Article Preview: Who decides when it is a Feast Day and how? This article, while directed toward a particular incorporated church that uses today’s rabbinical Jewish calendar to determine “their” Feast Days, is the most basic and to the point of any “calendar” article that I have seen. I recommend reading it before the several other articles on this site by Frank Nelte. No, your minister will not take your share of the blame come Judgment Day!
Many have realized that there might be a problem with the [Jewish] calendar [regarding the timing of the Holy Days], but the idea that it’s the church’s responsibility has kept them from researching it any further. They believe that the church alone will be held responsible if the calendar is done incorrectly and that they as individuals simply must to follow the church in this matter. The argument is that it’s the church’s responsibility to blow the trumpets and declare the Holy Feast Days. So, is this really what the Bible tells us? Are we to “Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 WEB) UNLESS it has to do with when to observe God’s’s Feasts? Is it really only the ministry’s responsibility to declare a particular day to be one of God’s Holy Feast Days? Do we really have no responsibility here other than to follow the ministry in this matter? Should we prove the calendar?
For starters, we know that we are commanded in 1 Thessalonians to test ALL things, but how many of us have actually “tested” the calendar? Somehow the generality of this command seems to allow us the out of saying, “well, that can’t apply to this situation”. For the sake of those who cannot accept that “all” really does mean “all”, let’s examine some of the more specific commandments regarding God’s Holy Feasts.
In Leviticus 23, God gives us the specific days on which His Feasts fall:
Leviticus 23:4-6 These are the set feasts of [Yehovah’], even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their appointed season. 5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening, is [Yehovah’s] Passover. 6 On the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread to [Yehovah]. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. WEB
Vs.15: You shall count from the next day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be completed.... WEB
Vs.24: Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest to you, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. WEB
Vs.27: However on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement: it shall be a holy convocation to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to [Yehovah]. WEB
Vs.34: Speak to the children of Israel, and say, ‘On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of tents for seven days to [Yehovah]. WEB
Vs.36: Seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to [Yehovah]. On the eighth day shall be a holy convocation to you; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to [Yehovah]. It is a solemn assembly; you shall do no regular work. WEB
So, who is this “you” spoken of again and again in these scriptures? The “you” who is to proclaim these feasts at their appointed times? The “you” who is to count for themselves to the Feast of Pentecost?
Vs.1-2: [Yehovah] spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘The set feasts of [Yehovah], which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are My set feasts. WEB
Vs.10: Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them.... WEB
Vs.24: Speak to the children of Israel, saying.... WEB
These commandments (the specific days on which to proclaim and keep God’s Holy Feasts) were commanded to ALL of Israel! Please note of particular importance that these Feasts of God do have “their” own “appointed times”. They are not days that any man can alter or proclaim at his own convenience. The children of Israel here were commanded to proclaim these feasts at “their appointed times”. This means that God has appointed which days are His Holy Feasts and the command to ALL of us is to proclaim and observe them on those particular days. Given this understanding, if God has appointed that this coming Tuesday is the First Day of Unleavened Bread, a man could proclaim all he wants that it’s really Thursday, but that wouldn’t make it true. Even if this man was the leading evangelist in the church, we still wouldn’t be observing God’s appointed day if we were to observe Thursday as the First Day of Unleavened Bread.
As we are told in Genesis 1:14 that God created the sun and moon to be “and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years”. The Hebrew word translated “seasons” here actually refers more specifically to God’s appointed feasts. The definition of “Mow’ed” (the word translated in Genesis 1:14 as “seasons”) in the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon includes “sacred season, set feast, appointed season”. The same word is translated 23 times as “feast”. It is the same word used in Leviticus 23 to refer to God’s appointed “feasts”. Most of us know to watch for the signs that are to come marking the fulfillment of God’s Holy Feasts. However, we neglect to watch for the signs relating to when those feasts occur today. In missing this aspect of feast observance, we miss an entire level of symbolism. Watching for the signs that mark God’s Holy Feasts is representative of watching the signs of their future fulfillment. We are to be learning now about watching God’s signs. As much as I used to like getting those little cards to stick in my wallet, they draw our attention away from watching the signs from God. We begin to rely completely on the dates on those little cards and we forget (if we ever even learned at all) how to know for ourselves when the Holy Days are apart from those cards. In addition, we have no way of knowing if those days on the card are the correct days or not.
The signs that God gives us for knowing when days, months, and years begin are signs that ALL of us with the gift of sight can see. Even without the gift of sight, we can feel, smell, and hear the change of seasons. In addition, we are ALL responsible to pay attention to these signs and to keep God’s Holy Feasts “at their appointed times”. God gave ALL of us what we need in order to keep His Feasts in their appointed times. Otherwise, how could He have commanded us to do so? He told us the specific days on which to keep His Feasts and He gave us ALL the responsibility of proclaiming and observing His Feasts in “their appointed times”.
The observance that the Israelites historically kept at the New Moons (beginning of the months) shows that they were paying attention to the signs that God gave and they were all keeping track of the months as they passed. If a priest (or anyone else for that matter) were to tell them that the First Day of Unleavened Bread was on Thursday when it was really on Tuesday, EVERYONE would have known they were wrong. EVERYONE would have observed that it was the month of Abib spoken of in Deuteronomy 16:1; EVERYONE would have observed the New Moon; and EVERYONE would have known that the First Day of Unleavened Bread was on the fifteenth day of that month. If EVERYONE were observing the signs that God gives us, NO ONE could pull the wool over our eyes as to which days are REALLY God’s Feast Days.
So if we’re all to be proclaiming the Feast Days in their appointed times, what’s the deal with the priests blowing the trumpets? Doesn’t Numbers 10 tell us that the priests are responsible for blowing the trumpets at the beginning of months and on the appointed feasts? Well, yes it does say that. But is Numbers 10 a commandment to the people that when the priests blow the trumpets, we must obey the priests by observing that day as the beginning of a month or an appointed feast? Please re-read the chapter!
Numbers 10 is a commandment to Moses and the priests, the sons of Aaron, to blow the trumpets at the appropriate times. This is NOT a commandment to the people that when the priests blow the trumpets, that determines for us when to observe God’s Feast Days. The blowing of the trumpets does NOT make any particular day a feast day. Rather, because it is a feast day, the priests are commanded to blow the trumpets! Numbers 10 does include the responsibility of the people to come together or to advance according to the sound of the trumpets. However, the context of the chapter assumes priests who are blowing the trumpets at the time that God commands. If a leader commands us to break God’s laws, God’s laws override the commands of that leader. In a society where all of the people are paying attention to the passing of days, months, and years, a priest could never get away with “blowing the trumpet” on the incorrect days. All of the people would already know which day was truly God’s Feast Day. In Biblical times (pre-wrist-watch days), however, it would have been difficult to know when exactly to come together as a congregation on that day. Therefore, the priests would need to blow the trumpets to bring the people together. That’s part of the reason that God commanded the priests to blow the trumpets on the Holy Days.
As we have already established, ALL of us are responsible for observing God’s Feasts at their appointed times. Numbers 10 does NOT give a command that the priests blowing of the trumpets can in any way override the appointed times. If the priests (either knowingly or innocently) “blow the trumpets” on the wrong days, we still have no license to keep God’s Holy Feasts on any days other than their appointed times.
Many have believed that, even if we should prove all things, we have no way of really proving the calendar. The belief involves the idea that the calendar is too complicated for us to understand. The belief also involves the idea that the Jews have information about the calendar beyond what is provided to us in the Bible. Is this true? Does the Bible really not give us all the information that we need? Does God really command us to proclaim and observe His Holy Feasts on the days that He has appointed, but then give us no way of knowing for ourselves when those appointed times are? If we don’t even look into the issue, there’s no way that we can even begin to prove it good or bad…right or wrong. Until we prove it, we are just blindly following. When it comes to any other issue, we know that blindly following is not the right way to do anything. So let’s go ahead and look into the issue. Let’s go ahead and see what the Bible does tell us. Then let’s see what the Jews have to say and where all of the complications come into play.
Since we have been taught that the Oracles of God were given to the Jews, let’s start by taking a look at what the Bible tells us about this subject. Doesn’t this mean that we have to follow the Jews about the calendar? For many years, we have assumed that the Jews must have some sort of divinely revealed calendar beyond the information that is given to us in the Bible. This is due to the fact that the Bible tells us that “they were entrusted with the oracles of God” [Rom 3:2 WEB]. However, if you look at the context of this verse (or the two other verses mentioning the “oracles of God”) there is nothing to say that the “oracles of God” in any way refers to information given to the Jews that is beyond the scriptures.
Hebrews 5:12 For when by reason of the time you ought to be teachers, you again need to have someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God. You have come to need milk, and not solid food. WEB
It’s clear that this scripture is using “oracles of God” to refer to all of God’s law.
1 Peter 4:11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. NKJV
Again, “oracles of God” is generally referring to all of the words of God.
Romans 3:1-2 Then what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Because first of all, they were entrusted with the oracles of God. WEB
It’s important to note that, in the context of Romans, there are only two types of people spoken of:
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the Good News of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes; for the Jew first, and also for the Greek. WEB
Romans 2:9 ... of the Jew first and also of the Greek. WEB
Romans 2:10 ... to the Jew first and also to the Greek. WEB
In this context, “Jew” represents all Israelites and “Greek” represents all gentiles. So when did God give the “oracles of God” to the Jews? The same time that He gave the oracles of God to the rest of Israel:
Exodus 34: 28 and 32 He was there with [Yehovah] forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread, nor drank water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.... 32 Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them all of The Commandments that [Yehovah] had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. WEB
The Oracles being given to the “Jews” in no way insinuates that the Jews have been given information beyond the word of God that is revealed to us in the Bible. Therefore, if the Jews handle the calendar in a way that conflicts with the instructions from the Bible, it would be our responsibility to follow the words of the Bible rather than the traditions of the Jews.
Now, lets take a look at what the Bible actually does tell us about the calendar. First, we need to determine what exactly it is we’re looking for. Nowhere in the Bible is the term “calendar” used. So if the word “calendar” doesn’t appear in the Bible, then what do we need to know to have a calendar? Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary tells us that a calendar is “An orderly arrangement of the division of time, adapted to the purposes of civil life, as years, months, weeks, and days”. Okay, so a calendar consists of days, weeks, months and years. If we can define these four terms using the Bible, then we have defined the Biblical calendar. Where does the Bible first mention any of these words? In the very first chapter of the Bible, we read God’s words at the creation of the sun and moon:
Genesis 1:14 God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of sky to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.... WEB
As previously discussed, this word, “seasons” actually refers more specifically to God’s appointed Feasts. So we see, from the very beginning, God gave us the lights of the heavens to show us when to keep His Holy Days. Now let’s go into the Bible for the definitions of our four terms:
1) Day: The Bible shows us in numerous places that a day begins and ends at sunset:
Genesis 1:5 & 8 & 13 So the evening and the morning were the first day”.... “So the evening and the morning were the second day”.... “So the evening and the morning were the third day.” NKJV; and so on. The Good News Bible in Today’s English Version clarifies a day even further:
Leviticus 23:32 From sunset on the ninth day of the month to sunset on the tenth observe this day as a special day of rest. WEB
A day is the time from one sunset to the next.
2) Week: We all know that God made His creation in six days and then:
Genesis 2:2-3 On the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 God blessed the seventh day, and made it holy, because he rested in it from all his work which he had created and made. WEB
This gives us the seven day week. In case there is any question that the seventh day was really the last day of the week and that there was no eighth or ninth day of the week, we will go to the following verse:
Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. WEB
There you have it. Proof positive that the day after the Sabbath is the first of the week. A week consists of seven days–the Sabbath being the seventh day.
3) Month: The word “month” appears about 225 times in the Bible. Not one of those times, however, does the Bible come out and say directly, “A month is such and such amount of time”. However, the Bible does use the word “month” over and over again to direct us to a particular time. “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month” (Lev. 23:5 WEB); “On the fifteenth day of the same month” (Lev. 23:6 WEB); “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month” (Lev 23:24 WEB); and so on. When God gave the commandments to Moses, it is clear that He had particular days in mind for each Holy Day. He directed Moses to those particular days by using the terms “day” and “month”. So when God was giving these commandments, why didn’t He say, “And the definition of a month is ...”? Because Moses already knew what a month was! How did he know? The meaning of the word itself! The Hebrew word translated “month” in the Bible is “chôdesh”. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible tells us that the word “chôdesh” means “new moon”! In fact, “chôdesh” is the same word that is actually translated “new moon” in other places in the Bible including 2ki4:23. In recent days, some have come to ask, “What is a new moon”? The word “chôdesh” comes from another Hebrew word “châdash”, meaning, “to be new, to rebuild, renew or repair”. In a full lunar cycle, the moon goes from appearing as a very slight crescent, to a bigger and bigger crescent, to a full circle, to a smaller and smaller crescent, and then for a short time disappears completely. The only time in this cycle that the moon could be considered “renewed” or “repaired” would be after it has completely disappeared and then becomes visible once again. To further prove this definition, Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines “New moon” as “(a) The moon in its first quarter, or when it first appears after being invisible. (b) The day when the new moon is first seen; the first day of the lunar month, which was a holy day among the Jews–2 Kings iv. 23”. A month is the time from one new moon to the next.
4) Year: Leviticus 23:5-6 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening, is [Yehovah]’s Passover. 6 On the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread to [Yehovah].... WEB
But when is that first month? How do we know when the first month is to start? We just defined a month as beginning at the new moon, but with which new moon does the year begin?
Exodus 34:18 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib; for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt. WEB
First we read that the Feast of Unleavened Bread takes place in the first month and then in Exodus we see that the Feast of Unleavened Bread takes place in the month of Abib. The first month of a year is the month of “Abib”. Is the word “Abib” merely the name of a month (like March or April) that tells us nothing? Strongs Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible tells us that the word “Abib” comes from the Hebrew word “âbîyb” meaning “young ear of grain”. Other references refer to the month of Abib as referring more specifically to young ears of barley. We can also confirm this using scripture. As we read earlier, The Feast of Unleavened Bread takes place in the same month that the Israelites came out of Egypt. At the time of the plagues, directly before God led the Israelites out of Egypt, “The flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was in bloom” (Ex. 9:31 WEB). Therefore, when God commanded the Israelites (through Moses) to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread in the first month (the month of Abib), He was commanding them to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the month of Israel’s barley harvest. A year begins in the spring; in the month of the barley harvest in Israel.
So, what have we proven by defining these four terms? God truly did create the sun and moon to be “for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years” (Gen. 1:14)! The sun and moon tell us all that we need to know about the calendar! Sunset to sunset equals one day. Seven days makes up a week (the last day being the Sabbath). A month is the time from one new moon to the next. And finally, a year begins with the month of Israel’s barley harvest (note that the time of the barley harvest is also determined by the sun, since the sun causes the change of seasons). So why did God not just say “A day is such and such.... A week is such and such... a month is such and such ... a year is such and such...”? Because He had no need to! When He told Moses, “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month” (Lev. 23: 5). Moses knew just what He was talking about! He knew what a day was; he knew what a month was; he knew when the first month was! It was no mystery then and there is no reason for it to be a mystery today. You simply follow the signs that God gave us ... the sun and the moon. It’s as simple as that.
So what do the Jews have to say about the calendar? Since they’re the ones we’ve been following, it would be a good idea to know how things are being done. The Jewish website tells us that:
“In ancient times, the new months used to be determined by observation. When people observed the new moon, they would notify the Sanhedrin. When the Sanhedrin heard testimony from two independent, reliable eyewitnesses that the new moon occurred on a certain date, they would declare the rosh chodesh (first of the month) and send out messengers to tell people when the month began.”
So, in the past, we see that the calendar was determined by visual observation of the signs that God gives us. If that is how it was done in ancient times, how is it done now? The same Jewish website tells us that:
“In the fourth century, Hillel II established a fixed calendar based on mathematical and astronomical calculations. This calendar, still in use, standardized the length of months and the addition of months over the course of a 19 year cycle, so that the lunar calendar realigns with the solar years. Adar II is added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. The current cycle began in Jewish year 5758 (the year that began October 2, 1997).”
Going by observation, a lunar month has 29 or 30 days. The length of each particular month would be determined by when the new moon appeared. Using the fixed calendar that was established in the fourth century, each month alternates between 29 and 30 using a fixed set of rules, which may or may not coincide with the actual new moons. Hillel II was a very intelligent man. Mathematically speaking, he did a very good job at creating a fixed calendar that gives a very close “estimate” of when the new moons would occur. Probably as close as any “fixed” calendar can get. But still, it’s an estimate. Sometimes this “estimated” calendar has the new moon occurring on the proper day. Other times, it’s one or two days off. Other times, since the 13th month is now added in a “fixed” pattern as well, it can be an entire month off.
In addition to the regular standardization of the length of months, the current Jewish calendar contains four Dehiyyot (off site: rules which affect the calculation of when a new month will start). One of the Dehiyyot “prevents Hoshana Rabba (Tishri 21) from occurring on the Sabbath and prevents Yom Kippur (Tishri 10) from occurring on the day before or after the Sabbath”. The Jews believe it would be too difficult to keep the Day of Atonement on a day which would require a double Sabbath. Therefore, they have added a rule that will allow them to decide that a particular month has 29 days instead of 30 or vice versa in order to prevent a double Sabbath from occurring. Some support this decision by referring to the Preparation Day. The claim is that since Friday is Biblically the day of preparation, it would be unbiblical to have a Holy Day fall on a Friday. This claim doesn’t seem to take into account that the Jewish rules prevent double Sabbaths from occurring in the fall, but they do not prevent double Sabbaths in the Spring. In fact, the current Jewish calendar shows that in 1991 we had a Holy Day on Friday April 5; in 1992 on Friday April 24; in 1995 on Friday April 21; and in 1998 on Friday April 17. If it were unbiblical to have a Holy Day on a Friday in the fall, then it would also be unbiblical to have a Holy Day on a Friday in the spring. This claim also overlooks that the significance of the Preparation day is not in its being the sixth day of the week, but in its being the day before the Sabbath. (Note that Mark 15:42 WEB states “the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath”, and NOT “the Preparation Day, that is, the sixth day of the week”.) Therefore, if a Holy Day is on a Friday then the preparation day would simply be the day before that…Thursday. The claim also neglects to explain why it would be wrong to have a Fall Holy Day fall on a Sunday (which the Jewish rules also prevent). Every year we have at least one Spring Holy Day (Pentecost) fall on a Sunday. That is a double Sabbath! Why, then, would it be wrong to have Atonement on a Sunday? Please note that with the visual observation used in the past there would have been no room to change the beginning of a month to suit one’s own convenience.
The rules that God gives us for the calendar are simple. You just watch the signs that God gave us from the beginning. Complications come into play when you begin looking at calendar used today with all of its mathematical calculations and the rules that prevent Holy Days from falling on particular days of the week. God gave us precise days on which we should keep His Holy Days. We must be just as precise today in keeping those days when He commanded. We cannot use estimates that may or may not be correct. You may ask, “Does it really matter?” “Does God really care?” Keep in mind that if we were to be keeping the Sabbath just one day off we would be keeping Sunday—the mark of the beast! God is very particular about things being done just as He said. Take a look at Exodus 25-27. Notice how detailed God is in His instructions on building the tabernacle. Can you see that same God who gave those extremely precise instructions saying, “Oh, it’s okay—you can just estimate on when to keep My Holy Days—oh and if it’s too hard to have a double Sabbath in the fall, just go ahead and change the length of the month to accommodat, no problem!” Very unlikely! God would not have commanded specific days if He did not want us to keep specific days.
For those still convinced that we need to look to the Jews for the calendar, consider the following. The Jews know that in Biblical times the calendar was determined by observation. They admit that they switched to a fixed calendar in the fourth century. Much less known is another group of Jews known as the Karaites. (You can check out their website. The Karaites follow visual observation to this day. They claim to be following the commandments the same as when God originally gave them to Moses. So which group of Jews do you want to follow for the calendar; the group that openly admits to having changed it, or the group that claims to have kept it the same as God originally gave it to Moses?
God gave specific commandments regarding the days to observe His Holy Feasts. God gave those commandments to ALL of us. Those commandments include the responsibility to ALL of us to keep those days properly and at their appointed times. God gives no one license to change His appointed times. The priests are to blow the trumpets because it is a Feast day. The priests blowing of the trumpet does not make a day a Feast day. We are never commanded to follow a man who is blowing the trumpet on the wrong day. The command is to proclaim and observe the Feasts at their appointed times. God gave us the information we need in order to do so. If man’s word conflicts with that of God’s, we ought to follow God rather than man.
What of Church government? Is not observing the same days as our church leaders a rejection of the human government that God has established? As is detailed in scripture, God did establish a governmental system within His church. God does expect His people to have respect for and obey those who have the rule over us. However, God never expects us to follow those men if their commands contradict His commands. Proving all things and refusing to follow an incorrect teaching or observance is not a matter of rejecting authority. However, we must remember that God is our ultimate authority and obey Him first. At the same time, let us wholeheartedly pray that the leaders of God’s scattered flock may one day submit to our Heavenly Father in this area and that God’s church may once again be in one accord regarding the observance of God’s most Holy Feasts.
Most scriptures were changed by the web host to the WEB, an excellent non copyright protected version of the Bible which can be freely quoted from without limitations or threats of legal action.