Have you ever wondered why Snow White met seven dwarfs? Not six, not eight— exactly seven. Why do we speak of Seven Wonders of the World—perhaps there should be nine? Marilyn Monroe even starred in The Seven Year Itch.
Have you ever wondered why England celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne on the fiftieth anniversary? Forty and sixty are also nice round numbers. We make a huge fuss for a couple’s Golden anniversary—perhaps as lifespans increase we should change that to fifty-five years rather than fifty?
Both seven and fifty are embedded into the world’s psyche because of their importance in the Bible.
Six years you shall sow your field and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruit; but in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest to the land…(Leviticus 25:3-4)
The seventh year in each cycle is called the Shemitah. Sure enough, nothing is being planted or harvested on Jewish-owned land in Israel during the current Biblical year of 5775 ending on September 13, 2015.
This parallels the Fourth Commandment of doing no work on the seventh day, the Shabbat.
Six days you shall work and achieve all your accomplishments but the seventh day is the Shabbat of the Lord your God, on it you shall do no work, not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates.
Ideally, Israel’s land is so sensitive that not even it should work for us on the Sabbath! It is plainly impracticable to uproot all crops each Friday afternoon and replant them on Saturday night. By the end of six years we’ve accumulated a total of about 312 Sabbaths upon which the earth has worked. Leaving the land fallow for the seventh year, ‘gives back’ the six years-worth of Sabbaths. If we add to that the approximately fifty-two Sabbaths of that seventh year we get 312+52 = 364 or approximately one complete Sabbatical/Shemitah year.
After seven Shemitah cycles, equalling forty-nine years, the fiftieth year is the Jubilee year, in Hebrew YoVeL.
And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years, seven times seven years and the total of the seven Sabbaths of years will be forty-nine years…And make holy the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout all the land for all its inhabitants…
God’s fifty year cycle seems to extend beyond the borders of Israel to the economies and even wars of all the world.
I’d like to introduce you to Russian economist Nikolai Kondratieff. He recognized a fifty year cycle in economics and explained to Soviet society that God’s cycle was more accurate than the Kremlin’s latest, “Five year plan.” Not surprisingly, Stalin executed him in 1938. Yet, what he observed stands the test of time.
In economic affairs, wealth creation seems to peak approximately every 50 years. The year 1800 gave us steam power, industrialization and mass produced cotton fabric. 1850 was the start of railroads being built in N. America, Europe, Africa and Asia and the manufacture of steel in industrial quantities. 1900 introduced high voltage AC distribution making home and street lighting affordable and the start of the chemical industry. 1950 brought plastics and the mass produced modern automobile. 2000 ushered in the computer and digital revolution.
Likewise, at the bottom of the economic graph we have a trough every fifty years. The first modern economic crisis was the Panic of 1825. The Long Depression was a world-wide price recession that reached its depths in 1875. Again, just over fifty years later we saw the Great Depression with the market crashing in October 1929. The high oil prices, unemployment and inflation of 1975 was another recession that adhered to the Kondratieff Biblical model of economic cycles.
In warfare, God’s fifty year pattern for human affairs is equally evident. In the period 1885-1890, Britain, France, Germany, and North America were all involved in armed conflicts that established or defended borders. Twenty-five years later, World War One broke out in 1914. Another twenty-five years elapsed until 1939 and the outbreak of World War Two. Another twenty-five years went by bringing us to 1964 and the sad Vietnam War. Another twenty-five years saw the first Gulf War in summer 1990.
God’s Biblical cycles of the seven year Shemitah and the fifty year Jubilee are not arbitrary numbers. Rather, they are descriptive of how God created the world. It is as good for us to know and understand these cycles in human affairs as it is for us to know and understand the realities that God built into the world’s psyche relating to male/female relationships, communities and personal finance. My life’s mission has been to share this ancient Jewish wisdom in a way that makes it accessible to people of every background and in a way that helps people use it to improve their families and friendships, their finances, and their faith.