The Hebrew calendar is lunar-based and the new moon marked the beginning of each new month and triggered offerings to God and certain festivals. The Hebrew word for month (hodesh) literally means "new moon." Interestingly, the new moon wasn't calculated or foretold by a calendar, but announced by watchers looking for the very initial sign of a new moon. When two of these watchers reported seeing a bit of the moon, trumpets would sound and signal fires lit to spread the word.
In what way was the new moon significant in the Bible?
The offerings to be made at the new moon were commanded in Numbers 28:11–15. "At the beginnings of your months, you shall offer a burnt offering to the LORD: two bulls from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old without blemish; also three tenths of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, for each bull, and two tenths of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, for the one ram; and a tenth of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering for every lamb; for a burnt offering with a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. Their drink offerings shall be half a hin of wine for a bull, a third of a hin for a ram, and a quarter of a hin for a lamb. This is the burnt offering of each month throughout the months of the year. Also one male goat for a sin offering to the LORD; it shall be offered besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering."
New moon festivals also included the blowing of trumpets over the sacrifices (Numbers 10:10), the halting of all labor and trade (Nehemiah 10:31), and gathering for feasts (1 Samuel 20:5).
These new moon observances were to help people focus or refocus on God and His desire for relationship with the people. Of course, like many religious rituals, the repetition and familiarity could result in people following the rules without understanding or remembering their true purpose. This happened repeatedly with the Israelites. God spoke against the hypocrisy of continuing the festivals and sacrifices without paying attention to their intention. "Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. You new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them" (Isaiah 1:13–14. See also Psalm 51:6, 16–17; Hosea 6:6).
Christians do not observe the new moon festivals because these sacrifices are not required after the coming of the Messiah. Because of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice was made and the requirements of the Law were fulfilled (Matthew 5:17). "Therefore," Paul writes in Colossians 2:16–17), "let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ."
What was the Old Testament grain offering?
How is unleavened bread significant in the Bible?
What do BC and AD (B.C. and A.D.) stand for?
Why do the Jews no longer offer animal sacrifices? How do Jewish people today believe they can receive forgiveness from God?
What did Jesus mean that He came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it? What did He mean that 'not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished' (Matthew 5:18)?
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