Wednesday 23 May 2012

Jubilee and the Horn

The jubilee approacheth, and millions of patriotic British etymologists are trying to turn sheep into musical instruments.

When God and Moses are up on Mount Sinai having a chat, God tells Moses that he should work hard six days a week and then take a break (most people know about this commandment). But he then tells Moses to do the same thing every seven years:

Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.

This sounds rather lovely, and is, of course, the origin of the sabbatical. But what happens every seven seven years? Well at that point God just declares a holiday multiplied by a holiday.

And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.

And what (I hear you shriek) is the trumpet of the jubile. Well, a jubile is a Hebrew yōbēl or ram, and so the trumpet of the jubile is a ram's horn trumpet that gets blown every fifty years.

Of course, this year the Queen is Diamond Jubilarian. So maybe we shouldn't use a ram, and instead make a trumpet out of a pigeon.

I must also remember to free my slaves.

Tootle tootle.


  1. Am know in love with the word tootle. Until now it had been tube.

  2. As long as the horn isn't the the signal for the raising of the battering ram.