The story of Creation describes the moon and sun as natural timekeepers: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens… and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). In the Hebrew Bible and Jewish custom – as in many other cultural traditions – the new moon brings celebration (see Numbers 10:10).

In Biblical times the people of Israel observed this ראש חודש (rosh khodesh) “head of the month” with feasting (1 Samuel 20:18). We read that the new moon prompted משוש (masos) “rejoicing” (Hosea 2:11/13) and a break from business (Amos 8:5). Yet the significance of the new moon in Hebrew thought is even deeper.

The ancient prophet Yeshayahu/Isaiah wrote of the creation of “the new heavens and the new earth” in the context of a time generally understood as the Messianic age. In Hebrew the word for “new” is חדש (khadash), from the same root as חודש (khodesh) “month” or “new moon.” More importantly, the same passage from the Hebrew prophet says that people from “all nations” will come to worship Israel’s God on every sabbath and new moon. (Isaiah 66:18-23)

With this in mind, the Jewish synagogue liturgy adds special blessings for the new moon, including a prayer to “remember Messiah, son of David… and Your entire people, the House of Israel.” Another rabbinic custom is to go out under an open sky to see the new moon and recite Psalms of praise to God. The new moon is regarded as a symbol of ultimate redemption, a kind of “rebirth” signaling the prophesied restoration of Israel to a new era of peace and goodness.

The Jewish-Greek Book of Revelation also references these themes directly. This first-century apocalyptic vision pictures the new heavens, the new earth, and even a renewal of “all things.” The text continues by describing a “tree of life” that brings healing to the nations. Remarkably, it has twelve different fruits – specifically, one for each month or new moon! (Revelation 21:1-5, 22:2)

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38 COMMENTS

  1. I understand, in part, the significance of the number 12. And I know that each of the 12 tribes had their own banner with their own symbol that represented their tribe. What I am curious about is - Is there any correlation between the 12 different fruits and the 12 tribes, such as a specific fruit that represents a particular tribe?
    • A great question, Debra! I don’t know the answer. Revelation of course refers frequently to the twelve tribes of Israel (7:4-8, 21:12-13, etc.), so it would fit with the context. However, the twelve fruits are not specified, and I’m not aware of such a tribes-fruit motif that could be implied. From at least late antiquity on, Jewish art and literature did clearly connect the twelve tribes to the twelve months (via adaptation of the Zodiac system). Stan Lindsay’s book on Revelation includes the intriguing theory that the healing “leaves” (phylla) of the tree make a wordplay with “tribes” (phylai).

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    • Excellent question Sister. Each of the 12 tribes represents a character of the Righteousness of Christ. Hense the 12 Stones in the Priests breastplate of righteousness. Each tribe is connected to a month in which Christ is working that particular Strength of Character in us in that month. Fathers Redemptive Cycle in Christ, Hebrew Biblical Calendar!
      Hense Trees of Righteousness and the 12 Characters of Righteousness fruits that are worked together in their times and Seasons.
  2. I am positive I have learned to read a new heaven and a new earth OUT of first century context. I have never noticed that no more death and the second death are in the same paragraph. I assumed no more sorrow, crying, or pain meant we were in heaven. There are places where it seems possible that it means we are healed or something.
    • Thank you, Kat! This is a very interesting dichotomy or paradox, and I think we have to go back even earlier than the first century to understand it. Revelation is essentially quoting (and expanding on) the Hebrew prophets, in this case especially Isaiah/Yeshayahu, chapters 25 and 66. It is very much worth noting that both those texts express exactly the same dichotomy or paradox!

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  3. Did John - Yohanan heard the revelations in Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew and then translate to Coni Greek? Was the translation inspired so it is accurate? And how can the later Greek copies can be trusted as the originals are not available.
    • Thank you for the questions, Mike! These are all difficult matters without any single definitive answer. Different people have different opinions. Note, however, that no translation is entirely "accurate," because it is just impossible to say exactly the same thing in a different language (by definition). Translations are extremely helpful tools but not exact equivalents! Regarding manuscripts and transmission history, this is one reason why it is always important to use the tools of linguistic, textual, and historical analysis. We might not be able to recreate the perfect "original," but we can learn some things.

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  4. Some say that initially, the New moon was always on the Sabbath day. so at times, the new moon would be celebrated more than one day until the crescent appeared. This may explain the multiple days of celebration 1 Sam 20. So the new moons and sabbath days as we find them mostly together in the prophets. Amos 8:5 may hint at the above stated. "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?"-- skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales. TBC
    • Thank you for the comment, Mike! The idea of a continual combination with Shabbat sounds speculative to me. Do you have a source for that? The usual explanation for multiple days (attested in the Mishnah, ca. 200 CE/AD) is that prior to the use of astronomical calculations people couldn't be sure on which of two days the new moon would fall. 1Sam.20 might be similar or different; that's a good question but hard to answer. The Amos verse is an example of Hebrew parallelism; as you say, at most only a "hint" (but quite likely referring to two distinct celebrations).

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  5. Ezek 46:3 On the Sabbaths and New Moons, the people of the land are to worship in the presence of the LORD at the entrance of that gateway. The connection between the New Moon and Sabbath.
    • A great verse to bring up in this context! But again, this seems to imply that the new moon and the sabbath are distinct holidays (not identical or merged).
  6. Shalom Dr. Yeshaya Gruber,
    Which day is recognised as Sabbath day is it Saturday or Sunday? i would like to get confirmation exactly from the Bible to know the exactly day. How can i recognise the New moon holiday, do you also celebrate every week?
    how can you use them in the context is there more reference guide can be obtain so that can refer to. i am very interested to know more.
    • Thanks for the comment, Abigail. The Jewish sabbath is the seventh day of the week. It begins and ends at sundown (i.e., according to the Western calendar: Friday evening to Saturday evening). The New Moon (Rosh Khodesh) takes place literally at the new moon (i.e., once per month at the beginning of a lunar cycle). There are many resources online about these and other Jewish observances. For example:
      http://www.jewfaq.org/shabbat.htm
    • Also, you may want to read this recent article by a colleague at Israel Bible Center:
      "Did Early Christ-Followers Worship on Sundays?"
      https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/early-christ-followers-worship-sundays/
  7. This is my first time on the site and I'm trying to find your course on Revelations please text me the link thank you
    • Welcome, Bernadine! Please see:
      https://israelbiblecenter.com/courses/revelation-jewish-context-i-orientation/
    • Thanks for the question, Job. I would say the main significance of the moon's phases in the Hebrew context is calendrical. The cycle of the moon marks out the passing of time. In rabbinic literature, the moon can even represent Israel, including something like its ups and downs.
    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Name of God and Exploring Jewish Interpretation. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

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  8. Dr. Gruber, please do not refer to the Creator's sabbath as the "Jewish sabbath." It was instituted, blessed, and sanctified before there was ever a Jew. Messiah said it was made for man, by inference, all men, for now there is no difference. Part of anyone's covenant with YHVH. Shalom.
    • Thanks for the comment, Linda. I wrote that specifically in answer to a question about observing the sabbath on Saturday or Sunday. The Jewish sabbath -- i.e., the sabbath as observed by Israel / the Jewish people throughout history -- falls on the seventh day of the week. Some other groups claim to observe "the Creator's sabbath" on other days. My answer should be understood in this context. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "no difference"; it's worth noting that the Friday / Saturday / Sunday division (Muslim / Jewish / Christian) is still very much in effect today. Shalom!
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