How do you actually measure when the barley is starting to be ready signifying the beginning of the year? Do you need to harvest your own barley? Does this have to be done in Jerusalem? Also, I have been looking at the idea of full moon as ‘New Moon’ and not the first sliver as new moon. Someone who believes new moon means full moon, would point to the difficulty with sighting the first sliver. How do you deal with issues of not being able to see the very first sliver of a crescent? Also, what are your thoughts on the lunar calendar?
As a ministry we’ve been observing the biblical calendar for 19 years. Here is a concise explanation as to why we use the barley to begin the biblical year and new moon crescent to begin the month.
Evidence for the barley can be found in the meaning of the word Abib, the name of the first biblical month, and in biblical scholarship.
We find a reference to the first biblical month in Deuteronomy 16:1. It states, “Observe the month of Abib….” The word “Abib” literally refers to young ears of grain.
“…from an unused root (meaning to be tender); green, i.e. a young ear of grain; hence, the name of the month Abib or Nisan,” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
“Month of ear-forming, of greening of crop, of growing green Abib, the month of the Exodus and the Passover (March or April),” Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon.
“…barley that is already ripe, but still soft, the grains of which are eaten either rubbed or roasted,” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.
“The name of the month, so called because corn [grain] was then forming in the ear, a few weeks before harvest; falling somewhere about March or April; afterwards called Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew year,” Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies.
Since Abib refers to young grain, i.e., barley, this is what we use to mark the first biblical month. Strictly speaking, Abib describes the stage of barley that is within the dough stage or later. The minimum allowance for Abib was a sheaf used in bundling or about two dry quarts. Also, since the Bible confirms that the barley precedes the new moon crescent (Exodus 9:31 and 12:2), you must have barley that meets the minimum stage of Abib by the new moon crescent. We reject the idea of projecting the barley in anticipation of the wave sheaf offering.
Since Israel observed the barley from the Holy Land and there is a need for one unified year throughout the globe, we observe the barley from Israel. While we do not personally look for the barley, we rely on several independent witnesses who travel and document the barley from Israel.
Scholarship also confirms the use of barley to commence the first biblical month of the biblical year:
“…Abib is not properly a name of a month, but part of a descriptive phrase, ‘the month of young ears of grain.’ This may indicate the Israelitish way of determining the new year (Ex 12:2), the year beginning with the new moon nearest or next preceding this stage of the growth of the barley,” International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia
“The months began with the new moon, but the first month was fixed (after the Exodus and by the necessities of the Passover) by the ripening of the earliest grain, namely, barley,” New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.
Regarding the new moon crescent and full moon, we believe that Scripture and scholarship confirms the new moon.
The word month, as seen in Exodus 12:2 and Deuteronomy 16:1, comes from the Hebrew chodesh and is defined, “…from OT:2318; the new moon; by implication, a month: -month (-ly), new moon.” OT:2318, chadash, is “a primitive root; to be new; causatively, to rebuild.” Strong’s used for both definitions.
In addition to Scripture, evidence for the new moon crescent is also found in antiquity. Philo of Alexandria, c. 20 BCE – c. 50 CE, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, before and during the time of the Messiah, states, “…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,” The Works of Philo, p. 283.
Clearly, Philo is describing the first appearance of the new moon crescent and not the full moon.
Scholarship also confirms the new moon crescent:
“The Hebrew or Jewish calendar had three stages of development: the preexilic, or Biblical; the postexilic, or Talmudic; and the post-Talmudic. The first rested on observation merely, the second on observation coupled with calculation, and the third on calculation only. In the first period the priests determined the beginning of each month by the appearance of the new moon,” International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia.
“As the festivals, according to the Mosaic law, were always to be celebrated on the same day of the month, it was necessary to fix the commencement of the month. This was determined by the appearance of the new moon; for the new moon was reckoned not by astronomical calculation, but by actual personal observation. On the thirtieth day of the month watchmen were placed on commanding heights around Jerusalem to watch the sky. As soon as each of them detected the moon he hastened to a house in the city kept for this purpose and was there examined by the president of the Sanhedrin.
“When the evidence of the appearance was deemed satisfactory, the president stood up and formally announced it, uttering the words, ‘It is consecrated.’ The information was immediately sent throughout the land from the Mount of Olives by beacon fires on the tops of the hills. The religious observance of the day of the new moon may plainly be regarded as the consecration of a natural division of time,” New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.
“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… By the middle of the fourth century, the sages had established a permanent calendar and the public proclamation of the New Moon was discontinued,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 12, p. 1039.
Based on the meaning of the Hebrew chodesh, evidence from early antiquity, and the preponderance of proof from scholarship, Israel clearly used the new moon crescent and not the full moon. As a side note, this would also include the conjunction or dark moon, as this was adopted with Hillel’s changes to the Jewish calendar in the 4th century CE.
Regarding the issue of not seeing the crescent new moon, this has never been a problem for us in the United States. This is mainly due to the size of the nation and ample opportunity to see the crescent. However, if there was an issue, we would likely adopt the method used by the Jews during the time of Messiah. Since the lunar cycle is approximately 29.5 days, they would automatically mark the 30th day in the event that the new moon crescent was not seen by the 30th evening.
As for the lunar Sabbath, this is not scriptural and contradicts the Bible in several points. For instance, the moon was not in place until the fourth day. Also, how does this work with a lunar cycle with a duration of 29.5 days? Every month you have remaining days that you must either observe as additional Sabbaths or ignore. In either instance, how does this fit with the command of working six days and resting the seventh? Also, we’re told to count seven complete Sabbaths from the wavesheaf to Pentecost. This is impossible with the lunar Sabbath doctrine. For additional information, please see our booklet: The Lunar Sabbath Illusion.
For more info on the New Moon please check out our free booklet: What Is a Biblical New Moon
For more info on the Biblical Calendar please check out or free booklet: ABC’s of the Biblical Calendar