THE OT CALENDAR ?
We now move to the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and
Deuteronomy to see what we can glean about the calendar Moses may
have used. How did he and Israel regulate, govern, calculate a
calendar? Can we find the rules of the calendar in these books?
Surely if any books of the Bible contain the detailed rules of
the calendar for God's people we should be able to find them in
the books of Moses that contain so many regulations and laws on
so many pertinent subjects in the life of the Israelite under
service to God.
Exodus 12:1-2, " And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in
the Land of Egypt, saying: THIS MONTH shall be UNTO YOU the
beginning of months, it shall be the first month of the year unto
Can we KNOW what THIS month was that God gave them? Well,
yes, we can. We know as the chapter goes on to tell us that it was
the month the Israelites came out of Egypt. Going to chapter 13
and verse 4 we read: "This day came you out in the MONTH of
Now the word Abib means "green ears." This name is also
Canaanite as is the names of three other months used in the Bible
- Ziv, Ethanim, and Bul (Ex.13:4; 23:15; 34:18; 1 Kings
6:1,37-38; 8:3). They are all agricultural names and reflect a
seasonal pattern of reckoning.
The usual way in the OT was to simply number the months from
one to twelve. It was after the return from the Babylonian
captivity that the Jews brought back with them the names of the
months from that empire.
Okay, so we have in Exodus the first month mentioned - Abib.
The month meaning "green ears" - obviously a SPRING month of the
But what else is said here about HOW the calendar? God
speaks as if a calendar is already established, and Egypt indeed
would have had a calendar, as most nations of the time had some
sort of a calendar. It is as if God within a calendar system that
was already in place looks at these two men and says, "This month
right now that you are in shall be the beginning of months for
you in your calendar, and on the tenth day of this
month (verse 3) ... " etc. God instructs them as to what to do
on certain days of a month that was THERE at the time, a month
called by the Canaanites Abib (green ears).
There is NO FURTHER INSTRUCTION given to us the reader as to
HOW TO REGULATE, govern, and what rules to use within a
functioning calendar for Israel. To be sure God may have
privately sat down with Moses and Aaron and taught them the whole
calendar method of governance. But if He did and I'm sure He did
to some extent, if not here then at some other time, God through
Moses DID NOT THINK IT WAS ANY BUSINESS OF THE AVERAGE GUY AND
GAL IN ISRAEL TO KNOW AND BE CONCERNED ABOUT!!
We can also see this month of Abib mentioned in Deut.16:1 as
the month to observe the Passover and days of Unleavened Bread
As we read the rest of this chapter 16, we shall discover,
as we can from Exodus 12, 13, (note Ex.13:10) that the three
groupings of God's FESTIVALS were formed around THREE
AGRICULTURAL SEASONS of the year. The Passover/Unleavened
Bread feasts at the spring ripening Barley harvest time. The
feast of weeks or as we call it today, Pentecost, at the end of
the Wheat harvest. The feast of Tabernacles, or fall festivals,
at the end of the Fruit/Grape harvest.
Most are quite familiar with the fact that certain
scriptures within the books of Moses do instruct that these
festivals of the Lord as HARVEST FESTIVALS, and they were
commanded to be observed IN THEIR SEASONS in the land of
Yet, so far from the knowledge we have ascertained from the
above sections of the books of Moses, WHERE is the detailed
expounding to us the average citizen in Israel, the rules and
regulations that govern the calendar?
We can turn to Numbers the tenth chapter and see what is
written about some of the things to be done on the NEW MONTH
days, but that is just what is to take place ON those days. There
is NOTHING there to tell us, you and me, HOW those days are to be
sanctified as new month days. Nothing as to the rules of the
calendar about the bringing into being of those new month days.
You keep searching if you like through every sentence in
those books of Moses to see if you can find HOW TO REGULATE the
calendar. and after all your searching, if you are going to be
honest with the word, you will only come up with the statement as
given in the HOLMAN'S BIBLE DICTIONARY under "calendar" when they
said: " The Old Testament mentions days, months, and years, the
basic elements of a calendar, BUT IT HAS NO PRESCRIPTION FOR
Were the earth, moon, and sun, still in "synch" with each
other at this point in history? If so, then the calendar was as
in the days of Noah, 12 months to the year, 30 days to
the month, very simple and no need for hardly anyone to know
anything about the rules of the calendar. Maybe someone would
like to study and bring forth evidence about calendars of the
world during this time frame when Israel left Egypt. For our
study it is not important, because the plain truth is that the
books of Moses give to us the average person in Israel (literal
and/or spiritual Israel) JUST ABOUT NOTHING as to the formula
or prescription of regulating the calendar. We are given the
first month of the year, the months the Festivals of the Lord are
to be observed in, and that those feasts are to be in their
agricultural seasons of the land of Palestine.
Exactly HOW to determine when to blow those trumpets to
announce the new month days of the year, IS NOT GIVEN. Certainly
NOTHING is said about HOW and WHEN to add a 13th month to the
year to keep the seasons for the festivals in synch over a 19 year
cycle. If a 13th month was not needed in Moses day because
everything was still in synch, they sure needed it LATER when
things were not neat and tidy with calendars. Yet you can look
high and low throughout the Bible and nothing just nothing
is said about a 13th month and how and when it was used by Israel
within a calendar context. Nothing is stated in the books of
Moses about "watching for the crescent of the moon" to announce
the new month day. What if it was cloudy at the time of the new
month? What if it was cloudy for three or four or more months
when the crescent of the moon was being watched for, IF they were
watching for it? Was "calculation" being used to govern the
calendar? Was it "observation" plus "calculation"? Not one word
is spoken about any "spring equinox" or "fall equinox" to
prescribe the calendar. No importance is placed on the exact
time of the "full moon."
We are just NOT TOLD about how they regulated the calendar!
So, the citizen of Israel is LEFT OUT IN THE COLD concerning
any information as to HOW TO PRESCRIBE the governing of the
calendar, from the books of Moses. Obviously Moses and Aaron
We often forget that although MANY detailed laws are
recorded and written in those books of Moses for the average
person to read and study, to know and meditate upon, MANY THINGS
were NOT! The books of Moses were not textbooks on EVERYTHING
that pertained to the life of the Israelite. There were MANY
things that would arise in each persons life and community that
would need to be judged and prescribed as it arose.
That is why God led Moses to see that he alone could NOT
HANDLE all the judgments and governing of Israel. Remember how it
started with Moses' wise father-in- law, Jethro, and what he told
Moses he should do? It's in Exodus the 18th chapter. Then we
have that wonderful section of scripture in Numbers chapter
eleven. God will put His Spirit on 70 of the elders of the
children of Israel, so they could bear the burden of the people
along with Moses. And how Moses wished that God would put his
Spirit upon all of the people.
There is, and you should never forget it, the section of
scripture recorded for us in Deuteronomy the 17th chapter, and
verses 8 through 13.
God would have LEADERS in Israel ABLE to answer the HARD
MATTERS of judgment and would give the people the sentence of
So, not everything, on every matter is given for every
person in Israel to know and govern.
I submit to you that the calendar issue is one of those
matters. The leaders in Israel under Moses were given the
authority by God, possibly the Lord teaching them (maybe through
Moses) all about the nitty gritty details of regulating the
calendar, its months to the year, when a 13th month was to be
added, how to keep the festivals within their seasons of
Palestine, how and when to announce the new month days. And
so it was during the time of Christ, a Sanhedrin of leaders and
scholars, who regulated the calendar (which we shall look at in
There are a few more interesting calendar verses to look at
in the OT before we come to the Sanhedrin time of Jesus.
Those passages next time.
Written May 1997