Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Sabbath Day -- One of YEHOVAH's Appointed Times
The Fourth Commandment is a pivotal one, the keeping of which is a sign between YEHOVAH God and His people. If there is a particular day YEHOVAH God puts His stamp of approval on, we need to know when it is! The earliest manuscripts show that the MOON was made for "appointed times" -- the first of which is the Sabbath. With the actual planetary moon being established for YEHOVAH's appointed times (see Psalm 104), the Book of Leviticus confirms that this is the sole means by which the weekly Sabbath was calculated -- the Sabbath is an "appointed time" and the moon was made for appointed times!
by HOIM Staff
In Leviticus 23 YEHOVAH God spoke to Moses:
2: "Speak to the Israelites and tell them, 'These are YEHOVAH's appointed times [MOWED] which you must proclaim as holy assemblies -- my appointed times [MOWED]:
3: "Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy assembly. You must not do any work; it is a Sabbath to YEHOVAH in all the places where you live.
Leviticus 23 continues to list all the MOWED of YEHOVAH, following the very first one on that list -- the Sabbath. Each and every other MOWED listed in Leviticus 23 is set on a specific day of' the LUNAR month, so why is the Sabbath any different?
Proponents of a cyclical Sabbath argue that since the moon was "created" on day four in Genesis, and YEHOVAH rested on day seven; that He therefore rested on the fourth day of the lunar month, meaning the moon has no connection to the Sabbath. This argument is full of logical holes. For one, it is very plausible to state, from the Hebrew, that the moon was "re-created" on the fourth day; for by necessity, our planet itself was created prior to day two, when YEHOVAH separated the waters, forming dry land. If the earth preexisted the six days of creation, it is logical to assume that the rest of the universe did as well. There is no statement in Genesis as to the phase of the moon on "day four"; it is purely conjecture to claim it was a "new moon" day. In all other areas of creation, YEHOVAH God created things in a mature state -- a tree, not a seed -- an animal, not an embryo. If Adam went out on day eight, cut down a tree in the garden, and counted the rings, he might have assumed that creation was much older than it really was. We can't therefore argue the state of the moon at creation relative to on which lunar day YEHOVAH created the Sabbath
To accept the tradition of the Sabbath as a cycle of repeating seven days, one must accept, without ANY corroborating evidence, that this cycle has been faithfully kept. The only "evidence" available to prove this is human oral tradition; and herein lies the problem. Relying on human tradition divorces the Sabbath MOWED from the evidence of YEHOVAH's "beacons". There is no way to look at the heavens and determine the accuracy of' the human tradition. If all we needed was tradition, then there would be no need for YEHOVAH to ordain the heavens as "beacons" in the first place.
In untangling this mystery, we discover a fascinating history both internal and external to the Tanakh. We will examine arguments for and against a lunar based Sabbath and cyclical Sabbath (cycle of every seven days). Our desire is to follow the instructions YEHOVAH has given us for keeping His Sabbath; after all it's His day to begin with.
Sabbaths In the Wilderness
Why are we to believe that all MOWED except the Sabbath are based on the moon; is there any evidence in the Tanakh to support this assumption? When Israel came out of Egypt, YEHOVAH proceeded to teach them the importance of observing His Sabbath. In Exodus 16, He instituted an object lesson which was to last 40 years -- manna.
Exodus 16:1: When they journeyed from Elim, the entire company of Israelites came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their exodus from the land of Egypt. . .
Exodus 16:4: Then YEHOVAH said to Moses, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people will go out and gather a certain amount each day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my Torah or not.
Exodus 16:5: And on the sixth day they will prepare what they bring in, and it will be twice as much as they gather each day.". ..
Exodus 16:13: And in the evening the quail came up and covered the camp; and in the morning a layer of dew was all around the camp.
Exodus 16:14: When the layer of dew had evaporated, there were small round things on the surface of the desert, small like the frost on the earth.
Exodus 16:15: When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" because they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread that YEHOVAH has given you for food..."
Exodus 16:19: And Moses said to them, "No one is to keep any of it until morning."
Exodus 16:20: But they did not listen to Moses, and some kept part of it until morning. It was full of worms and began to stink. And Moses was angry with them...
Exodus 16:22: And on the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers per person; and all the leaders of the community came and told Moses.
Exodus 16:23: And he said to them, "This is what YEHOVAH has said: 'Tomorrow is a time of cessation, a holy Sabbath to YEHOVAH. Whatever you want to bake, bake today; and whatever you want to boil, boil today; and whatever is left put aside for yourselves to be kept until morning."'
Exodus 16:24: So they put it aside until the morning, just as Moses had commanded, and it did not stink, nor was there any worm in it.
Exodus 16:25: And Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to YEHOVAH; today you will not find it in the area."
Exodus 16:26: Six days you will gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any".. . .
Exodus 16:29: See, because YEHOVAH has given you the Sabbath, that is why he is giving you food for two days on the sixth day. So each of you stay where he is; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day."
Exodus 16:30: So the people rested on the seventh day.
In this object lesson, we again see that YEHOVAH is very specific about which particular day is His Sabbath. For forty years, this lesson would continue in the wilderness -- five days of manna, the sixth day of gathering double, and then the seventh, the Sabbath, where none would be found. On the surface, this text appears to be, and it is, the strongest evidence for a cyclical Sabbath system. Work six days, rest the seventh; work six days, rest the seventh -- simple, right? A never-ending cycle of sevens which has been faithfully kept for the past 3,500 years? This is what most "Jews" and Messianics believe, yet it rests entirely on what is called in logic an "argument from absence".
As we have seen, after the sighting of the crescent moon, the first day of the month starts; a day of rest and worship. If the Sabbaths are lunar in basis, then the new moon day would be followed by "weeks" of six work days, each followed by Sabbaths; thus the Sabbaths would be on the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th of each month. The next month can start, either on what would have been the 30th, or 31st of the prior month, so there is a month-transitioning respite of two or three days each month. This gap is not dealt with anywhere in the manna lesson; we do not see YEHOVAH providing four days worth of manna, only two, and the lunar-month-end can be three days long, nor do we see a period where manna appeared for more than six days in a row. This absence is the strongest evidence against a lunar based Sabbath; but logically, such arguments are not very strong, and we must look to the entirety of the evidence.
One such piece of evidence is very clearly provided. YEHOVAH spoke to Moses on the 15th of the second month, gave manna for the next 6 days, and then declared a Sabbath. This Sabbath would have been on the 22nd, so by interpolation the 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th, of at least that month, were Sabbaths. Remember that the exodus occurred on a Sabbath -- for this reason a Sabbath serves to memorialize the exodus -- this was the prior month, on the 15th. It is impossible under anything but a lunar system for the 15th to be a Sabbath in two consecutive lunar months; a cyclical Sabbath system cannot do this. To further support the 15th of the first month, being a Sabbath, YEHOVAH God set an appointment, a MOWED, to kill the cattle (Exodus 9:5) on the 8th of that month. The use of the word on this SOLE occasion in the plague discourse is either a very unlikely coincidence, or indicative that the 8th was a Sabbath (like the 15th).
Making matters even more interesting, Exodus 19 records that they camped at Sinai on the 15th of the 3rd month. Either this was a coincidence also, or it too was a Sabbath and time for a rest from traveling. Given the express evidence in scripture regarding the 15th of the first and second months, it becomes probable that this 15th was a Sabbath as well. There are simply too many "coincidences" throughout the narrative to be ignored. Thus there is much more to the story of the manna than initially meets the eye. To believe in a cyclical Sabbath, one must cling to an argument from absence and hold to its occurrence on the 15th day as coincidence. One must then ignore the Sabbaths on the same day in the months prior and subsequent, and the use of the word MOWED for the 8th of the first month. It makes much more sense to understand YEHOVAH's Sabbath as being on the 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th of each lunar month, following the "beacon" He set in the sky to proclaim His appointed times. But this is not the only internal proof.
Other Sabbath Issues in the Tanakh
There are quite a number of examples from the Tanakh which, by inference, lead to the conclusion of a lunar Sabbath. Among these is Numbers 29:12-35 which describes the eight day period at Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
Numbers 29:12: "On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you are to have a sacred assembly; you must do no ordinary work, and you must keep a festival to YEHOVAH for seven days.
Numbers 29:13: You must offer a burnt offering...
Numbers 29:17: On the second day you must offer...
Numbers 29:20: On the third day you must offer...
Numbers 29:23: On the fourth day you must offer...
Numbers 29:26: On the fifth day you must offer. . .
Numbers 29:29: On the sixth day you must offer...
Numbers 29:32: On the seventh day you must offer...
Numbers 29:35: On the eighth day you are to have a sacred assembly; you must do no ordinary work on it.
The only two days where work is prohibited and a sacred assembly is held in this period of 8 days is the first and last, the 15th and 22nd of the month. Nowhere does the text allow for a cyclical Sabbath in between. This, of course, forms another argument from absence, but this time against a cyclical system. However, this is not the only example of such an argument in the Tanakh. This problem of encountering a Sabbath in a given period of days can also be found when Aaron and his sons were sanctified for a period of seven days, without the recorded interruption of a Sabbath. This time, the argument gets stronger for there not being an intervening Sabbath. There is only one way such a sequence could be accomplished; if their consecration started on a new moon day and finished on the 7th, prior to the Sabbath of the 8th. Interestingly enough, this is exactly what did happen. We find in Exodus 40 that the tabernacle was set up on the first of the month. The narrative of this day continues straight through Leviticus 8 where the priests begin their seven days of consecration. In chapter 9, on the 8th day Sabbath they present offerings to YEHOVAH for themselves and the people.
Yet there is a third, even more conclusive example of exactly this same timeline at Jericho. Everyone is familiar with the story of Jericho's fall; the Israelites marched around the city once per day for six days, then on the seventh day they marched around seven times and sacked the city when the walls fell. Where was the Sabbath? They marched seven days in a row, so if the Sabbath was cyclical, one of these days must have violated the Sabbath rest, as it was clearly seven consecutive days of work -- hard work. Jericho was a huge city, taking a long time to march around, yet no Sabbath is recorded to have fallen on these days, nor an "exception" mentioned to the command for rest. This time, in addition to the absence of the Sabbath, we have the presence of work every day. If they were keeping a lunar based Sabbath this problem would be avoided if, like Aaron's consecration, the march started on the new moon day. By beginning on the 1st of the month, it would have finished on the 7th of the month, the day before the Sabbath of the 8th. Joshua does not record the specific day, but it is recorded in the Book of Jasher. Notice!
Jasher 88:14: And it was in the second month, on the first day of the month, that YEHOVAH said to Joshua, Rise up, behold I have given Jericho into thy hand with all the people thereof; and all your fighting men shall go round the city, once each day, thus shall you do for six days.
Jasher was considered a reliable source of historical information by the writers of both Joshua and Samuel (Joshua 10:13, 2 Samuel 1:18). There is no reason to doubt the historical accuracy of its account, and it provides very convincing evidence that Israel was keeping a lunar based Sabbath; otherwise one of these seven days would have violated it.
Perhaps the greatest inference of lunar based Sabbaths in the Tanakh is yet another argument from absence -- the absence of "postponements"! If YEHOVAH had instituted a cyclical Sabbath, such would invariably fall out on days where work was proscribed in preparation for another MOWED, yet nowhere in the Tanakh is man allowed to alter YEHOVAH's set-times to resolve any conflict between them. Such a conflict would form a paradox of commands; YEHOVAH says rest on the Sabbath, yet He also directs work for the same day. Thus, in 359 A.D., Hillel II added a wide variety of "postponement" rules to "solve" this problem. It never was a problem in the beginning, because the lunar calendar of YEHOVAH doesn't need them; lunar Sabbaths never conflict with any proscribed work activities or other MOWED. From this evidence alone, it is clear that the Sabbath was originally lunar in basis, and not changed in general practice until after the second century.
From the cultural understanding of a lunar based Sabbath, many otherwise unusual and perplexing textual issues can be resolved. The entirety of this inferred evidence for lunar Sabbaths greatly overpowers the singular argument from absence which favors a cyclical Sabbath; but we're far from finished discovering the evidence!
The Sabbath Connection
Over a dozen times in the Tanakh, the Sabbath and the New Moon are spoken of in the same breath; many of these times a drawn connection can be assumed. Although the day of the New Moon is no longer celebrated in Judaism as it once was, this does not eliminate the command of YEHOVAH God to do so. The New Moon day was always a feast; a special day, set apart for worship. If so, it was not a work day. It follows, of course, that the 2nd day of the month was the first work day -- six work days -- then the 8th was the first Sabbath. A pivotal transition in Jewish history has been the cessation of celebrating the New Moon; when the New Moon festival was removed, the "week" would loose its anchor. Without the regular, monthly feast of the New Moon, the work week could start anytime irrespective of the month.
Numbers 10:10: "Also in the time of your rejoicing, such as in your appointed festivals or at the beginnings of your months, you must blow with your trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings, that they may become a memorial for you before your Elohim: I am YEHOVAH your Elohim."
Numbers 28:11: "On the first day of each month you must offer as a burnt offering to YEHOVAH..."
1 Chronicles 23:31: "...and whenever burnt sacrifices were offered to YEHOVAH on the Sabbath and at new moon festivals and assemblies. A designated number were to serve before YEHOVAH regularly in accordance with regulations."
Amos 8:5: You say, "When will the new moon festival be over, so we can sell grain? When will the Sabbath end, so we can open up the grain bins?"
2 Kings 4:23: He said, "Why do you want to go see him today? It is not the new moon or the Sabbath." She said, "Everything's fine."
Isaiah 66:23: "From one month [Heb: New Moon] to the next and from one Sabbath to the next, all people will come to worship me," says YEHOVAH.
Ezekiel 46:1: "This is what the Sovereign YEHOVAH says: The gate of the inner court that faces east will be closed six working days; but on the Sabbath day it will be opened and on the day of the new moon it will be opened."
Ezekiel 46:2: The prince will enter by way of the porch of the gate from the outside, and will stand by the doorpost of the gate. The priest will provide his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he will bow down at the threshold of the gate and then go out. But the gate will not be closed until evening.
Ezekiel 46:3: The people of the land will bow down at the entrance of that gate before YEHOVAH on the Sabbaths and on the new moons."
These passages all correlate the New Moon and the Sabbath as times of worship and rest from commerce. This picture continues in prophecy into the Messianic Kingdom yet to come, where both will be observed properly. Starting each month with a day of worship, as commanded by YEHOVAH, by necessity places the Sabbaths on the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th. From the anchor of that New Moon day, six work days follow, then the Sabbath. How easily man can loose his way when he disregards the Father's Torah and "beacons".
Yeshua and the Sabbath
Yeshua the Messiah, of anyone who ever walked this earth, would certainly know when the correct Sabbath was. Nowhere is it recorded in the Gospels that he took issue with the Sabbath observance of the Judean leadership, or that they took issue with his. The Pharisees criticized him for breaking their rules on the Sabbath, but never for honoring the wrong day. There is no evidence that Yeshua kept a cyclical Sabbath; the only instance used to support this is the passion narrative superimposed on a Hillel calendar system, placing the 17th on a Saturday. But if the 17th was a Sabbath, then so would have been the 10th, the day of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. That day was busy with commerce, and Yeshua caused a donkey to work by riding it, so it was most assuredly not a Sabbath. Besides, as already established, the Hillel calendar was not in effect in the 1st century, and cannot be the basis for fixing its dates.
Assuming the narrative took place in 31 A.D. -- the year of the Messiah's death -- we can today, with great accuracy, calculate when the new moon would have been visible in Jerusalem at the time, thus starting the month by the observational system that was then in place. The day of April 11, a Wednesday on our calendar, was the first day of the month. If Wednesday, April 11th was the first day, and we are speaking of the daylight portion of the "day", then the 14th day, the crucifixion, would have been on Tuesday, April 24. According to the Hillel calendar, the 14th was on Sunday, April 22, a full two days earlier. Archaeo-astronomy has thus proven for a scientific certainty that the Hillel calendar was not in use, as the moon could not have been sighted two days earlier, it was completely dark.
The only day the Gospels call a Sabbath in this time frame is the 15th, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54-56, John 19:31). In 31 A.D., the 15th would have fallen on a Wednesday by our modern calendar, thus when the Gospel accounts refer to the resurrection as being "after the Sabbaths" there is no separate "Saturday Sabbath" in view, and these passages provide no conclusive support for either position. There is, however, another incident which is more enlightening --
John 7:2: Now the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. . .
John 7:14: When the feast was half over, Yeshua went up to the temple courts and began to teach. . .
John 7:37: On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Yeshua stood up and shouted out, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and
John 7:38: let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, 'From within him will flow rivers of living water."'. ..
John 8:2: Early in the morning he came to the temple courts again. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. . .
John 8:12: Then Yeshua spoke out again, "I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.". . .
John 9:1: Now as Yeshua was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth...
John 9:14: (Now the day on which Yeshua made the mud and caused him to see was a Sabbath.)
Unraveling this passage is quite interesting. Referring to the "last great day" of Sukkot would place the time as the 22nd of the seventh month. On first reading, John 8:2 indicates that the healing of the blind man, and therefore the Sabbath was the next day, the 23rd. Yet this is not the case as it has been well established by numerous scholars that John 7:53 - 8:11, known as the "pericope adulterae", was not part of the original text, but a later addition. When this section is properly removed, and the remaining portion of the story reconnected, it becomes apparent that the Sabbath was the 22nd! This places the Sabbath on the same day as the feast, and as directed in Numbers 29, a rest and worship day.
Like in the passion narratives, the term "Sabbath" is often used to refer to a specified MOWED feast day. In fact, it is quite common throughout the Gospel accounts, for the term "Sabbath" to be used interchangeably with other MOWED days. The writer of Mark uses "Sabbath" 9 times, 2 of which are other MOWED; in Luke, of 17 times, 2 are on other MOWED; and John uses "Sabbath" 8 times, 7 of which are other MOWED days. In a lunar system, the major feast days fall on the Sabbath. The Gospels agree with this point and at no time show any Sabbaths outside of a lunar system. Thus the internal evidence in the New Testament does not directly support either a lunar system or a cyclical system, but assumes this knowledge. To obtain a cultural understanding of the times we must also examine the external evidence.
To place the Tanakh and New Testament in cultural context, there is a remarkable wealth of historical and archaeological evidence for "Sabbath" keeping among almost every ancient culture. Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, and Chaldeans among others all held religious observances in connection with the phases of the moon. The 7-day "week" originated based on the 7-day-long phases of the moon, only later did the 7 "ruling planets" come to represent each day. As late as Clement of Alexandria (2nd century A.D.), the "week" was lunar until a cyclical one was imposed by the power of the Roman Empire.
"And if the moon be not visible, they [the Judeans] do not hold the Sabbath, which is called the first; nor do they hold the new moon, nor the feast of unleavened bread, nor the feast, nor the great day" -- The Stromata, Book 6, Chapter 5.
"And in periods of seven days the moon undergoes its changes. In the first week she becomes half moon; in the second, full moon; and in the third, in her wane, again half moon; and in the fourth she disappears. Further, as Seleucus the mathematician lays down, she has seven phases. First, from being invisible she becomes crescent-shaped, then half moon, then gibbous and full; and in her wane again gibbous, and in like manner half moon and crescent-shaped." -- The Stromata, Book 6, Chapter 16.
Even in the writings of Eusebius' Praeparatio Evangelica (c. 325 A.D.), can be found references to the ancient lunar basis for the Sabbath:
"Homer also and Hesiod declare, what they have borrowed from our books, that it is a holy day; Hesiod in the following words: 'The first, the fourth, the seventh a holy day. "' -- Eusebius Praep. Evang. Book 13, Chapter l2.
The oldest known evidence of a lunar based Sabbath system comes from the third millennium BC, and the Babylonian "epic of creation". On the remains of the fifth tablet it tells how the moon was placed in the sky to make known the days and divide the month with its phases; and that ending this seven day cycle is a Sabbath:
"He set him [the moon] then as a creature of the night, to make known the days. Monthly unfailing, he provided him with a tiara. At the beginning of the month, then appearing in the land, the horns shine forth to make known the seasons. On the seventh day, the tiara perfecting, a Sa [Sabbath] shalt thou then encounter mid-ly [mid-monthly]."
At Qumran, document fragments written in ancient Paleo-Hebrew describe lunar days 4 through 25. They tell how on the 8th day of the moon you can see it all day (1st half) in the sky, and after the sun sets and the 9th day begins it is called the "1st day of the week" (Wise, Abegg, and Cook, The Dead Seas Scrolls, A New Translation, pages 301-303). Also, from Khirbet Qumran, manuscript 4Q317 makes a direct reference to the weeks being lunar-based, notice:
"On the eighth of the month, the moon rules all the day in the midst of the sky, fourteen and one half (?) parts being obscured. And when the sun sets, its [the moon's] light ceases to be obscured, and thus the moon begins to be revealed on the first day of the week (the eighth of the month)." (Fragment 1, column 2).
To show this is not a coincidence, the manuscript goes on to reveal what happens later in the month --
"On the twenty-second of the month, the moon rules all the night in the midst of the sky, fourteen and one half (?) parts being revealed, and thus the moon begins to be obscured on the first day of the week (the twenty-second of the month)." (Fragment 2, column 2).
When the writer conceives of the lunar month in terms of the moon being "revealed" or "obscured" he means that the moon is in the process of waxing or waning. Each stage of movement is described as fractions of 14: for example, when the moon is one-fourteenth "revealed," the crescent is just barely visible. This system was popular in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period.
Further, Qumran manuscripts 4Q320 and 4Q321 describe the priestly courses, and in four surviving places correspond the Sabbath to a phase of the moon. Mentioned are the 29th, 30th, 1st crescent, and full moon, all being Sabbaths in Jerusalem circa 100 B.C. This is fully in keeping with I Chronicles 24 which details a yearly cycle of 24 courses serving twice each. There were 24 groups each of the priests, Levites, and musicians; everything was done in like divisions. There are 48 lunar weeks in the standard lunar year (12 x 4), so David's system would not have worked with anything but lunar "weeks", as cyclical weeks within lunar months will result in an extra 18 days unaccounted for each year.
There is another source from the time of the Messiah that indicates the lunar calendar was being used at that time. The Talmud records that a Judean rabbi from Babylon (Hillel I) was asked if he ever remembered hearing that the Passover overroad the Sabbath. Hillel replied, "Have we only one Passover in the year that overrides the Sabbath? There are more than two hundred Passovers a year that override the Sabbath!"
Yitzhak Buxbaum, in his book The Life and Teachings of Hillel, explains that "Hillel meant that throughout the year many sacrifices were offered on the Sabbath, for example, the two daily sacrifices, morning and evening, and the two special Sabbath sacrifices. These four, for each of the FIFTY SABBATHS OF THE YEAR, equals his 'two hundred "Passovers"'" (p. 307-308, note 5). For there to be 50 Sabbaths in the year a lunar calendar was, of necessity, being observed. A standard lunar year contains 48 Sabbaths plus two feasts (Nisan 21 and Pentecost) -- also known as "Sabbaths." The "one Passover" (Nisan 15) Hillel was talking about ALWAYS fell on the weekly Sabbath -- thus overriding it.
Scholars are almost unanimous that these practices must have originated in a common Semitic source. In fact, all ancient cultures, without exception, based their monthly periods on the moon, and their "weekly" periods on the phases of the moon. Reference to any major encyclopedia will confirm this.
"The association of Sabbath rest with the account of creation must have been very ancient among the Hebrews, and it is noteworthy that no other Semitic peoples, even the Babylonians, have any tradition of the creation in six days. It would appear that the primitive Semites had four chief moon days, probably, the first, eighth, fifteenth, and twenty-second of each month, called Sabbaths... The Israelites, on the other hand, made the Sabbath the feasts of a living and holy God. The work of man became symbolic of the work of God, and human rest of divine rest, so that the Sabbaths became preeminently days of rest." -- The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopaedia, pages 135-136.
"We find from time immemorial the knowledge of a week of 7 days among all nations -- Egyptians, Arabians, Indians -- in a word, all the nations of the East, have in all ages made use of this week of 7 days, for which it is difficult to account without admitting that this knowledge was derived from the common ancestors of the human race. Among all early nations the lunar months were the readiest large divisions of time...the division of time by weeks prevailed all over the East, from the earliest periods among the Assyrians, Arabs, & Egyptians. It was found among the tribes in the interior of Africa...The Peruvians counted their months by the moon, their half-months by the increase and decrease of the moon, and the weeks by quarters, without having any particular names for the Week Days." -- The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopaedia, 1904 Vol. 3, page 1497.
All external evidence agrees that well before the time of Moses, both the "week" and the Sabbath were based on the phases of the moon. This evidence supports a reading of the Tanakh from the perspective of a lunar Sabbath. But there is also contemporaneous evidence from Philo, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, before, during and after Yeshua the Messiah. One of the most prominent Judeans in Alexandria, he headed a delegation to Rome on behalf of his countrymen. Scholars consider his extensive historical writings to be highly reliable. Philo kept a lunar Sabbath.
"The fourth commandment has reference to the sacred seventh day, that it may be passed in a sacred and holy manner. Now some states keep the holy festival only once in the month, counting from the new moon, as a day sacred to God; but the nation of the Jews keep every seventh day regularly, after each interval of six days." -- Decalogue XX (96)
There are two ways to read this. Obviously, he states that some countries keep only the 7th day once in the course of a month, counting from the new moon; but is he saying that the Judeans (Jews) keep a cyclical Sabbath every seven days, or every seven days counting from the new moon? The latter makes more textual sense, as there is no "disregarding the moon" qualifier added to the text. Reading this statement by Philo from the basis of an assumed knowledge of lunar "weeks" and "months" is fully comprehensible; yet reading into it a divergence of Hebrew practice from a lunar foundation is difficult. To further clarify, other writings of Philo speak to these assumptions -- notice!
"Like a full moon, at the height of its increase at the end of the second week" -- On Mating XIX (106)
"But nature delights in the number seven... Again, the periodical changes of the moon, take place according to the number seven, that star having the greatest sympathy with the things on earth. And the changes which the moon works in the air, it perfects chiefly in accordance with its own configurations on each seventh day." -- Allegorical Interpretation I.IV (8)
"And the fourth commandment, the one about the seventh day, we must not look upon in any other light than as a summary of all the laws relating to festivals, and of all the purificatory rites enjoined to be observed on each of them... But to the seventh day of the week he has assigned the greatest festivals, those of the longest duration, at the periods of the equinox both vernal and autumnal in each year, appointing two festivals for these two epochs, each lasting seven days." -- Decalogue XXX (158 - 161)
"Following the order which we have adopted, we proceed to speak of the third festival, that of the new moon. First of all, because it is the beginning of the month, and the beginning, whether of number or of time, is honorable. Secondly, because at this time there is nothing in the whole of heaven destitute of light. Thirdly, because at that period the more powerful and important body gives a portion of necessary assistance to the less important and weaker body; for, at the time of the new moon, the sun begins to illuminate the moon with a light which is visible to the outward senses, and then she displays her own beauty to the beholders...The fourth reason is that of all the bodies in the heaven, the moon traverses the zodiac in the least appointed time: it accomplishes its orbit in a monthly interval. For this reason the law [ Exodus 20:8] has honored the end of its orbit, the point when the moon has finished at the beginning point from which it began to travel, by having called that day a feast so that it might again teach us an excellent lesson that in the affairs of life we should make the ends harmonious with the beginnings." -- Special Laws II. XXVI (140-142)
From these statements it becomes readily apparent that Philo assumes a lunar based month and week. Specifically, in Decalogue XXX he speaks of the two greatest festivals being assigned to the seventh day Sabbath, and both of these commence on the 15th of the lunar month. Philo is very clear that at the time of Yeshua the Messiah, the Sabbath was lunar.
Other ancient writers also confirm this. Even the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans is proof of YEHOVAH's true Sabbath day! The Roman author Sextus Julius Frontinus, who wrote in Latin towards the close of the first century A.D., referred to the conquest of Jerusalem by the armies of Vespasian, saying:
"The divine Augustus Vespasian attacked the Jews on the day of Saturn, on which it is forbidden for them to do anything serious, and prevailed" (The Stratagems, Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 17, in "Loeb Classical Library," Frontinus, p. 98).
Dio Cassius says the following in his account of this war between the Romans and the Judeans (Jews): "Thus was Jerusalem destroyed on the very day of Saturn, the day which even now the Jews reverence most" (Roman History, Book 65, Chapter 7, in "Loeb Classical Library," Dio's Roman History, Volume 8, p. 271).
Tying all this together, the Jewish historian Josephus tells us what DATE of the LUNAR month this momentous Sabbath fell on -- notice!
"And thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, on the eighth day of the month Gorpeius [Elul]" (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 10, Section 1, in "The Works of Flavius Josephus," pp. 832, 833).
Elul is the 6th month in the Hebrew lunar calendar (counting from Nisan) and is known as the "month of repentance."
Here, again, is irrefutable PROOF that the people of Judah were keeping YEHOVAH's TRUE Sabbath day on the 8th day of the lunar month in 70 A.D. when the city and Temple fell to the Romans -- which means they were also keeping it on the 15th, 22nd, and 29th!
This could be a coincidence, of course, but we have seen quite a number of them -- can they all be coincidences?
Sometime between 135 and 359 A.D. the rabbinical authorities adopted the Roman cyclical week system and the Sabbath became fixed to Saturday on a cyclical week. Exactly when this happened is still a mystery, but the evidence trail points inextricably to the fact that it did happen. The Tanakh supports a lunar Sabbath, both in the past and prophesied future. The only evidence which supports a cyclical Sabbath is a solitary argument from absence versus several more compelling arguments against such. Every single Sabbath that can be identified in The Tanakh and New Testament falls on a lunar date, including three lunar months in a row at the exodus. Nothing in the New Testament shows that the Messiah kept anything but a lunar Sabbath. Again, any time a Sabbath can be identified, it is in connection with a lunar system date. Finally, voluminous external evidence points to the origins of a lunar Sabbath in prerecorded history, and its observance well into the 2nd century A.D. After that time, the Sabbath was disconnected from YEHOVAH's "beacon", and Satan the adversary had achieved his goal of ruling over the Sabbath MOWED.
Outside of the internal and external evidence, there are three compelling logical arguments for lunar Sabbaths with which any proponent of a cyclical Sabbath must deal --
1) If a group of Sabbath keepers migrates east, eventually coming around the world, back to the place where they started, and if they keep a cyclical Sabbath, they will be one day off from their compatriots who stayed behind. If their compatriots had migrated west, and both groups met back at the starting point, they would now be two days divergent in "Sabbath" keeping. Which group is right? They have both kept an accurate count.
2) At the international dateline, set by man, each side is one Gregorian, man-made, "day" apart, and they would celebrate a cyclical Sabbath on separate days. Which one is right?
3) If there was a catastrophe, and you were in a shelter for an unknown time, emerging to find no records of the Gregorian date, how would you reestablish the correct Sabbath day based solely on the heavens?
Consider these scenarios and the logical problems they present for a cyclical Sabbath. They all tie into and illustrate the central issue that a cyclical Sabbath is completely dependent upon man, not YEHOVAH. Without man's diligence in record keeping, a cyclical Sabbath can not be proven. Yet so many people accept that this diligence has been maintained without a single scrap of documented evidence to substantiate the claim. There is absolutely no connection to YEHOVAH's calendar in a cyclical Sabbath. When man tries to do things his way, and ignores the beacons YEHOVAH has established for HIS MOWED, error will invariably be the result. The Father's calendar is simple, unalterable, and infallible; it is fixed in creation and not dependent upon man. Anyone, anywhere, at any time can look to the heavens and know exactly when YEHOVAH's Sabbath day is.
The Sabbath Star
What happened to following YEHOVAH God's directions? Many claim to do so, yet accept traditions of men as His without question or inquiry. With the Roman planetary week, initially, the first day was that of Saturn. In the early to mid-second century A.D., with the influence of Mithraism (sun worship), and the Zoroastrian revival, the Roman planetary week became enforced upon the empire and the first day of the Roman week was changed to Sunday. The Sabbath became Saturday, the last day of this new weekly system.
Imported Babylonian superstitions eventually led Judean rabbis to call Saturn "SHABTAY", the "STAR OF THE SABBATH", as the Sabbath became divorced from its lunar basis. Although the Hebrew and Roman "weeks" developed quite separately, they would ultimately become merged in Saturday, the day of Saturn. In ancient Babylonian astrology Saturn was always regarded positively, yet in Greek Hellenistic times it had the role of an unlucky star (sidus tristissimum, stella iniquissima). There are Judean superstitious beliefs about demons and evil spirits that hold full sway on the Sabbath, and an old Judean legend says the day of Saturn was chosen because it would be an inauspicious day for working. Dio Cassius, a Roman historian (155-230 A.D.), in the early third century speaks of the Judeans having "dedicated to their god the day called the day of Saturn, on which, among many other most peculiar actions, they undertake no serious occupation". Honoring of Saturn by the Judean Sabbath is also assumed by Tacitus, another historian, in Historiae V (4).
"With the development of the importance of the Sabbath as a day of consecration and the emphasis laid upon the significant number seven, the week became more and more divorced from its lunar connection." -- Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (1943), volume 10, page 482
What of SHABTAY, the "Star of the Sabbath"? With all this evidence and history in view, an ancient prophecy in Amos takes on an entirely new and alarming meaning. Notice!
Amos 5:26 "You will pick up your images of Sikkuth, your king, and Kiyyun, your star god, which you made for yourselves,
Amos 5:27 and I will drive you into exile beyond Damascus," says YEHOVAH. He is called the Elohim who leads armies!
"SIKKUTH," (#5522), is widely believed to refer to Sakkuth, a Mesopotamian star god identified with Ninurta in an Ugaritic god list. "KIYYUN", (#3594), refers to the Mesopotamian god Kayamanu, also known as Saturn. Of the many false deities Israel followed after from time to time, why specify Saturn? In the Hebrew text, both of these words are vocalized after the pattern of "SIQQUS", (#8251), "detestable thing", yet, this is exactly what most "Jews" unknowingly follow after in modern times, the Sabbath Star, a pagan deity set up by Satan in his quest to rule over the MOWED of YEHOVAH God. The prophecy of Amos about the dispersion has indeed come to pass.
Keeping the Sabbath
It is important for us as Messianic believers to prove those things which we believe, first from within Scripture, and also from other reliable sources that do not contradict Scripture. Just as we are ready to discard Christmas and Easter when we learn the truth of their origins, so must we be ready to discard anything of Judah that is not consistent with His ancient paths. Saturday Sabbath instead of YEHOVAH's lunar based Sabbath is one such tradition which must change. It profits us nothing to replace one tradition of man with a different one. This trap, set by Satan, is all too effective. Realizing that there is more to a relationship with YEHOVAH God than is presented by traditional Christianity is good, but we must not make the assumption that Judaism has anymore of the correct answers than Christianity. Both have been used by the Father to preserve certain truths, yet both have their own errors as well. Finding truth and applicability to our lives in Torah is commendable, yet, it does not of necessity follow that the "Jews" preserving the written Torah have likewise preserved its proper application any more than Christians preserving the records of Yeshua the Messiah are correct in instituting that knowledge.
The only way our feet can become firmly planted on the correct path is to hold everything up to scrutiny -- absolutely everything. The Sabbath story we have uncovered should serve as a very clear lesson that the traditions of either side can be incorrect. There is no easy solution, for the ancient paths require diligent work. We must critically examine each and every aspect of our theology, proving what is correct, and changing what is not. Satan is a clever deceiver -- by removing the anchor of the New Moon festival, not only has he been able to deceive many into a "fixed" calendar, but he has successfully attacked one of the central signs of the Covenant.
But what do we do with this knowledge? Bringing it back into practice can be even more challenging than uncovering it in the first place. We live in a society crafted by the Adversary to resist the things of YEHOVAH God. Keeping His Sabbath means that each month, a different Gregorian day becomes the Sabbath. Simply holding a job can be difficult when you take a different day off each lunar month, especially when many times you may not know very far in advance which day this will fall on! What about the children in school Monday through Friday when the Sabbath falls on one of these days instead of a convenient "weekend"?
YEHOVAH's month began with a physical sighting of the new moon crescent at Jerusalem. Writes Alfred Edersheim --
"For the new moon was reckoned by actual personal observation, not by astronomical calculation, with which, however, as we know, many of the Rabbis must have been familiar, since we read of astronomical pictures, by which they were wont to test the veracity of witnesses, that they were even allowed, in order to reach Jerusalem in time, to travel on the Sabbath, and, if necessary, to make use of horse or mule" (The Temple, pp. 289-290).
In order to notify the Judeans of the Diaspora, fires were lit on hilltops, and messages sent from province to province so that these far-flung people would know when the month had begun. However news, even by this method, took time to arrive, and people often wouldn't know the exact date until fairly late in the month. Based on the previous month's information, they always knew the correct date within a one day margin of error. As a result, a practice was established whereby each holiday was observed for one extra day outside of the land of Israel. That way, everybody was certain to observe the festivals on the correct days.
This was the situation at the time of the Messiah. Today, however, with our almost instant worldwide communications, news of the New Moon at Jerusalem can be relayed around the world within minutes. This, along with readily available computer software, makes it easy for a servant of YEHOVAH to ascertain when the New Moon crescent will be seen -- and physically verified -- over Jerusalem.
There are many who believe that we should determine the New Moons by sightings over whatever locality we live in. The main argument against this is, of course, the fact that during the times of the First and Second Temples the New Moon was determined at Jerusalem and the news of the sightings relayed to Judeans living outside of Judea. Since there is absolutely no indication in the Bible of the Messiah disputing with the Pharisees and Sadducees over this issue, and due to the fact that the Messiah himself kept the SAME days as the Pharisees and people of Judea, we should do likewise!
Once the month starts, the Sabbath cycle is set, and a routine develops for the next four weeks -- work six days, rest and worship on the seventh. Yet, at the end of each month we again must look to the Father to start us anew on His path. The month can be either 29 or 30 days long, so at sunset on the 29th, those in Jerusalem look for His "Beacon" to start the next month. If they don't see it, the month will have 30 days, and then the next will start. The computer aids in this task, helping us predict visibility, and charting sighting graphs. If the computer says that there is a 100% chance of seeing the moon on the 29th over Jerusalem, we start the month even if overcast and not physically sighted; anything less than a scientific certainty reverts to physical observation results from Jerusalem. His children are to rely on Him, and this simple act of obedience to Him continually reinforces that lesson. Knowledge of astronomy and computers certainly help us, but they do not take the place of physical sightings.
Learning about the Sabbath is more than when we are to keep it, but also how we are to keep it. This one subject can and will enjoin a lifetime of study, prayer, and meditation, in an ever deepening relationship with our Father. Rest is, of course, commanded. Yet staying in bed all day is not what the Sabbath is for. Not to say that, from time to time, this would not be an appropriate thing to do, since YEHOVAH has our rejuvenation at heart here, without a doubt. It is much more than physical rest, though, encompassing spiritual and emotional resuscitation as well. The Tanakh paints a picture of our active participation in the Sabbath. We are to "'ZAKAR" (Exodus 20:8), "SHAMAR" (Exodus 31:14, 16, Deuteronomy 5:12, Isaiah 56:2, 6), "ASAH" (Deuteronomy 5:15), and "QADASH" (Exodus 20:8, Deuteronomy 5:12, Nehemiah 13:22, Jeremiah 17:22, 24, 27), the Sabbath.
"ZAKAR", (#2142), "to remember, recall, call to mind".
"SHAMAR", (#8104), "to keep within bounds, be on guard".
"ASAH", (#6213), "to do, fashion, accomplish, make".
"QADASH", (#6942), "to set apart, honor as sacred".
The Sabbath is much more than rest and refrain. We are to keep it in our minds and thoughts, staying within its bounds by refraining from our own pursuits, while actively participating in creating an environment honoring to YEHOVAH -- accomplishing all of this on a single day. In a word, Sabbath is about focus; YEHOVAH God should be the focus of the day -- the focus of our minds, and the things we think about, and the focus of our actions, both what we refrain from and what we participate in. It's His day.
Following YEHOVAH's Sabbath will not be easy; the employer might not understand, schools and governments might not understand. It is a test, truly a sign of His Covenant with us that we submit to His ways even when they are not convenient. YEHOVAH's truths, which have been hidden for so long, are in this spirit revealed to those willing to seek Him, His ways, and His Day!
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