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'Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.'--Colossians 2:16, 17
The New Moons
Scarcely any other festive season could have left so continuous an impress on the religious life of Israel as the 'New Moons.' Recurring at the beginning of every month, and marking it, the solemn proclamation of the day, by--'It is sanctified,' was intended to give a hallowed character to each month, while the blowing of the priests' trumpets and the special sacrifices brought, would summon, as it were, the Lord's host to offer their tribute unto their exalted King, and thus bring themselves into 'remembrance' before Him. Besides, it was also a popular feast, when families, like that of David, might celebrate their special annual sacrifice (1 Sam 20:6,29); when the king gave a state-banquet (1 Sam 20:5,24); and those who sought for instruction and edification resorted to religious meetings, such as Elisha seems to have held (2 Kings 4:23). And so we trace its observance onwards through the history of Israel; marking in Scripture a special Psalm for the New Moon (in Tishri) (Psa 81:3); noting how from month to month the day was kept as an outward ordinance, even in the decay of religious life (Isa 1:13; Hosea 2:11), apparently all the more rigidly, with abstinence from work, not enjoined in the law, that its spirit was no longer understood (Amos 8:5); and finally learning from the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel that it also had a higher meaning, and was destined to find a better fulfilment in another dispensation, when the New Moon trumpet should summon 'all flesh to worship before Jehovah' (Isa 66:23), and the closed eastern gate to the inner court of the new Temple be opened once more to believing Israel (Eze 46:1). And in New Testament times we still find the 'New Moon' kept as an outward observance by Jews and Judaising Christians, yet expressly characterised as 'a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ' (Col 2:16,17).
The Determination of the New Moon
We have already shown of what importance the right determination of the new moon was in fixing the various festivals of the year, and with what care and anxiety its appearance was ascertained from witnesses who had actually seen it; also how the tidings were afterwards communicated to those at a distance. For the new moon was reckoned by actual personal observation, not by astronomical calculation, with which, however, as we know, many of the Rabbis must have been familiar, since we read of astronomical pictures, by which they were wont to test the veracity of witnesses. So important was it deemed to have faithful witnesses, that they were even allowed, in order to reach Jerusalem in time, to travel on the Sabbath, and, if necessary, to make use of horse or mule (Mish. Rosh ha Sh. i. 9; iii. 2). While strict rules determined who were not to be admitted as witnesses, every encouragement was given to trustworthy persons, and the Sanhedrim provided for them a banquet in a large building specially destined for that purpose, and known as the Beth Yaazek.
The Blowing of Trumpets
In the law of God only these two things are enjoined in the observance of the 'New Moon'--the 'blowing of trumpets' (Num 10:10) and special festive sacrifices (Num 28:11-15). Of old the 'blowing of trumpets' had been the signal for Israel's host on their march through the wilderness, as it afterwards summoned them to warfare, and proclaimed or marked days of public rejoicing, and feasts, as well as the 'beginning of their months' (Num 10:1-10). The object of it is expressly stated to have been 'for a memorial,' that they might 'be remembered before Jehovah,' it being specially added: 'I am Jehovah your God.' It was, so to speak, the host of God assembled, waiting for their Leader; the people of God united to proclaim their King. At the blast of the priests' trumpets they ranged themselves, as it were, under His banner and before His throne, and this symbolical confession and proclamation of Him as 'Jehovah their God,' brought them before Him to be 'remembered' and 'saved.' And 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 acknowledgment of Jehovah as King. Accordingly we find the same symbols adopted in the figurative language of the New Testament. As of old the sound of the trumpet summoned the congregation before the Lord at the door of the Tabernacle, so 'His elect' shall be summoned by the sound of the trumpet in the day of Christ's coming (Matt 24:31), and not only the living, but those also who had 'slept' (1 Cor 15:52)--'the dead in Christ' (1 Thess 4:16). Similarly, the heavenly hosts are marshalled to the war of successive judgments (Rev 8:2; 10:7), till, as 'the seventh angel sounded,' Christ is proclaimed King Universal: 'The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever' (Rev 11:15).
The Sacrifices of the New Moon
Besides the 'blowing of trumpets,' certain festive sacrifices were ordered to be offered on the New Moon (Num 28:11-15). These most appropriately mark 'the beginnings of months' (Num 28:11). For 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 the firstlings for all the rest; and that 'if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy.' And so the burnt- offerings and the sin-offerings at 'the beginning' of each month consecrated the whole. These festive sacrifices consisted of two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year for a burnt-offering, with their appropriate meat- and drink-offerings, and also of 'one kid of the goats for a sin-offering unto Jehovah.' *
* There is a curious and somewhat blasphemous Haggadah, or story, in the Talmud on this subject. It appears that at first the sun and moon had been created of equal size, but that when the moon wished to be sole 'ruler' to the exclusion of the sun, her jealousy was punished by diminution. In reply to her arguments and importunity, God had then tried to comfort the moon, that the three righteous men, Jacob, Samuel, and David, were likewise to be small--and when even thus the moon had the better of the reasoning, God had directed that a 'sin-offering' should be brought on the new moon, because He had made the moon smaller and less important than the sun!
When we pass from these simple Scriptural directions to what tradition records of the actual observance of 'New Moons' in the Temple, our difficulties increase. For this and New Year's Day are just such feasts, in connection with which superstition would most readily grow up, from the notions which the Rabbis had, that at changes of seasons Divine judgments were initiated, modified, or finally fixed.
Modern critics have not been sufficiently careful in distinguishing what had been done in the Temple from what was introduced into the synagogue, gradually and at much later periods. Thus, prayers which date long after the destruction of Jerusalem have been represented as offered in the Temple, and the custom of chanting the 'Hallel' (Psa 113-118) on New Moons in the synagogue has been erroneously traced to Biblical times. 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, to determine the appearance of the new moon. The proclamation of the Council--'It is sanctified!'--and not the actual appearance of the new moon, determined the commencement of the feast. Immediately afterwards, the priests blew the trumpets which marked the feast. After the ordinary morning sacrifice, the prescribed festive offerings were brought, the blood of the burnt- offerings being thrown round the base of the altar below the red line, and the rest poured out into the channel at the south side of the altar; while 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, the rest being poured out, as that of the burnt-offerings. The two bullocks of the burnt-offerings were hung up and flayed on the uppermost of the three rows of hooks in the court, the rams on the middle, and the lambs on the lowest hooks. In all no less than 107 priests officiated at this burnt- offering--20 with every bullock, 11 with every ram, and 8 with every lamb, including, of course, those who carried the appropriate meat- and drink-offerings. At the offering of these sacrifices the trumpets were again blown. All of them were slain at the north side of the altar, while the peace- and freewill- offerings, which private Israelites were wont at such seasons to bring, were sacrificed at the south side. The flesh of the sin- offering and what of the meat-offering came to them, was eaten by the priests in the Temple itself; their portion of the private thank-offerings might be taken by them to their homes in Jerusalem, and there eaten with their households.