New Moons and Sabbaths. Isaiah 66:23. Just why are there two worship days anyway? Why two? Isn't one enough?

The Reason for Chodesh: the New Moon worship day

For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, says the LORD; so shall your descendants and your name remain.
From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the LORD.
Isaiah 66:22,23.

Just why do we have two worship days mentioned: the weekly day of rest and worship, and the new moon worship day? Why are two worship days mentioned? Isn't one day enough? Why two?

First of all we need to recognise that these verses from Isaiah are giving us an understanding of worship in eternity. Just how long will the new heavens and the new earth which the Lord will make be in existence for? We usually think of eternity and a world without end. And the Scriptures fully support this. Here are two verses that talk about a world without end, one from the Old Testament, and one from the New:

But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
Isaiah 45:17 KJV.
O Israel, that art saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
Isaiah 45:17 Jewish Publication Society Bible.
Note: more modern translations give forever and ever or all eternity or similar.
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Ephesians 3:21 KJV.
Note: more modern translations give forever and ever or similar.

We can see from these verses that the concept of eternity or forever and ever has been translated sometimes as world without end. So we are definitely dealing here with eternity. And according to Isaiah the ages of eternity in a world without end will involve worship of the Lord.

Secondly we need to recognise that according to these verses the number of worship days being mentioned for the ages of eternity is indeed two. Not one, or three, but in this case two: the new moon and the sabbath.

The new moon worship day was a worship day that obviously occurred on a monthly cycle. The Bible month began with the new moon. In our day the lunar month from new moon to new moon is known as the synodic month and is approximately 29.53 days long. So the new moon worship day referred to in Isaiah is a monthly worship day.

The other worship day mentioned, the sabbath, was of course the weekly day of worship. In the Old Testament this was the seventh day of the week from the Creation.* The Jews and some Christians still keep this day. Jesus died on the cross on Friday and He rested in the tomb on the sabbath according to the Gospels so there is little doubt the sabbath referred to here is our Saturday. The Jews keep days from sunset to sunset according to the Bible so the sabbath day mentioned here is really from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

What about the general Christian day of worship? Most Christians keep Sunday and actually refer to this as the Christian sabbath. Though there is some debate about this day* the thought of a Christian sabbath is strongly supported in Scripture. The Bible tells us to enter God's rest and not fail like the ancient Hebrews did in the wilderness:

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "As in my anger I swore, 'They shall not enter my rest,'" though his works were finished at the foundation of the world.
For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works."
...
So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God;
for those who enter God's rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.
Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.
Hebrews 4:1-4,9-11.

So here we are told quite clearly that the worship day for Christians is still a sabbath. This may come as a surprise to many Christians but there it is in a very clear statement. So we have a sabbath day God's people kept in the Old Testament and we are told Christians in the New Testament also have a sabbath day to keep. Now obviously God's people kept the new moon worship day in the Old Testament. It may come as a surprise to many Christians that there is mention of the new moon worship day in the New Testament.

As we read above from Hebrews, Christians are obligated to keep the weekly worship day. And in general Christians do keep a weekly day of worship, a sabbath. However there appears to be no command in the New Testament for Christians to keep the new moon worship day. But the day does get a mention as follows. Remember that Bible months are from new moon to new moon. So wherever the month is mentioned in the New Testament we must have the new moon worship day. Here are some verses:

He stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Acts 18:11.
He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke out boldly, and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God.
Acts 19:8.
where he stayed for three months. He was about to set sail for Syria when a plot was made against him by the Jews, and so he decided to return through Macedonia.
Acts 20:3.
Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead.
Acts 28:11.
So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of humankind.
Revelation 9:15.
but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months.
Revelation 11:2.
The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.
Revelation 13:5.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22:1,2.

Note especially the last two verses. This is referring to the new earth again and guess what we have months mentioned. Well these are Bible months and as we have mentioned above the Bible month is from new moon to new moon. So apart from a weekly sabbath day of worship Revelation clearly tells us that Christians are also going to keep the new moon worship day. This is in complete agreement with Isaiah. Two worship days for eternity.

Now again to ask the question: why two worship days? We clearly have identified two worship days that will be kept by God's people. One is a weekly day of worship and the Bible defines it as a sabbath day. The other worship day is a monthly worship day and it is called the new moon. Again, why two? We can find a very simple answer to this by considering the concept of Bible merism and applying it to the verse from Isaiah. This is a figure of speech that is commonly used in the Bible. Some definitions follow:

13.     Merismthe use of two opposite statements to signify the whole; e.g., day and night, springtime and harvest, hell and high water (Bullinger, p. 435).  Note that Bullinger lists these passages under synecdoche, for merism is a kind of synecdoche.  But we shall use a separate category.
You know when I sit down and when I get up.” (Ps. 139:2)
http://www.christianleadershipcenter.org/616/fospeech.htm

(literature, rhetoric) Referring to something by its polar extremes.
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/merism

containing a pair of oppositional terms commonly thought of as binaries. It is an expression known as a "merism," wherein oppositional terms are jointly employed to form a totality.
The dead sea scrolls and the language of binary opposition: a structuralist/post-structuralist approach.
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+dead+sea+scrolls+and+the+language+of+binary+opposition%3A+a...-a0198354451

Now consider the verse from Isaiah we read before mentioning two worship days: the new moon and the sabbath. Clearly we would not necessarily consider these two days as oppositional but being the only two days mentioned we can definitely use the concept of Bible merism to state that these two days signify the whole or totality that the Lord has outlined for our worship for all eternity. Now some Christians may want to strongly disagree with this depending on their concept of worship. But for worship days as outlined by the Lord for eternity this conclusion is pretty much it. The concept of Bible merism strongly supports it!

So these two days of worship, the new moon and the sabbath, signify the whole or the totality for our worship as days of worship for the ceaseless ages of eternity, world without end.

These two worship days obviously complement each other so that together they make up the whole. One is a sabbath day so it would be pretty straightforward to conclude that the other is not. Why? Well how could they complement each other if they were both the same? We can now investigate a little bit more just what the difference in these days may be.

We start with what we can easily determine. There are verses in the Bible we can look at that will give us information about the sabbath day. What is a sabbath day anyway and just what was it for? Investigating the sabbath day in the Old Testament will easily give us the answers we want here. We turn to the Commandment in the Old Testament which refers to the sabbath day that the Jews kept:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Exodus 20:8-11.

The seventh-day sabbath is the rest day the Jews keep and here in the fourth commandment they were commanded by God just how to keep it. No work or business activities were to be undertaken during this period of 24 hours. It was a sabbath day. Sabbath means rest from work activities and the Jews keep it as a worship day. The weekly sabbath rest worship day had to do with the cessation of work. A rest that was required; physical and spiritual rest to seek the Lord and give thanks for the week's work past.

So the weekly rest worship day has to do with work and rest. The other worship day of course would not be a sabbath rest day as this is fulfilled with the weekly rest worship day. Then the new moon worship day must fulfill a completely different aspect of human life:

WORK
REST
????

The weekly rest day is an answer from the Lord for the human dimension of work and rest. And being a worship day also brings in a spiritual dimension, as some have written, “…, pray.”

WORK
REST
????

Anyway you get the idea. So what's missing? What's the usual third element mentioned?

As one newspaper article states:

The perfect job: Work, rest, play, and a day off on my birthday
AUSTRALIANS want to work, rest and play - in their own time, thank you very much - and arrange their perfect job informally with their boss.
The results from more than 30,000 responses to news.com.au's New Work Project survey show workers trapped in commuter hell – and when they finally arrive they are constantly battling time-wasting meetings and interruptions.
The perfect job would dodge the peak hour rushes, allow time for a lunchtime siesta and include a workday workout. And you should be able to take a time-out day when you need it.
By Helen Davidson and Lincoln Archer
From: news.com.au
October 28, 2011
http://www.news.com.au/business/worklife/new-work-project-breakdown-the-perfect-job-avoids-the-daily-rush-and-breaks-for-siesta/story-e6frfm9r-1226179333763

and then there is also the old saying...

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy is a proverb. It means that without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring.
History
Though the spirit of the proverb had been expressed previously, the modern saying appeared first in James Howell's Proverbs in English, Italian, French and Spanish (1659), and was included in later collections of proverbs. It also appears in Howell's Paroimiographia (1659), p. 12.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_work_and_no_play_makes_Jack_a_dull_boy

It looks like the third element is play, or what we might possibly refer to as recreation. Sort of. I might as well go back to where this all started. At least for me.

A few years ago [approx 2010] I was reading through the Bible book, Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon, as it is also called, and stumbled across some praise or song given by three groups of women. Three groups? Not just one but three. The book is generally songs but this was curious. It was clear that the book was used as songs and some have suggested that these were probably most likely sung at weddings.

But others have suggested that the songs were either too long or short or whatever and that maybe weddings were not the complete answer. The book has catalogued at least three different groups of women singing songs reflecting joy and happiness. And clearly for this to be mentioned it would not be a one-off occasion.

Though the songs in the book reflect both male and female joy and happiness, are there any clues in the Bible as to when women would sing these sorts of songs of joy and happiness, and on some sort of a regular basis? Are there any special days mentioned in the OT that link in with joy and happiness?

Now I did notice that the moon got a mention with the three groups of women's praise song. And I vaguely remembered that there was some special day in the OT that had to do with the moon. You can see where this is going. And I was definitely on to something.

Then I found out some rather interesting things...

  1. The worship day mentioned in the Old Testament was of course the New Moon worship day.
  2. The Jews still keep the New Moon worship day and they actually consider it to be a special holiday for women!
  3. Some people believe that there actually is a relationship between the moon and women with the cycles of each similar and of approximately equal length. Researchers appear to be divided over this but it is extremely fascinating. The lunar synodic month length is 29.53 days!!

A holiday for women??

Believe it or not that does appear to be the Jewish view. Here are some search results I found:

YUTorah Online - Rosh Chodesh: A Women's Holiday (Rabbi Shay ...
www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/777604/.../rosh-chodesh-a-women-s-holiday/
Jun 18, 2012 - 20 Minute Halacha - The White Shul - The shiur discusses the three reasons why women abstain from working on Rosh Chodesh. Does this ...

Rosh Chodesh | Jewish Virtual Library
www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Rosh_Chodesh.html
Rosh Chodesh is the monthly celebration of the New Moon, according to the Jewish ... Rosh Chodesh has long been recognized as a women's holiday. In the ...

Women and Rosh Chodesh - NSW Board Of Jewish Education
bje.org.au/course/judaism/jewish-calendar/rosh-chodesh/women/
Rosh Chodesh was considered to be a women's holiday for a very long time. Recently, women have begun to reclaim this holiday and have formed all kinds of ...

And my point number 3?

Believe it or not that also gets mentioned on Jewish sites—along with many other places. Here are some examples:

Rosh Chodesh and Women
Rosh Chodesh has traditionally been associated with women ... The second reason women have often been associated with Rosh Chodesh has to do with similarities between the menstrual cycle and the monthly cycle of the moon.
www.eitzchaimhebrewschool.com/rosh-chodeshevery-month.html
judaism.about.com/od/holidays/a/What-Is-Rosh-Chodesh-Hebrew-Month.htm

Women's Rosh Hodesh Groups
Women especially have used Rosh Chodesh as a time for celebration. One reason is the association of women with the cycles of the moon.
www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Projects/Reln91/Gender/ROSH%20HODESH.htm

Women And Rosh Chodesh
Women's association with the new moon dates far back in history
Rosh Chodesh has long been considered a special holiday for women.
Many people have pointed out that the menstrual cycle is similar to the monthly cycle of the moon. (The English word “menstruation” derives from the Latin word for “monthly.”)
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/women-and-rosh-chodesh/

JEWISH HOLIDAYS
Rosh Chodesh
Rosh Chodesh has long been considered a special holiday for women. ... Others have connected the waxing and waning of the moon to a woman’s menstrual cycle. Whatever the reason, Rosh Chodesh has long been a time for Jewish women ...
http://www.kveller.com/article/rosh-chodesh/
And for a really interesting quote, see the Reference section below.

And as far as I was concerned the above points do suggest a possible connection between the praise songs I had found and a special day that these women may have gathered together on some sort of a regular basis to give thanks for the joys and happiness that they were experiencing. And the most likely day for this occurring on a regular basis appeared to be the New Moon worship day mentioned in the OT!

And curiously I also found a verse in the OT which actually does link in joy and happiness with this day!!

And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts.
Hosea 2:11.
I will end her happiness, her festivals, Rosh-Hodesh, and shabbats, and all her designated times.
Hosea 2:11 Complete Jewish Bible.
I will also cause all her joy to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.
Hosea 2:11 Literal Translation of the Holy Bible.
I will also cause all her joy to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts.
Hosea 2:11 Modern King James Version.
And I have caused to cease all her joy, Her festival, her new moon, and her sabbath, Even all her appointed times,
Hosea 2:11 Young's Literal Translation 1898.
And I will end all her rejoicing: Her festivals, new moons, and sabbaths—All her festive seasons.
Hosea 2:13 The Jewish Study Bible 1985, 1999 TANAKH translation.

From these versions we can definitely construct a dimension as: mirth, joy, and happiness. Certainly joy and happiness.

So within the feasts, new moon worship days, and sabbaths, the human dimensions of joy and happiness will be reflected on for the Lord. So just what is what here?

The Hebrew word translated mirth, joy and happiness in this verse is Strong's Hebrew number 4885 defined as follows:

משׂושׂ

mâśôś

maw-soce'

From H7797; delight, concretely (the cause or object) or abstractly (the feeling): - joy, mirth, rejoice.
Brown, Driver and Brigg's definition:
exultation, joy, rejoicing.

Let's see how this word is used elsewhere in the Bible. Most of the verses just refer to simple joy. Some examples follow:

The mirth of the timbrels is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled.
Isaiah 24:8.
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her;
Isaiah 66:10.
How the famous city is forsaken, the joyful city!
Jeremiah 49:25.
The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning.
Lamentations 5:15
And you, son of man, on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their heart's desire, and also their sons and daughters,
Ezekiel 24:25.
For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
Isaiah 62:5.

Well most of these are simple joy but a few are a bit deeper and personal. We have the the joy of the heart and another refers to the heart's desire and sons and daughters are mentioned. Musical instruments and dancing also get a mention. And finally we have the joy of a bridegroom for his bride.

This last one definitely links in with the Song of Songs and the praise songs I had found. And considering these joys just where would we place them with respect to the feasts, new moon worship days, and sabbaths?

Clearly some of these joys and happinesses like music, singing, and dancing, would have been reflected on or embraced on perhaps any of these days. But for the feast days and the sabbaths would we put there the joys that happen between a bridegroom and his bride or the types of joys mentioned in the Song of Songs? The feast days and sabbaths with all the animal sacrifices would seem an odd choice.

Well the only other special day mentioned is the New Moon worship day. And considering the points listed above it would be a perfect fit. The Jews consider the New Moon worship day to be a special day for women. Though the praise songs in the Song of Songs are for both genders, clearly the New Moon worship day is the most likely day that these women would have got together to give these songs of praise. And on a regular basis!

And then there's this really interesting quote:

Traditionally, the entire Song of Songs is sung during Pesach. We start practicing on Rosh Chodesh Nisan.
http://ritualwell.org/ritual/rosh-chodesh-nisan-march-%E2%80%93-april

Ignoring the Jewish months mentioned, the concept of starting practicing singing songs from the Song of Songs on the new moon worship day hits this dead center as far as I am concerned.

And we are not precluding these women or any group of women from singing these sorts of songs any time of the month, but the new moon worship day is certainly a good starting point. And the day specifically for women to give thanks to the Lord for all the joy and happiness He is giving them through the coming Biblical lunar month.

Of course the Song of Songs is not exclusive to women so we simply extend this thought to include both genders.

And an extremely fascinating amendment to what I have previously written about this worship day follows:
The new moon worship day occurs on the FIRST day of the Biblical lunar month. But the weekly worship day in the OT occurred on the LAST day of the week. Why?

For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works."
Hebrews 4:4.

So the weekly day of rest was also for giving thanks to the Lord for work done in the PAST week. Then if the new moon worship day occurs on the FIRST day of the month, it can't be for giving thanks to the Lord for the PAST month's joys and happiness [though you obviously could do that too]. The first day is clearly the beginning of the month's joys and happiness and the obvious day for giving thanks for this.

And now we have the answer as to how these two worship days complement each other or make up the total. The weekly worship day is for God's people to enter His rest as He rested after 6 days of work on Creation week. The other worship day mentioned, the new moon worship day, has absolutely nothing to do with work and rest. It answers a completely different dimension of human life; joy and happiness.

And these two worship days make up the whole. Work and rest, joy and happiness, and both days for worship, completely fulfilling our human dimension in this world, and apparently, for all eternity.

For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, says the LORD; so shall your descendants and your name remain.
From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the LORD.
Isaiah 66:22,23.

So as the years of eternity roll, we will not work ourselves into the ground, but have a special weekly worship day where we will rest from work or business activities and have a holy convocation, that is a time of worship, worshiping God and thanking him for the previous week gone.

And each lunar month there will also be a special day of worship, not a sabbath or related to rest from work, but a day for worship and giving thanks to the Lord for all the joy and happiness He is giving us through the coming lunar month. Forever and ever, world without end.


Isaiah 66:22, 23

* There is some debate whether there really has been a change in the day of worship from the Old Testament to the New. See the related study: Which DAY should Christians KEEP?


Bible texts from:
Revised Standard Version of the Bible, OT 1952, NT 1946, 1971.
New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, 1989.

Queen Esther:
http://www.colornimbus.com/page/12/
http://www.colorkiddo.com/beautiful-esther-the-queen-in-purim-coloring-page/

Girls:
http://www.clipartkid.com/women-of-the-bible-cliparts/
http://www.hasslefreeclipart.com/clipart_bible/page1.html

And that really interesting quote from a Jewish book...



Introduction, pp. xxvii, xxviii.
And from the back cover...
"the late twentieth century has seen - indeed, is seeing - the resurgence of this minor holiday. Women in the search for ritual are connecting their search to the holiday of Rosh Chodesh - a day that has already enjoyed a special association with women in traditional lore, and one that is linked to women's unique cycle, the menses."
Celebrating the New Moon: A Rosh Chodesh Anthology
edited by Susan Berrin
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2006.

Note: our view is that the Biblical New Moon worship day is for both genders and for giving thanks to the Lord for all the joy and happiness that He is giving us through the Biblical lunar month. The Jewish quotes showing their view of the connection between the moon and women make for a very fascinating read and are an important link in this study.


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Stephen Buckley
E-mail: stephen@chodesh.info
Last revised: 20 Dec 2016.