Chapter 8:

The Lunar Sabbath Error

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In The Torah Calendar study we explain the calendar Yahweh tells us to keep in Scripture. One thing we see is that the days begin at evening. This can be seen by the simple fact that Genesis 1 tells us the evening and the morning constitute a day.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 1:19
19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

This is verified in that Yahweh tells us the Day of Atonement lasts from evening to evening.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:32
32 “It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”

Genesis 1:14-19 tells us that the sun, moon, and stars were made for signs, seasons, days, and years. The sun, the moon, and the stars divide the day from the night.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 1:14-19
14 Then Elohim said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;
15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
16 Then Elohim made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.
17 Elohim set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth,
18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And Elohim saw that it was good.
19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

In The Torah Calendar we also saw that the month begins with the sighting of the first crescent sliver of the new moon. We know that this was the calendar system used in Yeshua’s time because the historical record given in the Talmud shows that in the first century there were witnesses to the sighting of the first crescent sliver of the new moon. One only uses witnesses when there is something to see (whereas in most versions of the Lunar Sabbath theory there is nothing to see).

Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 23b
How do they test the witnesses? The pair who arrive first are tested first. The senior of them is brought in and they say to him, “Tell us how you saw the moon, in front of the sun, or behind the sun? To the north of it, or to the south? How big was it, and in which direction was it inclined? And how broad was it?”
If he says “In front of the sun,” his evidence is rejected. After that they would bring in the second and test him. If their accounts tallied their evidence was accepted, and other pairs were only questioned briefly, not because they were required at all, but so that they should not be disappointed, [and] so that they should not be dissuaded from coming.

We can know that the Lunar Sabbath calendar is wrong because it does not go by the visible sighting of the first crescent sliver. This is crucial as the calendar is central to worship. If the barley-new-moon calendar that was in use in the first century had not been right, Yeshua would have had to say something about it because He had to be in Jerusalem at the right time for His sacrifice on the cross/stake. Further, the apostles also had to be in the upper room when the Spirit was poured out in Acts 2, or they would not have received the indwelling of the Spirit. Yet both Yeshua and His apostles were in the right places at the right times, and we know that they were keeping time by the barley-new-moon calendar. This alone ought to be enough to end the discussion, but for those who want the full proof, we will continue.

Yahweh worked for six days, and on the seventh day He completed all of His work. Therefore He blessed the seventh day, and set it apart.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 2:1-3
1 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.
2 And on the seventh day Elohim ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
3 Then Elohim blessed the seventh day and set it apart, because in it He rested from all His work which Elohim had created and made.

This passage gives us a basic pattern of counting to six, and then resting on the seventh day. We will see this same pattern again in Exodus 16.

Shemote (Exodus) 16:22-26
22 And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moshe.
23 Then he said to them, “This is what Yahweh has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a set-apart Sabbath to Yahweh. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.'”
24 So they laid it up till morning, as Moshe commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it.
25 Then Moshe said, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahweh; today you will not find it in the field.”
26 “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”

Some of the Israelites refused to rest on the count of seven, which made Yahweh upset.

Shemote (Exodus) 16:27-30
27 Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none.
28 And Yahweh said to Moshe, “How long do you refuse to keep My commands and My laws?
29 See! For Yahweh has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”
30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

Lunar Sabbatarians teach that the commandment is not to count to six and rest, but rather to rest by the phases of the moon. There are many variations of this teaching, but in general, they all seek support from Genesis 1:14-19, which tells us that the moon plays a role in the establishment of the calendar.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 1:14-19
14 Then Elohim said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;
15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
16 Then Elohim made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.
17 Elohim set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth,
18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And Elohim saw that it was good.
19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Many scholars have speculated that the light and darkness that were created on the first day refer to spiritual light and darkness (i.e., good and evil, rather than visible light). Yet the main thing we need to see here is that the moon was not created until the fourth day. If Yahweh began His count on the first day, but the moon was not even created until the fourth day, then Yahweh cannot have based His count on the phases of the moon.

Sometimes Lunar Sabbatarians allege that the count to seven was lost in the Babylonian Exile, but this is not correct. As we saw before, Yeshua (who came after the Babylonian Exile) kept the barley-new-moon calendar.

The most common version of the Lunar Sabbath theory has the month beginning when the moon is dark, on what is typically called the lunar conjunction. This is also called a no moon, or a dark moon.

This theory is based on the concept that one should hypothetically be able to look up into the nighttime sky and know when the Sabbath is, based on the phases of the moon. As beautiful as this concept might sound, it is not what Yahweh says to do. There are also practical limitations because in the land of Israel, the conjunction (dark moon) normally lasts two days, and can last up to 3.5 days (or more, if there are clouds). Which of these days should be used as the starting point for our count? This is not a small problem, and there is no way for the Lunar Sabbatarians to reconcile the apparent discrepancy, as Yahweh never says anything about it. This is why, in practice, people who keep the Lunar Sabbath refer to computer-generated charts based on modern astronomical data. They need these kinds of charts, so their people will not want to celebrate the Sabbath on all different days; but these kinds of charts did not exist in ancient times.

Another major issue concerns the preparation day, which is the day just before the Sabbath. This is the day when Yahweh told all Israel to prepare food for two days, so that they have fresh food to eat during the Sabbath (when they are not supposed to cook).

Shemote (Exodus) 16:22-23
22 And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moshe.
23 Then he said to them, “This is what Yahweh has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a set-apart Sabbath to Yahweh. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.'”

The following chart illustrates why the Lunar Sabbath is so hard (if not impossible) to keep. While the moon can sometimes loom large in the sky, usually it is small, and not easy to read (even on clear nights when there are no clouds). But even more importantly, the phases of the moon are not discreet. In the following chart, the upper left hand quadrant would represent a Sabbath, because it is a moon phase (first quarter). However, the next moon phase comes eight days later (second row down, second from the left), making an eight day week. Perhaps one could have guessed that the preparation day should have been held on day 7 (assuming there were no clouds), but then notice that the moon is full for two whole days. Which one of these two days should be kept as the lunar Sabbath? There is no way to know because Yahweh says nothing about how to resolve this kind of problem (and in fact, the whole construct is not what He commands.

Assuming we choose to go with the first of the two full moon days as our Sabbath, then it is another seven days to the next moon phase; but in the third row down, first column (day 13), would you have known to hold your preparation day here?

Continuing on, there are two days in which the moon is completely dark (days 20 and 21). Thus the preparation day would be the last day in the third row (day 19), yet the true dark moon day is not until two days later, in the fourth row down, second from the left (day 21).

Another problem is that there is approximately 29.5 days from one new moon to the next, which does not divide evenly by 4. When we divide 29.5 days by 4, we come up with an average of +/- 7.375 days in an average lunar week. Since it is nonsensical to have a week that lasts 7.375 days, in practice, every third lunar week has to be eight days long (in fact, we see two examples of an eight day week in the chart above). Yet Yahweh never tells us that a week can have eight days. Yahweh commands a seven day week.

Where this version of the Lunar Sabbath theory really gets messy is in its timing of the festivals, because it says that the festivals should all fall on the phases of the moon. That is, it says the Passover, the Omer (Wave Sheaf), the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, and the Pentecost should all fall on Lunar Sabbaths. Initially this theory looks great, but it falls apart under scrutiny because not only does it contradict the Torah, it also disagrees with the record of Yeshua’s resurrection.

There is a question as to whether Yeshua died on the Passover or on the First Day of Unleavened Bread. We discuss both options in The Torah Calendar, but we believe He was almost certainly put to death on the Passover, as Messiah our Passover died for us.

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 5:7
7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

After being cut off in the middle of the week, Yeshua was then in the earth for three days and three nights.

Marqaus (Mark) 8:31-32
31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Yeshua was then raised either on the Sabbath or very early on the first day of the week (perhaps at twilight, when the Sabbath gave way to the first day of the week). He was not raised in the middle of the week.

Marqaus (Mark) 16:9
9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.

The problem is that Lunar Sabbath theory says that the Passover and the Sabbath both take place on moon phases. This has Yeshua dying on a moon phase, and being raised on another moon phase three days later. For this theory to work, the moon phases need to take place three days apart (which is impossible). There is no remedy for this.

1st day 2nd day 3rd day 4th day 5th day 6th day 7th day
Shabbat
8th day 9th day 10th day 11th day 12th day 13th day 14th day
Passover
15th day 16th day 17th day
Resurrection 
18th day 19th day 20th day 21st day
Shabbat
22nd day 23rd day 24th day 25th day 26th day 27th day 28th day
Etc.

The Pentecost has similar problems. In Hebrew the Pentecost is called Shavuot, which means “the Feast of Weeks.” The Torah says to count seven complete Sabbaths (7 x 7 = 49), to add a day (to make 50 days), and then to hold the feast.

Leviticus 23:15-16
15 “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed.
16 Count fifty days, to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to Yahweh.”

(15) וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה | שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה: 
(16) עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם | וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה לַיהוָה

The problem is that the lunar calendar has to have an 8 day week every 3 weeks (on average). After 7 weeks there will be either 2 or 3 of these 8 day weeks, thus adding an extra 2 or 3 days to the count. Instead of the 50 days that Yahweh commands, the lunar omer count will normally last either 52 or 53 days.

For the same reasons, every 3 years (on average) the 7 days of Unleavened Bread will actually last 8 days. Further, because the flight paths of the celestial bodies are irregular, we can never predict these things. It is an erratic problem the lunar Sabbatarians cannot resolve.

To bring the count down to 50, some begin their weekly count with the first crescent sliver of the new moon. The problem here is that it throws the other counts off. The week after Passover is very short (4 or 5 days), while the week before the new moon is very long (10 or 11 days). And worst of all, all of this requires altering the Torah, which Yahweh expressly forbids.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:2
2 “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim which I command you.”

Another variant has three weeks of 7 days each, with the final week being stretched out until the next month begins. The problem here is that the lunar month is approximately +/- 29.5 days long, which in practical terms means that roughly half of the months will be 29 days long, while the other half of the months will be 30 days long. This means the final week has to be either 8 or 9 days long, depending on whether it is a 29 or 30 day month. In the chart below, first we see depicted a 30 day month, and then a 29 day month.

Moon 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8  (Shading) 9 (Shading) Moon 2 3 4 5
6 7 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 (Shading) Moon 2 3 4

There are too many variations of Lunar Sabbath theory for us to track them all down here. All of them are fatally flawed because they do not follow the command Yahweh gave us in the Torah, which is to count to six, and then rest, as He did.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 2:1-3
1 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.
2 And on the seventh day Elohim ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
3 Then Elohim blessed the seventh day and set it apart, because in it He rested from all His work which Elohim had created and made.

Yahweh doesn’t like it when we won’t do as He asks.

Shemote (Exodus) 16:28-30
28 And Yahweh said to Moshe, “How long do you refuse to keep My commands and My laws?
29 See! For Yahweh has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”
30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

If we love Yahweh, and we want to please Him, then what is wrong with just following Yahweh’s example, and doing what He asks us to do?

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