by Dave Clark
Firstly, this is in no way to cast mud upon the understandings of others. Instead, this is merely the result of my own investigations -- as the Bereans would. If someone has additional Bible references to pass on, along this topic line, I'd be more than happy to receive them. You see, I believe that objective examination of the Bible shows the determination of the first month of the year, by the barley harvest, to be almost purely coincidental in nature. In other words, I've come to the conclusion that this usage is more one of man's traditions rather than by explicit command of God. For, nowhere in the Bible did I find a clear, "Thus saith the LORD," to test the beginning of the year against the barley harvest. The following Bible quotations (KJV) are what I've found on this subject.
The first reference to the barley, along this topic line, is during the plagues of Egypt:
Interestingly enough, this means that there was no barley available at all, that year, for this type of determination. At any rate, the next reference is a, "Thus saith the LORD," type of reference:
I believe that here is where the first presumption is made. No instruction is recorded, here or later, as to just how to determine which month is "this month" as designated by the LORD to start the year — other than it was the month in which He brought them out of Egypt. I believe people use the next reference, in connection with this one, to jump to the conclusion that the barley determines the first month of the year:
Note the Strong's reference number (24) is the same Strong's number given in Ex. 9:31 for the English phrase "in the ear." Thus, seemingly, just because the name of the first month means the same thing as the barley being just ready to harvest (being tender, or "green," in the ear — basically, "spring"), man has decided that God must mean that the determination for the first month of the year is to be based on the actual barley harvest.
Well, I have to tell you, I think our God is a more precise God than that. Natural fluctuations in the weather patterns (including drought) can, and do, cause wildly shifting patterns for the harvests of food crops. Then there are the very real times in which there would be no barley harvest at all — due to severe drought, disease, hail, a horde or two of locusts, or a Great Flood! Meaning, Noah knew when the year began yet there was no barley harvest on which to base it:
Is God going to leave the determination of His "appointed times" or "set times" (moed) to the vagaries of a crop harvest that may come too early, too late, or may not even happen at all? I think not.
To put that another way... Just because the name of the month means "the month of the tender, green grain" doesn't mean that this month cannot occur unless you actually have tender, green grain to go with the month. After all, in the Jubilee cycle, they planted no barley for every seventh and fiftieth years and, thus, would have had no barley harvest from which to make a new year determination. There was also no barley harvest for the forty years in the wilderness — yet, they knew the passing of the years. This includes the commonly held notion that if the barley isn't ripe in the expected month, then they were to wait until the next month to begin the year. I have found no reference for this in the Bible. Thus, this would seem to be another of the traditions of men. I have found two Biblical references for a "second" Passover but this had to do with missing the first Passover for reasons of being unclean or away on a far journey:
(just for enjoyment, see the rest of the story: 2 Chr. 30:13-27)
To continue, though, here are the rest of the references, along this topic line, for Strong's reference number 24:
Note that some have also used that last phrase (above) as further "proof" that the determination of God's Feast was based on the barley harvest. However, if you look up the Strong's reference for that word "empty" (7387) you'll find that it means "undeservedly." This is not about empty hands (no barley). Continuing:
And that's the end of them. So, what is the short and the long of this? In short, there are two other methods used, both based on the cycle of the sun, for determining the first month of the year. After all, God did set the sun, moon, and stars for signs, seasons, days, and years:
Strong's reference number 226 says that the sun, moon, and stars are for "signals." Strong's reference number 4150 says that the sun, moon, and stars are to signal God's "appointed times" or the "set times" (moed) for His Feasts. Thus it seems obvious, to me, that we are to await the first signal, of the sun, to mark the vernal equinox. Then, we are to await the second signal, of the moon, to mark the beginning of the first month of the year. Why await the new moon after the vernal equinox? Because you have to wait for the old year to end, or be completed (Strong's 8141 with 8666 and 8622) — which is also what happens at the vernal equinox. At any rate... From there (the new moon after the vernal equinox), we count off the days to His spring Feasts — the Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. That way, if there is no barley harvest at all, God's Feasts will still take place at their appointed time.
That's just the way I see it. As chance may or may not have it, the Millerite Movement and Ellen G. White agrees. Read the Appendix of either The Spirit of Prophecy volume 4 (1884), page 497.2, or The Great Controversy (1888), page 681.4, for what she believed:
If she was wrong, in this belief, God would have corrected her. Why? Because we're talking about God's "appointed times" or "set times" (moed) here. Our God is a particular God. After all, Cain made the required offering, at the correct time, and to the correct God. He only changed what was to be sacrificed. God would not have us worship Him in our own way nor at our own times. God would have us worship Him in His way and at His set times.
So, now, that being the long of it, why doesn't the Bible record this? I wouldn't presume to guess at God's reasonings in this. However, it is a well-known fact that, as historical recordings go, some of the most well-known facts were omitted (from such historical recordings), apparently, because such facts were so well known that they were not considered as needing to be recorded. On the other hand, some people consider Gen. 1:14 (as quoted above) to be such recording (albeit, somewhat implicitly).