Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Should Christians OBSERVE the New Moons?
Should YEHOVAH God's people today be concerned about observing the "New Moon" festivals? Were New Moons -- the first day of each Biblical month -- observed in ancient times? How were they observed by ancient Israel? What about in New Testament times? Will New Moons be observed in the Messianic Age, the World Tomorrow?
by HOIM Staff
We read an astounding thing in the book of Colossians, which thousands of YEHOVAH's people have overlooked, ignored, and misunderstood. In their attempt to refute the gainsaying and heresy of those who try to do away with YEHOVAH's laws and holy days, they have stumbled and overlooked a vital TRUTH!
Notice this remarkable passage! Paul writes, "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival [margin, "FEAST DAY"] or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance [lit., "body"] is of Christ" (Co1. 2:16-17). The King James Version says in these verses: "Let no MAN, therefore, judge you in food, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day, or of the new moon, or of a sabbath day, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is [note: these italics are not in the original, meaning the word "is" has been supplied by the translators and is not in the original Greek version] of Christ."
Let us notice three things in these verses. First, we are to allow no human being -- Gentile, or Jew, rabbi, or minister -- to "judge" us regarding these things, or to sit in judgment over us.
Secondly, these days -- festivals of YEHOVAH God, new moons, and sabbath days -- are (present tense, meaning they STILL EXIST and have not been done away or abolished!) "shadows" of things to come. That is, they all foreshadow and picture elements in YEHOVAH's plan, future events still to come. Therefore, they have great meaning and significance for us, today!
The fact that the weekly Sabbath day is a "shadow" of the millennial reign of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah, picturing the seventh "day" of YEHOVAH's seven-thousand year plan (see II Peter 3:8-10), is a wonderful truth, one we should appreciate as we "rest" every Sabbath day, as YEHOVAH God commands. This fact does not lessen the importance of the weekly Sabbath, but strengthens and magnifies it! And so it is with all the other holy days, which picture vital elements in the overall Plan of YEHOVAH God.
Thirdly, notice the last expression of this passage: "But the body (is) of Christ." What does this mean? If we take this whole passage together, it becomes clear. Paul says, "Let no man, therefore, judge you .... but the body of Christ." If we leave out the "is" supplied by the translators, the passage becomes clear. It is the body of the Messiah that is to "judge" us -- that is, the true Church of YEHOVAH God, led by the divinely appointed servants of YEHOVAH God (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, etc. -- see Eph. 4:11-13 and I Cor. 12:12-30), inspired and led by the holy spirit of YEHOVAH God (Rom. 8:9-11, 16-17; compare also Hebrews 12:7, 17, I Pet. 5:1-3).
The "body of Christ" means the Church, led by the ministers, who teach the word of YEHOVAH God, and explain it. As Paul writes, "And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:14-15). Therefore, it is the Church of YEHOVAH God, led by YEHOVAH's spirit, which leads us into "all truth" (John 16:13), which is to "judge" our actions and conduct regarding how we observe the holy days of YEHOVAH God, new moons, and sabbath days!
But in so doing, during the past fifty years or so, has the End-time "church of God" been negligent? Have the ministers of YEHOVAH God overlooked, and ignored, vital truth and a command which YEHOVAH gives in these verses?
A New Look at the "New Moons"
Notice! Among the days the Church is to "judge" us in respect to is the subject of NEW MOONS! According to the original calendar YEHOVAH God gave His people, each month of the year is a lunar month and begins with a NEW MOON! In ancient Israel, every new moon the trumpet was blown -- the shofar was sounded -- to call the people to celebrate and observe the new moon, the beginning of the new month.
In ancient Israel, special sacrifices were offered on every New Moon, signifying the importance of the day to YEHOVAH's people. In the book of Numbers we read:
"And in the beginnings of your months ye shall offer a burnt offering unto the LORD; two young bullocks, and one ram, seven lambs of the first year without spot; and three tenth deals of flour for a meat [meal] offering, mingled with oil, for one bullock; and two tenth deals of flour for a meat [meal] offering for one ram; and a several tenth deal of flour mingled with oil for a meat [meal] offering unto one lamb; for a burnt offering of a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the LORD.
"And their drink offerings shall be half an hin of wine unto a bullock, and the third part of an hin unto a ram, and a fourth part of an hin unto a lamb: this is the burnt offering OF EVERY MONTH [NEW MOON] throughout the months of the year.
"And one kid of the goats for a sin offering unto the LORD shall be offered, beside the continual burnt offering, and his drink offering" (Numbers 28:10-15).
The Custom in Ancient Israel
In ancient Israel, before the Exile to Babylon, the New Moons -- the first day of each month -- were observed as "minor festivals." Evidence for this is found in the account of David and Saul. Notice:
"And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, tomorrow is the NEW MOON [marginal reference, "A time of rejoicing"], and I should not fail to sit before the king at meat: but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even.
"If thy father at all miss me, then say, David earnestly asked leave of me that he might run to Bethlehem, his city: for there is a yearly sacrifice [margin, "feast"] there for all the family" (I Samuel 20:5-6).
The word for "sacrifice" in this verse is zebah. Notice what Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says about this word:
"The basic meaning of zebah is 'sacrifice.' When a 'sacrifice' had been slaughtered by the priest, he then offered it to God. . . . The zebah was not like the burnt offering (olah), which was completely burnt on the altar; and it was unlike the sin offering (hatta't), where the meat was given to the priest, for most of the meat of the zebah was returned to the person who made the 'sacrifice.' The fat was poured on the altar (Lev. 3:2). The person who made the zebah had to share the meat with the officiating priest (Exo. 29:28); Lev. 7:31-35; Deut. 18:3).
"In view of the fact that the people shared in the eating of the zebah, the 'sacrifice' became A COMMUNAL MEAL in which the Lord hosted His people. . . . Apart from the sanctuaries, the Israelites also celebrated God's goodness together in their native villages. The story of Samuel gives several good illustrations of this custom (cf. I Sam. 9:13; 16:2-3)" (p. 210).
In I Samuel 9:12 we read, ". . . he [Samuel the prophet] came today to the city; for there is a sacrifice of the people today in the high place: as soon as ye be come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat: for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that be bidden" (I Sam. 9:12-13).
Each New Moon therefore, with its extra sacrifices, was regarded as a "mini-festival," not unlike the annual holy days of YEHOVAH God. Feasting and worshipping were part of the festivities. Says the Soncino Pentateuch & Haftorahs, "In Pre-Exilic times, the New Moon was celebrated as a minor Festival" (p. 695).
During the time of Elisha, the son of a woman died unexpectedly, and she asked for her husband to send for Elisha, the man of YEHOVAH God. He replied, "Wherefore wilt thou go to him today? it is neither new moon nor sabbath" (II Kings 4:23). This passage suggests that it was a custom in ancient Israel for people to visit YEHOVAH's prophet on the new moons!
A Day of Worship and Rejoicing
Being a festive occasion, and a special time for worship, when the New Moon arrived all work, including trading, buying and selling, and handicraft stopped, and the Temple was opened for public worship services.
We read in the book of Amos that YEHOVAH says to His people:
"Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, saying, When will the New Moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?" (Amos 8:4-5).
On the New Moons, the trumpets were blown at the offering of the special sacrifices of the day. God commanded Israel, "Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months [New Moons], ye shall BLOW WITH THE TRUMPETS over your burnt offerings, and over your sacrifices of your peace [fellowship] offerings; that they may be to you for a MEMORIAL before your God: I am the LORD thy God" (Numbers 10:10).
Notice that the New Moon is listed right along with the annual Holy Days, the days of "gladness" and "solemn days." The Hebrew word for "solemn" here does not mean stern, foreboding, grave, or serious-minded, but rather "festive," "feast day." It is the Hebrew word moed, meaning "an appointment, i.e., a fixed time or season, spec. a festival, by implication, an assembly."
Although there is no Scriptural commandment in the Torah designating the New Moons as a day in which work was forbidden, as it was on the weekly Sabbath, and to a lesser extent on the annual holy days, nevertheless, since it is listed right along with the Holy Days as a day of worship and blowing of trumpets, and was a day to assemble for the special sacrifices of that day. In ancient Israel all labor and business activities ceased on the New Moons.
YEHOVAH God Almighty says, in His Word:
"SING ALOUD unto God our strength; make a JOYFUL NOISE unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. Blow up the TRUMPET in the NEW MOON, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day. For this was a STATUTE for Israel, and a LAW of the God of Jacob" (Psalm 83:1-4).
This reference to the NEW MOON is very significant. Although we know that the only Holy Day that falls on a New Moon is Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the seventh month, Tishri, which is also called Yom Teruah, the "day of blowing" of trumpets, nevertheless, the trumpets were also commanded to be blown on EVERY New Moon throughout the year, marking each New Moon as a festive and joyous occasion!
Says Peloublet's Bible Dictionary:
"The mentions of the new moons shows that they were regarded as a peculiar class of holy days, distinguished from the solemn feasts and the Sabbaths. I Chron. 23:31; II Chron. 2:4; 8:13;31:3; Ezra 3:5; Neh. 10:33; Ezek. 45:17: ("New Moon," p.445).
The New Moons were celebrated with special rites on the first day of each lunar month, in ancient times, as part of the worship due to YEHOVAH God by His people. They were highly regarded and observed by family get-togethers, communal meals, and community sacrifices. The people would enjoy them, with a fellowship meal, with eating and drinking and fellowshipping before YEHOVAH God. There would be singing of hymns, and spiritual songs, and songs of praise and worship.
But what about in the future? The fact is, Biblical prophecy also indicates that New Moons will be observed during the Messianic era -- during the 1,000 year reign of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah!
New Moons To Be Observed in the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God
During the Millennial reign of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah, there will be WORSHIP SERVICES ordained for all the people -- all Israel! They will worship YEHOVAH God ON THE NEW MOONS!
In fact, a prophecy in the book of Isaiah makes the truth even plainer. Not only al Israel, but ALL MANKIND will worship YEHOVAH God during the Millennial reign of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah, "from New Moon to New Moon"!
"For as the new heavens and the new earth , which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that FROM ONE NEW MOON TO ANOTHER, and from one Sabbath to another, SHALL ALL FLESH COME TO WORSHIP BEFORE ME [YEHOVAH God], SAITH THE LORD" (Isaiah 66:23-24).
Clearly, the New Moon observances and celebrations are very important, in YEHOVAH's plan, and in His eyes. But among the people of YEHOVAH God the remembrance and observance of the New Moons of YEHOVAH God has fallen into disuse, and disregard. The end-time churches of YEHOVAH God by and large totally neglect and ignore worshipping YEHOVAH on the New Moons!
Is this one reason why most professing people of YEHOVAH God, today, are SORELY LACKING in SPIRITUAL POWER, FAITH, and dynamic spiritual IMPACT in their lives?
A New Perspective on New Moons
Says Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, an authoritative, multi-volume work:
"The celebration of the New Moon belongs to the most ancient of Hebrew rites... Lagarde held that the generic Heb. term for `joyous praise' was derived from an old name of the New Moon... In the time of the earlier prophets, THE NEW MOON STOOD IN THE SAME LINE WITH ANOTHER LUNAR OBSERVANCE, THE SABBATH. No work or business was attended to on either day (Amos 8:5). Hosea (2:11) speaks of the feasts, the New Moons, the Sabbaths, and festival assemblies as passing away with the national independence; and a similar connection between the New Moons and the other solemn days is found is Isaiah 1:13.
"Just as the New Moon occupies a prominent place with the prophets, so does it with Ezekiel and in the Levitical legislation. Ezekiel, who curiously enough frequently dates his prophecies on the New Moon (26:1, 29:17, 31:1, 32:1, cf. Hag. l:l), describes the gate of the inner court of the temple looking eastwards as kept shut for the six working days, but opened on the Sabbath and New Moon (Ezek. 46:1). The prince, besides making special arrangements for the great New Moons of the first and seventh months (this is the probable meaning of Ezek. 45: 18-20), was also to provide offerings for ordinary New Moons (Ezek. 46:10-7). The gate was open till the evening, and while the people stood without the prince was allowed to stand by the threshold. According to Ezekiel (46:6), the New Moon offerings consisted of a young bullock, six lambs, and a ram without blemish (the Sabbath burnt-offering was less, v.4), as burnt-offerings; an ephah for the bullock and for each ram, a handful of flour for each lamb, and a hin of oil to an ephah as a meal-offering (vs. 7-8). In Numbers 28:11 the burnt-offering consisted of two young bullocks, one ram, and seven he-lambs of the first year without blemish; fine flour, oil and wine carefully proportioned (vs. 12-14), and a he-goat as a sin offering (v.15). The offerings here, as in Ezekiel, are more important than for the Sabbath (Num. 28:9-10). An additional detail is added in Numbers 10:10, where the law ordains that `in the days of your gladness, and in your set feasts, and in the beginnings of your months' the two silver trumpets were to be sounded during the sacrificial rites as a `memorial before your God.' Some authorities have held that Psalm 81:3, `Blow up the trumpet in the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day,' refers to the ordinary New Moon... But the LXX ... omits "every.' The Targum refers the passage solely to the New Moon of the seventh month (Lev. 23:24); and this, the traditional Jewish view, has been adopted by modern commentators" ("New Moon," vol. 3, page 521-522).
The Encyclopedia Judaica says regarding the observance of New Moons:
"The Torah placed its observance ON A PAR WITH the observance of the festivals, declaring, 'Also in the day of your gladness, and in your appointed seasons, AND IN YOUR NEW MOONS, ye shall blow with your trumpets over your burnt offerings....' (Numbers 10:10). A special Musaf sacrifice was ordained for the day (Num. 28:11-15). The Bible mentions various practices observed on it, including festive MEALS...abstention from business transactions (Amos 8:5), and the practice of visiting the prophet (II Kings 4:23). When foretelling the chastisements that will come upon the Jewish people, Hosea says that the joys of the New Moon will cease (Hos. 2:13). The redemption is viewed as a time when 'from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me saith the Lord' (Isa. 66:23)" ("New Moon," vol. 12, p. 1039).
Clearly, the New Moons were very important in ancient Israel. Judging by the sacrifices offered on them, they were uniquely important, requiring more sacrifices than the weekly Sabbath. The prophet Amos says, "Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, and make the poor of the land fall, saying, `When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat?"' Thus commercial activity ceased on this day (Amos 8:4-5). The New Moons were like Sabbath days in which no work was permitted, the people of YEHOVAH God did not go about their normal occupations of working or buying and selling on that day.
Because of the sins of His people, YEHOVAH warns in the prophecies of Hosea, that He will punish Israel (Hos. 2:2-10), saying, "I will also cause all her MIRTH to cease, Her feast days, her New Moons, her Sabbaths -- all her appointed feasts" (v. l l).
Truly, Israel forgot all these wonder observances of the Law of YEHOVAH God when she went into exile and captivity in 718-721 B.C., and to this very day, most of modern Israel neglects all these holy days and festivals of YEHOVAH God!
In Isaiah 1:14, YEHOVAH tells His people Israel, who have forsaken Him (Isaiah 1:4, 10), "When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies -- I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons, and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them" (Isa. 1:12-14).
Why was YEHOVAH God so upset? Because of their hypocrisy and iniquity! They professed to worship Him, but they twisted and distorted and subverted His Holy Days, Sabbaths, and New Moons! Today, most people don't regard these days of YEHOVAH God as of any importance whatsoever. Instead, they celebrate the world's pagan holidays of "Christmas" (the ancient Roman Saturnalia, all dressed up as to appear "Christian"!), Easter (whose very name is that of a pagan sex goddess of spring and fertility), and "Halloween" (a day of demonic revelry and wickedness).
What must YEHOVAH God think of modern Jews and Christians alike who neglect and ignore His Holy Days, Sabbaths, and New Moons?
Yet, notice that these Scriptures all place the New Moons on a par with the annual festivals, as observances of YEHOVAH God! They were celebrated in ancient Israel, at the Temple, and will be celebrated in the Temple in the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God.
Hastings goes on to comment on the observance of the New Moons in Israel:
"As to the manner in which the New Moon was observed, there were other features besides the sacrifices. There was no `solemn convocation' on the New Moon, but it is usually inferred from II Kings 4:23 that visits were paid to the prophets on that day.... The New Moon was apparently the time for changing David's officials, according to I Chron. 27:1. It is not easy to gather the full significance of the incident related in I Samuel 20:5. David evidently refers to a FAMILY FEAST ON THE NEW MOON, but it is not clear that the king had a special feast on that day" (p. 522).
During Christian times, Hastings points out, the observance of New Moons ceased among the vast "Christian" church. Its observance fell into disuse, in the church which began to avoid all things "Jewish." However, the Jews continued its observance.
"Fasting was avoided on the New Moon (Judith 8:6). The observance of the New Moon fell into disuse in the Christian communities (Col. 2:16). In the medieval Jewish circles the New Moon, however, retained its importance. Women did not work, fasting was prohibited, and in the synagogue liturgy many special features were introduced. On the Sabbath before the New Moon the event was publicly announced, on the day itself a reading from the law (Num. 28:1-15) was introduced, special Psalms (forming part of the Hallel, Psalm 113-118) were chanted, and other liturgical passages were added. These are retained in the modern synagogue" (ibid.).
How, then, should true Christians, desiring to obey YEHOVAH God and to keep His commandments, handle the question of observing the New Moon?
The New Moons and Christian Observance
New Moons, of course, are the first day of each month of YEHOVAH's sacred calendar. This passage of Scripture in Colossians 2:16 definitely connects them with observance of the annual holy days, YEHOVAH's festivals, AND THE WEEKLY SABBATH! Although we are commanded not to allow any "MAN" to sit in judgment of us as to how we observe the New Moons -- such as pastors, ministers, rabbis, or neighbors -- we are to remember that YEHOVAH God Almighty is our Judge, and we are to seek to please HIM in everything we do!
As Paul wrote, "Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do ALL to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).
Paul also wrote, "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
Paul also reminds us, ". . . for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:10-12).
What about New Moons? Clearly, they are a BIBLICAL INSTITUTION! They were ordained by YEHOVAH God, and they will last FOREVER -- so long as the days, months, and years, last! As YEHOVAH said of David's descendants, "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of my lips. Once I have sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established FOREVER AS THE MOON and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah" (Psalm 89:34-37).
Since the MOON is established "forever," it follows logically that the NEW MOONS also are ordained and established forever!
As YEHOVAH's people, then, we ought to be celebrating them every month, when the New Moon comes!
What about the Example of the Messiah and the Apostles?
What example did Yeshua the Messiah and the apostles set for us, concerning the New Moons?
Although there is no specific mention of New Moons in the Gospels, nevertheless, we can know that the Messiah both observed them and taught his followers to do so. The New Moons were ordained by YEHOVAH God as a statute forever, as part of His holy calendar. And the Messiah himself taught, "Think NOT that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy [or do away with, abolish, or abrogate or rescind!], but to fulfill [i.e., fill up to the brim!]:" (Matt. 5:17).
Notice! Yeshua our Saviour went on, saying, "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, ONE JOT OR ONE TITTLE shall in NO WISE pass from this law till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall DO and TEACH them shall be called GREAT in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:18-19).
Yeshua the Messiah and the apostles and early Church observed the New Moons. James, the brother of Yeshua the Messiah, and the apostle in charge of the Jerusalem Church, told Paul when he visited Jerusalem, circa A.D. 60, that the Church of YEHOVAH God was very zealous to obey YEHOVAH's Law -- the Torah. This would include the New Moon ceremonies and services. Notice! James said:
"Thou seest, brother, how many thousands [Greek, myriads, meaning, literally, tens of thousands) of Jews there are which believe: and they are all ZEALOUS OF THE LAW [that is, the Law of God, or the Torah] . . ." (Acts 21:20).
Paul himself later witnessed to the Jewish leaders in the Sanhedrin,
"I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and brought up at the feet of GAMALIEL, and taught according to the PERFECT MANNER OF THE LAW OF THE FATHERS, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day" (Acts 22:3).
Later, in Rome, Paul witnessed to the Jewish leaders in a similar fashion, saying, "Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans" (Acts 28:17).
As followers of the Messiah, and the early church, therefore, should we not also highly regard YEHOVAH's Law, and obedience to YEHOVAH's Laws, handed down by our forefathers? Should we not also highly regard the New Moon observances of the Biblical, Hebrew calendar?
By all means! As Paul also wrote, "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the DOERS of the law shall be justified" (Romans 2:13). He added, "Do we then make void the law through faith? GOD FORBID! Yea, we establish the law" (Rom. 3:31).
The New Moons and the Book of Revelation
The new moons have a special relation to the coming "Day of the LORD" in Bible prophecy. The "Day of the LORD," mentioned in many prophecies in the Old Testament, is the time when YEHOVAH God the Father will begin to intervene in world affairs, and to bring warnings and plagues upon the earth, because of the sins of mankind.
During the "Day of the Lord" -- a "day" equals a "year" in fulfillment, so this "Day of the LORD" will most likely last about one literal year -- YEHOVAH God Himself will begin to "judge" the nations and send plagues upon the earth. These plagues will be introduced by seven trumpets which will be blown by angels, introducing seven plagues which will be poured out on the world (see Rev. 8-9). Notice -- there are many trumpets blown -- each one being a "call to repentance," as it were -- and a warning that YEHOVAH God is sending another plague upon the earth! There are six trumpet plagues announced.
Each of the Jewish months was officially introduced by the blowing of trumpets -- notice!
...at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpet over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings...(Numbers 10:10).
Since the festival year in which all the Mosaic festivals were found was SEVEN MONTHS LONG, the last month -- Tishri -- was the last month for a trumpet introduction. This is one of the reasons that the day was called "the Day of Trumpets." The last trump in the seven months' series was always sounded on this New Moon day. This made it the final trumpets' day -- notice Leviticus 23:24:
Say to the people of Israel, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial PROCLAIMED WITH A BLAST OF TRUMPETS...
Writes Samuele Bacchiocchi --
The association of the number seven with trumpets reminds us of the seven New Moon festivals, each of which was accompanied by the blowing of trumpets to remind the people of the forthcoming Feast of Trumpets. Thus, the seven trumpets could represent the seven new moons from the beginning of the religious year to the first day of the seventh month. The blowing of trumpets at each new moon was an anticipation of the Feast of Trumpets that served to remind people to prepare for the day of judgment that would be inaugurated by the massive blowing of trumpets at the new moon of the seventh month (God's Festivals in Scripture and History, Part 2: The Fall Festivals, p. 102).
Jon Paulien, in his work The Role of the Hebrew Cultus, Sanctuary, and the Temple in the Plot and structure of the Book of Revelation, has this to say:
The Feast of Trumpets is closely associated in Jewish thought with the new-moon festivals that were celebrated at the beginning of each month. Since the months of the year in the Jewish calendar are numbered beginning with Nisan, there is a sense in which the Feast of Trumpets comes as THE CLIMAX of a seven-month series of miniature Feasts of Trumpets. The festival, in principle then, covers the span between the spring and fall festivals.
Continues Paulien --
If John is familiar with Jewish thinking in these matters, and we have already seen abundant evidence that he is, the seven trumpets of Revelation...represent the ongoing sequence of seven months with the seventh trumpet representing the Feast of Trumpets itself...In Jewish thought the seventh-month Feast of Trumpets ushered in the time of judgment that led up to the Day of Atonement (pp. 259-260).
"The blowing of trumpets at each New Moon," explains Bacchiocchi, "was understood as a day of judgment in miniature, warning people to prepare for the final judgment ushered in by the Feast of Trumpets. Correspondingly, the blowing of the first six trumpets in Revelation warns people to prepare for the final judgment inaugurated by the blowing of the seventh trumpet" (God's Festivals in Scripture and History, Part 2, p. 103).
"The plagues," continues Bacchiocchi, "unleashed by the blowing of the first six trumpets are judgments of grace designed to lead people to repentance. This is clearly stated in Revelation 9: 20, 21 where twice we are told that people 'did not repent,' in spite of the judgments that accompanied the blowing of the first six trumpets. Gerhard Friedrich notes that the judgments of the six trumpets are 'the final warning of God, His summons to repentance'" (ibid., p. 103).
Each of these New Moon trumpet blasts equates with the trumpet plagues of Revelation, as follows --
1) Nisan 1 -- first trumpet plague
2) Iyyar 1 -- second trumpet plague
3) Sivan 1 -- third trumpet plague
4) Tammuz 1 -- fourth trumpet plague
5) Ab 1 -- fifth trumpet plague
6) Elul 1 -- sixth trumpet plague
7) Tishri 1 -- Feast of Trumpets, seventh trumpet plague, return of the Messiah
The Feast of Trumpets, therefore, pictures YEHOVAH's seventh and final trumpet plague and the return of Yeshua the Messiah to this earth. Notice Revelation 11:15 --
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our LORD [YEHOVAH] and of His Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever."
The angelic "trumpets" blown on the "Day of the Lord" are the spine-tingling fulfillment of the "trumpets" which were blown on the seven New Moon days leading up to, and including, Rosh Hashanah -- the Jewish "new year" -- also called "Yom Teruah" -- the Day of Blowing," meaning the blowing of the shofar. These trumpet plagues are warnings from YEHOVAH God to REPENT and prepare for the return of the Messiah and the commencement of his reign on the day of the last trumpet -- the Day of Trumpets! These trumpets lead up to and picture the return of the Messiah!
The themes of the Feast of Trumpets are evident in the seven trumpets of Revelation which serve to announce YEHOVAH's final judgment like the blowing of the shofar during the feast in Old Testament times. The blowing of the seven trumpets in Revelation corresponds to the blowing of trumpets at the seven New Moon festivals (Nisan-Tishri) in the Old Testament. Each new moon trumpet blowing was understood by the Israelites as a day of judgment in miniature -- which warned people to prepare for the final judgment ushered in by the Feast of Trumpets. Correspondingly, the blowing of the first six trumpets in Revelation warns people to prepare for the final judgment inaugurated by the blowing of the seventh trumpet. This final judgment will be presided over by Yeshua the Messiah who also returns at the last trump.
Observing the NEW MOONS Today
True Christians, then, should observe these days, and to keep them in remembrance, in a fashion that would be approved and pleasing in the sight of YEHOVAH God.
Therefore, we should be "observing" or "marking" the passage of each New Moon -- that is, we should be observing time in accordance with YEHOVAH's sacred calendar, and keep track of each New Moon (new month) as YEHOVAH God counts time -- not as the Roman and Gentile world does. And we should hold a memorial observance, as they did in ancient Israel -- such as a family dinner, with appropriate Bible readings and study, together with a sumptuous meal, whenever possible -- on the New Moons, with singing of psalms and spiritual songs and songs of praise to the LORD.
It would certainly be appropriate to hold a "Kiddush" -- the wine and bread ceremony which Yeshua held with his disciples at the "Last Supper" -- as part of the festivities connected with the fellowship or communal meal served on the New Moons. The "Kiddush" goes at least back to the time of Abraham and Melchizedek (see Genesis 14:18-20). Write for our article on the "Kiddush," if you have never participated in one and desire to know how to hold one.
Let's notice this verse in Colossians again, as it is our only reference to the New Moons found in the New Testament. Notice two things about this verse: 1) We are to allow NO MAN to judge us in respect to HOW we observe these things, including the New Moons. That would mean, we should NOT allow religious officials, neighbor, Gentile or even a Jewish person to judge us or condemn us for observing them, or how we observe them.
Obviously, the professing Christian/pagan Churches, masquerading as Churches of YEHOVAH God, don't observe the New Moons at all, and would tend to condemn us for observing them, calling us "Jewish." Jews, on the other hand, might tend to judge us as to "how" we observe them -- do we go to synagogue, or recite Jewish ritual prayers on the New Moon?
Clearly we should observe them in a fitting manner, in a way pleasing to YEHOVAH God -- not man. We don't need to become "Orthodox Jews" or "Ultra-orthodox" in order to obey YEHOVAH God, and celebrate His New Moons in a Godly and holy manner. We don't need to adhere to various "traditions of men" which have been added to the traditional Jewish rabbinical observance of these days. The Messiah clearly warned us to avoid the "traditions of men" which often in effect nullify YEHOVAH's Law (see Matt. 15; Mark 7). The various rabbinic accretions added to the original Torah -- the many "do's and don'ts" added in the Mishnah and through rabbinic halackha or "rules" -- are not necessary. As Peter told the disciples at the Church conference in Acts, chapter 15, "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (Acts 15:10).
It is clear from the Scriptures that the New Moons are like commanded holy days of YEHOVAH God or "sabbaths." While it is not necessary for us today to hold regular religious worship meetings on these days, as we do on Sabbath days, we are commanded to "rest" or "cease from all work" on them. The New Moons are like Sabbath days and are days which should be given special attention, and celebrated, and all work and trading ceased from.
A Festive Family Meal
How, then, should we observe them?
One of the main things we can do to observe each New Moon, today, is to hold a family feast, or festive dinner. It would be good to have an introduction, and Bible readings for the occasion, and ask a special blessing on the evening and the day.
At the special dinner prepared for the New Moon celebration, it would be all right to light candles, as many Jewish people do on Shabbat eve, recite the blessing thanking YEHOVAH God for the lights, and then thank YEHOVAH for His laws, which set us apart from the world, including His laws about the observance of the New Moons. We should also ask YEHOVAH's special blessing on our families, children, friends and relatives, and not forget to ask His blessing on His Church, His Work, and to pray for the soon coming of the Messiah and YEHOVAH God's Kingdom.
We should then enjoy the banquet, feast, and blessings of the table YEHOVAH God has provided for us. We should sing hymns of worship and praise, also, before the evening is concluded.
On the New Moon, we in our home often have a special meal, beginning with the special "bread and wine" ceremony that Yeshua the Messiah instructed us about at his Last Supper. At that supper, he used artos, regular LEAVENED bread, as a symbol of his body. This bread would have been similar to the modern Jewish Sabbath bread, or "challah." This tradition of the bread and wine goes back to the time of Abraham and Melchisedek, at least (Gen. 14:18-20).
This is called the "Kiddush." We should use this as an opportunity to remember the Messiah, as we break the bread, praying over it, as he is our "bread of life" (John 6:48-51). We should eat it, remembering his broken body, given for us (Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; I Cor. 11:24). We should then partake of the wine, symbolizing his shed blood in our behalf, the blood of our Messiah, Saviour, Redeemer, and Friend (Matt. 26:27-28; Mark 14:23-24; Luke 22:17-18, 20; 1 Cor. 11:25-30).
At this New Moon celebration meal, also, it would be good for us to make a special point to regularly pray as Paul declared: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of THANKS be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:1-3).
YEHOVAH God has given us the "New Moons" to help us mark the passage of time. They are intimately involved with His holy calendar and Sabbath days. As David wrote, "My times are in Thy hands" (Psalm 31:15). Also, YEHOVAH instructs us: "For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night" (Psalm 90:4). The Psalmist goes on: "So TEACH US to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (verse 12).
Observing the New Moons helps us to "number our days" according to YEHOVAH's calendar and system of time-keeping, as opposed to the pagan Roman or Gregorian calendar! It helps us to think in terms of YEHOVAH's calendar, and in relation to HIS time-table for our lives! The New Moons are also important in determining the weekly cycle in YEHOVAH's lunar calendar.
New Moons -- an Official Time to Worship
YEHOVAH tells us through Isaiah the prophet that during the days of YEHOVAH's Kingdom on earth, when the Temple of YEHOVAH God is restored, "And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, ALL FLESH shall come to worship before Me, says the LORD" (Isaiah 66:23).
Obviously, New Moons will be observed and celebrated during the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, with people coming up to Jerusalem, to the Temple, to worship before the LORD.
How To Determine the New Moon
If the Jews were keeping the Feast Days at the correct time, then they were also keeping the New Moons at the right time! And how were they determining the New Moons in Yeshua’s day? Notice!
During the period of the Sanhedrin, a committee of the Sanhedrin met to evaluate reports of sightings of the LUNAR CRESCENT...(Calendars, by L.E. Doggett).
Each lunar month began with the New Moon Sanctification by recognition of the Sanhedrin. Policy dictated that two witnesses in two different locations, IN OR NEAR JERUSALEM, must testify to sighting the NEW MOON CRESCENT. A vote by the Sanhedrin was then required to officially reckon a new month beginning (Christian Era Calendars, by Clark K. Nelson).
The Sanhedrin originally determined the new moon by actually observing the FIRST FAINT CRESCENT (or young moon) in the western sky (Postponements: Another Mystery of the Ages).
In the first century A.D. the day of the New Moon was clearly determined by eyewitness observation. When two witnesses had seen the New Moon in the west (just after sunset), that day -- beginning with that sunset -- would be declared the New Moon day. The New Moon was declared when the new crescent was first seen in the west after the conjunction. The Jewish Talmud is very clear on this point. The Talmud is a historical document that reflects JEWISH understanding. It is NOT -- I repeat -- it is NOT in any way “inspired.” It is, however, the work Jews refer to as “the Oral Law.” Like Israel, the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians and the Greeks also observed the first visible crescent for their new moons.
The Sanhedrin’s calendar council, called the Beth Din, was responsible for cross-examining the witnesses. Jerusalem was the prime location of observation, although the council would take testimony (when the seeing conditions were not good at Jerusalem) from witnesses who traveled to Jerusalem. In no case was the month ever made to be longer than 30 days, or shorter than 29 days.
“Hodesh” (New Moon) is derived from the Hebrew root H.D.SH. -- meaning “new” or “to make new/renew.” The New Moon Crescent is called Hodesh because it is the first time the moon is seen anew after being hidden for several days at the end of the lunar cycle. At the end of the lunar month the moon is close to the sun and eventually reaches the point of “conjunction” when it passes between the sun and the earth. As a result of this, very little of the moon’s illuminated surface faces the earth at the time of the conjunction, and it is not visible through the infinitely brighter glare of the sun. After the moon moves past the sun it continues on towards the opposite side of the earth. As it travels farther away from the sun the percentage of its illuminated surface facing the earth increases, and one evening -- shortly after sunset -- the moon is seen anew after being invisible for 1.5 to 3.5 days. Since the moon is seen anew after a period of invisibility the ancients called it a “New Moon” or “Hodesh” (from Hadesh meaning “new”).
Clearly, then, the determination of the New Moon day and the start of the month by the New Moon crescent is that approved and actually kept by the Messiah himself. NOWHERE DOES THE BIBLE AUTHORIZE US TO DO OTHERWISE!
According to Rabbinical Mathematics and Astronomy by W.M. Feldman, “the Phase Method of determining the beginning of a month...prevailed until the time of Abbaye and Raba (middle of the 4th century A.D.), when it was REPLACED by the fixed calendar Method which makes use of a Mean Conjunction or Molad to determine the beginning of a month” (page 185). After the year 359 A.D. the rabbinic Jews began to observe the 1st of Tishri on the day of the conjunction (called the “molad”) rather than on the day of the visible crescent according to all previous tradition. The astronomically inclined rabbis acknowledge today that the current calendar used among them IS NOT the same as the ancient calendar used during the Second Temple Period.
This “new calendar” calculated the New Moons by a formula that is, at times, up to 15 hours in error. Postponement rules were introduced to make the calendar conform to certain “traditions,” and a system of intercalating a 13th month seven times in every 19 years was adopted which totally ignored the fact that the year must always start in the spring. So, from 359 A.D. onwards, the Jews followed a calendar which REPEATEDLY placed the Passover into the winter, and which REPEATEDLY placed the entire Feast of Tabernacles into the summer -- blatantly ignoring YEHOVAH’s instruction in Exodus 34:22.
No instruction can be found anywhere in the Bible to show exactly how we should go about determining the time of the New Moon. For example, while someone may not be able to “see” the first new crescent of the moon with his naked eye, someone else, with their naked eye -- or with a pair of binoculars -- may at that same time actually be able to see the crescent! The point is, the new crescent is in fact THERE — but because of its proximity to the position of the sun it is not visible to everyone with the naked eye. That doesn’t change the fact that it is THERE!
Next, it becomes evident that the New Moon must be determined by its appearance in Jerusalem. After David took Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made it the capital of Israel, it became -- with YEHOVAH’s blessing -- the center of the earth and the place where YEHOVAH God will soon return. Therefore, to avoid confusion, the New Moon was always determined at Jerusalem after this time.
Also, it was possible to communicate the New Moons reasonably quickly to all the towns and villages in the country as well as parts of the Diaspora. This was done by lighting fires on the hill-tops. But Jews who lived further afield and who could not rely on hill-top fires to determine the New Moons kept TWO days for the feasts to make sure they kept it on the correct day!
It should be self-evident that Jews in Spain simply would NOT have been able to wait for confirmation of visual sightings of the New Moon before knowing which day would start the new month. That is why they kept TWO days. In time a fixed calendar was developed.
It should also be very clear that Jews in Spain during Yeshua’s time should NOT have calculated a calendar based on the LOCAL visibility of the New Moon. That -- as we have seen -- would produce chaos! The further west one goes, the earlier the New Moon becomes visible. It would be a fairly common occurrence for a New Moon to be visible in Spain one day BEFORE it is visible in Jerusalem. As a result, if the Jews in Spain developed a calendar based on the visibility of the New Moon in Spain, then some of the time they would have kept the Holy Days on different days from their brethren in Jerusalem.
So while there is no clear command in the Bible that the New Moon should be based on Jerusalem time, it is an UNAVOIDABLE requirement that ONE recognized standard be accepted for the entire world -- simply to avoid confusion! Since YEHOVAH chose Jerusalem as His own -- this is where it should be determined!
Don’t judge this question from the viewpoint of our present means of instant communications. For the overwhelming portion of man’s time on this earth, communication with distant lands was a long and difficult process. A FIXED CALENDAR, based on the first visible crescent in Jerusalem, became necessary to enable people in areas away from Jerusalem and Palestine to observe YEHOVAH’s Holy Days.
Without a fixed calendar the Jews throughout the Roman Empire during the first century A.D. simply had to observe TWO days to be sure that they kept the Holy Days. It should be more than self-evident that a fixed calendar -- one that all true Christians in all parts of the world acknowledge and recognize as valid -- is the only way to avoid confusion.
Getting Back to the "Faith Once Delivered"
Yeshua the Messiah said he did not come to abolish YEHOVAH God's Law, but to fulfill it -- to fill it to the brim, to magnify it and make it to "run over" (Matt. 5:17). He also said, "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called LEAST in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever DOES and TEACHES them, he shall be called GREAT in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:19). Do you want to be LEAST in the Kingdom? Or do you want to be considered GREAT in the kingdom?
Most, if not all, of the End-time churches of YEHOVAH God have seriously neglected and ignored the celebration of the New Moons which YEHOVAH God ordained. As part of restoring the truth of YEHOVAH God, and His laws and observances, we need to begin observing these days as YEHOVAH Himself commands. The apostle Jude exhorts us, saying, "Beloved, when I gave diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should EARNESTLY CONTEND for the faith ONCE DELIVERED unto the saint" (Jude 3-4).
YEHOVAH's New Moons are important. If we observe them, properly, He will surely bless us, and shelter us from the storm coming upon the disobedient. If we observe them properly, they will add a special dimension of joy and peace, and spiritual POWER in our lives. As Malachi declared: "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" (Malachi 3:16-17).
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