A Calendar Bias for Biblical Time
(Revised 2021)

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, or Yehovah's masterful timepiece. 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 should also apply to the moon. Just as the sun takes a day to complete its cycle, the moon takes a month to complete its own. To others, though, this connection may not be so clear, thanks again to our calendar bias.

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 in 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:

    "3391 - yerach: from a unused root of uncertain signification; a lunation, i.e. month:--month, moon."

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

    "2320 - chodesh: the new moon; by implication, a month:--month(-ly), 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]:

    "Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, in the tenth day of this new moon (chodesh) they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house." {Emphasis added}

Today, it's simply a habit for many of us to consider a month as being a fixed mathematical number of days, such as the month of July consisting of exactly 31 days. We also take comfort in knowing that most everyone keeps July universally around the globe as 31 days in length (to be consistently calculated anywhere, anytime), just as we assume a day is 24 hours in length measured on our watches. Even though the original secular concept of a month was not always measured in this manner, 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:

    "A unit of time, used with calendars, which is approximately as long as some natural period related to the motion of the Moon; month and Moon are cognates. The traditional concept arose with the cycle of moon phases; such months (lunations) are synodic months and last approximately 29.53 days". {Underlined emphasis added}

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. This does not mean that the month lasts for 29 whole days and then 53% of the next - it means 53% of the earth will observe 30 whole days from one new moon to the next, while the remaining areas only need 29 days. However, it's also true that the lunar cycle will also not divide evenly into the solar cycle, which lasts approximately 365.24 days. Therefore, accuracy is sacrificed on most calendars forcing months to be a fixed number of days throughout the world, and lunar calendars are forced to have a varying number of months to fit within the solar year - which is why our Gregorian calendars ignore the lunar cycle entirely forcing 12 months of arbitrary length to fit nicely within that solar year (give or take a leap day). This thinking has created a bias toward this type of mathematical timetables and man-made formulas. The reality is that we have redefined the word month to be disconnected from the moon entirely.

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 calendar bias when they come across the cognate word month and may completely miss any correlation being made to the moon or its cycle within the Bible. Therefore, I prefer to use a descriptive phrase, such as new moon, instead of the translator's decision to use the word month when reading scripture 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):

    "And in the eleventh year, in the MOON (yerach) of Bul, which is the eighth NEW MOON (chodesh), the house was finished in all its details and according to all its plans."

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 like saying (using Gregorian calendar names), "in the month of August, which is the eighth month". You may notice in verse 1 additional references to 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):

    "Also the tenth day of this seventh NEW MOON (chodesh) shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you." {Underlined emphasis added}

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 it is looking to the sun as it goes down over the horizon (along with the first visible 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 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.

Chodesh

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 relate to 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]:

    "You take a root, like K-T-V (meaning: write/writing), combine it with different patterns, and that's how you get words like 'writing', 'book', 'to write', 'to dictate', 'reporter', etc.

    As you can imagine, this is a very powerful tool for Hebrew student. Patterns by themselves usually carry some meaning too; knowledge of root and pattern can give you a hint to understand a word, even if this is first time you read it."

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:

    "2318 chadash - a primitive root; to be new; causatively, to rebuild:--renew, repair."

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

    "and they shall build the ancient ruins, raise up the desolations of old, and renew (chadash) the ruined cities, the desolations of many ages." {Underlined emphasis added}

This refers 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 renewal of what previously existed. By applying the understanding of chadash to chodesh, we can see that the more accurate translation would be Renewed Moon.

Renewal

A renewed moon (waxing crescent) after sundown

Certainly, the moon itself doesn't physically repair or rebuild itself. So, again, when does the moon begin to renew? Let's go back, again, to Day Four of Genesis 1 that stated the moon's function, as an ordained sign and beacon of light in the firmament above us, was to rule the night. It is this light, which renews with every lunar cycle, that can first be seen by an observer in the night sky as a thin waxing crescent. Each night, that light grows larger and larger until, eventually, it becomes full of light and then begins to recede night after night until it can no longer be seen for one to two evenings. After which, the cycle repeats again starting as a thin sliver of light. This first indication of light would best describe chodesh using Genesis 1 and retaining the root word of chadash. There is no other phase of the moon within its cycle that can better describe a rebuilding from what once existed from an observer's point of view. This is nearly as easy a task as it is to observe the sun as its going down behind the horizon or finding two or three stars to divide the day from night.

As it turns out, this event of the first visible renewed moon crescent just happens to occur in the western horizon as the sun goes down behind the horizon - at twilight! 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 - therefore, the start of the Biblical Month coincides perfectly with the start of the Biblical Day! What a wonderful sign we have been given! And what better sign could we have to know when to determine Yehovah's appointed times? Once it's seen, there can be no doubt about its existence - in fact, it's rather an exciting thrill to actively spot it with the naked eye on the darkening horizon. When we realize the significance behind the term chodesh as being a direct connection to the moon, scripture takes on a whole new meaning as this term is littered throughout the Bible in referencing time itself.

There do exist, however, many other theories (many we will cover) that begin with various 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 moon when it appears as a narrow waxing crescent; the time at which this occurs"

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:

    "The original meaning of the phrase new moon was the first visible crescent of the Moon, after conjunction with the Sun. This takes place over the western horizon in a brief period between sunset and moonset" {Underlined emphasis added}

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). This is often signified as a black dot on many modern Gregorian calendars hanging on our walls, signifying a moon with no illumination. This has created yet another bias, causing many to prefer the moon's conjunction as the starting point to begin the lunar cycle, and therefore the Biblical Month, mostly because it is a specific moment in time that can be easily applied mathematically. Using this unseen event would be no different than using the mathematical concept of solar midnight to begin the Biblical Day. Neither can be observed within the firmament, and therefore, cannot serve as a sign, or beacon of light, within Yehovah's timepiece.

Another mathematical concept used for the moon, which the Jewish Hebrew calendar also uses, is the Molad Emtzai, or simply molad. The molad is first recorded in history in the 2nd Century BCE where Babylonians used a mathematical average, based on repeated observations of the last visible waning crescent (old moon) and the first visible waxing crescent (new moon), to determine the approximate amount of time between these events when the moon was at its darkest point. This is a fixed, repeating timeframe that occurs around the time of the conjunction. Others simply view the waning crescent (old moon), which is observable in the early morning before sunrise, and then assume the moon will be new (or dark) that same evening.

These concepts have become a stumbling block for many when reading scripture because they try to apply these newer and more modern concepts to the signs given for the Biblical Calendar. With even modern scientists and mathematicians redefining the term new moon as the conjunction, the concept of observation of the ordained sign of the moon has become completely abandoned.

Trumpets

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

    "In the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your RENEWED MOONS (chodesh), you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God." {Underlined emphasis added}

This practice happens every month. 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]:

    "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation." {Underlined emphasis added}

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 Yehovah's people that the new month has begun. Many want to apply this command as only being an annual occurrence at the seventh month, but the chodesh is not limited to just the seventh month. Numbers 10:10 implies that we should take notice of this event every single month, at each renewed moon. With the added instruction of having burnt offerings (which were also commanded every month) and peace offerings, this would mean that the Children of Israel would have gathered to partake in a meal together (a peace offering) commemorating this event. You can read in Joel 2:15 that trumpets were also blown for the purpose of assembling. This is a perfect way to bring unity and precision in the telling of time throughout the land whilst using observation. After all, the more individuals you have that are actively 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 relying on calculations or, at least, the mathematical average obtained through repeated observations over time (which is not instructed within scripture). If it were intended for us to rely on calculation, there would be no need to blow trumpets as everyone could simply reference the same mathematical formula to make any such determination for themselves.

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]:

    "Originally, the New Moon was not fixed by astronomical calculation, but was solemnly proclaimed after witnesses had testified to the reappearance of the crescent of the moon". {Underlined emphasis added}

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). While Numbers 10:10 described the silver trumpets to be blown at the tent of meeting, the entire chapter describes the 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 to recognize the renewed moon in a unified fashion. Later, the location of the silver trumpets changed to the temple mount within Jerusalem. While the temple mount is now long gone, the purpose of communicating this event remains! 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]:

    "If when he (the watchman) seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand." {Underlined emphasis added}

Here we see the importance of the watchman's role and the people's responsibility when they hear 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 Revelation as angels are described as using trumpets to signal a 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 Ye'shua, the Messiah, to this earth (Revelation 11:15[1])!

    "And the seventh angel sounded (a trumpet); and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."

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

    "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
Lighting of signal fires in Israel communicating confirmation of the renewed moon

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 as confirmation of the renewed moon. This combination of signal fires and trumpets is also described in Jeremiah 6:1. 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, like a chain, 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 of the Orthodox Jews that was referenced by Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God (the Sabbath-keeping organization I once attended), in his determination of calendar dates for that organization. Although Spier and Armstrong conclude with the modern usage of a calculated calendar, with the majority of the book laying out the calendar spanning over several centuries, Spier does describe Jewish history as once relying on observation of the new moon crescent followed by direct communication to the people as late as the fourth century C.E.[44]:

    "In the early times of our history the solution was found by the following practical procedure: The beginnings of the months were determined by direct observation of the new moon. Then those beginnings of the months (Rosh Hodesh) were sanctified and announced by the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, after witnesses had testified that they had seen the new crescent and after their testimony had been thoroughly examined, confirmed by calculation and duly accepted. The Jewish communities were notified of the beginning of the months (Rosh Hodesh) in earlier time by kindling of night fires on the mountains, and later on by messengers."

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, or tool, for confirming an eyewitness account given within the courts. And even though the primary council was 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 current month as being 29 or 30 days in length 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.

Karaite Jews, a sect of Jews that only accept the written Torah as law and ignoring the oral laws (that are really volumes and volumes of written books), also agree that the observing the waxing crescent marks the start of the Biblical Month and currently practice this today. Most do keep with the tradition, however, of restricting those observations to within Israel (or Jerusalem Time).

Jerusalem Time

Besides Karaite Jews, there are other organizations today that use the new moon crescent to begin their months, but also believe that observation should be limited from within the Israeli borders (or, perhaps more specifically, from Jerusalem itself). In other words, if someone outside of Israel, say within the United States, were to see the new moon crescent, this rule would require that person to ignore the instruction to blow a trumpet and delay starting the month until the moon can be verified from Israel or Jerusalem (where trumpets would then be blown). This would result in a full day delay to the person residing in the United States. Additionally, if weather conditions had prevented confirmation of the crescent from Israel or Jerusalem (as this is a very limited space, geographically speaking), the observer in the United States may have to delay yet another full day causing the month to be 31 days in length. Suddenly, you are no longer using a system that is directly based on the lunar cycle, but rather a mathematical baseline (or meridian), like a dateline. But does the Bible define such a meridian? Many like to think so by referring to scriptures that pertain to Biblical law - such as Isaiah 2:3[1] which states, at the end:

    "For out of Zion shall go forth the law. And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."

Given the connection to the Sanhedrin courts, in ancient times, who were involved in scrutinizing the eyewitness accounts of new moon sightings and, consequently, blowing the trumpets as commanded from the temple, it's no surprise many make a correlation here that blowing trumpets to proclaim a new month would be like establishing law. But man does not create the laws of Yehovah! Neither does scripture command us to limit ourselves from following His laws, including the observation of His 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 within Jerusalem. That would be absurd! Even if this concept only pertained to His calendar, then the Biblical Day would only begin for everyone throughout the world, at the same exact time, specifically when the sun went down in Jerusalem. Talk about a communication problem! Applying this logic to the verse above would also mean that no one in the world could follow the observance of the Torah itself (which is the law of Yehovah) unless they are physically within the city borders. This is simply a ridiculous assumption! Even if you expand this rule from Jerusalem to Israel, by what definition of Israel do you go by? by the current, modern-day borders? by the original borders established in 1949? or by the Biblical definition of Israel spanning from the Nile to the Euphrates rivers (Genesis 15:18)? Notice that the verse leading up to that above is written within a prophetic context, starting in verse 2[1]:

    "In the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths.' For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem."

This is describing the coming Kingdom of Yehovah, and a future throne being established in Jerusalem (or Zion) when Ye'shua returns. None of the signs described in Genesis 1were described having limitations of being observed from only one specific territory. However, news law may go forth at that future time as Elohim will be present in Zion at that time, and - unless specified - should apply to everyone throughout the world.

If you don't restrict sightings from 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). Limiting any of the signs to Jerusalem has, historically, caused much conflict for Jews. This is evident as many Jews have created additional man-made traditions where those located outside of the Holy Land always recognize Rosh Chodesh (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 avoid two days for Atonement, but then this tradition of observing two days continues for the remaining Holy Days only for those within the diaspora. Therefore, those outside of Israel ignore local observation completely, which is once again not instructed within scripture.

Others believe that any kind of trumpets (or communication) should only be done from the physical Temple (or from the Tabernacle that was erected while Israel was dwelling in the wilderness) as the 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 Jews 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 were true, many Christians (or followers of Ye'shua) should understand the concept of the "New Testament" temple as referenced in I Corinthians 6: 19-20[1]:

    "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."

The Body of Ye'shua 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 Ye'shua serves as the Head Priest and intercessor to the Father's throne. If it were true that a trumpet must be blown strictly from the temple, then it would be our duty as members of the Body of Ye'shua, His Church, to blow trumpets at the start of every Biblical Month regardless of our physical location! Any authority bestowed, if necessary, would be from Ye'shua Himself as our High Priest and authorized covering. Again, there is 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 the sun, stars, or any of Yehovah's laws or instructions whenever we are located outside of the holy land.

Psalm 81

Although there are many that do fully accept that the Bible supports a method of observation of His timepiece, rather than the calculation of unseen theoretical events, there are also those that try to twist scripture by claiming the Bible supports yet other phase of the moon to begin the month. More times than not, these arguments will hinge on one scripture passage - Psalm 81:3-4. In the King James Version, this verse reads:

    "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."

Although on the surface this may seem innocent enough by describing what we have already discussed, this specifies blowing trumpets at the chodesh (new moon), at the appointed times, and on a feast day. This leads to various English interpretations along with some loose associations of Hebrew words mixed in with this passage. This is because the phrase 'time appointed' is not using the Hebrew word mo'ed, but rather bakesseh that has a questionable translation. Yet, many will attempt to link this word as being the de facto definition of chodesh. For example, the American Standard Version [59] of these verses read:

    "Blow the trumpet at the new moon (chodesh), At the full moon (bakesseh), on our feast-day. For it is a statute for Israel, An ordinance of the God of Jacob." {Underlined emphasis added}

The Hebrew word used here, bakesseh (Strong's 3677) can be translated as "time appointed" or "in preparation", however it is also translated as "full moon" by connecting to the root word kasah (Strong's 3680), which means "plump" or to "fill up hollows"; however, it 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 moon, this is the only scripture that pairs chodesh 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, much less assume it has anything to do with the moon or to further describe chodesh.

The Orthodox Jewish Bible[60] reads:

    "Blow the shofar at Rosh Chodesh, at the full moon, on Yom Chageinu {Underlined emphasis added}

Yom Chageinu means "day of celebration" or "day of festival". The appointed Festivals of Leviticus 23 all involve the blowing of trumpets (as we are commanded to do in Numbers 10:10 over the offerings given and in days of gladness and appointed times), with many that fall at 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) that both begin around the time of the full moon (or on the 15th day of the renewed moon). In this case, the term bakesseh would not be redefining Rosh Chodesh itself (a term referring to the head of the month), but rather could be generally describing various days of celebration that fall at both the time of the renewed moon (Rosh Chodesh) and at the full moon when trumpets happened to be blown.

This does not mean, though, that the renewed moon is the full moon. 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 all these things, clearing out any commas that have been added into the English interpretations, we would get the following:

    "Blow the shofar at the RENEWED MOON (chodesh) and at the FULL MOON (bakesseh) leading toward the [pilgrimage] festival day (Yom Chageinu)

Regardless, there is no historical support or any other hard evidence (or additional scriptural references) to support the chodesh as being definitively tied to the full moon, neither is there any significant support for it being tied to the dark moon. This argument is extremely weak and, coincidentally, based a single poetic verse written long after the instruction was given within the Torah. Again, there is no other reference to bakesseh anywhere else in scripture. To assume this term redefines chodesh/chadash from being renewed to being covered or hidden would be contradictory in nature. As we read examples earlier for chadash, you cannot rebuild/renew a desolate city and then have it considered covered or hidden while doing so.

New Moon Burnt Offerings

As we touched on earlier, besides the blowing of trumpets, we also read that there were further Biblical events that took place on the day of the Renewed Moon, which included the presentation of two offerings. The first, which was a requirement at the temple, was a burnt offering and is described in Numbers 28:11[1]:

    "At the beginnings of your new moons (chodeshi) you shall present a burnt offering to the Lord: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish;" {Underlined emphasis added}

Additionally, a peace offering was also customary during the time of the renewed moon (as we read in Numbers 10:10):

    "In the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God." {Underlined emphasis added}

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 later 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]:

    "But if the sacrifice of his offering be a vow, or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offereth his sacrifice: and on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten: But the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day (bay-yo-wm) shall be burnt with fire. And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings be eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offereth it: it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity. And the flesh that toucheth any unclean thing shall not be eaten; it shall be burnt with fire: and as for the flesh, all that be clean shall eat thereof." {Underlined emphasis added}

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 destroyed by fire (this requirement is repeated in Leviticus 19:5-8). If not destroyed, then it was considered an abomination for anyone who ate from it, presented it as another offering, or caused any other food to touch it! Additionally Leviticus 7:20 indicates that the person ate of this meal, prior to the third day, also had to be clean less they be cut off as Yehovah's people[1]:

    "But the soul that eateth of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, that pertain unto the Lord, having his uncleanness upon him, even that soul shall be cut off from his people." {Underlined emphasis added}

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

    "Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the Lord." {Underlined emphasis added}

It was most likely the custom for many in ancient times to partake in this sacrificial peace-meal together as an assembly. Even though physical sacrifices are no longer offered at a temple today, the tradition of assembling to partake in a meal 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 renewed moon 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 as Yehovah's people to be aware of when the month begins. And notice, this meal that was previously presented to be slaughtered is acceptable to be eaten for up to two full days - this would make it available to eat toward the end of the 29th or 30th of the month. It is not a day treated as a Sabbath or High Day, but serves as a "living" calendar, so to speak, 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 again the next evening (prior to the third day) 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 to us.

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 of 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 true intentions toward him. 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]:

    "And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to morrow is the new moon [that evening], and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat" {Underlined emphasis added}

Many stop here and claim David knew in advance when the "new moon" would arrive - therefore, he must have used calculations and not observation! But was David referring to the arrival of the moon itself, or was he referring to the peace offering meal? A meal being held for the purpose of looking for the "new moon"? Now notice what David says next:

    "...but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even." {Underlined emphasis added}

The word even here refers to sundown (or twilight), as days were from 'even to even.' The Hebrew reckoning of time is also all-inclusive when spoken of sequentially, meaning the first day in David's count was the current day (the day this discussion took place). That evening (at twilight) and the following day would have been the second day in his count, and finally, "unto" (including) the next evening (at twilight) and the following day would have been the third day in his count, after which he planned to reemerge. This plan just happens to coincide with the requirements of presenting a peace offering. If one desired to partake in a peace offering for the renewed moon, they would have needed to present it at the same time David was making these plans. David seemed to be using the same timeline for a peace offering, which would have been eaten later that night or the next. And remember, a peace offering was good up until the third day (bay-yo-wm - the daytime portion) when it needed to be destroyed by fire. This is exactly when David planned to come out of hiding. 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 in 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 on the morning of 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

Using the context of a peace offering, David's reference to missing the expected new moon that evening seems to imply that his intention was for him to miss the peace offering meal being planned that evening by the King, a meal planned for either that evening or the next. It's possible the King always planned a peace offering meal at every renewed moon, and not necessarily that David had some special insight or mathematical guarantee that the future new moon crescent would arrive that evening. The only thing David likely 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's also very possible that David and Jonathan themselves were, at this time, making the arrangements of the peace meal offering to be slaughtered in preparation for the King's meal that evening. 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 in the Diaspora (outside of the Holy Land) and is, historically, a more modern tradition not established until after the time of Ye'shua. 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 afternoon, after hiding until the third day at even, whether it was safe for David to return. 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) at the request of his brother, who lived there, to attend a meal with his family (instead of with the King). Whether David 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]:

    "So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon (chodesh) was come, the king sat him down to eat meat." {Underlined emphasis added}

Notice we are told specifically that the moon had 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]:

    "Nevertheless Saul spake not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean." {Underlined emphasis added}

The King never asked Jonathan about David's absence and seems to be accepting that David could not attend. The evening ended uneventfully. It's at this point, the afternoon 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!

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]:

    "And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of the month, that David's place was empty: and Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor to day?" {Underlined emphasis added}

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 day prior, the offertory meal would still have 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:

    "Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, You son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own confusion, and to the confusion of your mother's nakedness?" {Underlined emphasis added}

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.

It seems clear that 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 knew the Molad calculation for the moon yet seem to ignore the reason for planning to be absent a second day. Others claim David had observed a waning crescent the previous morning and that the first meal was for the celebration of the moon's conjunction and the second meal was to observe the waxing crescent to confirm the previous evening as truly being the dark new moon. This ignores the fact that scripture claimed the moon had come on the first evening and then mentions nothing about the moon as being confirmed or observed the second. This practice is not only clumsy and inaccurate; it is - once again - not instructed within scripture. There is a similar process of using the waxing crescent as a form of confirmation of the dark moon that is pulled from the Jewish Talmud, but these are writings strictly inspired by men (and admittedly so by the Rabbinical sources that wrote them), containing many instructions that conflict with the Bible. The Talmud writings are not considered as part of the canon of scripture and should not be taken as such - especially when they conflict. The dark moon cannot possibly serve as a Biblical sign (a beacon) when you must jump through hoops to confirm it existed, sight unseen.

When one relies upon calculations for any portion of the Biblical calendar, 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 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:

    "'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." {Underlined emphasis added}

We see here where we will gather, not only on the Sabbath days but, at the New Moons as well! Proponents of a calculated calendar cannot understand the significance of this scripture. Instead, many will simply brush it off, believing such a ceremony is unimportant. Or worse, they may believe searching for the crescent moon is equivalent to worshiping it as an idol in the heavens. Most believe people who keep the new moons are treating it as a Sabbath Day (which is not listed in Leviticus 23), so they avoid it altogether.

Overcoming Our Bias

Psalm 119:130[1] states:

    "Wonderful are Your testimonies; therefore, I obey them. The unfolding of Your words gives light; it informs the simple." {Underlined emphasis added}

Following a method of observing His timepiece in the firmament above us is simple. The practice can be taught to a five-year-old child. Man tries to make His things complicated.

Many find observation to be inconsistent and vulnerable to misinterpretation. When it comes to the Biblical Month it can be extremely frustrating for those looking for a unified, mathematical solution. As stated earlier, this is primarily due to the lunation cycle not fitting into an exact number of whole days.

This average cycle, referred to as the Synodic Cycle, is approximately 29.530588853 days and varies 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. To an observer on the surface of the Earth, they would find it lasts either 29 or 30 whole days. As we mentioned earlier, this means about half the world would observe it as 29 days, while the other half would for 30. But this would not fit into a mathematical calendar system - it must be the same number of days for everyone around the globe. So, most immediately turn to an international dateline, ignoring any local observations.

This invisible boundary is used to mark between one calendar day and the next. In other words, they believe that the first day of the month must also be the same day of the week for everyone around the globe. While this situation is more accurate in relation to the Weekly Sabbath (based on a continuous, repeating count of seven days based on the sun, not the moon), this can be one of the more difficult biases to break away from. Because to an observer, counting the Biblical Days from the renewed moon (at twilight) has absolutely no ties to the day of the week within scripture. A person on one side of the world could begin observing the fifth Biblical day of the renewed moon on a Thursday evening while someone on the opposite side of the globe may not begin their fifth Biblical day until Friday. With the added instruction to blow trumpets, or to communicate the arrival of a renewed moon, the location where the first sighting is confirmed would, essentially, create a boundary for the new month and continue westward as the sun goes down - despite the day of the week.

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 common for those against a method of observation. 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 (communicating 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 of nobody seeing the moon for an entire day globally would be very rare and would likely only occur with a global catastrophe, like that of the flood during the time of Noah. More likely, someone will see the renewed moon within just a few hours of its existence, leaving only a small region delaying the start of their month by one Biblical Day. However, that region will correctly readjust with the next renewed moon in most cases.

Some will still 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 only through mathematics can you achieve true uniformity. Again, mathematical uniformity, though, can only be achieved if everyone uses the same mathematical formula. If it were God's intention for His people to universally rely on calculation, He would have given us just that - the calculations! He did not.

Just as we are told that no man knows the exact day or hour when Ye'shua will return (Matthew 24:36) and are told to keep watch (verse 42), the Day of Trumpets (which is observed on the first day of the seventh renewed moon) perfectly embodies this practice of keeping watch for His sign, not knowing the exact moment it arrives. And unless we are actively looking for it and keeping watch, we may completely ignore the moment it has arrived. But when it does, we can then shout out, blowing a trumpet, and praising Yehovah for showing us His great timepiece.

Summary of the Biblical Month

  • The Biblical Month begins at the start of the Biblical Day, at twilight, with the appearance of the renewed moon crescent.
  • The waxing crescent pictures the renewal of visible light within the lunation cycle, staying within the parameters of Genesis 1:14.
  • Unseen events, such as the Molad or dark moon, do not serve as signs of light given in Genesis 1:14 while the full moon is not in the process of being renewed, but rather is fully restored.
  • Observation of the renewed moon is not restricted to any one location any more than observation of the sun should be restricted.
  • The thin waxing crescent is historically supported by the Orthodox Jews and is currently practiced by modern Karaite Jews today.
  • We are to communicate the appearance of the renewed moon crescent by blowing trumpets - a Biblical form of mass warning and information sharing.
  • The Bible does not connect counting days of the renewed moon with the days of the week - the United States can observe the first day of the Biblical Month before Israel, and vice versa.





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