THE OBSERVANCE OF THE NEW MOON IN ANCIENT ISRAEL

As  we review a number of scriptures concerning the first day  of the new  month (the New Moon), it will become evident  that  the observance of the first day of the sacred month was an  intrinsic part of the worship system that God gave to Israel.

The First Month  

"And  the  Lord  spoke to Moses and Aaron in the  land  of  Egypt saying,  This month shall be to you the beginning of  months:  it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak  you  to all the congregation of Israel,  saying,  In  the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according  to  the house of their fathers, a lamb for  an  house" (Ex.12:1-3 KJV).

It is important to remember that God instructed Israel to keep the first Passover observance, in the first month of his sacred calendar:  The  English  word 'month' used in this text is the Hebrew word 'hodesh', which can mean 'month', 'monthly', and 'new moon':

THE BLOWING OF TRUMPETS

Moses  was told by God to make two silver trumpets (Num.10:2) which would be blown to announce a movement of the camp of Israel to   another place. The trumpets were also blown to call the people and/or the heads of the tribes to  gather at the tabernacle, to call God to help them in times of war, and to announce the first day of a new month:

Numbers 10:8-10 Paraphrased

"And  the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with  the  trumpets;  and  they  shall  be to you for a  never  ending  statute throughout your generations. And when you go into battle in your land against  the foe distressing you, then you shall  blow  the trumpets;  and you shall be remembered before the Lord your  God, and you will be saved from your enemies" (vs.8-9).

Not  only was the blowing of these trumpets used to announce  the movement  of the camp, call an assembly of the people,  and  call for  God's  help in time of war but also in conjunction  with the annual festivals, observances,  New  Moons, and sacrifices:

"And in the day of your gladness, and in your appointed times and in  your new moons, you shall blow the trumpets over  the  sacrifices  of  your peace offerings; and they shall be to you for  a memorial before your God" (v10).

The English word 'memorial' is translated from the Hebrew word 'zikaron', which is an object or an act that brings something else to mind or represents something else. A 'zikaron' may be a 'memorial,' a 'reminder,' a 'historical record,' or a physical  'token' that calls a deity to mind.

If  we think of the blowing of the trumpets on the first  day  of the month in the context of verses 8-9, we can conclude that the trumpets were to be blown for the following reasons:

1. To call upon God to be present during the worship service  on the day of the New Moon.

2. To announce the beginning of the new month.

3. As a monthly reminder of God's sacred calendar, which is   used to calculate the days of God's commanded observances.

4. As a monthly reminder that the Lord God was their God and that they were his people.

An  important point to note is that the first day of  the  sacred month  (the New Moon) can be seen as a part of God's  worship  system, because it was proclaimed,  announced, and  memorialized with the blowing of the trumpets.

SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS

Although  the first day of the month was neither a holy  convocation nor a day of rest like the weekly Sabbath, God required that the  priesthood perform special sacrifices and offerings on  this day; thereby, he clearly set this day apart from the other  days of the month:

"And  in the beginnings of your months you shall present a  burnt offering  to the Lord: two bullocks, and one ram, seven  yearling lambs,  perfect  ones; And three tenths parts of  flour, a food offering mixed with oil, for one bullock; and two tenths parts of flour as a food offering mixed with oil, for one ram; And a tenth part  of flour mixed with oil as a food offering for one lamb;  a burnt  offering,  a sweet fragrance, an offering by fire  to  the Lord. And  their  drink offerings shall be half of a  hin  to  a bullock, and a third of a hin to a ram, and a fourth of a hin  to a lamb, of wine: this shall be the burnt offering of every  month for the  months  of the year"  (Num. 28:11-14 Para.).  See also Num. 29:1-6.

On the day of the  New Moon, an  additional burnt  offering of a kid of the goats was given for the sins  of Israel. By requiring additional offerings, God underscores the importance of the first day of each sacred month.  If the first day of each month is this important  to God, it should be as important to  those who worship him.

The Peace Offering and the Table of God

The offerings and sacrifices on the New Moon were  considered Fellowship Offerings. These types of  offerings were  partially  consumed  by fire as a sweet savor  to  God  and partially  eaten by the priesthood, which signified their  eating at the table of God.

The eating of the Peace (Fellowship) Offerings has both literal and symbolic significance, because the priests  were literally  partaking of the Creator God's food (i.e., partaking  of God's table). Remember that the high priest and the  priesthood were the bridge between God and the nation of Israel.  When the priesthood ate  the sacred food offered to God, the people were also eating at the table of God by  extension. As we will  see, it  was  a custom for the priesthood and  general population  of Israel to eat a communal meal on each New Moon.

The Peace Offering  was different from the other offerings, in that the offerer, the priest, and God ate together. In no other offering but the Peace Offering did God, the  priest, and  the offerer have something in common. However,  they each  partook of the Peace Offering.

During the  Peace  Offering, the offerer and the priest feasted with  God.  God,  the priesthood, and offerer all found satisfaction in this  offering, because common food was shared among them. God finds satisfaction in being honored by the one making the offering and in  sharing the offering with the priesthood and  the  one making  the  offering. This offering shows that God  desires  and enjoys fellowship with his people.

The First Temple at Jerusalem

After  King  David's  death, Solomon sent a note  to  King  Hiram to inform him that he was going to build a temple for God. Notice  that Solomon  mentions the New Moons as being an intrinsic part of God's worship system:

"Behold, I am building a house to the name of the Lord  my God, to dedicate to him, to burn incenses of sweet spices before him, and for  the continual bread of arrangement, and for burnt offerings morning  and evening, on the Sabbaths, and on the new moons,  and at  the set feasts of the Lord our God. This ordinance shall  be  upon Israel  forever" (2.Chron.2:4 Para.). See also 1.Chron.23:1-31; 2.Chron.8:12; 31:3-7; Ezk.43:4-5; Neh.10:33.

This verse shows that all the things that Solomon mentions as part  of the  worship of God, including the things  that  pertain to the observance of the first day  of  the month (the New Moon), are supposed to be performed forever.

Return From Captivity

After  the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity  and  the rebuilding of the temple, those who had knowledge and understanding  of  the law of God set themselves a tax in  order to provide for the services and continual offerings of the temple. The following verses show that the offering for the New Moons is  included  in this self-taxation ordinance:

"Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly  with the  third part of a shekel for the service of the house of  God; For  the showbread, and for the continual meat offering, and  for the continual burnt offering, of the Sabbaths, of the new  moons, for  the  set feasts, and for the holy things, and  for  the  sin offerings  to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the  work of the house of our God" (Neh.10:32-33 KJV).

THE PEOPLE AND THE NEW MOON

Because the first day of each new month was a special event, it was of major concern among the Israelites that it be observed on  the correct day. This concern is obvious when we read 1.Samuel 20:4-24, which is an account that indicates  a  special meal was held to commemorate the beginning of the month.

This  account  takes place in a field where David was  hiding  for fear of being killed by King Saul who had discovered that  Samuel anointed David to be the new king of Israel. Here, Saul's son, Jonathan,  promised that on the New Moon celebration he would  find out what his father's intentions were toward  David.

1.Samuel 20:4-6,17-18,24,27 Paraphrased

"Then said Jonathan to David, Whatever your soul desires, I  will do  it for you. And David said to Jonathan, Behold,  tomorrow  is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king and eat: but  let  me go, that I may hide myself in the  field  until  the third  day  at even. If your father misses me,  then  say,  David earnestly  asked  leave of me that he might go to Bethlehem  his city:  for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the  family" (vs.4-6).

"And  Jonathan caused David to swear again, because  he  loved him:   for he loved him as he loved his own soul.  Then  Jonathan said  to  David,  Tomorrow is the New Moon:   and  you shall  be missed, because your seat will be empty" (vs.17-18).

"So  David  hid himself in the field:  and when the  New  Moon came, the king sat down to eat" (v24).

A Second New Moon Commemoration

The above verses  show that one New Moon commemoration  meal was  observed,  and verse 27 shows that a second meal  was  being eaten by King Saul and his servants to commemorate the New Moon:

"And it came to pass on the next day, which was the second day of the  month, that David's place was empty: and Saul said to  Jonathan his son, Why does not the son of Jesse come to eat,  neither yesterday, nor today?" (v27).

The Second New Moon

The  phrase  "the second day of the month" (Hebrew,  va-yehi  mi-mohorat ha-hodesh ha-sheni) would be more correctly translated, "on the next day was the second new moon."

Why Two Consecutive Days?

The fixed orbit of the moon makes it impossible for  there to  be two occurrences of the New Moon, but there were  two consecutive  days of the New Moon observance recorded; therefore, it is important to understand why it was sometimes necessary to have two consecutive New  Moon observances at the temple and two commemorative meals?

When we view things in  a  purely legalistic  manner as the Israelites did, it is easy to understand why there were two observances of the New Moon. When  the  astronomical calculations  were made, and the appearance of the new  moon  was calculated to be so close to the horizon that it was too difficult or  impossible to be seen at sunset or it was  simply  too cloudy  to  see it, two new moon days were observed.  This double   observance  assured the Israelites that they were observing the correct  day and that they  had not missed the New Moon observance because of a lack of a visual sighting of the new crescent moon.  

Having two commemorative meals—one on each day—was done for  the same legalistic reasons as having two New Moon observances. There are three important things to note here about the meal on the first day  of the sacred month:

1. At this time in Israel's early history, the  king  set  the example for the people to follow by  eating a commemorative meal on the first day of the sacred month.

2. If the king thought it was important to eat this communal meal on this day, he must have been following some past precedent and he must have understood that it was necessary to do so because of its religious significance.

3. Nowhere in scripture is there a command or a condemnation  for eating this communal meal on the first day of the sacred month.

Elisha and the Shunammite Woman

In  the Second Book of Kings, there is a reference to the custom of some people to  assemble with religious leaders on the New Moon.

The event described in the following verses concerns a certain  Shunammite  woman  who provided lodging for the Prophet Elisha and his servant.  Because of her kindness to Elisha, he used his authority and power as God's  prophet to allow her to have a child by her aged  husband. In the course of time her child became ill and died, and knowing that Elisha had the power to resurrect her child, the woman asked  her husband if she could go to Elisha:

2.Kings 4:18-23 Paraphrased

"And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said to his father, My head, my head  And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. And when he  had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat  on  her knees till noon, and then died. And she went up, and laid him  on the  bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and  went out.  And  she called to her husband, and said, Send me,  I  pray you,  one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may  run to  the man of God, and come again. And he said, Why will you go to him to day?  it is neither new moon, nor Sabbath."

Notice that her husband  knew that his wife's custom was to  meet with  Elisha on the Sabbath and the New Moon. It is logical  to assume  that  the reason the woman met with  Elisha  on  a regular basis  was for some type of religious purpose,  such  as fellow-shipping with those who worshiped God and being taught by Elisha.

The story of the Shunammite woman and the death of her son  indicates  that  the New Moon was a special occasion that was observed on a regular basis like the Sabbath.

A New Beginning

Among other things, the New Moon represents a new beginning.

As  noted  in Genesis 1:14, the sun and moon are to  be  used  as signs to confirm or predict an event by calculation and observation. The first day of the sacred calendar is always  confirmed by the  new crescent of the spring Equinox. The first  new  moon after this Equinox is a sign (i.e., proof) that the first month of  the Sacred Calendar has begun:

"And  the  Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the  land  of  Egypt, saying,  This month shall be to you the beginning of  months:  it shall be the first month of the year to you" (Ex.12:1-2 KJV).

The Feast of Trumpets

"Sing  aloud to God our strength: make a joyful noise to the  God of Jacob.  Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.  Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in  the  time appointed, on our solemn  feast  day"  (Psa.81:1-3 KJV). See also Num.29:1.

The only annual festival to  occur on a new moon is the Feast  of Trumpets; moreover, this feast in itself signifies a new beginning, because it most likely pictures the return of Jesus Christ  as  the conquering King of kings.

A Time to Rejoice

God  intends for the first day of each month to be a time  of  joy and happiness (Num.10:10). What would make a person especially joyful and happy on these days? The  tremendous blessings  that God promised the Israelites (i.e., the  blessings they received for their obedience)  are ample reasons for them to be happy on  this day.

SUMMARY

From  the many scriptures that refer to the New Moon observance in  the  Old Testament, there can be no doubt that the observance of the first day of each month has a permanent place in the worship system that God created for Israel to follow.

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w14