A Happy New Year

by Joseph Hunting

At sundown on September 26th a blast of the Shofar, or ram's horn, will usher in the Jewish New Year. And through THE VINEYARD Gentile lovers of Zion world-wide wish our Jewish friends a happy New Year. September 27th 1984 is 1st Tishri, 5745 in the Jewish calendar.


O rigins in Scripture are both important and significant, and the first recorded blast of the Shofar is no exception. "And it came to pass on the third day when it was morning that there were thunders and lightnings, and a heavy cloud was upon the mount, and the voice of the cornet (shofar) was exceeding loud, so that the people in the camp trembled." (Exodus 19:16 Leeser)

Some days later the Lord gave to Moses the seven holy festivals, or convocations, that were to be observed year by year. Concerning the fifth festival, "The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, shall ye have a rest, a day of memorial of sounding the cornet (Heb. teru'ah) a holy convocation." (Leviticus 23:23-24 Leeser)


It is admitted that in religious observances there are time-honoured traditions which are blindly followed without question. One does not have to look far in the various Christian observances to realize how much tradition has become accepted instead of the Word of God. Therefore it may not be a surprise to discover that 1st Tishri is not the Scriptural New Year at all.

According to Divine instruction 1st Tisri (the seventh month) commemorates the festival of the Blowing of Trumpets which is the fifth of the seven holy convocations as commanded in Leviticus chapter 23. According to Rabbinic tradition the Jewish calendar commenced at Creation on 1st Tishri 3761 B.C., thus substituting the Divinely ordained 1st month for the seventh.


According to the Scriptures the New Year was originally instituted during the month of Abib when the Israelites were about to be delivered from bondage in Egypt. Thus we see that the New Year is inseparably linked with redemption.

There was a tremendous confrontation between Moses, the man of God, and Pharaoh, King of Egypt which reached its climax when Moses left the presence of Pharaoh burning with anger. It was following this incident that the Lord declared to Moses: "This month shall be unto you the chief of months. The first shall it be unto you of the months of the year." (Exodus 12:2 Leeser).


Not only had the Hebrews been humiliated, flogged and their babies murdered, but they were reduced to slavery and set impossible quotas in the brick kilns by their task masters. When life became unbearable and when all hope seemed lost the God of Israel set the date for their deliverance!

Lest the importance of this event be overlooked, let it be remembered that there was no "underground army", no National Liberation Front, no Freedom Fighters or any similar revolutionary movement plotting the overthrow of the Egyptians.

I repeat, God set the date for Israel's deliverance and He commanded them to commemorate the event for ever, commencing with a new calendar. All the humiliating past was not to be included for, "This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you." (Exodus 12:2 AV).

"You only have I known ..."

Israel is unique among the family of nations. Not only did the Creator of the Universe personally intervene to liberate a nation of slaves, but He said of them, "What nation is there so great, who has God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?" (Deuteronomy 4:7). The Eternal also singled Israel out for the greatest honour ever bestowed upon any nation or people: "YOU ONLY HAVE I KNOWN OF ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH ..." (Amos 3:2).


After Israel had spent seventy years in exile in Babylon they returned to Jerusalem. "And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, ... FROM THE FIRST DAY OF THE SEVENTH MONTH began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord …" (Ezra 3:1-6).

Some years later there was a significant occasion when Ezra read the Law to those who had returned from Babylon. It is possible that this was the first occasion that they had heard the Word of God. "And the people gathered themselves together as one man ... and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, UPON THE FIRST DAY OF THE SEVENTH MONTH." (Nehemiah 8:1-2).

I rather fancy that when Israel's sages of a bygone age substituted the commandment of God for the traditions of men by altering the first month to the seventh in which to celebrate the New Year something infinitely more precious and meaningful has been replaced for a mere speculative date for creation.

And so Israel has two New Years, one secular and one Scriptural, with a New Year for Trees thrown in for good measure. May the Eternal grant peace to His especially chosen ones when the Shofar sounds at sundown on September 26th. And may we all reverence His Word as we seek to turn constantly to its direction in our daily lives.