“On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover.” Lev 23:5
It seems fairly straightforward, but there are as many as twelve different calendars in use among the Jews and Messianic believers in Yeshua to complicate things! We do not have to worry about calendars; all we have to do is find out from Scripture when the first month is; and then when the first day of the month is; and by counting, we can always know with certainty when the fourteenth day of the first month is!
“Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.”” Exo 12:1-2
What month is “this month”? The month that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, as can be clearly seen by reading all of Exodus chapter 12. This is the same month in which God was pouring plagues out on Egypt, culminating with the Passover, the 10th plague, in which all the firstborn of Egypt died on that night. The 10th plague, we know, took place on the 14th day of the first month, at about midnight. It just so happens that God built in an unalterable time clock into the narrative, so that no matter who tries to change the calendar, God’s people would always know when the first month arrived.
Two weeks before the 10th plague, the death of the firstborn, the 7th plague was being poured out on Egypt, which was the plague of hail. The entire story of the plague is told in Exo 9:13-35. What is interesting, though, is this detail which Scripture records:
“Now the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the head, and the flax was in bud.” Exo 9:31
When the plague of hail was poured out, the barley was in its head. The Hebrew word for this is aviv (or abib in some translations) – which just means, “ripening.” It wasn’t in bud, nor was it fully ripe and ready for harvest – it was in the head, or ripening. That the month of ripening barley is the first month of the year for the Israelites, is confirmed over and over again in Scripture:
“On this day you are going out, in the month Abib.” Exo 13:4
“The Feast of Unleavened Bread you shall keep. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, in the appointed time in the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out of Egypt.” Exo 34:18
“Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.” Deu 16:1
So, when the first day of the month occurs, in which the barley is ripening, or aviv, that month is declared to be the month of Aviv, and the Passover is kept 14 days later, at twilight. This means that no one knows for sure when the first month is going to be. It will be in the spring, all right – but you cannot print a calendar for 10 years from now and know whether that month will begin in March, or April – you have to be watching and paying attention. And the theme of watching for the (feast) day(s) of the Lord – His appointed time – appears all throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation.
Now when is the first day of the month? From ancient days and throughout Scripture, the first day of the month was reckoned from the sighting of the new moon. The Jews themselves declare this to be the case, and the way they have always determined when the biblical months begin. The day following the sighting of the new moon was always celebrated as a feast day in ancient Israel (Num 29:9; 1 Sam 20:5; 2 Kin 4:23; Isa 66:23).
Furthermore, David shows us that the three set feast days fall at the full moon, which occurs 14 to 15 days following the sighting of the new moon:
“Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day.” Ps 81:3
It just so happens that the feast days of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles (the three feast days in which the men were commanded to appear at Jerusalem) all fall on the 14th or 15th day of the month, at the full moon – which shows that the first day of the month was reckoned by the sighting of the new moon.
If you have ever watched the moon in its waxing and waning through the night sky, you know that the first sliver of the new moon appears on the western horizon after the sun sets, but then it sets too, anywhere from an hour to a few hours afterwards. The next night it rises 45 minutes to an hour later so that it sets an hour later – and 14 to 15 days later, when it is full, it rises in the east just when it is dark, so that for a few nights every month, the moon illuminates the night as the sun illuminates the day. But then it rises 45 minutes to an hour later every night, so that when it is waning, there comes a time when the moon is not seen in the night sky at all. It is mirroring the rising and setting of the sun, which means the brightness of the sun completely blocks out any chance of seeing the moon during the day. The next time the moon is seen after its waning – it is a sliver again, a “new moon” – really the old moon appearing to be “renewed,” which is its meaning in Hebrew.
This is why I have the moon calendar on the sidebar of this site – so everyone can determine what month it is, according to God’s timetable.