Amos 8:4-6 HCSB
4 Hear this, you who trample on the needy and do away with the poor of the land, 5 asking, "When will the New Moon be over so we may sell grain, and the Sabbath, so we may market wheat? We can reduce the measure while increasing the price and cheat with dishonest scales. 6 We can buy the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and even sell the wheat husks!"
I watched a video once where a teacher made some comments on this text, saying that new moon should be translated month and sabbath should be understood as sabbath year rather than sabbath day. In other words, "When will this [last] month [of the] sabbath [year] be over?" His main point is that the greedy traders were anticipating the end of the sabbatical year so that they could get back to selling grain to the poor of the land. He comments that the poor of the land were allowed to eat from the volunteer crop that grew of itself in the fields during the sabbath year.
I do not believe this is the best understanding of the text. Traders were not forbidden to sell grain during the sabbatical year, and the poor of the land would still be buying grain during the sabbatical year; grain that was stored up on the 6th year, prior to the 7th. So buying and selling would continue.
On top of this, even in non-sabbatical years, the poor of land were still allowed to glean the fields (after harvest) and eat from the borders of the fields (see Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:21). My point is that the poor people would often not have to buy any grain during non-sabbatical years too. They weren't just getting free grain during a sabbatical year. They got free grain all the time, but they also would have to buy grain, because there is only so much free grain to glean. So on a regular planting year, you would still have poor people getting free grain from the borders of the field, and from gleaning after harvest. I'd say that there was much more FREE grain for the poor during planting years. Think about it. Planting years yield MORE grain; sabbatical years only yield sparse volunteer "crops."
Furthermore, I don't see where these greedy traders in Israel were interested in following sabbath to begin with, whether yearly or weekly. The point is (rather) that the poor and needy would not purchase grain on new moon or sabbath. That's why the greedy traders wanted these days to be over with. It was the poor and needy that were faithful to Yahweh (Torah observers) here, not the greedy traders. The greedy traders wanted the sabbath and new moon to be over. They cared not about Yahweh's law.
If the Amos passage is saying, "When will this month be over, and this sabbatical year - that we can sell grain and market wheat," the passage makes no sense. The greedy traders COULD sell stored grain and market stored wheat during the sabbatical year. Poor people COULD buy grain during the sabbatical year. There was only so much to glean from a volunteer crop in the field.
It makes more sense for the Amos passage to have the greedy traders asking, "When will the new moon [festival] be over, and the sabbath [day], so that we can get back to our dishonest gain." With lunar sabbaths this makes even more sense because at the end of the each moon/month you will have at least 2 days, back-to-back, sabbath and new moon (I personally believe there were 3 days in a row kept on 30 day months). The greedy traders were getting restless on these consecutive worship days, because the faithful Israelites weren't interested in buying grain, they were concerned with Torah study, fellowship, worship, praise, and rest.
It would be like if your home town went by Yahweh's law and everything was shut down on the sabbath and new moon festival. There would inevitably be some greedy traders thinking, "I'll be glad when these days are over so we can get back to making money,” but the faithful in your town wouldn't be concerned with commerce. They would be focused upon Yahweh and His set apart days.
I think it's best to see the Amos passage as related to 2 Kings 4:23, Isaiah 66:22-23, and Ezekiel 46:1, 3 - all which mention the new moon WITH the sabbath as being a special, set-apart time on Yahweh's calendar. We shouldn't say, "Well we can't find anything in the Torah that specifies this." Remember, both Ezekiel and Amos passage are Torah, because Yahweh is the speaker in both texts. It is Yahweh that separates the new moon from the 6 working days (right along with the Sabbath). We should also realize that the ancient Israelites knew more about the Torah than we do, and it's obvious that they understood the new moon to NOT be a regular working day like the 6 working days.
“The new moon, the first of the month, was observed as a popular holiday (2 Kings 4:23; cf. 1 Samuel 20:5; 1 Samuel 20:24), and marked by religious services Isaiah 1:13-14; Hosea 2:11; and often in later writings: cf. Numbers 28:11-15). From the present passage, it is apparent that, like the sabbath, it was a day on which trade was suspended, and which accordingly was viewed by the grasping Israelitish merchants with impatience, on account of the interruption which it occasioned in their unjust practices.” (Cambridge Bibles for Schools and Colleges, note on Amos 8:5)
“The rich and powerful of the land were the most guilty of oppression, as well as the foremost in idolatry. They were weary of the restraints of the sabbaths and the new moons, and wished them over, because no common work might be done therein.” (Matthew Henry, note on Amos 8:5)
“Amos 8:5 and Amos 8:6 show how they expect to accomplish their purpose. Like covetous usurers, they cannot even wait for the end of the feast-days to pursue their trade still further. Chōdēsh, the new moon, was a holiday on which all trade was suspended, just as it was on the Sabbath (see at Numbers 28:11 and 2 Kings 4:23).” (Keil and Delitzch, note on Amos 8:5)
Exodus 12:3, 5-6 (Darby Translation)
Speak unto all the assembly of Israel, saying, On the tenth of this month let them take themselves each a lamb, for a father's house, a lamb for a house... (5) Your lamb shall be without blemish, a yearling male; ye shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats. (6) And ye shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; and the whole congregation of the assembly of Israel shall kill it between the evenings.
THE WORKS OF PHILO
The Decalogue XXX.159
...and the day called by the Hebrews in their own tongue the Pasch on which the whole people sacrifice, every member of them, without waiting for the priests, because the law has granted to the whole nation one special day in every year the right of the priesthood and of performing the sacrifices themselves.
Special Laws 2.XXVII.145-146
After the New Moon comes the fourth feast, called the Crossing-feast, which the Hebrews in their native tongue call Pascha. In this festival many myriads of victims from noon till eventide are offered by the whole people, old and young alike, raised for that particular day to the dignity of the priesthood. For at other times the priests according to the ordinances of the law carry out both the public sacrifices and those offered by private individuals. But on this occasion the whole nation performs the sacred rites and acts as priest with pure hands and complete immunity. The reason for this is as follows: the festival is a reminder and thank-offering for that great migration from Egypt which was made by more than two millions of men and women in obedience to the oracles vouchsafed to them. Now at that time they had left a land brimful of inhumanity which made a practice of expelling strangers, and what was worst of all, assigned divine honours to irrational creatures, not merely domesticated animals, but even wild beasts. So exceedingly joyful were they that in their vast enthusiasm and impatient eagerness, they naturally enough sacrificed without waiting for the priest. This practice which on that occasion was the result of a spontaneous and instinctive emotion, was sanctioned by the law once in every year to remind them of their duty of thanksgiving. These are the facts as discovered by the study of ancient history.
Life of Moses II.224-225
In this month, about the fourteenth day, when the disc of the moon is becoming full, is held the commemoration of the crossing, a public festival called in Hebrew Pasch, on which the victims are not brought to the altar by the laity and sacrificed by the priests, but, as commanded by the law, the whole nation acts as priest, each individual bringing what he offers on his own behalf and dealing with it with his own hands. Now while all the rest of the people were joyful and cheerful, each feeling that he had the honour of priesthood, there were others passing this time in tears and sorrow.
QA on Exodus, Book 1.10
Now at other times the daily priests (chosen) from the people, being appointed for the slaughtering and taking care of them, performed the sacrifices. But at the Passover, here spoken of, the whole people together is honoured with the priesthood, for all of them act for themselves in the performance of the sacrifice. For what reason? Because, in the first place, it was the beginning of this kind of sacrifice, the Levites not yet having been elected to the priesthood nor a temple set up. And in the second place, because the Saviour and Liberator, Who alone leads out all men to freedom, deemed them (all) equally worthy of sharing in the priesthood and in freedom as well, since all who were of the same nation had given evidence of equal piety.
Ignorance is bliss. When a person first begins to learn about the Sabbaths, New Moons, and Feast Days of the Biblical calendar, they begin by thinking that this is the most wonderful discovery of all time! You know what, I believe it truly is a wonderful discovery. Discovering any of Yahweh's commandments to apply to your life is beautiful. After all, Yochanan (John) wrote in 1 Yochanan 5:3 - "This is the love of Yahweh, that we keep His commandments, and they are not a burden." If we are interested in loving our Creator, then we MUST be interested in loving all of His commandments. From the least to the greatest.
I'm writing this post because there are just SO many differences when it comes to calculating the calendar among brethren. I use the term brethren purposefully, because I want to be clear that I personally know men that disagree with me on let's say, the timing of the new moon, that are my spiritual brothers in Messiah. Our disagreement on the timing of the new moon doesn't mean we're not brothers, and it certainly doesn't mean we must dis-fellowship one another because of our differences. I have met some people in my life who will dis-fellowship you for every single, little thing and it always turns out that they are the only person in their fellowship. We need to realize that there are brothers and sisters out there who love Yahweh, but who come to different conclusions after studying. I believe we should still meet with one another, discuss our differences, and do our best to come to a unified understanding on such issues, but this all must be done in love rather than pride, strife, hatred, etc.
I do try to be as ecumenical as possible with people. That doesn't mean I am a man of compromise, but it does mean that I try to conform for the sake of unity on grey areas in Scripture that I honestly feel could go either way. At the same time, there are areas I've studied long and hard about concerning the calendar (the topic of this particular blog article), and I cannot in good conscience follow a pattern that I believe can be dis-proven by Scripture.
Take this issue of the new moon for example. You've got people who believe the new moon is determined by conjunction and others by the first visual crescent sighting of the moon (in the west). You've got others who try their best to link up the Sabbaths each moon with the major phases of the moon, even though this is an absolute impossibility to do across the scale because the moon does not phase in exact 7 day intervals. People who are bent on doing this have alternating new moon days whether they realize it or not. This is because in one month the quarter moon phase may align with conjunction. The next month the same phase may align with the first visible crescent method.
Take this coming up 9th new moon (Nov-Dec 2012). We see that by looking ahead the moon will be a have on Tuesday evening, November 20. However, the moon will not be full until Wednesday evening, November 28. http://www.moonconnection.com/moon_phases_calendar.phtml
I'm of the persuasion that the new moon is determined by the conjunction, and that after determining the new moon the Sabbaths of each moon/month are counted to in intervals of 7. This means that sometimes the Sabbaths will line up on the quarter phases and full phase of the moon, but it is not a necessity. This seems to me to be the most Scriptural way of doing things. The moon begins to rebuild after its conjunction with the sun. This means that the day after conjunction is the first full 24 hour day of the rebuilding moon. Everything is pulled from there each month.
My reasons are detailed here:
I'm open to correction, but sometimes it's difficult to have an honest, intelligent discussion with others about these matters. It would be nice if the men of Yahweh would take things more seriously and make the decision to fast, pray, and then come together in humility to discuss topics like this.
Most of the time when I tell people that I use the moon for determining the calendar they look at me as though I'm from another planet; one time someone thought I was a Wiccan; go figure.
Most of the time this stems from just a simple lack of knowledge, a lack of knowledge that we all have at one point or another in our life. What we need to learn to do is research what we hear from others. This way we will not pass unrighteous judgment on someone for believing a certain way or ways.
Take this little bit of information about the moon for instance. We use the word "honeymoon" in our culture to speak of the vacation a newlywed couple takes. Have we ever stopped and thought about why we call this time period "honeymoon?" The word honey-moon (originating probably in the 1500's) is a compound word stemming from two words "honey" and "moon." The word "honey" refers to the sweetness of time (or according to some scholars the sweetness of wine) the newly wed couple will have. The word "moon" refers to the time period of the vacation. The word moon is where we get our derivative word "month." Months, in various cultures in the past, where determined by the length of the lunation period, about 29 or 30 days. We see then that we are acknowledging that months used to be determined by the moon every time we speak the word "honeymoon."
We don't ask ourselves enough, "Why do we use this word?" or "Why do we practice this?" The next time someone speaks something to you that sounds strange to your ear, take the time to research what they are saying before jumping to any unfounded conclusions.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.