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Part 2 ... File 2 of 10

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Question 2

When does the year begin in the Sacred Calendar? Does it begin in Israel's autumn as the Jewish calendar shows? Or should the year begin in the spring with the month of Abib (Nisan)? And if it begins with Abib, then how is Abib's new moon decided? Is it the new moon nearest (before or after) the Equinox? Or is it the first new moon after the spring equinox?


According to the Scriptures, the religious calendar begins in the spring with the Passover month of Abib, the month of Israel's Exodus from Egypt. In the popular Jewish calendar the year begins in the autumn at the end of the agricultural year. But in the religious calendar, and that is our prime consideration in this booklet, a year begins in the Passover month of Abib. Yahweh directed Moses in the following words concerning the first month of the year:
Exo.12:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2: This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
Exo.14:3 And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten. 4: This day came ye out in the month Abib.
The name of the Exodus month is Abib. The word Abib means 'sprouting, budding,' a 'green ear of corn.' In other words in Abib the earth will spring to life, plants will sprout and bud and the corn (sown the previous year) will have green ears. The first month is also called Nisan. (Esther 3:7)

"Abib most nearly approaches our month of March, though in some years its end moves some distance into April." (Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. page 3, article Abib)

In ancient days, before the exact equinox times were known or calendars printed in advance, the Sanhedrin selected Abib's new moon on the basis of certain natural conditions because Yahweh's Feasts are directly linked to the agricultural seasons in Israel.


In modern times Abib's new moon is selected months and even years in advance mainly because computer calculations of the sun's and moon's movements are widely available and there is no Sanhedrin to give the go-ahead as in days gone by. The scriptural guidelines concerning the link between the Feasts of the Most High and the harvests in Israel are, nevertheless, still being followed. They are:

1. Abib's new moon must occur before the spring harvest begins.
Deut. 16:9 Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.
This instruction concerns the waive sheaf which is cut and waived before Yahweh at the Passover festival in the middle of Abib. Since the spring harvest in Israel begins in late March/early April (see agricultural chart under Question/Answer 4) this means that the 1st of Abib would begin some 15 days before the waive sheaf was cut; which means that Abib's new moon would occur at about the time of the vernal equinox. The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible article Year confirms this:

"The year began with the month of Abib or Nisan (Exodus 12:2, 23:15, Esther 3:7)
with the new moon next before or next after the vernal equinox."

2. Ethanim's new moon occurs after the autumn harvest.
The second clue fixes the festival of Ingathering (Tabernacles) at the 'end' of the agricultural year. Here is the Almighty's command concerning the feast of ingathering (Tabernacles).

Exodus 34:22 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end.
The Hebrew word translated "year's end" is t@quwphah or "tequphah." It means at the end, the circuit of time, the revolution, the equinox. In other words, Yahweh is here telling Israel that the Feast of Tabernacles should occur at about the time of the autumnal equinox, when the agricultural year is at its end. This is a vital clue because it links the harvest festival of Tabernacles to the autumnal equinox. A look at the agricultural scene in Israel will reveal that the harvests are mostly gathered in before the tequphah - the equinox. In fact the main (wheat) harvest begins in the summer months of May and June and is finished by August. The vintage (grape harvest) follows and is normally finished by the autumnal equinox. This is when Yahweh commanded Israel to keep the harvest festival of Tabernacles; at the 'end ' or the turn of the year when the harvests are gathered in. For more information concerning Harvest Times in Israel see the answer to Question 4.

In summary we may say that in a pre-printed calendar, the first and seventh months of the year should still be geared to the agricultural harvests in Israel; the first month Abib, the month of green ears, starting about 15 days before the barley harvest is begun; and the seventh month (Ethanim/Tishri) starting after the vintage is gathered in. By starting Abib with the new moon nearest (before or after) the spring equinox, these two divine requirements are met.


  1. If Abib were to begin 15 days before the spring equinox (the earliest it can ever be if the 'nearest before or after guideline' is being followed) then the spiritual Passover will coincide with the celestial passover. In other words: the sun will be 'passing over' the equator at the same time the sacred Passover service is being celebrated. This phenomenon (of the celestial and spiritual Passovers coinciding) happens very rarely.
  2. Note also that by choosing the new moon nearest the equinox, the Passover Service (which occurs 14 days later on the evening of the 14th Abib) will never fall before the spring equinox; that is - before the 20th March. The Passover Service may - very rarely - coincide with the equinox, when the sun will also be apparently 'passing-over' the equator; but it should never fall before the equinox. This means that when a calendar is printed in advance, the very earliest date for the 1st Abib will be the 7th March. It is perfectly in order to begin Abib before 20th March: the Jews do this in many years. But, I repeat, the Passover Service should not be celebrated before the equinox.
Always bear in mind, of course, that in ancient Israel the calendar was not published in advance. The choice of Abib's new moon depended on those 'natural conditions' mentioned previously. Equinox times and phases of the moon calculations are simply a convenient forecasting facility, which allow us to keep in step with the seasons - and hence the harvests - in Israel.

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Author: David B Loughran
Stewarton Bible School, Stewarton, Scotland
Updated: August 1998