Jewish New Year?

There is a lesson for Christians in the celebration of the Jewish “New Year.” When the Lord gave Moses instructions for the seven major Holy Days, or Appointed Times, in Leviticus 23, the Feast of Trumpets was to be observed on the first day of the seventh month. There is no mention of a New Year.

In fact, the Lord specifically told Moses that the month in which Passover occurred was to be the first month of the year. (Exodus 12:2) The criterion was if the barley was ripe enough to be harvested. If the barley was not ripe, the grain should not be harvested, and if not harvested there would be no grain for the Offering of Firstfruits. (Leviticus 23:9-11) The name of the first month, Abib, means “developed” or “ripe” in Hebrew.

Speaking of names of months, generally there were no names for the months in the first five books of the Bible, known as the Law, Torah or Pentateuch. Almost exclusively the months were noted as the first month, the second month, et cetera. It was not until the Babylonian Captivity that month names began to be used. And here is the lesson for Christians.

The Jews in Babylon began using names for the months. Despite the fact that the Lord did not give the months names, using names should not have been a problem. But they began using Babylonian names. These were pagan names. The most evident is the name used by the Jews for the fourth month, Tammuz. Tammuz is clearly the name of the son of Semiramis, the pagan mother-goddess. Tammuz is known by different names in different cultures, but is still a known pagan deity.

In regard to a New Year celebration, you can see the influence of the Babylonian culture on the Jews. The first day of the seventh month is the Feast of Trumpets as denoted by the Lord. But there is no indication in the Bible that this day was to be considered a “new year.” The Babylonians also celebrated a new year on the first day of the seventh month. According to Nehemiah Gordon, a Kairite*, the Babylonian New Year was called “Akitu.” Apparently, the Jews in Babylon merged the Babylonian New Year with the Lord’s Feast of Trumpets and the result was Rosh Hashanah, the “head of the year,” or New Year. Rosh Hashanah is not found in the Bible.

The lesson for Christians is to be careful merging other holidays with Christian Holy Days. The most egregious is Easter, named for the pagan fertility goddess Ishtar or Astarte. Chicks, bunnies and eggs are used to celebrate the fertility of this pagan goddess. May we carefully separate this pagan festival from the Holy Day on which we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, which is Resurrection Sunday.

There is only one Scriptural New Year and it occurs usually in March (if the barley is ripe). And our Lord Jesus was not resurrected on Easter Sunday, but rather Resurrection Sunday. Praise our Heavenly Father for the hope that we have because of the resurrection of Jesus!

* The Kairites are Jews who do not accept the many human opinions and writings of the Jews, such as the Talmuds and other rabbinic writings. Theirs is a “back to the Bible” movement . . . well, back to the Old Testament in their case.

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