Yahweh in His
wisdom has given us a calendar in the sky for all to
see. He uses the sun and moon to establish days,
months, years, and also His appointed observances,
Genesis 1:14. A critical component to His calendar
is the new moon, which starts each Biblical month.
Yahweh commanded special offerings on each new moon,
and one special new moon is even a Feast day called
the Feast of Trumpets, Isaiah 66:23.
the new moon to establish moedim, or commanded
observances, Psalm 104:19. Special offerings were
also given on the new moons, 2Chronicles 2:4; 8:13;
We find many
references to the new moon or beginning of months in
the Scriptures, including the obligation for True
worshipers to observe them, Numbers 10:10; 28:11-15;
1Chronicles 23:31; 2Chronicles 2:4; 8:13; 31:3; Ezra
3:5; Ezekiel 46:1, 3, 6; Colossians 2:16.
Believers, who remained true to His Word, continued
to honor new moon days as well as observe Feast days
in the New Testament, Acts 18:21; 27:9; 1Corinthians
learn from Ezekiel’s prophecy (46:3) that new moon
days will be kept in the coming Kingdom: “The people
of the land shall also worship at the doorway of
that gate before Yahweh on the sabbaths and on the
mistake. The Biblical admonition to observe the new
moon as a special marker in the Biblical calendar
is not a pronouncement about worshiping the moon
itself. Yahweh prohibits worshiping any celestial
body: “And beware, lest you lift up your eyes to
heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars,
all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and
worship them and serve them, those which Yahweh your
Elohim has allotted to all the peoples under the
whole heaven” (Deut. 4:19). At the same time He
commands us to watch for and observe the new moon
each month so that we honor and follow His unique
calendar and the setting of His special holy days.
Constitutes a New Moon?
is a new moon according to the Scriptures? The
Jewish calendar creates some confusion because it
uses the conjunctions of the moon (Hebrew molad) in
setting the beginning of each month. Also somewhat
confusing, a certain verse of Scripture seems to
equate the new moon with the full moon.
If you are
baffled about what the new moon is, we hope this
study will settle the issue for you.
look at the astronomical conjunction. A lunar
conjunction is when the sun, moon and earth are
directly in line. Because the sun is behind the
moon, no sunlight is reflected from the lunar face.
The moon is a total blackout during a conjunction.
No part of the moon can be seen in an astronomical
wall calendar portrays the conjunction with a large
black dot and calls it a “new moon.” But in reality
it is a “no moon.” It is invisible, and a “no moon”
conjunction is not what the Bible means by a new
moon, which we will see.
The Bible uses
the same Hebrew word for both “new moon” and
“month.” Therefore, the new moon is linked to and
sets the beginning of the month. But on our
Gregorian wall calendars the “no moon” conjunction
floats all over the 12 calendar months. Modern
calendars completely ignore the Biblical way of
setting the first day of the month by the visual new
moon, even though the word “month” is derived from
the word “moon” and should be oriented to the moon
as it was intended by the Creator.
new moon spotters in Israel watched for the thin
crescent to establish the beginning of each month.
Once seen they reported their sighting to the
calendar court authorities of the Sanhedrin. Note
what one authority says, “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,”
Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 12, p. 1039.
from watching for the first visible crescent to
calculating conjunctions to determine the month’s
beginning came with Hillel II’s calendar revisions
in the 4th century C.E. “By the middle of the fourth
century, the sages had established a permanent
calendar and the public proclamation of the New Moon
was discontinued” (Ibid).
Going by the
calculated lunar conjunction contradicts the command
in Deuteronomy 16:1: “Observe the month [chodesh,
new moon] of Abib and keep the Passover…” Here, the
word “observe” in the Hebrew is shamar and also
means “look narrowly for, search” (No. 8104 in
Strong’s). The Holladay Concise Hebrew and Aramaic
Lexicon defines it as watching in the sense of
looking. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of
Old and New Testament Words includes the definitions
“mark, watchman, wait, watch, look narrowly.” The
command is to look for, wait for, watch and mark the
The problem is
that you cannot see a moon that is completely black
or dark, as it is during a conjunction. It would be
lunacy sending out new moon watchers on the night of
a conjunction to look for a moon they cannot see. To
visually confirm the new moon there must be
something to identify. Obviously, the invisible
conjunction is not that something.
predicament is created by the use of the conjunction
because during the period surrounding the
conjunction there are as many as two or even three
nights when no moon is visible. This leads us to
wonder which three invisible moons are we commanded
to “look narrowly for”? On which of three invisible
starting points does the month begin? Yahweh’s
calendar is based on observation. Man’s calendars
are based on calculation.
No U.S. Naval
Observatory existed in the time of the prophets or
Apostles. The ancients had to have something
tangible to go by that was visible on only one day
each month. They needed to see the first thin
crescent of a moon as it began its building or
Philo was a
prominent Jewish leader who lived in Alexandria from
about 20 B.C.E. to about 50 C.E. and was a
contemporary of both Yahshua the Messiah and Paul.
He was aware of what the Savior and His followers
considered was the new moon. In his Treatise on the
Special Laws, Book II, XI (41), Philo discusses the
Biblical observances. Note how he describes the new
“[It] is that
which comes after the conjunction, which… [is] the
day of the new moon in each month.” In his detailed
discussion of the new moon, Philo describes what
constitutes a new moon: “…at the time of the new
moon, the sun begins to illuminate the moon with a
light which is visible to the outward senses, and
then she displays her own beauty to the beholders.”
noted, the new moon follows the conjunction but it
is not the conjunction itself. His observation
reveals to us what was considered the new moon in
Yahshua’s day and what the Savior Himself also
observed as the new moon. That is all we need to
know to realize what still constitutes the Biblical
new moon today.
Psalm 81:3 and conclude that the new moon is a holy
feast day, and also (because of mistranslation) that
the new moon is the full moon and not the first
light of the moon. The KJV reads, “Blow up the
trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on
our solemn feast day.” Time “appointed” is the
Hebrew kacah and means “to plump, i.e. fill up
hollows” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of
Old and New Testament Words). This appointed time is
a full moon totally filled with light and on which a
solemn Feast day occurs. Does that mean that the new
moon is the full moon?
The New King
James and some other translations add to the
confusion by not translating Psalm 81:3 precisely
enough: “Blow the trumpet at the time of the New
Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day.”
One immediate problem we note is that nowhere in
Scripture is the regular monthly new moon referred
to as a Feast day, nor is it a full moon, as we
translations clear up the problem by showing two
completely different and separate observances in
this verse: “Sound the ram’s horn at the new moon,
and when the moon is full, at the day of our feast”
In Psalm 81:3
Yahweh is speaking of a new moon as well as another
observance or appointed time that comes at a full
moon. During each of these separate times the
trumpet was to sound.
The Hebrew in
fact reveals two distinct clauses in this passage,
making a definite division of thought. The first is
the trumpet as applying to the new moon. The second
is the trumpet as it applies to a solemn feast day,
which is by Biblical definition different from a
regular monthly new moon.
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, one would translate
Psalm 81:3 this way: “Blow the trumpet at the new
moon, and in the fullness of our festival day.”
Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament also
makes a differentiation between the two clauses of
verse 3: “Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon, and
when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast.”
Jewish Bible reads: “Sound the shofar at Rosh-Hodesh
[new moon], and at full moon for the pilgrim feast.”
The Psalms for
Today: A New Translation from the Hebrew into
Current English translates the verse: “Sound the
trumpet at the new moon, and at the day of our
festival, when the moon is full.”
Hebrew-based translations show that the new moon is
different from the full moon and different from a
Feast day. The Hebrew shows that the new moon and
the full moon are not synonymous. The first is
barely visible, the second totally visible.
Different words are used for each.
word levanah meaning white, occurs three times in
the Hebrew text and poetically refers to the white
brilliance of the full moon (see Song of Solomon
6:10; Isa. 24:23; 30:26). And the Hebrew word kehseh,
meaning fullness, is twice translated full moon (Ps.
81:3; Prov. 7:20). Chodesh, on the other hand,
refers to the new moon and is never used for full
Backward from the Full Moon?
that all that is necessary is to wait for the full
moon and then count back two weeks for the beginning
of the month.
First, such a
method ignores Scriptural mandate and practice. Why
would one need to “narrowly look for” and diligently
search for a full moon? A full moon is in plain
sight all night long.
this reckoning there would historically have been no
need for special moon watchers to search the evening
sky and report their findings to the Sanhedrin.
moons immediately preceding and following a full
moon have nearly full lumination and are difficult
to distinguish from the actual full moon without
side-by-side comparison and an expert, discerning
eye. This is not the case with a new moon crescent
that is either seen or not seen, as by a shepherd
boy like David out in the sheep fields.
astronomical full moon does not consistently fall at
the exact midpoint between two lunar conjunctions.
The full moon may follow the lunar conjunction by as
little as 13 days, 21 hours and 53 minutes, or by as
much as 15 days, 14 hours and 30 minutes. That is
why months vary in length between 29 and 30 days.
This anomaly is because the moon’s orbit is not
method is based on the conjunction, which we have
shown is not the Scriptural new moon.
determining the new moon by counting backward from
the full moon is anything but scripturally ordained
and at times quite inaccurate. And in one special
case doing so would even be out of the question: the
Feast of Trumpets, itself a new moon and the first
day of the seventh month, would be two weeks past by
the time the full moon arrived and the backward
count is made.
Scimitar-shaped New Moon
know the Hebrew language also know that the new moon
is defined as a thin, crescent moon. Vine’s says,
“Chodesh means ‘new moon,’ ‘month.’ The word refers
to the day on which the crescent reappears.” The
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says of (c)hodesh,
“Although this word properly means ‘new moon,’ it is
commonly used as an equivalent to our word ‘month’
because the month began when the thin crescent of
the new moon was first visible at sunset.”
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says
hodhesh (chodesh) means “‘new,’ ‘fresh.’ As the
Hebrews reckoned their months from the actual first
appearance of the young crescent, hodhesh is most
frequently translated ‘month’ ” (Vol. 1, p. 303).
The verb form
of (c)hodesh is hadash, a primitive root meaning to
rebuild, renew, repair, refresh. This gives us
additional proof as to what constitutes a new moon.
A full moon is not in the rebuilding or renewing
stage. It is already rebuilt, complete, and as full
as it will get before waning back down to nothing,
where it starts to re-grow from complete blackness
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon the word hodesh
derives from a word which means to be new, or to
polish a sword. Etymologists have observed that the
basic sense is that of cutting and polishing. And
the significance of newness relates to a polished
sword. The new moon resembles a scimitar or curved
The New Brown
Driver Briggs Gesenius says chodesh is rooted in the
meaning of conceal, as in “to conceal behind a
curtain.” A full moon is anything but concealed. A
crescent, on the other hand, is nearly all concealed
by a curtain of darkness except for just a curved
sliver of light along the right edge.
An Act of
the new moon crescent each month is, above all, an
act of worship. It is axiomatic that we cannot let
our worship be done by someone else. James tells us,
“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only...”
1:22. Do we have the dedication to go out and search
the evening sky for a sliver of moon that is often
very difficult to locate? Or do we just rely on
others in our area or in some other part of the
world to do it for us?
As we learn
through hundreds of lessons in the Scriptures, True
Worship takes effort and self-sacrifice to search
out Yahweh’s ways in order to honor Him. It takes no
effort or sacrifice to see a full moon or follow