When we are asked to do something or to believe something in regards to Scripture, we should always be like the Bereans and test everything against Scripture itself (Acts 17:11)... the whole of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17). If a person feels "led by the spirit" to speak, behave, or believe a certain way, they should test that spirit (1 John 4:1) and see whether or not that spirit is in agreement or disagreement with Scripture.
Let's journey together through Scripture and see what it says about G-d's appointed times. Along the way, may we say, believe, and do what is right, be merciful in our speech and actions, and walk humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8).
Included as an appendix to this article are references to most (if not all) verses in Scripture directly related to G-d's appointed times. If you find a verse that is not referenced and think it should be, please contact the author.
Scriptural quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted. Bolded text or other emphases in the Scriptural references are the author's.
King David declared in Psalm 31:15, "My times are in your hand". Indeed, every minute of every hour of every day is in G-d's hand. "He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together." (Colossians 1:17) When we examine Scripture we find that G-d has created a pattern for marking time: days, weeks, months, and years. He has also declared some days to be special above others. Let us start with the basics and ask the question: "What is a day according to G-d's Word?"
The Hebrew word for "day" is יוֹם (yom). The word refers to the common, 24-hour day. Although much of the world mark days that begin at midnight, Scripture reveals that days begin at evening:
G-d called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:5)
This is consistent with the remainder of Scripture in which we find many examples of items or people becoming and remaining unclean for the remainder of the day "until evening". This is because "at the evening" (at or around sunset) a new day has begun. G-d established the pattern during the first days of Creation.
The Hebrew word for "week" is שׁבוּע (shavuah). Days are grouped into a 7-day week. This was established by G-d during Creation when He established the seven-day pattern. In Western, English-speaking cultures we call these days Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The origins of these names are not found in Scripture. Instead, Scripture always refers the days of the week in ordinal (numeric order) fashion:
|יוֹם ראשׁוֹן||yom rishon||1st day|
|יוֹם שׁני||yom sheni||2nd day|
|יוֹם שׁלישׁי||yom shelishi||3rd day|
|יוֹם רביעי||yom revi'i||4th day|
|יוֹם חמישׁי||yom hamishi||5th day|
|יוֹם שׁשׁי||yom shishi||6th day|
|יוֹם שׁביעי||yom shevi'i
Hebrew for "month" is הדשׁ (chodesh). Rather than specifying a fixed number of days, months in Scripture are always based upon the observed lunar cycle. In fact, rather than "month" chodesh might be more accurately translated "moon" or "new moon". Although the moon completes an orbit of the earth in about 27 days the observed lunar cycle is about 29.5 days1. As a practical result, months are either 29 or 30 days in length.
Like the days of the week are not named but are numbered, so, too, Scripture generally numbers the months rather than naming them. We find the months numbered up to the twelfth (e.g. 2 Kings 25:27, Ester 3:13). Scripture does also, however, provide some examples of names of months after the Israelites return from captivity as found in the example of Ester 3:13 where it notes:
Letters were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to seize their possessions as plunder. (Ester 3:13)
We only find references to month names like this in a handful of verses and never where G-d is speaking in regards to the months. These names are Babylonian in nature and were adopted by the Jewish people during their exile in Babylon. The website Judaism 101 has an excellent table noting the Jewish names for the months, their English transliterated names, their length of days, etc.
The Hebrew word for "year" is שׁנח (shanah). Scripture only numbers months up to the twelfth month which roughly corresponds to the solar year. 30 days per month gives a lunar "year" of 360 days. The Earth's solar year (the amount of time it takes the Earth to fully orbit the Sun) is 365.2422 days2 and we find that each Scriptural year (360 days) is off from the solar year by about 5.25 days. To account for the difference in days there are "leap months" that have been instituted to sync the Scriptural (lunar-based) year with the solar year. In every 19-year cycle a "leap month" (1 Adar) is added in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19.3. Without these "leap months," the months would occur earlier and earlier each year until they looped back around. More detailed information on this "leap month" can be found at the Judaism 101 website.
G-d's Special Appointments
The Hebrew noun מועד (moed, Strong's #4150) is translated in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) as "appointed time", "meeting", or "season". It literally means "an appointment". The word is used 281 times in 213 verses.
The first time moed is used in Scripture is in Genesis 1:
Then G-d said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. (Genesis 1:14-15)
Scripture tells us that one of the purposes for "the lights in the expanse of the heavens" is to delineate the "seasons". In this context "seasons" does not mean the traditional "spring, summer, fall, winter" seasons but more literally "marked or appointed periods of time". Merriam-Webster provides a good definition of season in this sense:
Season (noun)- a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature4
So what "circumstance or feature" characterized these times? First and foremost is that they are established by G-d in His sovereignty for His purposes.
Avraham and Sarah
We find an example of G-d's sovereignty in the second place the word moed is used in Scripture:
"But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year." (Genesis 17:21)
Avraham and Sarah had been childless well into their old age. This served G-d's sovereign purposes of giving them a child at the time He had established. It was the moed, the appointed time, for the birth of Yitzchak. There could be no time other than that which G-d had established. We see throughout the rest of Scripture the terrible consequences of death, violence, and hatred that resulted from Sarah's unwillingness to be patient and wait for G-d's appointed time. Instead, she tried to have a child through her maidservant, Hagar.
When Sarah laughs at G-d's declaration that she will have a child G-d confronts her and says:
"Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son." (Genesis 18:14)
Here the word moed is translated as "appointed time". This is consistent with the primary meaning of the word. Scripture later confirms what G-d declared:
So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which G-d had spoken to him. (Genesis 21:2)
Some of the appointed times given in Scripture are for specific individuals (such as Sarah and Abraham above) and others are intended for all of the family of G-d. These are often given as "ordinances" of G-d. The Hebrew word usually translated as "ordinance" is the Hebrew word chukkah. The word has the sense of "a royal command" that does not need to have any particular rhyme or reason for it. The King has ordered it and it must be done. Chukkah (Strong's #2708) is derived from the Hebrew word chok (Strong's #2706) which means "an enactment" or "an appointment". Here the "appointment" aspect of the word moed is reinforced.
The first of these covenant moedim is found in Exodus 13:
Moses said to the people, "Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten.
On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth.
It shall be when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall observe this rite in this month.
For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD.
Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.
Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance [chukkah] at its appointed time [moed] from year to year." (Exodus 13:3-7, 10)
Thus G-d has commanded His people, Israel, to keep the moed of Pesach [Passover].
Leviticus chapter 23 provides a detailed list of G-d's appointed times.
- Scripture: Leviticus 23:2-3
- Date: the seventh day of each week. It (roughly) corresponds to Saturday in the western calendar.
- Event: memorial of the seventh day of creation on which G-d ceased from his work of creating.
- Pictures of Messiah: Messiah Yeshua is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8). In Him, we find our Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:9).
Shabbat is a very special day. It is the very first thing in Scripture that G-d sanctified for Himself (Genesis 2:3). Even before the Israelites had reached Mount Sinai He gave them the Sabbath. (Exodus 16:23). It is the only day G-d included and honored in the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:8). There He commanded us to remember it and keep it holy.
Scripture refers to this as a b'rit olam [an "eternal covenant"] (Exodus 31:16), and also calls it an ot hu olam [an "eternal sign"] between G-d and the children of Israel (Exodus 31:17).
- Scripture: Leviticus 23:4-5
- Date: The 14th day of the first month (Nisan 14)
- Event: The memorial of being "passed over" by the angel of death in Egypt
- Pictures of Messiah: The death of the "Lamb of G-d" as our Pesach offering: marking us and setting us apart as G-d's people
Scripture refers to this as an olam chukkah, an "eternal command".
Chag Matzah (Feast of Unleavened Bread)
- Scripture: Exodus 13:6-8, Leviticus 23:6-8
- Date: The 15th-22nd of the first month (Nisan 15-22)
- Event: Delivery from slavery and bondage in Egypt
- Pictures of Messiah: He is the unleavened Bread of Life [leaven is symbolic of sin].
Scripture also refers to this as an olam chukkah, an "eternal command".
Yom HaBikkurim (Day of the Firstfruits)
- Scripture: Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 23:10-11
- Date: The first day of the week following Pesach
- Event: Thanksgiving for the first fruits of the Land
- Pictures of Messiah: The resurrection of Messiah Yeshua, Himself. By His resurrection, He is the "firstfruits" of those who are asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Scripture also refers to this as an olam chukkah, an "eternal command".
Shavuot (Feast of "Weeks", Pentecost)
- Scripture: Leviticus 23:15-21
- Date: The eighth "first day of the week" after Yom HaBikkurim
- Event: The memorial of covenant establishment of the people of G-d. First at Sinai and second in Yerushalayim with the giving of the Holy Spirit.
- Pictures of Messiah: The giving of His promised Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).
Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets, Rosh HaShanah, Judgment Day)
- Scripture: Leviticus 23:24-25
- Date: The first day of the seventh month (Tishri 1)
- Event: The memorial of the entrance into the Promised Land.
This is traditionally a day when our deeds from the past year are judged.
- Pictures of Messiah: This pictures Mashiach's future return (1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
- Scripture: Leviticus 23:27-32
- Date: The tenth day of the seventh month (Tishri 10)
- Event: The day when names are inscribed in the Book of Life.
Judgments are tradionally sealed and annual atonement is provided.
- Pictures of Messiah: This provides a picture of Messiah's future restoration of the nation of Israel.
Scripture refers to this (three times in six verses) as an olam chukkah, an "eternal command".
Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)
- Scripture: Leviticus 23:34-36
- Date: Tishri 15-23
- Event: The memorial of when Israel dwelt in tents [sukkot] during our wandering in the desert.
It is also a picture of the future when G-d will spread His tabernacle over us (Revelation 7:15).
- Pictures of Messiah: This pictures Messiahs' birth when He tabernacled among us (John 1:14).
Scripture also refers to this as an olam chukkah, an "eternal command".
Rosh Chodesh (Head of the Month/New Moon Festival)
- Scripture: Numbers 28:11-14
- Date: traditionally this occurs when the first sliver of the waxing moon is sighted
- Event: a monthly reminder of G-d's sovereignty over all creation. This ties back to Genesis 1:14-15.
- Pictures of Messiah: This is a picture of our renewal in Messiah (Colossians 3:10).
Throughout the year, there are four sabbath days that are made special in some additional way but are not associated with a festival, Rosh Chodesh, or other moed. All of them are described in Scripture, however, the specific dates are set by tradition. On these special sabbaths, two Torah portions are read: the first seven aliyot [readings] are taken from the regular weekly parashah and the maftir [the ending reading] is read from another portion associated with the special sabbath. These four special sabbaths are:
- Shabbat Shekalim
- Shabbat Zachor
- Shabbat Parah
- Shabbat HaChodesh
This is the date when the annual half-shekel is given by the sons of Israel to support maintenance and operation of the Temple (see Exodus 30:11-16). This contribution is used as a means of taking a census since the sons of Israel are not to be counted in the normal manner (Exodus 30:12) but are to be counted by the "ransom" provided by the half-shekel.
On this date, the sabbath before Purim, we fulfill the commandment given by G-d to "remember [zachor] what Amalek did to you" (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). The Torah portion that contains the commandment is read in order to verbally recall what the people of Amalek did to Israel as they departed from Egypt. A passage from 1 Samuel is also read to recall King Saul's failure to heed this commandment.
Note: A boy who is not yet of Bar-Mitzvah age should not be called to the Torah for Maftir on Parshat Zachor. Nor should he read the parshah for others. For since he is free of the obligation of mitzvot, he cannot enable others to fulfill their obligation through him.5
This special sabbath is associated with the commandment of the Red Heifer [the Parah Adumah]. On this sabbath, we read the chapter containing the commandments regarding the Red Heifer (Numbers 19) and the prophetic promise of Ezekiel 36 that G-d will "sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean..." It is a reminder of the promise that the LORD will return and will remove our heart of stone, give us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), and cause us to walk in His statutes (v 37).
On this sabbath day, we remember the commandment from Exodus 12:2, that Nisan shall be the beginning of months. This day is either the Shabbat before or the day of (if Rosh Chodesh Nisan falls on a sabbath day) Nisan 1. On this date we received the first commandment as a nation: sanctify the new moon. We read the passage from Exodus 12 as well as another prophetic promise from Ezekiel: the LORD will return and the "prince" of the people of Israel will provide the burnt offerings including the special offering given in the first month [Nisan] on the first of the month.
These four special Shabbatot are part of the traditional synagogue order and Torah-based calendar and each of them provides a picture of Messiah and His work of redemption... and the promise of His return.
Other Special Days
There are other special days mentioned in Scripture that are not specifically commanded by G-d but that are observed as special due to their inclusion within Scripture.
Tish B'Av (9th of Av)
- Scripture: Zechariah 8:19 [The fifth month is the month of Av.]
- Date: Av 9
- Event: This is a day of mourning and fasting because of the repeated tragedies that have befallen the people of Israel on this day.
- On Tish B'Av:
- The 12 spies sent by Moshe returned with a bad report of the Land (according to tradition it was on Tish B'Av). The Israelites believed the bad report which set the stage for forty years of wandering in the desert.
- 586 BCE, the first Temple was destroyed.
- 70 CE, the second Temple was destroyed.
- 135 CE, many thousands of Jews were slaughtered in the Bar Kochba revolt.
- 1095 CE, the First Crusade began in which many Jews were killed and Jewish communities were completely destroyed.
- 1290 CE, a decree was signed ordering Jews to be expelled from England.
- 1492 CE, Jews were expelled from Spain in one of the greatest upheavals of the Jewish people in history.
- 1914 CE, World War 1 broke out. It was the smoldering anger and resentment from the loss of this war within Germany that brought about WWII and the Holocaust.
Chanukah (Feast of Dedication/Festival of Lights)
- Scripture: John 10:22-23. The story of Chanukah is detailed in the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees.
- Date: 8 days between Kislev 25-Cheshvan 4
- Event: The memorial of the re-dedication of the Temple under the Maccabees and G-d's miraculous work of making 1 days worth of oil last for 8 days.
- Pictures of Messiah: As the "light of the world", Messiah was likely conceived around this time.
Purim (Lots/Feast of Ester)
- Scripture: Ester 9:20-22
- Date: Adar 14
- Event: The memorial of the triumph of the Jews over their enemies.
There are some who would say that these are Jewish holidays and festivals that are not applicable or relevant to believers today. This is not so.
G-d declares "these are My appointed times" (Leviticus 23:2). He does not say to the Israelites "these are your appointed times." These are G-d's special days of appointment for any who would seek Him. Scripture also tells us there is one Law for the Israelite (the native born) and the foreigner (non-native born) who travels the paths of this world with them:
'As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the LORD. There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.'" (Numbers 15:15-16)
We have created an entire website for you called The Moedim that is focused on examining each of the moedim, the traditions that adorn them, and how they picture Messiah.
May we who are joined to Israel by the blood of Messiah in the New Covenant learn, honor, and enjoy the blessing of G-d's moedim... His appointed times.
Footnotes1. From NASA's 'Lunar Prospector' site (12/26/2007) at http://lunar.arc.nasa.gov/science/phases.htm [back]
2. From NASA's 'From Stargazers to Starships' site (12/26/2007) at http://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Scalend.htm [back]
3. From Judaism 101 'Jewish Calendar' site (12/27/2007) at http://www.jewfaq.org/calendar.htm [back]
4. 'Season' from Merriam-Webster.com (12-24-2007) at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/season [back]
5. Shabbat Zachor taken 2010-11-17 from http://www.ou.org/chagim/fourshabbatot/zachor.htm [back]