The Hebrew calendar
A presentation such as this can be very extensive and somewhat confusing to many people insofar as we use different kinds of calendars. The Gregorian calendar is most likely the one with which most people are familiar and it is solar based. The Hebrew calendar however is different. When looking at scripture, especially with regard prophecy, such differences should be considered to avoid making assumptions of falling into error.
The content on this page is not all-encompassing. The content matter is provided to reveal simple facts and we encourage the reader to take things further by independent study.
We hope this is a blessing to you.
The Feasts of the Lord, or the biblical holy days, teach us about the nature of God and his plan for mankind.
Our studies are formulated to assist the hungry soul find the realities of God in a close and intimate relationship through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In supplying relevant information, I am mindful that it could be easy to become lost in a maze of factual information and miss the very simplicity of the Gospel message itself. I am also aware that readers may have differing degrees of resources, intellectual abilities and for that matter, differing desires to delve deeply into the Word of God.
At the outset, I wish it to be known that Jesus came as our great High priest after the order of Melshisedec but in the highest of all possible orders of excellence. The book of Hebrews goes into great detail regarding His ministry and I encourage the reader to spend much time in this book to enhance or complement these particular studies.
Of necessity, our material will be condensed. We simply cannot do justice to this amazing topic, even if we had the time or space.
Indeed, John stated in his closing remarks of John chapters twenty and twenty-one that Jesus did much more than recorded and that even if it were possible to document everything He did, the whole planet would not be large enough to contain the books. This is not suggesting that we are adding to, or detracting from holy writ. The scriptures are our foundation for study and I encourage the reader to conduct independent research and verify that what I share is fact.
There are differing viewpoints regarding such matters as to the actual dates when Jesus was born and when He was crucified.
Some people refer to pagan influences and say that the days we call Christmas or Good Friday are wrong. Others prefer to retain the orthodox Christian viewpoint. My personal opinion tends to agree in part with some such arguments, but I hasten to add that, regardless of the day we choose, we are to regard that day, or any day, as unto the Lord and not to become caught up in the legalities or political correctness of the matter.
It is important to always remember that our freedom is in Jesus the Son of God. As with any religious custom, we can become embroiled in legalistic bondage and we should avoid becoming ensnared by such matters as Paul explained in Galatians 5:1 and elsewhere.
We also have the witness of history and such historians as Josephus. Please make use of all available material for your study. In the matter of special days and events, or permissible foods and other matters, Paul said-
So don’t let anyone pass judgment on you in connection with eating and drinking, or in regard to a Jewish festival or Rosh-Chodesh or Shabbat. These are a shadow of things that are coming, but the body is of the Messiah. Colossians 2:16–17.
As long as we focus on Jesus and His ministry, we can walk in fellowship with God through Him and with each other as brethren, washed in the precious Blood of the Lamb of God.
The festivals of Israel were essentially given to the Jews. Scriptures reveal that these feasts and The Law and its ordinances was given to reveal what was to come. Bible scholars would say that they were given as types and shadows, or forerunners of a far greater promise or covenant yet to come.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29.
As we look into the feasts of Israel, please remember that they are not the ultimate goals of faith or tangents to our faith, but legitimate shadows or models of God’s plan for us as revealed in scripture.
We also need to bear in mind that God deals with several classes of people and not confuse them. There is a replacement theology that says that God has finished with Israel and is now dealing with the Church, but that is erroneous. His covenant with Israel remains. It differs from the covenant made with the Church and there is a third group of people God deals with who I shall call the Goyim. They are non-Jews and non-believers, or the heathen. Paul speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 10:32.
The Jewish feasts give us much teaching about how to live.
Sabbath for example speaks about daily life. Passover is rich in the symbolism of the Messiah’s death, burial and resurrection. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur speak about Jesus’ return.
Jesus observed the various feasts during his earthly life. He had a custom of worshipping on the Sabbath according to Luke 4:16. During the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), He told the Jews that He was the living water in John 7:37–39 and in John 10:22-30, he declared His Messiahship in the Temple at Hanukkah.
To a certain extent, His early disciples continued in many of the Jewish practices. At Shavuot (Pentecost), they had gathered for worship and proclaim the risen Saviour.
Paul spoke about the spiritual significance of Passover, telling the Corinthian believers to celebrate the Seder in 1 Corinthians 5:8 with correct understanding.
To facilitate study, these subjects have been listed in several distinct sections each one dealing specifically with the relevant feast or festival and a summary of the way the Jewish calendar is structured.
The Jewish calendar is complex, regarded by many Jews as the official calendar of Israel and is used for religious purposes by Jews all around the world. Although it is not certain, the Sanhedrin president Hillel II in approximately C.E. 359 may have set the present dates employed.
The Jewish calendar is primarily lunar, with each month beginning on the new moon. An ordinary (non-leap) year has 12 months and about 354 days. Since 12 months are about 11 days shorter than a solar year, a leap month is added about every 3 years to keep the calendar in tune with the seasons.
The first month of the religious calendar is the month of Nisan. But the Jewish civil New Year is in Tishri, the seventh month.
The 12 months of an ordinary year totaled to 353, 354, or 355 days. A leap year has 383, 384, or 385 days. The three lengths of the years are called deficient, regular, and complete, respectively. The Jewish calendar now has complex rules to determine the length of a year.
The beginning of a month was determined by observation. When people observed the new moon, they would notify the religious leaders such as the Sanhedrin and when two independent, reliable eyewitnesses gave testimony that the new moon had occurred, these leaders would declare the beginning of a new month and send out messengers to tell people when the month began.
Being based on the observations of nature, religious leaders could determine the dates for certain events. Passover for example was held each spring by seeing if the roads were dry enough for the pilgrims and if the lambs were ready for slaughter. If not, they would add one more month.
The months and their lengths are seen in the table below.
By looking ast the beginning, Genesis 1:5 states:
There was evening and there was morning, one day
A day in the rabbinic Hebrew calendar runs from sunset that is the start of “the evening” to the next sunset.
The Feasts of the Lord, such as Yom Kippur or Passover are described in the Bible as lasting “from evening to evening”.
The exact time when days begin or end is uncertain. This time could be either sundown (shekiah) or else nightfall (tzait ha’kochavim, “when the stars appear”). The time between sundown and nightfall (bein hashmashot) is of uncertain status.
Observance of Shabbat begins before sundown on Friday and ends after nightfall on Saturday, to ensure that Shabbat is not violated no matter when the transition between days occurs.
Judaism uses multiple systems for dividing hours. In one system, the 24-hour day is divided into fixed hours equal to 1⁄24 of a day, while each hour is divided into 1080 halakim (parts, singular: helek). A part is 3+1⁄3 seconds (1⁄18 minute).
In another system, the daytime period is divided into 12 relative hours (sha’ah z’manit, also sometimes called “halachic hours”). A relative hour is defined as 1⁄12 of the time from sunrise to sunset, or dawn to dusk.
An hour can thus be less than 60 minutes in winter, and more than 60 minutes in summer; similarly, the 6th hour ends at solar noon, which generally differs from 12:00. Relative hours are used for the calculation of prayer times whilst a civil clock is used for other purposes as a reference point. This is seen in expressions such as “Shabbat starts at ...”.
The names for the days of the week are simply the day number within the week, with Shabbat being the seventh day. The week begins with Day 1 (Sunday) and ends with Shabbat (Saturday). Because days begin in the evening, weeks begin and end on Saturday evening. Day 1 lasts from Saturday evening to Sunday evening, while Shabbat lasts from Friday evening to Saturday evening.
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