Making the Case for Rosh Chodesh
by Kelly McDonald, Jr.
According to the Bible, God established a weekly day of rest and celebration—the seventh-day Sabbath (Friday sunset through Saturday sunset). It is discussed in at least 140 verses across the entire Bible. God also established annual festivals which are outlined in Leviticus chapter 23. They are called moad’im or chag in Hebrew. They are mentioned in many Bible verses. If these weekly and annual cycles are clearly established by God, then it would be logical for us to ask: does the Bible mention a monthly cycle with a celebration of some kind?
A Biblical month is based upon the cycle of the moon around the earth. This is about every 29.5 days. A year is composed of 12 or 13 lunar months. An extra month is added some years so that the monthly cycle will stay in sync with the proper seasons. God placed the annual festivals on specific months and days during the year. The Bible talks about the importance of the moon as it relates to the months and festival days. We have some verses below.
“Blow the trumpet at the new moon (chodesh), At the full moon, on our feast-day (chagenu)” (Psalm 81:3).
“It shall be established for ever as the moon, And as the faithful witness in the sky. Selah” (Psalm 89:37).
“He appointed the moon for seasons (moad’im): The sun knoweth his going down…” (Psalm 104:19).
The moon is the faithful witness to the monthly cycle. In Hebrew, the first day of the month is called Rosh Chodesh, Echad Chodesh, or Chodesh. Chodesh means month. Rosh means head or chief. Echad means first or oneness. The first clue that this one day of the month is set apart from the others is the fact that it has its own name. More evidence exists to affirm this point.
In Numbers 28:1-8, we learn that God required certain sacrifices to be offered by the priests every day. One lamb was offered in the morning and another one in the evening. In verses 9-10, we learn that two extra lambs were required to be sacrificed on the Sabbath. This is one witness that days known to be set apart by God had special sacrifices offered on them. In Numbers 28:16 through the end of chapter 29, we learn that the annual festivals, which are commonly called Holy Days, also had special sacrifices offered on them (many more than the weekly Sabbath). This is a second witness that days with set apart meaning had special sacrifices offered on them.
Between the verses on the weekly Sabbath offerings and Annual Sabbath offerings we find the sacrifices for Rosh Chodesh (Num. 28:11-15). On the first day of every month, God required special sacrifices to be made. They were similar to those offered on the annual festivals.
In Numbers 10:1-10, God told the Israelites to make special silver trumpets. They were only to be sounded by the sons of Aaron in special situations. One of them was when sacrifices were offered at “days of rejoicing” (verse 10). The Hebrew word translated as ‘rejoicing’ is simchah; it means gladness or joyful. In this verse, the two times of joy listed are the moad’im (found in Leviticus 23) and Rosh Chodeshim or the New Moons. So the moad’im in Leviticus 23 are considered days of gladness, but so is Rosh Chodesh. However, Rosh Chodesh is listed in a separate category from the moad’im. While the New Moon is set apart from all the other days of the month, it is also in a different category from the annual festivals.
Special events happened on certain New Moons throughout the Bible. We will start with the Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible, and then look at events outside of it.
During the time of Noah’s flood, the tops of the mountains were visible again on the first day of the tenth month (Gen. 8:5). On the first day of the first month, the waters were dried up from off the earth (Gen. 8:13).
The instructions for Passover were most likely given on the first day of the first month (Ex. 12:2). The Tabernacle was assembled in the second year after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the first month (Ex. 40:17). On the first day of the second month in the second year after they left Egypt, the Lord told the Israelites to assemble so that they could be counted (Num. 1:1, 18). The Feast of Trumpets was established on the first day of the seventh month (Lev. 23:23-24).
On the first day of the fifth month in the 40th year after they came out of Egypt, the Lord commanded Aaron to go up on the mountain. There he died (Num 33:38). On the first day of the eleventh month of the same year, Moses spoke to the people everything that the Lord had commanded him (Deut. 1:3). Most or perhaps all the book of Deuteronomy was taught to the people on the New Moon.
This overview of events in just the Torah is very revealing! God gave special instructions to His servants and the people on the New Moon. Other parts of the Bible discuss the importance of this day of the month.
In the Old Testament period, people had special gatherings on the day. In the time of David, we learn that people gathered to celebrate this event (I Samuel 20:1-34). In this same account, we learn that they enjoyed special food.
In the days of the kings, it appears that people expected prophets to receive revelation from God on the New Moons (2 Kings 4:23). The prophet Ezekiel often recorded which day of the Hebrew Calendar He received his prophetic words. Of all the prophetic messages he recorded, four of them came on the first day of the month, four of them on the fifth day, and three on the tenth day (the other days have scattered references).
Another theme connected to the New Moon is the Tabernacle/Temple of God. As aforementioned, the Tabernacle was set up on the Rosh Chodesh (Ex 40:17). In Hezekiah’s time, they began to purify the Temple on the first day of the first month (2 Chron. 29:17). In Ezra’s time, burnt offerings began to be offered again on the first day of the seventh month, which is also the Feast of Trumpets (Ezra 3:1-6). Ezra read the book of the law to the people on the same holy day, although it was probably a different year (Neh. Chapter 8). In Haggai chapter 1, God gave the people a prophetic message to return to rebuilding the Temple on the first day of the sixth month. The future Temple built in the Millennium will be purified on the first day of the first month (Ezekiel 45:18).
There are also prophetic implications with the New Moon. During the Millennial reign of Christ, a new Temple will be built in Israel. The gate to its inner court will only be open on the New Moon and the Sabbath (Ezekiel 46:1-10). The people will come and worship the Lord when this gate opens. In Isaiah 66:22-23, we learn that everyone in the New Heavens and New Earth will worship the Lord on the Sabbath and New Moons.
Revelation 22:1-2 provides more detail about this eternal age. In these verses, we learn that the Trees of Life on each side of the River of Life will produce their fruit every month. This is an indirect reference to the New Moon. In that eternal age, months will be connected to the production of fruit from those two trees! In Colossians 2:16-17, the Apostle Paul wrote that Christ is the body or real meaning for the New Moons just like He is for the weekly and annual Sabbaths.
When we look at these details, it becomes clear that there is something special about the New Moon. It is to be treated differently than the other days in a month. It has a special emphasis placed upon it by God and this importance is reinforced throughout the Bible.
How do we practically apply this understanding?
The New Moon does not have the types of commanded instruction that we find for the Sabbath and annual festivals. Despite that, there remains a set apartness to the day. There are practical ways that we can set this time apart to God.
Gather. The Israelites were not required to go to Jerusalem for the New Moon, but it appears that gatherings did happen on a local or regional level. Meet with other believers and fellowship. Families can also gather on the day.
Food. You can also have special food that you would normally not eat on other days. This will add emphasis to the day.
Scripture Readings. Read the Scriptures as a group or individually. Moses read the book of the Law to the people (Deut. 1:3). Ezra had the book of the law read to the people (Neh. 8).
Worship God. We do not offer sacrifices with animals, but we do make spiritual sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:2, Hebrews 13:15). We can share praise reports from the past month. You could have a time of prayer and music at your gathering. It was a time when God spoke to His people, so we want to position ourselves to hear from Him. All Christians have His Spirit (Acts 2:17-18, Rom. 8:1-14). If the prophets of old heard from God on the New Moon, then why can’t we?
At my home congregation, we gather for worship and fellowship. We sometimes have a presentation out of the Word. We encourage everyone who attends to write down praises from the past month. Everyone takes a turn reading two or three of their praises out loud. I can personally attest that it is encouraging and faith-building to hear the praises of other people. It allows us to connect better with each other. This is part of our spiritual sacrifice to God. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
As part of our practice of this day, we also write down our prayer requests to God – including our deepest needs. As we worship God on Rosh Chodesh, we seek His will for our lives. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (Ps. 105:4).
Remember that rosh means head. Echad means one or becoming one with. We want to make God our head and become one with Him. Every month we have the opportunity to place the Lord God of Israel at the head of our plans and lives and bring our intent and purposes into echad with His will for our lives.
The weekly Sabbath is a day of rest at the end of the week. The focus for that day is rest from labor and gathering with other believers. The New Moon is qualitatively different in multiple ways. First, it is once a month. Second, it is at the beginning of the month (instead of the end of a time period). Third, it is a way for us to count down to the months when the annual festivals occur. It is a chance for us to review the past month and prepare for the upcoming month. It is a great opportunity for us to review our spiritual fruit and how we are treating the spiritual Temple of believers.
So this upcoming month, examine yourself. How can you make the first day of the month a time of gladness? Who is your Rosh? Who are you Echad with? Remember that Christ is the reality of the day.
Ultimately, there is something supernatural happening every New Moon. A special connection is made between heaven and earth. Will you position yourself to receive it?
Kelly McDonald, Jr.