When are we?
According to the western calendar, today is September 16, 2023. For us the month of September is the ninth month, but for the Hebrews today is the beginning of their seventh month which they call Tishri, or Ethanim. Their first month (Nisan, or Abib) is in the spring which starts about the time of the spring equinox, and their seventh month is in the fall starting about the time of the autumnal equinox.
Tishri 1 is a very important day for the Hebrews because it is their New Year’s celebration known as Rosh Hashanah, or the Feast of Trumpets:
‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.’ ~Leviticus 23:24-25.
It seems odd that their New Year’s celebration is in their seventh month, but God specifically commanded them to consider Abib (March/April) to be their first month because that was the time of the Exodus (Exodus 12:1). However, Tishri is considered the civil new year, meaning it is when the reign of kings are counted from:
“There are four new years. The first of Nisan is a new year for kings and for festivals.” (Barclay, Joseph. The Talmud. Evinity Publishing Inc. Kindle Edition.)
This issue is discussed at length in the Babylonian Talmud, and in Leviticus 23 it is the only month that has a convocation that starts on the first of the month. This renders it especially significant.
The first day of Tishri, however, is not always on Sept. 16th. In 2022 it was on Sept. 26th, and in 2024 it will be on Oct. 3rd. The reason it shifts around is because Tishri 1 is determined by the first visibility of the new moon in the western sky at sunset, and it must be the new moon that is close to the autumnal equinox. Look for it tonight, if you can. I’m hoping the clouds will clear off here in Kansas.
In the photo below you will see the dates for the equinoxes and the solstices. The new moons near the vernal and autumnal equinoxes initiate the convocations listed in Leviticus 23.
The Hebrew calendar–and many other ancient cultures–based their calendar on lunar cycles. However, because there are only about 354 days in a lunar, twelve month period, and because there are about 365.25 days in a solar year, calendars will be off if we didn’t make corrections. In other words, it wouldn’t be long before the spring equinox would be in July instead March if adjustments weren’t made.
This is a big deal and it is important to understand that God commanded three convocations to be celebrated in the first month: Passover on Abib 14, which would be about the time of the full moon; the Feast of Unleavened Bread which lasts for a week and starts the day after Passover; and then the Feast of Firstfruits which would be 2 – 3 days after Passover. The next convocation doesn’t occur until fifty days later and it is called Pentecost. For us as Christians, we see that all of these convocations were pointing to Christ and his death. They had their historical roots in real events, but the Passover symbolically pointed to the crucifixion. The Feast of Unleavened Bread symbolically pointed to Christ’s purity and his forgiveness of sins, and the Feast of Firstfruits pointed to his resurrection. Fifty days later, Pentecost pointed to the beginning of the Church when the spirit of God descended on his people.
It is the Hebrew seventh month, though, that I would like to highlight since today is Tishri 1 and trumpets will be blown at sunset around the world. Ten days from now will be the Day of Atonement, which is the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar, and then on 15th the Feast of Tabernacles begins. These convocations are just as rich with symbolism as the the ones in the spring, and traditionally evangelicals have made the case that the feasts of the seventh month point to the RETURN of Christ.
However, what I suggest in my book 500 Year Journey, is that the fall convocations point to Christ’s FIRST coming, not to his second coming. This may seem like a radical idea, but there are some very good reasons to believe the fall convocations symbolically foreshadow the birth, circumcision, and life of Christ.
I go into much more depth in my book, but the essence of my argument is that there are typological connections which point to the incarnation that can be found throughout the Old Testament. One of those is when Nehemiah and Ezra dedicated the newly rebuilt wall in the Hebrew seventh month:
“Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.” ~Nehemiah 8:1-2
The connections to our savior are beautiful to see and so I hope you will consider continuing to dig more deeply into these issues with me. I am going to continue to blog during this Hebrew month of Ethanim which starts tonight, and to unfold some of the symbols in each of the convocations which point us to incarnation of Christ our savior, the promised Messiah.
Blessings to you on this Day of Grace!