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Mathematical Bias and the Biblical Calendar
(Revised 2015)

By: Shawn Richardson

Section 4:

BIBLICAL MONTHS

We have discovered the sun's role in establishing Biblical Days with the stars dividing each day as the sun goes down - all described from an observer's perspective. Now we turn to the moon, the other celestial sign that we have already seen plays a major role in the Biblical Calendar. To some, if one observes the sun to begin the day and measures the length of a day based on its routine cycle, then it may seem natural to them that this same process would also apply to the moon in order to measure months. To others, this may not be as clear for the moon is not always visible to an observer throughout its cycle. The moon's cycle, as it orbits the Earth, is referred to as a lunar month. Although most don't actively refer to this cycle today when it comes to a calendar, this concept was used to establish the measuring of months even before the Bible existed. It certainly will surprise some to find references to the moon itself being littered throughout the pages of Biblical scripture in the context of telling time. In fact, the moon serves as the only monthly marker (or a measure thereof) for when events took place (and were to take place into the future).

The Hebrew word for month within scripture is nearly always yerach or, more often, chodesh (also translated as hodesh). Yerach translates (Strong's 3391[3]) simply as moon or lunation:

The Hebrew word chodesh specifically translates (Strong's 2320[3]) as New Moon:

So, we can see that when the Bible refers to months it is quite literally using the ordained sign of the moon itself and, more specifically, measuring time using the new moon as a specific event of reference. For example, Exodus 12:3 would read (using "new moon" for chodesh)[1]:

Today, it's simply a habit for many of us to consider a month as having a fixed number of days, such as the month of July having exactly 31 days. We also take comfort in knowing that most everyone keeps July universally around the globe as 31 days in length (in order to be consistently calculated anywhere, anytime). Even though the original secular concept of a month was not always based on a fixed number of mathematical days, many have simply forgotten that months used to be commonly measured based directly on the movements of the moon itself. The Wikipedia Encyclopedia[29] describes the word month as:

Cognates mean that these two English terms are one and the same! So why don't we use this reference today? The problem is that the average length of a lunar month will vary, averaging 29.53 days in length and does not divide evenly into the solar cycle that lasts approximately 365.25 days. When it comes to accuracy, most mathematical calendars choose to focus on the solar cycle and loosely estimate the lunar cycle to fit, or rather ignore it all together. The result is often a fixed month that is similar in length to the lunar cycle, but ultimately becomes disconnected from the moon entirely. For example, the modern Gregorian calendar's month averages 30.44 days in length in order to have 12 whole months (of varying fixed lengths) in a solar year. This has changed our modern concept of the month and has, once again, been ingrained into our way of thinking by applying a bias toward mathematical averages and man-made formulas.

The word chodesh appears 224 times in the Hebrew Bible; however, the King James writers favored the English translation as "month" rather than "new moon" over 200 times. Regrettably, most readers today will likely apply their mathematical bias when they come across the word month and may completely miss any correlation being made to the moon or its cycle within the Bible. This is why I prefer to use the descriptive phrase new moon (instead of the alternative word month) when reading scripture in order to help break free from the programmed bias.

Now that we have established the basics, let's look at some examples. I Kings 6:38[1] use both Hebrew terms yerach and chodesh (which has been substituted with our unbiased translation):

You can see here that this is clearly referencing a date pertaining to a type of calendar. The eighth moon, or month, here is named Bul. This is similar to saying (using Gregorian calendar names) "in the month of August, which is the eighth month". You may notice in verse 1 additional references to particular events being used to convey a specific year - in this case, the eleventh full year following Solomon's crowning as King of Israel. We also learn that this same year is the 487th full year since the Children of Israel came out of the land of Egypt. Just as we counted the number of days within the Creation Week to determine the Seventh Day Sabbath, Biblical Years are also communicated to the reader by referencing the number of years following an event or sign (we'll cover more on the names of new moons and Biblical Years later in this paper). And, just like the Creation Week count to the Sabbath, so too are the number of days counted from the first visible new moon. For example, Leviticus 23:27[1] states (continuing with our word-substitution for clarity):

Here, referring to the appointed Day of Atonement, you can see that we should count the number of whole days from an event: Chodesh, or the new moon (the seventh new moon of the year, in this case). There are over one hundred references in the Old Testament that refer to the moon in this manner. Just as a reminder, both the moon and the sun are used merely as a point-of-reference. There is nothing to infer from the practice of observing these ordained signs (regardless of phase) that they should be worshiped in any manner. They do not control time, Yehovah does (through His visible signs)! Many, including Sabbath keepers, tend to resist looking to the moon for the sake of the calendar thinking that they are partaking in such a practice. But it is no different to look to the moon to begin the month than looking to the sun (as it goes down over the horizon) and stars to begin the day.

The question then becomes: exactly when is the Biblical New Moon? In other words, at what phase of the moon should we begin to observe its cycle as being new? Just as the sun and stars are not laid out in step-by-step instructions to describe the start of the Biblical Day, scripture also does not give direct, step-by-step instructions on how to ascertain the start of a lunar cycle. However, the Bible does utilize the very specific Hebrew word chodesh for this event that serves as an important key to understanding the Biblical Month.

Semitic languages have a unique feature that other languages, such as English, do not provide. These languages, particularly Hebrew, allow most words to be condensed down into a series of three consonants (referred to as a "root") that provide an additional layer of meaning, causing both words to be connected with the same root. Even if you don't know Hebrew, you can often get a better understanding by identifying and studying the "root" word. As one online Hebrew lesson describes[69]:

The patterns being referred to above are achieved by simply adding vowels, prefixes (such as prepositions), suffixes (such as pronouns), possessives, gender and number (plural or singular) to the root word[67]. In our case, chodesh shares the same root (CH-D-SH) and is constructed (originally derived) from the word chadash (Strong's 2318[3]), which means:

The idea is that something, which once existed, will now begin anew. For example, Isaiah 61:4[1] states:

This is referring to the renewing, restoring or rebuilding of the city after its destruction. These examples of chadash continue in I Samuel 11:14, II Chronicles 15:8, 24:4 and 12, Psalm 51:10, 103:5, 104:30, Lamentations 5:21 and Job 10:17. In each case, we see the process of making new, or to repair, from what previously existed. By applying this understanding to chodesh, it would be more accurate to translate it as a Renewed Moon.

Certainly the moon itself doesn't physically repair or rebuild itself. So when does the moon begin to renew? It was on Day Four of Genesis 1 that stated the moon's function, as an ordained sign, was to be a light in the firmament to rule the night. It is this light that grows stronger and lasts longer night after night until eventually the light recedes again until it can no longer be seen. For an observer, this process would begin with the first indication of visible light - at the time of the waxing crescent. This renewed light, raising up from the desolation of the old, previous cycles would best describe chodesh. There is no other phase of the moon that can describe a rebuilding from what once existed. It involves a simple practice of searching for that renewed beacon of light to indicate that the moment of the renewed moon has arrived. This is nearly as easy a task as it is to observe the sun at its going down behind the horizon. Once seen, there can be no doubt to its existence - in fact, it's rather an exciting thrill to actively spot it with the naked eye on the darkening horizon. Only the visible new crescent phase of the moon preserves the Biblical description and retains the meaning behind the Hebrew term chodesh and its root word chadash. It also means that the term chodesh is self-describing and requires no step-by-step definition.

As it turns out, the event of the visible renewed moon just happens to occur in the western horizon just as the sun goes down. Both sunset and moonset take place within minutes of one another at the time of the renewed moon with the crescent first being visible as the sun's light fades away and the stars begin to shine - at the start of the Biblical Day! All of Yehovah's celestial signs in the sky coinciding with one another to begin the Biblical Month! What a wonderful sign we are given! And what better sign could we have to know when to determine Yehovah's appointed times?

There do exist, however, many other theories (many we will cover) that create observable calendars starting with various different phases of the moon. However, the methodology of searching for the specific phase of the waxing crescent is also repeatedly documented as being the first original concept long before other phases were ever considered. The Collins Discovery Encyclopedia[58] describes the phrase "new moon" as:

The Wikipedia Encyclopedia[66] also confirms the earliest practice of using the crescent and further clarifies the original, historical definition of the term new moon:

In modern society, the result of creating mathematically-based calendars has led to a completely new designation of the term new moon from being the waxing crescent to the calculated astrological event of the moon's conjunction (i.e. when the Earth, moon and sun are in a straight line with one another during each lunar cycle around the Earth). You may notice on today's Gregorian calendar the indication of an astrological new moon (the unilluminated moon) is signified by a black dot. This concept is strictly a mathematical classification. Just as solar midnight would be the conceptual start of the day, the conjunction is used by many today, including within the scientific world, as the conceptual start of the lunar month. This has become a stumbling block for many when reading scripture because they try to apply this newer, more modern concept to the Biblical Calendar. By redefining the term new moon into a mathematical one and shifting to a phase that cannot be seen by an observer, the concept of observation of this ordained sign has become completely abandoned.

Trumpets

There does exist, however, an additional layer of instruction within the book of Numbers that we must consider as to when this sign of the new moon arrives. It also helps us to solidify the use of observing the crescent phase specifically. Numbers 10:10[1] states:

And additionally, on the seventh month, this blowing of trumpets served as a reminder to the people His holy convocation at His appointed time in Leviticus 23:24[1]:

This instructs the people of Israel and the Levitical Priesthood to blow trumpets at the renewed moon (chodesh). This serves as a proclamation to all of Yehovah's people that the new month has begun. Many think of this as only an annual occurrence at the seventh month. But does Numbers 10:10 mean, then, that we should celebrate every month as if it's the modern New Year's Day with a count-down celebration? Or, perhaps it better serves a purpose of communicating to His people that the renewed moon has been seen. This would serve as a witness to the whole world that His new month has begun, resolving any doubts. You can read in Joel 2:15 that trumpets were also blown for the purpose of assembling together. Numbers 10 then implies that we are to assemble together every month, at each renewed moon, keeping the seventh as a holy convocation. This is how an observational method can bring unity and precision. The more individuals that are looking for the renewed moon each month, the more accurate the practice becomes.

As a side note, the various phases of the moon that are argued to begin the Biblical Month that are not visible to an observer (such as the conjunction and Molad) would not fit well with the instructions to blow trumpets as there would be nothing to see. The moment to blow a trumpet would require calculation or repeated observation in order to be mathematically averaged (which is not supported by scripture). If it were intended for us to rely on calculation, there would be no need to blow trumpets as everyone would simply use the same mathematical formula to make any such determination.

Another popular theory is that the month begins with the dark moon, first identified at the moment light fades away from the moon's surface as it wanes. The problem, though, is that it would be extremely difficult to ascertain the exact moment the moon's surface was no longer casting any light. This is because the waning crescent can only be visually observed in the early morning immediately prior to sunrise. Once an observer noticed the moon's disappearance from view, it could simply be attributed to the sun becoming too bright to see it. This provides no clear distinction as to when a trumpet should be blown - not to mention it would be blown in the early morning (no longer correlating with the start of the Biblical Day). To resolve this, many dark moon followers delay blowing any trumpet until the end of the Biblical Day (at sunset) following the visual confirmation of a waning crescent earlier that morning to allow for any discrepancy. However, this would still provide no guarantee as the moon may not have waned enough when it was first seen, causing it to possibly be seen yet again the next morning. It's also possible, depending on one's geographical location, for one person to not be able to see the waning moon while another person, closer to the earth's equator, could easily see it shining clearly at the same moment in time. This is due to the curvature of the earth's surface, which causes the moon to become more visually faint from the surface as the moon's angle changes. Finally, the waning crescent, or the dark moon, could not be considered as being, or in the process of becoming, chadash (renewed). In contrast, only the waxing crescent can be easily identified and confirmed by a secondary witness, removing any doubt the moment it first arrives anywhere on earth, making it clear when to blow a trumpet.

The practice of looking for the visible crescent, along with the use of trumpets to communicate such an event, is also documented historically as a regular practice that took place centuries ago. This is not just conjecture, ideas or make-believe stories made up to support a theory. Rather, it is a part of Jewish history specifically! Notice what the Encyclopaedia Judaica explains[9]:

Communication is a key element to the start of the Biblical Month and the blowing of trumpets serves the purpose of relaying that message. Notice there is no instruction to delay blowing these trumpets until a certain time of the day (they are simply blown at the time of the renewed moon), nor is there any instruction to only blow the trumpets from a specific geographical location. While Numbers 10:10 described silver trumpets to be blown at the tent of meeting, the entire chapter describes the purpose of trumpets as serving the purpose of communicating to the people so that they would take notice! At the time of the renewed moon, these trumpets were blown from a central location where His people would gather together to recognize the renewed moon in a unified fashion. Later, the location of the silver trumpets changed to the temple mount within Jerusalem, but the purpose of communicating this event remained! When you look carefully throughout scripture, you will find that Yehovah often uses trumpets as a tool to relay information to large numbers of people, including the entire world! And their use was not restricted to just one location. Trumpets played a very large role in long-range warning, and they were extremely important to both the one blowing the trumpets and to those that heard them. Consider Ezekiel 33:3-6[1]:

Here we see the importance of the watchman's role and the people's responsibility when they heard the sound of the trumpet. Alternatively, if one does not blow a trumpet (as instructed), the fault is on them. And, notice, a watchman's responsibility would not have been restricted to just the temple mount.

Another example that has a serious impact may be found in the book of The Revelation as angels are described as using trumpets to signal warning to the entire world and the heavens of end-time events yet to occur! Most notably being the seventh trump that will signal the return of Yeshua, the Messiah, to this earth (Revelation 11:15[1])!

Matthew 24:30-31[1] parallels this same event using a trumpet to communicate to the entire world:

Jewish history also supports the use of mass communication, in addition to blasting trumpets, to make the event of the renewed moon known to the masses. This included the lighting of bonfires and sending messengers throughout Israel. An example of such an exercise was dramatically played out in the film Lord of the Rings: Return of the King when the city of Gondor lit its beacon on fire to signal for help in defending their city whose enemy was threatening to attack. The scene continued with an aerial shot that pulled back into the mountain tops showing the start of a chain reaction of additional bonfires being lit by individuals located in watch towers. Bonfire after bonfire was set in flames until the final one was lit looking over the valley of Rohan - their signal for assistance. This concept was not just a fantasy story, but rather was based on actual methods of ancient communication. Arthur Spier, author of the book Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, was a Rabbinical authority that was utilized by the Worldwide Church of God (the Sabbath-keeping organization I once attended) in its determination of calendar dates. Although he concludes with the modern usage of a calculated calendar with the majority of the book laying out the calendar spanning several centuries, Spier does describe Jewish history as once relying on observation of the new moon crescent followed by direct communication to the people[44]:

The Sanhedrin was a man-made judicial council that claimed authority in making decisions related to Biblical commands. We'll discuss this group in a later chapter, but there are some important factors we can learn from their practices. For instance, although the Sanhedrin council did utilize calculations, we see that it was merely a general method for confirming an eyewitness account given within the courts. And, even though the primary council was located in Jerusalem, they still considered eyewitness accounts from various locations (with many making special journeys to the council to report their findings). If the use of a fixed calendar existed, there would be no need to consider any eyewitness accounts. Instead, it was the practice of the Sanhedrin to determine the month as being 29 or 30 days long depending on when the following month's new moon was first sighted. They bestowed upon themselves the authority as to when to blow trumpets when they deemed the new month as being confirmed - or sanctified by the courts - and took it a step further by adding the use of bonfire signals and messengers to communicate that fact to the masses.

Psalm 81

Today, the majority of Judaism has abandoned observation in favor of the fixed, calculated Hebrew calendar. As mentioned earlier, this calendar relies on an astronomical calculation of the moon known as the Molad Emtzai. The Molad goes back in history to the 2nd Century BCE in Babylon where ancients used this mathematical average based on repeated observation in order to obtain a closely calculated average of the dark-moon, which we discussed earlier as, essentially, being the conjunction that would take place at the time between the visible waxing (new) and waning (old) crescents. This practice would be similar to establishing a calculated average of midnight by repeatedly observing the time between sunset and sunrise. Other calendar systems use the waning (old) crescent to begin their month (or the dark moon just after the moon's light disappears). Although there are those (including Jews) that do fully accept the fact that the Bible supports a method of observation over calculating a theoretical unseen event, there are also those that try to twist scripture to support other phases of the moon to begin their theoretical month model - even the full moon! More times than not, these alternative arguments often hinge on one particular scripture - Psalm 81:3-4. In the King James, this verse reads:

Although this may seem innocent enough on the surface as describing what we have already discussed: blowing trumpets at the chodesh (new moon) and at the appointed time and on a feast day. There are some English variations on how this verse may be interpreted, however, due to some loose associations of particular Hebrew words being used within this sentence. Given the translation's culpability, some attempt to claim that this verse is giving an entirely different definition for the Hebrew word chodesh. For example, the American Standard Version[59] of these verses read:

The primary difference here is the phrase "full moon" replacing "time appointed". This difference is due to the Hebrew word being used here, which is bakesseh (Strong's 3677). While some interpret this as "time appointed" or "in preparation", it can also be translated as "full moon" by connecting to the root word kasah (Strong's 3680), which means "plump" or to "fill up hollows". However, kasah can also mean "covering" or "hidden". This tends to give credence to interpret bakesseh as being a "hidden moon". Even though the term chodesh is also used here and throughout the scriptures when referring to the new moon, this is the only scripture that pairs it with the term bakesseh making it a target within calendar debates. Regrettably, this is also the only location within the Bible that uses the specific term bakesseh, so it's just vague enough to allow for varied speculation without having any other context to compare and contrast.

The Orthodox Jewish Bible[60] reads:

Yom Chageinu means "day of celebration" or "day of festival". There are three appointed Biblical times, all of which involve blowing trumpets (as we are commanded to do in Numbers 10:10 over the offerings given and in days of gladness and appointed times), that fall around these specific phases of the moon: the Day of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), which takes place at the time of the renewed moon (chodesh), along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), which both begin around the time of the full moon (15th day of the renewed moon). In this case, the term full moon does not necessarily describe Rosh Chodesh itself, but rather could be generally describing various days of celebration that fall at the time of the renewed moon and full moon when trumpets happened to be blown.

There is also the case that this verse is referring to a "Feast Day". The Hebrew word chag (Strong's 2282) indicates one of the pilgrimage feasts described in Leviticus 23, of which there are only three: The Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost). Since the Feast of Weeks does not land on a day when the moon is full or hidden, we are only left with the full moon as being described for bakesseh.

But does this mean that the new moon is, in actuality, the full moon? No. Only the Day of Trumpets is an appointed day that occurs at the time of the chodesh and it, also, is not a pilgrimage festival. Therefore, this verse must be describing multiple days where trumpets are blown - not just one. Additionally, the Hebrew word used for Day (the Yom in Yom Chageinu) uses an inflection where the word is prefixed with a lamad which implies "leading toward the day". When we consider these things, clearing out any commas that have been added into the English interpretation, we would get the following:

In either case, there is no historical support or any other hard evidence (or additional scriptural references) to the chodesh being definitively tied to either the full or conjunction (or dark) stages of the moon. The argument that either phase should be considered as a "new moon" is extremely weak and, coincidentally, based on one poetic verse written long after the Torah (instruction) was given. There is also no need to use the term bakesseh to describe the new moon here when the word chodesh was just used. The hidden moon could not be considered as being renewed and the full moon would no longer require any renewal, nor is its usage supported in any Jewish or Biblical history.

Jerusalem Time

There are several organizations today that use the new moon crescent to begin their months, but believe that observation should be limited from within the Israeli borders (or, more specifically, from Jerusalem itself). In other words, if someone outside of the land were to see the new moon crescent, they would ignore the instruction to blow a trumpet and delay the month until it could be confirmed from Jerusalem (where trumpets would then be blown). For example, this would require an observer in the United States, who can clearly see the renewed crescent, to ignore the sign of the new month until after the moon's existence can be confirmed from an observer in Jerusalem - causing a full day delay to the month for the person in the United States. Additionally, if weather conditions had prevented the observer in Jerusalem from confirming the crescent, the observer in the United States would have to delay yet another full day in order for the observer in Jerusalem to confirm. This practice would create a fixed mathematical dateline causing one to avoid looking to the moon and, instead, to Jerusalem. Finally, it causes the potential for an observer outside of Jerusalem to have a month that would last 31 days in length as we've just described. Suddenly, you are no longer using a system that is directly based on the lunar cycle, but rather a mathematical baseline (or timeline, if you will). But does the Bible define such a timeline? Many like to think so by referring to scriptures that pertain to Biblical law - such as Isaiah 2:3[1] which states:

Although the correlation could be made that blowing trumpets to proclaim a new month would be similar to establishing law, man does not create the laws of Yehovah! Neither should we limit ourselves to only following His laws, including the Biblical signs, strictly from Jerusalem. In other words, we can't ignore any aspect of Biblical law (or instruction) simply because we are not located in Jerusalem! If this were the case, then the Biblical Day would only begin when it was sundown in Jerusalem - not where you are actually located anywhere on earth. Additionally, using this logic, we would not be able to keep any of Yehovah's commandments - including all of the Torah iteslf - unless we were located within Jerusalem itself. This is simply a ridiculous assumption! Mathematics is not the context of this verse in Isaiah (nor with others like it). Instead, it is a prophetic context as it is referring specifically to the future coming Kingdom of Yehovah with His throne being established in Jerusalem (or Zion). Even so, any rules or laws that would be established at that time, including those for a calendar, would simply be given from that location - but they would be for the entire world to follow.

By not restricting sightings to just one location, observation becomes much more accurate - lessening any room for error. It is also true that the accuracy increases the more people you have available to look! Just as the Sanhedrin, described earlier, considered eyewitness accounts of those that came forward to give their testimony of sightings, so should we consider the testimony of others as they sight the moon and blow a trumpet (as instructed). There is no reason to exclude such a witness simply because they are located outside of Jerusalem or the land of Israel. This dilemma is nothing new to Jewish practices. Many Jews have created a man-made tradition where those located outside of the Holy Land always recognize New Moon Day after 29 days and 30 days (see Yom Tov Sheni in the Historical Sanhedrin section), "just in case" the crescent was seen early in Israel. Once confirmed, an adjustment is then made as to which day truly marked the start of the month. In fact, many Jews outside of Israel observe Rosh Hashanah/Day of Trumpets for two days just for this reason. Therefore, those outside of Israel ignore local observation completely, which is once again not instructed within scripture.

Others believe that trumpets could only be blown from the physical Temple (or from the Tabernacle that was located with the people of Israel in the wilderness) as a location of authority. But this would introduce a new problem, if it were true, as there is no physical temple today (nor has it existed for nearly 2000 years). Because of this, many choose Jerusalem since it was the last site of a temple and, according to prophecy, the future site of Yehovah's throne that will be established here on Earth. But even if this could be proven, many Christians (or followers of Yeshua) should understand the concept of the "New Testament" temple as referenced in I Corinthians 6: 19-20[1]:

The Body of Yeshua is made up of individual followers, each with Yehovah's law (Torah) written in their hearts. Our temporary bodies (or tabernacles) serve as His temple while we live on this Earth - and Yeshua serves as the Head Priest and intercessor to the Father's throne. If it were true that a trumpet must be blown strictly from a physical temple, then it would be our duty as members of the Body of Yeshua, His Church, to blow trumpets at the start of every Biblical Month regardless of physical location! Any authority bestowed, if necessary, would be from Yeshua Himself as our High Priest and authorized covering. There is certainly no Biblical reason for us to ignore the ordained sign of the crescent just because we are not located in Jerusalem - no more than we should ignore any of Yehovah's laws and instructions when we are outside of the holy land.

New Moon Burnt Offerings

Besides the blowing of trumpets, we read that there were further Biblical events for the day of the New Moon that included the presentation of two offerings. The first, which was a requirement, was a burnt offering as described in Numbers 28:11[1]:

In addition to required offerings, a peace offering was also customary during the time of the renewed moon (as we read in Numbers 10:10):

A voluntary Peace Offering was included as the memorial practice and would have consisted of the head of the household selecting an animal (without defect) from their herd and presenting it at the tent of meeting. The animal would then be proportioned prior to being placed on the fire. The first portion, presented to Yehovah, was burned. Another portion was given to the priests, but the remainder was eaten at a later time by the presenter in a meal eaten at some point prior to the third day, after which the remains were destroyed. This was a free-will offering and is sometimes referred to as a Fellowship Offering (Leviticus 3:1-17; 7:11-34; 19:5-8 and 22:29-30). There were very specific rules associated with this offering, as found in Leviticus 7:16-19[1]:

Here we see that the Peace offering was considered clean up until the third day (bay-yo-wm specifically being the daytime portion - Strong's 3117 - this is the same form of the word yom, meaning day, used in Genesis 1:18 when we are told the sun ruled the day, or ruled the bay-yo-wm). It was on this third day when the food had to be completely destroyed by fire (this requirement is repeated in Leviticus 19:5-8). If not destroyed, then it was considered an abomination for anyone that ate of it, offered it as an offering or for any other food that touched it! Additionally Leviticus 7:20 indicates that the person that ate of this meal also had to be clean less they be cut off as His people[1]:

These peace offerings were in addition to the renewed moon burnt offering and the daily morning and afternoon sacrifices. Additionally, there were others required for sepcific holy days, including Yom Teruah that also took place at the time of the renewed moon. We see an example of this again in Ezra 3:5[1]:

It was most likely the custom to partake in a sacrificial peace-meal together as an assembly. Even though physical sacrifices are no longer offered at a temple today, the tradition of partaking in a meal together during required assemblies should be heavily considered. Although some groups have an occasional potluck (also referred to as an oneg or Jacob's Join), a meal provides an opportunity for everyone, as a group, to fellowship and share their experiences and understanding. Such assemblies for the New Moons are supported in scriptures, including I Chronicles 23:31, II Chronicles 2:4; 8:13; 31:3, Nehemiah 10:33, Ezekiel 46:1, 3, Psalm 81:3, Isaiah 66:23 and Colossians 2:16.

This means that when the next renewed moon is expected (at the end of the 29th day of the month) we should be gathering together as Yehovah's people. It is not treated as a Sabbath Day but as a "living" calendar with each of us partaking in its function. If the new moon crescent is observed on this day (or has been communicated as such via distant trumpets), we should proclaim the month by blowing the trumpets and sharing in a meal together in honor of Yehovah! If the moon is not seen (or declared) that evening, then we should gather together again as the crescent arrives at the end of the 30th day. We also have learned that this process evolved to include communications via bonfire and then messengers that would ride out to spread the news. Today, we have telephones, television and internet media with a worldwide audience of potential observers we have been blessed to be made available.

David's Example

Now that we have established some context, let's look at one Biblical example that is often referenced when studying these New Moon celebrations. The story is in I Samuel 20 when David is invited to eat a meal with Saul, the King and Father-in-Law to David. David had come to fear that the King wanted to kill him, so he consulted with the King's son Jonathan, a close friend whom he trusted, to learn the truth of the King's intentions toward David. To achieve this, David planned to go into hiding for three days while Jonathan remained behind with the King. We also learn that one of these days would be the New Moon in verse 5[1]:

Many stop here and claim David knew in advance when the "new moon" would arrive - therefore, he must have used calculations and not observation! Or, at best, any observation would have already been made with the waning crescent allowing David to have known, in advance, when the moon would be new. But was David referring to the arrival of the moon itself, or was he referring to the meal that was being planned for that evening for the purposes of looking for the "new moon"? Now notice what David says next:

The Hebrew reckoning of time is usually all-inclusive when spoken in such a manner. In other words, when David refers to hiding for three days at evening, he would be including the current day (the day this discussion took place) as the first day, that evening (referred to as "tomorrow") and the following day would be the second day, finally, "unto" (including) the next evening, which ended on the morning of the third day before he reemerged. This plan just happens to coincide with the requirements of presenting a peace offering that would have been taking place at the same time of David's planning in order to be available for the arrival of the renewed moon (either that evening or the next night). Remember, a peace offering was good up until the third day (bay-yo-wm - the day time portion). Here is a graphical representation of David's plan compared to that of a peace offering:

David's plan follows requirements for peace meal offering
(allows two evenings for new moon observance):
First Day
(29th Day of Chodesh)
Second Day
(30th or 1st Day of Chodesh)
Third Day
(1st or 2nd Day of Chodesh)
Night
Day
Night
Day
Night
Day
OFFERINGS


Offerings were only presented during daylight hours
Individual peace offerings (optional) would be presented in preparation of chodesh assemblies that coming evening ("tomorrow")First possible day of New Moon sighting (Chodesh)

Meat from peace offering available to eat the first evening
High Priest presents morning and afternoon offerings (required - representing the people of Israel) upon confirmation of the new moon at the templeSecond possible day of New Moon sighting (Chodesh)

Meat from peace offering available to eat the second evening (third day of offerings had not yet begun)
Latest day for High Priest new moon offerings at the temple

Any remaining meat from peace offering is no longer acceptable - must be burned by fire on the morning of the third day
DAVID'S PLAN


David would have understood that this was the last definitive day of the month (28th)
David makes plans to go into hiding until the third day ("tomorrow is the chodesh")First Meal

New moon arrives (1st day of chodesh) and King sits down to eat meat - David assumed unclean (Peace Offering meal)
David continues to hide (even though he succeeded in being absent for the chodesh and the corresponding meal with King Saul that David refers to on the First Day)Second Meal

King notices David's absence at second meal (2nd day of chodesh) - no concern of cleanliness (standard meal?)
David meets with Jonathan in the morning on the third day (as planned) allowing for either of the King's meals to have been a peace offering meal
David goes into hiding/Peace meal available for eating
www.shawnrichardson.com/calendar

Within the context of what we have learned regarding offerings, David's plan seems to imply that the intention was for him to miss the peace offering meal being planned that evening by the King (perhaps he planned a meal at every renewed moon) - not that David had some insight or guarantee that the future new moon crescent would arrive that evening. The only thing David knew, for certain, was that evening was a planned meal that would have been made ready that evening just in case the moon was spotted! It very well could have been that David and Jonathan were making their arrangements at the same time the King's meal was being presented as a peace (or fellowship) offering to be slaughtered - perhaps David and Jonathan themselves were the ones presenting that offering for the King. This we are not told. Either way, the question remains: why did David plan to hide from the King for three days instead of just two? This is especially odd if David were so certain that the new moon itself was to arrive that first evening based on calculation!

Notice also that David only refers to this future-coming day as being the New Moon - not a Sabbath or Holy Day. Some claim that this story must have taken place on the Day of Trumpets where the modern Jewish tradition is to observe two days (Yom Tov Sheni) and this was the reason for David's mysterious timing. But this story took place in Jerusalem - the very location where such a dateline would be fixed to a specific day. Jews do not observe Yom Tov Sheni unless they are located in the Diaspora (outside of the Holy Land) and is, historically, a more modern tradition not established until after the time of Yeshua. Furthermore, a high holy day, such as the Day of Trumpets, is never mentioned.

Let's continue with the story: David and Johnathan devise a plan where Johnathan would secretly signal to David in the morning, after hiding until the third day at even, whether or not it was safe for David to return. In order to have an excuse to cover David's time span, Jonathan was to tell the King, if asked, that David had gone to Bethlehem (approximately 6 miles away) by request of his brother, who lived there, to attend a meal with his family (instead of with the King). Whether David actually went to Bethlehem we are not told - only that he was going to hide in the fields. We see in verse 24 that the renewed moon (chodesh), indeed, arrived that first evening where the King held a fellowship meal[1]:

Notice we are told specifically that the moon was come, the sign that the month had begun. This verse also implies that the King waited to eat meat until the moon's arrival was confirmed. However, when David did not show King Saul did not become upset. Rather we are told in verse 25 that the King assumed David was unprepared (unclean) - a requirement for the ceremonial burnt peace offering meal[1]:

The King never asked Jonathan about David's absence and seems to be accepting that David could not attend. The evening ended uneventful. It's at this point, the morning of the second day, that David's original intention of missing the New Moon celebration meal was fulfilled. Certainly if David and Jonathan relied solely on calculation to determine the New Moon's arrival, it was at this time Jonathan could now have easily signaled the "all clear" letting David know that the King did not become upset and there would have been no need for Jonathan to tell his father that David had gone to Bethlehem. But instead, David's plan continues to keep him in hiding another full day and evening!

It wasn't until the next evening meal, on the second day of the renewed moon, that King Saul inquired Jonathan of David's absence in verses 27-28[1]:

Here we see King Saul's assumption of David being unclean is no longer a concern. Either this second meal was not a sacrificial meal or the King's assumption that David was unclean would have expired by this time. However, had the renewed moon not arrived, the offertory meal would have still been available to eat allowing for the previous month to be either 29 or 30 days in length!

It was now that Jonathan tells his father the excuse for David's absence. Whether the King called his bluff or was simply upset for allowing David to leave, the King now became furious toward Jonathan:

King Saul truly despised Jonathan's favor toward David and knew he would most likely allow David to rule in his stead when the time came. To protect his dynasty, Saul now orders the death of David. It is not until after this second meal, on the morning of the third day, that Jonathan then delivers the bad news to David.

David's original concern (in verse 5) was missing the meal intended for the New Moon celebration and gathering. The chronological layout of this story suggests that David did not know which night the King would be hosting a sacrificial meal versus a standard nightly meal (regular meals could have likely been hosted by the King quite often). It's obvious that David purposely accommodated for the possibility of either meal to be the one intended for the New Moon gathering. In fact, David's plan simply followed along with the standard practice for obtaining and eating the fellowship peace offering that was prepared for the purposes of the new moon celebration. It would have been this preparation process and searching that David was referring to when he claimed that the next day was the "new moon".

Proponents of the Hebrew Calendar claim that David relied upon the Molad and would have already observed a waning crescent moon when he had made his plans to go into hiding. The first day of the month would have been a celebration of the conjunction moon and the follow-up meal would have been to observe the waxing crescent in order to confirm the previous evening as being the start of the month. This practice is not only clumsy and inaccurate; it is - once again - not given within scripture. There is a similar process of using the waxing crescent as confirmation that is pulled from Jewish stories given within the Talmud, but these writings were strictly inspired by men (and admittedly so by the Rabbinical sources that wrote them) and should not be considered as part of the canon of scripture.

When you begin to rely on calculated calendars, you may begin to realize that this monthly New Moon event of partaking in a fellowship meal quickly becomes vain and completely useless. In fact, this is exactly what most Sabbath-keeping church groups believe today! Many don't even recognize this monthly event and their members could care less as to when the moon's cycle begins. Since the New Moon Festival gathering was not instructed as serving any other purpose (such as a Sabbath or Appointed Festival), there can be no other significance to their existence within scripture other than to confirm an observation and recognize the renewed moon when it comes! What better setting could there be to blow a trumpet to announce the start of Yehovah's month than when they were all gathered together in fellowship? Additionally, we learn in Isaiah 66:23[1] that these monthly observances of the New Moon will continue into the future coming Kingdom:

We see here where we will gather together, not only on the Sabbath but, at the New Moon! Proponents of a calculated calendar cannot understand the significance of this scripture. Instead, many will simply brush it off or believe that keeping such a ceremony today is unimportant or, worse, inferring that it must be treated as a Sabbath day or that searching for the crescent moon is equivalent to worshiping it as an idol in the heavens.

Overcoming Our Bias

Even if the new moon crescent is accepted, our seemly uncontrollable urge to predict this event kicks in! Predicting when the moon's cycle is renewed every month is not a simple task - especially if one's objective is to create a common fixed mathematical calendar that everyone can use around the world! This can make it extremely frustrating for those looking for a unified mathematical solution. As stated earlier, this is due to the fact that a complete lunation cycle does not complete in an exact number of whole days. This cycle, more specifically, is called the Synodic Cycle and is closer to 29.530588853 days, varying anywhere from 29.26 to 29.80 days depending on the sun's gravity as it affects the moon's eccentric orbit around the Earth throughout the year. But to an observer on the surface of the Earth (the Biblical perspective we established for observing the sun to determine the day), they would find that a lunar cycle will last either 29 or 30 whole days (with days starting locally after sundown).

Because our modern mathematical calendars use the same fixed number of days in our months regardless of geography, we may also tend to apply this same reasoning with lunar months believing that everyone around the globe witnesses the same lunar cycle in the same number of whole days, but that would be incorrect. Thanks to the man-made invention of the international dateline, we incline ourselves to think that everyone must count the same number of whole days from every geographical position - in this case, either 29 or 30 days. But depending on where you are located, this number will vary for each observer depending on where they are located. How is that possible? The reality is that, since a lunation cycle lasts approximately 29.5 days, one half of the world observes a lunar month for 29 whole days while the other half will observe the same lunar month for 30 days. This makes each lunar month of no particular length when considered from a global perspective. This is also true for a Biblical Month and would also mean that it does not necessarily begin on the same day of the week for one observer as it does for an observer on the other side of the globe (as there is no Biblical requirement to do so). But our bias has our minds trained to think that this scenario is mathematically inconsistent, or at least confusing and unpredictable - and so an observational-based system must be as well.

It can be very uncomfortable for individuals who rely heavily on their mathematical bias to make the transition to a lunar cycle - especially in our modern age. But if we, as a society, returned to the simple act of observing the moon (just as most Sabbath observers do with the sun to determine the Biblical Day) it would make scripture that much clearer to perceive and understand (especially when it refers to dates) because they would be uncomplicated.

So, what do we do when the new moon crescent can't be seen due to clouds? Could the proclamation of the month be delayed? This argument is the one most often used against a method of observation because it appears to contradict the unity mathematics provides. Although it is certainly possible a local delay could occur, weather would only be a factor because Yehovah allowed it to happen. With observation, though, its accuracy increases as more people participate. Unlike the central location of the courts utilized by the Sanhedrin, if everyone around the globe followed a method of observation (using trumpets to communicate their findings), it would be extremely unlikely that no one would be able to view the crescent when it first arrived. Its appearance would most certainly be seen within a very short time frame as the Earth continued to rotate. The likelihood that no one on the entire Earth's surface could see the crescent for the entire day (or even within just a few hours) would be very rare. This would likely only occur with a global catastrophe like that of the flood during the time of Noah.

As a side note, the story of Noah references a specified number of 150 days that seems to take place between the 17th day of the 2nd month and the 17th day of the 7th month that leads to the conclusion that months were evenly divisible by 30 days. Combined with other references to the non-canonical book of Enoch and the sign of the Ahaz sundial given to Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:8, many are led to believe that the Bible once measured all months as being exactly 30 days in equal length (with Enoch referencing an additional day added at the end of each quarter). There are also Biblical references to 30 days as being a generic number when referring to future or conceptual months (such as allowing for 30 days to mourn a person's death as was done for Moses in Deuteronomy 34:8). Since half of the world always observes 30 days every lunar cycle, 30 days would be an appropriate generalization for the length of the moon's cycle. In the case of Noah, it's also possible that he was simply unable to see the crescent due to weather conditions (from the continuous rains followed by the enormous amounts of water evaporation). If Noah had no visual confirmation (and since there was no one left to blow a trumpet), it is possible Noah simply counted the months as being 30 days in length because he could not see the moon to make any confirmation (we will discuss more about the time frame surrounding the flood when we discuss Biblical Years). Although most of this is merely conjecture, there is no hard evidence that a fixed calculated calendar system once existed at (or prior to) the time of Noah any more than you can prove that the movements of the celestial bodies have changed drastically over the millennia causing the moon's cycle to move at a slower pace today. In either case, most would agree that the God of the Bible does have the power to change the course of celestial objects, if needed, which makes the argument even stronger that we must rely on actual observation of the prescribed signs over any predetermined set of calculations.

Some will simply argue that living day-to-day using a method of observation is just plain clumsy and can only lead to chaos and anarchy. Since observance of the moon's crescent can vary, depending on viewing conditions (including weather, geography, etc.), it's generally believed that the crescent event is simply not "math friendly" and that mathematical calculation is the only way to achieve true uniformity. Mathematical uniformity, though, can only be achieved if everyone used the same mathematical formula. To accomplish such a task, one would have to successfully predict when sunset and moonset would occur at the exact moment the moon's crescent was first visible by an observer located at any geographical location on Earth at any time of the solar year. The math would be so complicated that it would require a computer for the layman to understand. This is why most mathematical calendars are simplified by creating averages and defining datelines and time zones to make it more feasible to utilize. But observing the new moon crescent and counting the number of days from its appearance is a method simple enough to be taught to a five year-old child, which supports how His laws should be perceived according to Psalm 119:130. By adding the additional instructions to blow a trumpet and gathering together in fellowship as one Body (regardless of where one lived), His people would be of one mind all over the world using faith and a strong focus on the Heavenly Father and His creation (not a formula). There would be very little doubt in its accuracy. Ultimately, observation combined with communication proves to be more accurate than mathematical averages - especially as the number of participants increase. And although either method could produce similar results, only observation forces His people to practice the Torah in mind, body and soul without adding or subtracting from its requirements. Observation presents no Biblical conflicts.

One final point of consideration to support the new moon crescent as the start of the Biblical Month - and that is the physical practice of looking for the renewed moon should perfectly represent the purpose that is embodied in the celebration of the Day of Trumpets (Yom Teruah). This appointed Sabbath (Leviticus 23:24-25) is the only one commanded to be held on the first day of the month. This day is a memorial of blowing trumpets, the last of which will signal the coming Messiah to rule over the Earth and we are told that He will descend from the heavens at the sound of a trumpet (I Thessalonians 4:16). The search for the new moon crescent perfectly preserves the actions we should be practicing regularly by looking to the sky for the sign of His coming and, when it arrives, the blasting of a trumpet informs the entire world that He has returned! This cannot be embodied by calculating an invisible sign as that of the conjunction (or, as I like to call it, "the Agnostic Moon"), nor is it preserved by looking to the fading light of the waning moon as it disappears (or my nicknamed "Rapture Moon"). We are told that no man will know the exact time He will return (Matthew 24:36), but when He does there will be no doubt as He descends from the heavens. I believe there is a deeper purpose and meaning in which we can take comfort practicing every month - looking to the heavens for the first appearance of the Father's ordained sign of the times...until one day when it will be the Messiah we see instead.

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