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Introduction / Biblical Evidence

The King James Version (KJV) is mostly used in these lessons. Click here to access the KJV online.
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As honest Bible students, we have to again and again set aside our preconceived ideas and traditions, step outside of what is perhaps comfortable and familiar, and be open to the weight of evidence.  Many believe that the beginning of the Biblical year is based upon the ripening of barley in Palestine and up until recently, WLC was among that multitude.  However, we have once again been faced with evidence that has forced us to re-evaluate our belief.  It is now our conviction that the Biblical New Year commences at dawn following the first lunar-solar conjunction that takes place after the vernal equinox.  Recognizing our responsibility to the global community, we do not take lightly these (or any) doctrinal changes.  WLC is committed to serving Yahuwah in Spirit and in Truth, and pledges always to advance with the increasing light, no matter what the cost.  We trust that Yahuwah is leading, paring down and removing any doctrine that cannot be supported by His Holy Word.  Praise His Name!  Come, let us study together…

Biblical Evidence

In Exodus 12, Yahuwah instructs Moses:

"This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you." (Exodus 12:2, KJV)

In context, we know that this was in the Spring1, but how was Moses to demarcate "the first month" in future years?  How was he to know when Spring began?  Was he to base the New Year on vegetation (i.e. barley), or was he to look to the heavens?  Genesis holds the answer:

"And Elohim said, 'Let lights come to be in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and appointed times, and for days and years, and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth.' And it came to be so." (Genesis 1:14-15, ISR2)

Genesis 1:14 states in plain language that the heavenly bodies are to be for "signs and appointed times, and for days and years."  There is no mention of vegetation in this passage.  Nowhere in Scripture is it stated that the beginning of the year is to be determined by examining barley.  To suggest that the New Year hinges on the ripeness of the barley, when Scripture incontrovertibly declares that the heavenly bodies are to determine years, is to add to Yahuwah's Word.

You shall not add to the word that I command you nor take from it that you may keep the commandments of Yahuwah your Eloah that I command you. (See Deuteronomy 4:2.)

Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (See Deuteronomy 12:32.)

Every word of Eloah is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (See Proverbs 30:5-6.)

While popular tradition teaches that the ripeness of Palestinian barley is the beacon for the New Year, this supposition cannot be supported by even one passage of Scripture.  (For more on why the supposed "barely law" cannot rightfully be the determinant for the New Year, refer to the section below, entitled "Insurmountable Issues with Using the 'Barley Harvest Law of Moses.'")

Now that we have established with certainty that the heavenly bodies are to determine years, the question is "What is it that takes place in the heavens to let us know that Winter is over and a New Year can begin?"  A very important clue can be found in Exodus 34.

"And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end [H8622]." (Exodus 34:22, KJV)

Now, let us examine the Hebrew word, translated here as "end."

H8622 (tekufah) - "coming round, circuit of time or space, a turning, circuit" (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Dictionary)

While it is not immediately apparent from the KJV, the word translated here as "end" [Strong's H8622] is referring to the Fall equinox in the middle of the year.  This is confirmed by the fact that the Feast of Ingathering, also referred to as the "Feast of Tabernacles" and the "Feast of Booths," takes place in Fall, in the Seventh Month (Leviticus 23:34) - in the middle of the year, not at the end of the year.

The Encyclopedia Judaica agrees with this interpretation.

"As stated, the four seasons in the Jewish year are called tekufot [plural of tekufah; H8622]. More accurately, it is the beginning of each of the four seasons – according to the common view, the mean beginning – that is named tekufah (literally "circuit," from קוף related to נקף, "to go round"), the tekufah of Nisan denoting the mean sun at the vernal equinoctial point, that of Tammuz denoting it at the summer solstitial point, that of Tishri, at the autumnal equinoctial point, and that of Tevet, at the winter solstitial point." (Encyclopedia Judaica, Article "Calendar", p.356)

The translations below offer a more accurate rendering of Exodus 34:22.

"And thou shalt keep to me the feast of weeks, the beginning of wheat-harvest; and the feast of ingathering in the middle of the year." (Exodus 34:22,Brenton's English Septuagint)

"And a feast of weeks thou dost observe for thyself; first-fruits of wheat-harvest; and the feast of in-gathering, at the revolution of the year." (Exodus 34:22, YLT)

"And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the first-fruits of wheat-harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the turn of the year." (Exodus 34:22, Darby)

Thus far, we have established the following:

  1. The Feast of Ingathering revolves around the Fall harvest in the Seventh Month (Leviticus 23:34).
  2. The Feast of Ingathering is associated with the Fall equinox in the middle of the year.

It is only logical to conclude based on the above that the beginning of the year then is connected to the Spring equinox, which takes place about six months before and after the Fall equinox. If the Fall feasts are connected to the Fall equinox in the middle of the year, then the Spring feasts must be connected to the Spring equinox at the beginning of the year.

The question still remains, though: "Should the New Year begin with the New Moon nearest the vernal equinox? ...or the first New Moon after the vernal equinox?"  This question is fairly easily answered when we consider the apparent circuit of the sun and how it relates to the Earth. 

At the Fall equinox, the sun rises due east and sets due west.  Immediately following the Fall equinox, the sun apparently begins moving south, rising and setting further south each day, until it reaches the most southern point in its circuit at the Winter solstice3.  Immediately following the Winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, the sun apparently begins moving back towards the north.  On the day of the Spring equinox4, the sun will again be perfectly aligned with the equator.  One this day, the sun will again rise due east and set due west; day and night will essentially be the same length, each consisting roughly of 12 hours.  It is only after this point that that the daylight hours will begin to outweigh the dark hours, and the sun can be rightfully said to have begun a new circuit, or revolutionFor this reason, the New Year begins with the first lunation after the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere5. 

Reckoning the Biblical New Year: Yearly Sunset Pattern Chart
Note:
The dates listed above can vary slightly on the Gregorian calendar.

To declare a new year before the sun has completed its old revolution is illogical, and would be much like declaring that tomorrow had begun before today was even over.  Declaring the beginning of the year on the New Moon closest to the equinox would sometimes place the day of First Fruits on the day after the equinox.  This is not acceptable, as the barley would likely not be ripe, meaning that there would be nothing for the priest to wave before Yahuwah (Leviticus 23: 10-11).  Such a reckoning would not be in harmony with Yahuwah's command to keep the feasts in their seasons (appointed times).

These are the feasts of Yahuwah, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. (See Leviticus 23:4.)

_______________________________________________________

1 Exodus 9:31 records that the barley and the flax were nearing maturity when they were destroyed by the plague of hail.  By this, we know that it was almost Springtime.
2
The Scriptures 1998+, Institute for Scripture Research (ISR), http://www.isr-messianic.org
3
The winter solstice generally occurs on December 21 or December 22 in the Northern Hemisphere.
4
The vernal equinox occurs between March 19 and March 21 in the Northern Hemisphere.
5
The Biblical New Year for the entire world should be reckoned by the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere, as the feasts (e.g. Passover) are anniversaries of events that took place in the northern hemisphere (i.e. Jerusalem).