Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land
These words of verse 10 are engraved on the American Liberty Bell, a traditional symbol of U.S. freedom that sits outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While it was first rung on July 8, 1776, to celebrate the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, it was actually commissioned by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly in 1751 to proclaim the Jubilee year. (Ironically, the bell was first cast in London.) In any event, it was seen by Revolutionary America as a symbol of freedom from tyranny. And the verse quoted is quite fitting in that regard.
In actuality, the proclamation of “liberty” in the 50th year specifically referred to the fact that all debts were canceled, all Israelites who had sold themselves into slavery were freed, and all land went back to its original owners. The phrase “proclaim liberty” also occurs in Isaiah 61:1 Isaiah 61:1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
American King James Version×, where it is proclaimed to the “captives,” along with “the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” To whom is this referring? Those who are in “the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26 2 Timothy 2:26And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
American King James Version×), i.e., the world at large. This is also seen as proclaiming “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:2 Isaiah 61:2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
American King James Version×), another name for the Jubilee. When Christ began His earthly ministry, He explained that He was fulfilling these very verses in Isaiah (Luke 4:16-21 Luke 4:16-21  And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.  And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,  The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,  To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.  And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.  And he began to say to them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
American King James Version×). We should easily see how this relates to the issue of debt and servitude. The penalty earned for sin is compared to debt in the Scriptures. And in Romans 6, the apostle Paul explains that the way of sin is actually a form of bondage or slavery. It is the debt of sin that has separated mankind from his intended inheritance.
Land, in this picture, is quite important. Notice this from The Nelson Study Bible on “Redeeming the Land”: “An ancient Israelite was in desperate straits if he had to sell his family’s land. Both food and income came from the proceeds of the land. Dispossessed family members would quickly become someone else’s servants. Most people would work hard to avoid such a situation. However, illness, crop failure, or other misfortunes could force a person into debt to the point that his only alternative was to sell his land. Even in this distressing situation there was hope. A dispossessed family could be saved from poverty and hardship:
“First, a redeeming relative could redeem (or buy back) the land (Leviticus 25:25 Leviticus 25:25If your brother be waxen poor, and has sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.
American King James Version×). From the proceeds, the man could pay off his creditors. The land stayed in the extended family; the poor family stayed on their land; and eventually the redeemer was repaid. The redeemer was the nearest male relative. If he could not fulfill this privilege and obligation, it passed down the kinship line until someone could. This is the scenario of Ruth 4: Boaz acted as a kinsman-redeemer and bought Naomi’s field.
“If a man did not have any relative who would redeem his land, he could save enough to buy it back himself. The purchase price would be prorated according to the number of years left until the next Jubilee year, the fiftieth year (Leviticus 25:26 Leviticus 25:26And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;
American King James Version×, 27). A man might have to wait until the Jubilee year to reclaim the land of his inheritance (Leviticus 25:28 Leviticus 25:28But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that has bought it until the year of jubilee: and in the jubilee it shall go out, and he shall return to his possession.
American King James Version×). Even in this most desperate situation there was the hope and promise that at the Jubilee year the family would be able to return debt-free to their land and make a fresh start.
“The law of redemption and the law of the Jubilee year are vivid symbols of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross for every person [1 Corinthians 6:20 1 Corinthians 6:20For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
American King James Version×; Ephesians 1:7 Ephesians 1:7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
American King James Version×; 1 Peter 1:18 1 Peter 1:18For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
American King James Version×—19]. What our first father and mother lost in the Garden [i.e., man’s dwelling in the paradise of God and opportunity to eat from the Tree of Life], we cannot retrieve by any means [on our own]. We cannot go back to Eden [of ourselves]. Yet Jesus Christ, our elder Brother, redeemed it for us. We have been evicted from our inheritance, but in the Year of Jubilee, we will be allowed to return (cf. Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 36:33-35 Ezekiel 36:33-35  Thus said the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be built.  And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.  And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
American King James Version×; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:1-2 Revelation 22:1-2  And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the middle of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
American King James Version×, 14). We will live with Jesus in Paradise.” Moreover, we will at last inherit the whole universe with Him (Romans 8:16-19 Romans 8:16-19  The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
American King James Version×; Hebrews 2:8-9 Hebrews 2:8-9  You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
American King James Version×; Revelation 21:7 Revelation 21:7He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
American King James Version×], which was God’s intent for mankind from the beginning (compare Deuteronomy 4:19 Deuteronomy 4:19And lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, should be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD your God has divided to all nations under the whole heaven.
American King James Version×). What a glorious redemption—of both us and our heritage.