Is the New Moon worship day a sabbath day of rest?

Sabbath Day or Worship Day?

Is the New Moon worship day a sabbath day or just a worship day and is there a difference? By new moon worship day we here mean the new moon worship day mentioned in Isaiah chapter 66 which will be kept for eternity. This is the worship day as it was set up at creation and will be kept by God's people in the new earth according to Isaiah and the book of Revelation [see 22:2]. During the Jewish dispensation it was no doubt kept a little differently.

Firstly what is the difference between a worship day and a sabbath day? And is there a difference? In the Old Testament we find mention of:

Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.
Exodus 35:2 NKJV.
and if the peoples of the land bring in merchandise or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy it from them on the sabbath or on a holy day; and we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.
Nehemiah 10:31.
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
Isaiah 58:13.
Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a sabbath to the LORD throughout your settlements.
Leviticus 23:3.
On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations.
Leviticus 23:7.
Speak to the people of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of complete rest, a holy convocation commemorated with trumpet blasts.
Leviticus 23:24.

Though we are dealing here with days the Jews kept in the Old Testament we can nevertheless get some important information from these verses. Nehemiah tells us that apart from the seventh-day sabbath there were also holy days. Isaiah tells us that the sabbath day was also considered a holy day. Leviticus states the sabbath day was also a holy convocation.

A convocation is a meeting or assembly. A holy convocation is a sacred assembly. So in other words, this was when the people would come together and worship. On the holy convocations the people were also not to work so it would appear that these were also kept like the sabbath day. Sabbath means rest and we find more information about this from the commandment the Jews were given to keep:

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Exodus 20:8-11.

We can see from this commandment that the seventh-day sabbath was a special worship day where no work or business activities were to be undertaken. Apart from worship it was considered a day of rest. Similarly we find that the other days of worship, the holy convocations or feast days were also treated like sabbath days or days of rest:

These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD offerings by fire, burnt offerings and cereal offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day;
Leviticus 23:37 RSV.
On the day of the first fruits, when you offer a cereal offering of new grain to the LORD at your feast of weeks, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work,
Numbers 28:26 RSV.
On the day of the first fruits, when you offer a grain offering of new grain to the LORD at your festival of weeks, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations.
Numbers 28:26.
On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets,
Numbers 29:1.
On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation, and deny yourselves; you shall do no work.
Numbers 29:7.

At this point it admittedly doesn't look like there may be much difference between a worship day and a sabbath day. And the following verses for the new moon seem to suggest this:

Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day.
Psalm 81:3 RSV.
saying, When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances,
Amos 8:5.

It would appear from these verses that the Jews may have treated the New Moon worship day like a sabbath day of rest with no work activities to be undertaken. However, there could be one very important thing we are missing here. This section of Bible history is usually referred to as the Jewish dispensation when all the animal sacrifices were being done. Though animal sacrifices started well before this going back to the Fall, it is very clear that we are now living in a completely different Bible period.

Christians believe that Jesus' death brought all of these sacrifices to a meaningful end. We are told that Jesus is our Passover Sacrifice. We don't need any other. We will now look at some verses outside this animal sacrificial period and draw some interesting conclusions. First from the Creation:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.
And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.
So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
Genesis 2:1-3.

At the time of Creation we are told that God rested on the seventh day. This was the beginning of the weekly seventh-day sabbath and for this reason the Jews were to rest on this day and keep it holy. From before we read in the fourth commandment "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it." This was the reason given.

We also have the Moon at Creation and the beginning of months. But we are not given any careful instructions about how the New Moon worship day was to be kept. So clearly at this point in time the New Moon worship day was NOT a sabbath day of rest. If it was, specific instructions would have been given, as in the seventh-day sabbath!

Now let's go forwards into eternity. Again, outside the period of animal sacrifices. From Isaiah we read:

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.

For the ceaseless ages of eternity we have mention of two worship days: the new moon and the sabbath days. They obviously are different. Being the main two days for worship they must obviously complement each other. And the intimation from this is that the two days are also different in nature.

So from these verses in Isaiah we can most likely conclude that the new moon worship day mentioned here in the ages of eternity is not a sabbath day.

What do you think? If the new moon worship day is to be a sabbath day the verse could sort of be read like:
From sabbath to sabbath, and from sabbath to sabbath...
Does that make any sense?

Now backing up a bit consider some very curious verses from the New Testament for the Christian period:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath.
These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Colossians 2:16, 17 RSV.

The negative aspect for the new moon worship day here is covered in more detail on our Objections page. But we want to focus here on the part stating "new moon OR a sabbath". Get the point? And yes, for the Christian period these feast days and new moons kept with animal sacrifices are no longer of any value since the death of Jesus.

But like the weekly worship day, which no doubt had animal sacrifices offered on it in Jerusalem, Christians still keep a weekly worship day, a sabbath if you will. So there has been no change in the concept of a weekly day of worship. So we should similarly expect there to be no change in the concept of a monthly worship day which is of course the New Moon worship day.

And note that an interesting point here is that we seem to have a distinction being made between sabbath days and the new moon. So for the Christian dispensation these are considered to be different. According to these verses, there is of course no call to keep these days with animal sacrifices. And yes it appears here that the new moon worship day is not being considered to be in the same category as the feast sabbath days of rest.

Before continuing just note a curious observation at this point. Some Christians do believe the feast days should still be kept, of course without any sacrifices. And according to the above verses we are not to judge anyone if they want to keep these days. However remember that the only worship days mentioned by Isaiah for the ages of eternity are the new moon and the weekly sabbath days. Where are the feast days? They aren't there. And there is obviously no reason to keep them now. Anyway it's a personal choice but that's my thoughts.

Oh and one more thing before continuing on...
Since there is no command whatsoever in the New Testament to keep these feast days in the Christian dispensation, any status as sabbath days any of these days may have had in the past is now completely defunct! Gone, deceased, departed, kaput, disappeared into the shadows of uncertainty... etc. And since the new moon is also mentioned in these verses, the same applies to it. Any sabbath status that the new moon worship day may have had in the past if it ever did that is, is completely gone for the Christian dispensation!

So looking at the new moon worship day outside of the period of animal sacrifices does strongly suggest that the day as constructed by the Lord was not really meant to be a sabbath day. The Jews may have kept it like a sabbath but this was not the original plan or for eternity.

And they certainly don't seem to be keeping it like a sabbath these days. Consider the following quotations:

New Year, or the Day of Memorial.
  On the first day of the seventh month, Tishri (October), is the commemoration of the creation of the world. Then the cornet is blown to announce to the people that a new year has begun its course, and to warn them to examine strictly their conduct and make amends therein where amends are needed.1

Rosh Hashanah—The Jewish New Year—A Solemn Season
The annual cycle of holy days commences with a two-day celebration (one day in Reform) of the New Year, ... It is not a national festival or historical celebration. It is a day of universal significance: a holy day, not a holiday.2

So why these quotes about the Jewish New Year? If you notice the Talmud reference gives this as the first day of the seventh month. Being the first day of a month means that this is also a new moon worship day. For the Jews it is a special new moon day and they celebrate it as their new year. We're not really interested in keeping the Jewish calendar but only just the new moon worship days. The second quote talks about their new year day and the Jews obviously treat it a lot more carefully than just a new moon worship day.

We are only interested in the new moon aspect of this day and we can see that this quote shows that even on this most solemn day to the Jews it is still only considered as a holy day and not a holiday. A holiday would suggest no work activities. Who wants to work on a holiday? So the inference from these quotations is that the ordinary new moon worship days are not holidays but just worship days.

The verses from Isaiah also strongly support the view that the new moon worship day is not a sabbath:

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.

And as we stated above, if the new moon is a sabbath then why mention it as distinct in these verses? Why not just write from sabbath to sabbath?

Or a more silly extension of this would be to write from sabbath to sabbath and from sabbath to sabbath. Obviously there is some difference between these days other than that one is weekly and the other is monthly. The obvious inference is that the new moon worship day is not a sabbath!

Another very strong point for the new moon worship day not being a sabbath is the concept of sabbath observance, or non-breaking. For the sabbath days in the Old Testament, rules were given in regard to them so that they would not be broken.

Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.
Exodus 35:2 NKJV.

Obviously there could be very serious penalties here if a day designated as a sabbath was not kept! So if the new moon worship day was a sabbath rest day then there should be some very clear rules given for its observance in the early books of the Bible.

Instructions on observing the seventh-day sabbath are clearly given but apart from some mentionings of the new moon such as in Amos there is very little. However, the first day of the month, which is the day of the new moon, does get a mention. Let's look at some verses:

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
Leviticus 23:24 KJV.
And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing the trumpets unto you.
Numbers 29:1 KJV.
On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.
Ezra 7:9 NKJV.

These are the main verses we want to look at. There are some other mentionings such as in Ezekiel, when the word of the Lord came to the prophet, or in Nehemiah when the Law was read to the congregation, and so on. But the ones of import are as above and we now focus on them.

The first two verses are strongly saying the day was a sabbath day. No work was to be done on the day. But was this because it was a new moon worship day? Apparently not. It was the feast of trumpets and one of the feast days. This feast fell on a new moon worship day. Did any others?

Passover. Lev 23:5. 14th Aviv (Nisan). Mar./Apr.
Unleavened Bread. Lev 23:6-8. 15-21 Aviv (Nisan). Mar./Apr. 7 day feast
Firstfruits. Lev 23:9-14. The day after the first Sabbath after Passover (Lev. 23:11). Aviv. March/April
Pentecost. Lev 23:15-21. Sivan. May/June 50 days after Firstfruits
Trumpets. Lev 23:23-25. 1 Tishri Sept/Oct.
Day of atonement. Lev 16:1-34; 23:26-32. 10 Tishri. Sept/Oct.
Tabernacles. Lev 23:33-38; 39-43. 15-22 Tishri. Sept/Oct. 8 day feast.
http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Seven%20Sacred%20Feasts%20of%20the%20Old%20Covenant.htm

Only the feast of trumpets is mentioned here as being on the first day of the month. But we had better check Firstfruits and Pentecost:

Passover is given as on the 14th day. Then we find...
Firstfruits. The day after the first Sabbath after Passover. So add 2 to 8 days to 14 = 16-22nd day.
Pentecost. 50 days after Firstfruits. so add 50 days giving the 66th to 72nd day.
Now remove 2 months or approximately 60 days giving the 6th to 12th day of the month. And this is in agreement with the following quotation:

Fifty days later (3rd month, 6th day) came the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, also called Feast of Harvest.
The Forgotten Festival (or “If I Had Only One Sermon to Preach”) By Richard M. Davidson.
http://www.wenatcheeadventist.org/article/37/ministries/resources/the-forgotten-festival

So it definitely looks like the only feast falling on the first day of the month, a new moon worship day, was the feast of Trumpets. Now ask the question: why then say "shall ye have a sabbath" or "ye shall do no servile work"? Being a new moon worship day wouldn't this have been plain obvious to a Jew? So why mention it here?

The answer is clear. It must not have been plain obvious to a Jew meaning that the general new moon worship day or first day of the month was not necessarily a sabbath rest. But it would have been if there was some other significance to the day as it was in this case since it was a feast day, the feast of Trumpets.

Then there is the verse from Ezra where he travels from Babylon starting on the first day of the first month and arrives at Jerusalem 4 months later on the first day of the fifth month, both new moon worship days? Being a good Jew of course he would not be travelling far on a sabbath rest day. In fact just how far could he travel on a sabbath?

sabbath day's journey in the Bible
supposed to be a distance of 2,000 cubits, or less than half-a-mile, the distance to which, according to Jewish tradition, it was allowable to travel on the Sabbath day without violating the law (Acts 1:12; comp. Ex. 16:29; Num. 35:5; Josh. 3:4).
Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/sabbath-day-s-journey

It would be hard to believe that Ezra started this long journey on a new moon worship day if the day was a sabbath rest. To travel less than half a mile from Babylon and sit there waiting for the next day to continue the journey is a real stretch of the imagination. A far more likely explanation is that these new moon worship days were not sabbath rest days.

But what about the verse from Amos?

saying, When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances,
Amos 8:5.

Sure it's the Lord speaking through Amos but is this verse a treatise on sabbath observance for the new moon worship day? Actually the Lord is here complaining about the oppression of the poor and needy [verse 4], how His people want to deal deceitfully with false balances [verse 5 quoted], and how as a result He will make the land tremble [verse 8], and the sun go down and the Earth be darkened [verse 9], and turn their feasts to mourning and songs to lamentation [verse 10] and so on.

It's really about the Lord complaining about oppression and His response more than any declaration of sabbath observance. The fact that His people may have been keeping the new moon worship day like a sabbath gets a mention but it's more of an observation than a clear-cut declaration or command.

If we want a clear cut command for this from the early books of the Bible it appears to be sadly lacking—unlike the weekly day of rest which is mentioned quite a few times in various places. A direct command for the general new moon worship day appears to be lacking.

The inference from Amos is that perhaps the Jews may have kept the new moon as a sabbath. But a direct command for them doing this appears to be lacking in the Scriptures. And as we mentioned above, the Jews are certainly not keeping it as a sabbath now.

The above reasoning works for the New Testament as well. Though the book of Hebrews does mention that Christians still have a weekly sabbath worship day [see 4:1-11] nowhere does the new moon worship day get mentioned as requiring sabbath observance. In fact, Colossians 2:16 tells us not to judge anyone with respect to the new moon—whether they want to keep it or not. It doesn't sound like it's a sabbath day in our time either, does it?

Postscript

An interesting quote that supports the premise that the new moon worship day is not in the same category as a sabbath rest day is given as follows. As stated above it is OK to work on the new moon worship day or engage in business activities. Here's the quote:

The Gemora in Er'chin (10b) tells us that even though Rosh Chodesh is referred to as a "holiday," the day does not have the great measure of holiness which would necessitate cessation from work, as we find on the holidays and on Shabbos.
http://gt.torah.org/learning/yomtov/assorted/rcwomen.html


This quote should carry some reasonable weight as at 2011 there were about 26 Rabbis listed on the academic staff of torah.org along with a mixture of other people. [28 if you included the 2 Rabbis on the administrative staff list].

There is also an extra point of interest here. Notice that by this quote the holidays would necessitate cessation from work. The previous quote above about the Jewish new year day not being a holiday according to this quote shows the current Jewish view that work or engaging in business activities is OK on the new moon worship days as we had previously concluded.

Isaiah 66:22, 23

References
Bible texts from:
New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, 1989 unless otherwise referenced.
KJV King James Version.
NKJV New King James Version.
1. H.Polano, The Talmud: Selections from the contents of that ancient book, its commentaries, teachings, poetry and legends; also brief sketches of the men who made and commented upon it. Translated from the original. 1969, Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd., p. 347.
2. R.Brasch, The Unknown Sanctuary: The Story of Judaism—It's Teachings, Philosophy and Symbols, 1969, Angus and Robertson, p. 29.
Old Testament pic from
http://clipart.christiansunite.com/
lion from
http://aplaceforyou.typepad.com/
leopard from
http://blog.goo.ne.jp/
dove from Christian Art

A sabbath day is simply just a day of rest and usually used for worship. Most Christians keep Sunday as one day in seven in recognition of the weekly cycle of worship set up at the creation of this world. After completing His act of creating this world, the Lord rested on the seventh day and sanctified it and made it holy. As stated previously, in recognition of this fact, most Christians worship on Sunday, following a weekly cycle of seven days. But there is some debate whether Sunday, the first day of the week, is really the correct day for Christians to worship on. See the related study: Which DAY should Christians KEEP?


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Stephen Buckley
E-mail: stephen@chodesh.info
Last revised: 30 Nov 2016.