Count off seven sabbaths of years -- seven times seven years -- so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. (Leviticus 25:8-13)
The title of the work, Jubilee, is a key element that serves as the umbrella under which all meaning of the story rests. The word jubilee is a Biblical allusion to the 50th year sabbatical given to Israelites at the end of a period of seven sabbaths of years: 7 years time 7. This 50th year was called the Year of Jubilee. The word jubilee comes from the Hebrew word yōbhēl meaning ram's horn. A ram's horn was used on the Day of Atonement to announce the start of the Year of Jubilee after a sabbath of years (7 x 7 = 49) had past.
The occurrences in the Year of Jubilee included the liberation of those Hebrews who, in poverty, had sold themselves into slavery to pay off their debts. This allusion has a clear and dramatic association with the novel since the Civil War led to emancipation--the liberation from slavery for African slaves and descendants of African slaves in America. Jubilee begins in the antebellum years (before the war years) and continues up to the Reconstruction in Part III: "'Forty Years in the Wilderness'—Reconstruction and Reaction." The title Jubilee carries over all the narrative to color and inform our understanding of each Part and each event.