Part 2 ... File 2 of 10
When does the year begin in the Sacred Calendar? Does it
begin in Israel's autumn as the Jewish calendar shows? Or
should the year begin in the spring with the month of Abib
(Nisan)? And if it begins with Abib, then how is Abib's
new moon decided? Is it the new moon nearest (before or
after) the Equinox? Or is it the first new moon after the spring
According to the Scriptures, the religious calendar
begins in the spring with the Passover month of Abib, the month
of Israel's Exodus from Egypt. In the popular Jewish calendar
the year begins in the autumn at the end of the agricultural
year. But in the religious calendar, and that is our
prime consideration in this booklet, a year begins in the Passover
month of Abib. Yahweh directed Moses in the following words concerning
the first month of the year:
The name of the Exodus month is Abib. The word Abib
means 'sprouting, budding,' a 'green ear of corn.'
In other words in Abib the earth will spring to life, plants
will sprout and bud and the corn (sown the previous year) will
have green ears. The first month is also called Nisan.
|| And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the
land of Egypt, saying, 2: This month shall be unto you the
beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to
|| And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day,
in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage;
for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place:
there shall no leavened bread be eaten. 4: This day came ye out
in the month Abib.|
"Abib most nearly approaches our month of March, though
in some years its end moves some distance into April."
(Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. page 3, article Abib)
In ancient days, before the exact equinox times were known
or calendars printed in advance, the Sanhedrin selected Abib's
new moon on the basis of certain natural conditions because Yahweh's
Feasts are directly linked to the agricultural seasons in
THE NATURAL CONDITIONS looked for were:
- The severity or mildness of the winter.
- The maturity of the barley harvest.
- The age of the young sacrificial pigeons and lambs.
- The conditions of the camping sites and roads for the pilgrims
who would be coming to Jerusalem for the Passover etc.
In modern times Abib's new moon is selected months and even
years in advance mainly because computer calculations of the sun's
and moon's movements are widely available and there is no Sanhedrin
to give the go-ahead as in days gone by. The scriptural guidelines
concerning the link between the Feasts of the Most High and
the harvests in Israel are, nevertheless, still being followed.
1. Abib's new moon must occur before the spring harvest begins.
This instruction concerns the waive sheaf which is cut
and waived before Yahweh at the Passover festival in the middle
of Abib. Since the spring harvest in Israel begins in late March/early
April (see agricultural chart under Question/Answer 4)
this means that the 1st of Abib would begin some 15 days before
the waive sheaf was cut; which means that Abib's new moon
would occur at about the time of the vernal equinox. The Westminster
Dictionary of the Bible article Year confirms this:
| Deut. 16:9
|| Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin
to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to
put the sickle to the corn. |
"The year began with the month of Abib or Nisan (Exodus
12:2, 23:15, Esther 3:7)
with the new moon next before or next
after the vernal equinox."
2. Ethanim's new moon occurs after the autumn harvest.
The second clue fixes the festival of Ingathering (Tabernacles)
at the 'end' of the agricultural year. Here is the Almighty's
command concerning the feast of ingathering (Tabernacles).
The Hebrew word translated "year's end" is
t@quwphah or "tequphah." It means at
the end, the circuit of time, the revolution, the equinox.
In other words, Yahweh is here telling Israel that the Feast
of Tabernacles should occur at about the time of the autumnal
equinox, when the agricultural year is at its end. This is
a vital clue because it links the harvest festival of Tabernacles
to the autumnal equinox. A look at the agricultural scene
in Israel will reveal that the harvests are mostly gathered in
before the tequphah - the equinox. In fact the main (wheat)
harvest begins in the summer months of May and June and is finished
by August. The vintage (grape harvest) follows and is normally
finished by the autumnal equinox. This is when Yahweh commanded
Israel to keep the harvest festival of Tabernacles; at the 'end
' or the turn of the year when the harvests are
gathered in. For more information concerning Harvest Times in
Israel see the answer to Question 4.
| Exodus 34:22
|| And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of
the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering
at the year's end.|
In summary we may say that in a pre-printed calendar, the
first and seventh months of the year should still be geared
to the agricultural harvests in Israel; the first month
Abib, the month of green ears, starting about 15 days before
the barley harvest is begun; and the seventh month (Ethanim/Tishri)
starting after the vintage is gathered in. By starting Abib
with the new moon nearest (before or after) the spring equinox,
these two divine requirements are met.
Always bear in mind, of course, that in ancient
Israel the calendar was not published in advance. The choice of
Abib's new moon depended on those 'natural conditions'
mentioned previously. Equinox times and phases of the moon
calculations are simply a convenient forecasting facility,
which allow us to keep in step with the seasons - and hence the
harvests - in Israel.
- If Abib were to begin 15 days before the spring equinox
(the earliest it can ever be if the 'nearest before or after
guideline' is being followed) then the spiritual Passover
will coincide with the celestial passover. In other words:
the sun will be 'passing over' the equator at the same
time the sacred Passover service is being celebrated. This
phenomenon (of the celestial and spiritual Passovers coinciding)
happens very rarely.
- Note also that by choosing the new moon nearest the equinox, the Passover Service (which occurs 14 days later on the evening of the 14th Abib) will never fall before the spring equinox; that is - before the 20th March. The Passover Service may - very rarely - coincide with the equinox, when the sun will also be apparently 'passing-over' the equator; but it should never fall before the equinox. This means that when a calendar is printed in advance, the very earliest date for the 1st Abib will be the 7th March. It is perfectly in order to begin Abib before 20th March: the Jews do this in many years. But, I repeat, the Passover Service should not be celebrated before the equinox.
Author: David B Loughran
Stewarton Bible School, Stewarton, Scotland
Updated: August 1998