israel’s Yom Kippur war.
- 1979-1980 Year of Shemitah – Global recession.
- 1986-1987 Year of Shemitah – “Black Tuesday”; stock market crashes by one third.
- 1993-1994 Year of Shemitah – Bond market crash.
- 2000-2001 Year of Shemitah – 9/11. Markets open on final day of Shemitah, September 17; the stock market falls 700 p 2007-2008 Year of Shemitah – On the last day of The Shemitah Year, Sept 29, the stock market drops a record 777 points.
- 2014-2015 Year of Shemitah – Greek/EU bailout.
- 2021-2022 Year of Shemitah – Eighth jubilee for USA – a world drowning in debt.
10th Shemitah cycle – September 2021 to September 2022
The Jewish New Year, 5782, on the Hebrew calendar began on Sept 6 this year. From the above, we can see that the sixth year, leading into the shemitah brings upheavals in the economy, world political scenes, with wars and conflicts around the globe. This will escalate as we move into the shemitah year, from September 2022. Things will not be getting easier!
As I have always maintained, we are not date setters; we are season watchers. The season we are in tells us we are in for a rough ride ahead as the return of the Messiah is imminent. We must arm ourselves with our faith in Jesus Christ and carry out the mandate given to us – to spread hope there is in Christ for every person who believes.
The shemitah year may usher the return of the Messiah to take His people away in time from the final seven-year period of tribulation, or it may take a while. We don’t set the date for Him. We simply watch and pray, remain faithful to His call, and tell others about the greatest escape plan ever hatched.
In these trying times, let’s help others find peace in Christ which will anchor us when the strong winds blow. As we have been encouraged in Scripture, “stand up, lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near!” (Luke 21: 28).
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.