The New Moons
There was really no other festive season that could have left such a continuous impression on the religious life of Israel as the ‘New Moons’. The people were reminded so much of them because they came at the beginning of every month. On the day of the new moon, the calendar was marked by the saying ‘It is sanctified’.
This was intended to give a hallowed character to each month. The priests would blow their trumpets and special sacrifices were brought to pay tribute to God. By doing this, they felt that they were bringing themselves into ‘remembrance’ before their God.
Other popular feasts were: when families might celebrate a special annual sacrifice; when the king gave a state-banquet; those who sought for instruction and edification also held religious meetings, such as Elisha held in 2 Kings 4: 23.
Psalms 81:3 marks in Scripture a special Psalm for the New Moon.
Isaiah 1:13 and Hosea 2: 11 notes how from month to month this day was kept as an outward ordinance even as the Jewish religious life decayed more and more.
As time progressed, this religious decay seemed to become more and more rigid, until finally the whole spirit of the law had become totally misunderstood. Even in New Testament times the ‘New Moon’ was still kept as an outward observance by the Jews, and also the Jewish people who had become Christians.
The Determination Of The New Moon
The determination of the new moon was very important in fixing the various festivals of the year. There was much care taken that they get the right day of the month. Also, the special announcement of the new moon was carried by messenger as quickly as possible to the surrounding areas so that they would know the exact date. There is more about this in earlier texts of this same book. You can look in the Archives to find more about it.
The new moon was proclaimed by actual personal observation, and not by astronomical calculation. Only the people with the finest characters could carry the news about the first sighting of the new moon. These people could travel on the Sabbath, and make use of a horse or mule, to carry the news to Jerusalem in time.
They had very strict rules about who could carry the news, but the trustworthy persons were given a banquet in their honor by the Sanhedrim when they arrived. The banquet was provided for them in a large building that was specially designed for that purpose. It was known as the Beth Yaazek. The ‘New Moon’ was a very big deal in Jewish life.
The Blowing Of Trumpets
According to the law, there were only two things that were connected to the observance of the ‘New Moon’: the blowing of trumpets (Numbers 10:10) and special festive sacrifices (Numbers 28: 11-15).
In ancient times the blowing of the trumpets had been the signal for Israel’s host to start on their march through the wilderness, then they afterwards summoned Israel to war, and then proclaimed the feast days as days of public rejoicing, as well as the ‘beginnings of their months’, according to Numbers 10: 1-10.
The object of this was expressly stated as to be ‘for a memorial’ that they might ‘be remembered before Jehovah’. As the priests blasted the trumpets, the people felt that they were under God’s banner and throne. This was to be a symbolical confession and proclamation of ‘Jehovah their God’, and they brought themselves before Him to be ‘remembered’ and ‘saved’.
So every season of ‘blowing the trumpets’ whether at New Moons, at the Feast of Trumpets or New Year’s Day, at other festivals, in the Sabbatical and Year of Jubilee, or in the time of war, was a public acknowledgement of Jehovah as King.
It is also very interesting to note that the sound of the trumpet summoned the congregation before the Lord at the door of the Tabernacle during the time of Moses, so in the future God’s Own will be summoned to Him by the sound of the trumpet when Jesus comes to claim His Bride.
The Sacrifices Of The New Moon
According to Numbers 28: 11-15, there were certain festive sacrifices that were to be offered on the New Moon. These most appropriately marked ‘the beginning of months’. It is a universal principle in the Old Testament that THE FIRST always stands for the whole – the firstfruits for the whole harvest, the firstborn and firstlings for all the rest; and that ‘if the firstfruit by holy, the lump is also holy’.
It was then so that the burnt-offerings and the sin-offering that was done at the beginning of each month consecrated the whole month.
These festive sacrifices consisted of two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year for the burnt-offering, with their appropriate meat- and drink-offerings, and also of ‘one kid of the goats for a sin-offering unto Jehovah’.
Naturally, during the years, these simple Scriptural directions grew to include more and more traditions which watered down the meaning of what God had wanted them to remember about each of them.
Necessity for Distinguishing the Temple and Synagogue Use
So far as we can gather, the following was the order of service on New Moon’s Day. The council sat from early morning to just before the evening sacrifice, for the purpose of determining the appearance of the new moon. When the Council proclaimed ‘It is sanctified!’, it determined the commencement of the feast, not the actual appearance of the new moon.
Immediately afterwards, the priests blew the trumpets which marked the beginning of the feast. After the ordinary morning sacrifice, the prescribed festive offerings were brought, with the blood of the burnt-offerings being thrown around the base of the altar that was below the red line. The rest was then poured out into the channel at the south side of the altar.
The blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled or dropped from the finger on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering, beginning from the east, and being poured out just like the burnt-offering.
The two bullocks of the burnt-offerings were hung up and flayed on the topmost of the three rows of hooks in the court. The rams were hung up on the middle rows, and the lamb on the lowest hooks.
There were no less than 107 priests that officiated at this burnt-offering. There were 20 with every bullock, 11 with every ram, and 8 with every lamb. This included those who carried the appropriate meat-and drink-offerings.
The trumpets were blown again at the offering of these sacrifices. All of the animals were slain at the north side of the altar, while the peace- and freewill-offerings (private offerings that could be given between just a person and God) were sacrificed at the south side.
The flesh of the sin-offering and the part that came to them of the meat-offering was eaten by the priests in the Temple itself. Then their portions of the private thank-offerings might be taken by them to their homes and could be eaten with their households.
A Prayer of the Third Century, A. D.
Tradition has not preserved any special prayers that were said in the Temple on New Moon’s Day. The only saying from that period that has been preserved is that on first seeing the moon – ‘Blessed be He who reneweth the months’.
Then at the close of the third century, the synagogue added the following: ‘Blessed be He by whose word the heavens were created, and by the breath of whose mouth all the hosts thereof were formed! He appointed them a law and time, that they should not overstep their course. They rejoice and are glad to perform the will of their Creator, Author of truth; their operations are Truth! He spoke to the moon, Be thou renewed, and be the beautiful diadem of man, who shall one day be quickened again like the moon, and praise their Creator for His glorious kingdom. Blessed be He who reneweth the moons’.
As you can see, the prayers grew longer as the time passed from the original observation of this feast. New Moon’s Day, was observed in the time of Amos as a day of rest according to Amos 8:5. This feast is not kept by the Jews in our day, though, and even in the olden times the law did not tell them to use it as a day of rest.