Shemitah: What it is and Why It Matters

By: Mali Rozen
February 2022

Israel is in a Shemitah year. “Shemitah” or “Shmita” is a word that describes a concept in Judaism that refers to the seventh year of a seven-year cycle, where God declared remission or release. In fact, the word Shemitah means “release” in Hebrew. The year of Shemitah is a Sabbath year and carries many important spiritual principles.

The actual Hebrew word, שמטה, Shemitah, appears five times in the Bible, and only in the Book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 15:1, 2, 9; 31:10). What is interesting is that, in Scripture, the word Shemitah refers specifically to the cancellation of debts, and generally, to the concept of release (the “year of release”). Today, Shemitah specifically refers to rest for the Land. How are these two connected, if at all?

Today, Shemitah is practiced in Israel, and it relates only to the Land resting. Every seven years, farmers who observe Shemitah do not plant, plow, or work the land; their fields grow wild. Any produce that naturally comes from the land can be picked for personal consumption but cannot be sold. This concept of allowing the Land to rest is found in a few places in Scripture. Perhaps the most often-quoted portion is Leviticus 25:1–7 (TLV):

Then Adonai said to Moses on Mount Sinai, “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael and tell them: When you come into the land which I give you, then the land is to keep a Shabbat to Adonai. For six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits. But in the seventh year there is to be a Shabbat rest for the land—a Shabbat to Adonai. You are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard. You are not to reap what grows by itself during your harvest nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. It is to be a year of Shabbat rest for the land. Whatever the Shabbat of the land produces will be food for yourself, for your servant, for your maidservant, for your hired worker and for the outsider dwelling among you. Even for your livestock and for the animals that are in your land—all its increase will be enough food.

The concept of allowing the Land to rest is also found in Exodus 23:10–11; Leviticus 25: 20–22.

So, how does the idea of release (which is, literally, what the word Shemitah means), connect to rest? I believe we find the answer in the person of Messiah Yeshua. Throughout Scripture, the concepts of release and renewal are found together. Whether it’s the release of prisoners, slaves, debts, etc., we always find renewal comes as a result. In Messiah, the release from our debt to sin as well as restoration from spiritual captivity is accomplished. He Himself makes this claim in Luke 4 when He reads from the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth:

And He came to Natzeret, where He had been raised. As was His custom, He went into the synagogue on Shabbat, and He got up to read. When the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Ruach Adonai is on me,
because He has anointed me
    to proclaim Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of Adonai’s favor.”

He closed the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue were focused on Him. Then He began to tell them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your ears.”
Luke 4:16-21 TLV

Yeshua’s fulfillment of this incredible prophecy from Isaiah 61 shows us how central release from sin is to His ministry. Messiah not only releases the captives, but also leads them into the “year of the Lord’s favor”, which is essentially, the ultimate year of release, the Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10). Yet, His work does not stop at release! He also leads us into renewal through rest. In Messiah, we find rest at His invitation:

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

In Yeshua, we are released and renewed through rest for our weary, burdened souls. What an amazing treasure we have in Him!

As we continue to observe His year of release – Shemitah – in Israel, may you also find renewal in your rest, being aware that your debt has been paid in Messiah! You are no longer a captive to sin, but are free to follow Him and live by His Spirit.

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4 Comments on “Shemitah: What it is and Why It Matters”

  1. Thankyou for this information. I got a news letter from Assemblies of Yahweh and they are keeping the shmita in USA and where ever they have assemblies.
    It would seem if the whole world kept it Israel would not have anything to eat. (just thinking)

    1. God feeds Israel, not the world, if the world would follow God we could do the same and He would feed us. In the scripture quoted, the Lord promised that all of Israel would have sufficient food to eat. God loves us so very much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins and give us a way to spend eternity with Them. God’s way is the only way.
      Love you in Christ, George

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