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)
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.
It often comes as a shock to people I meet when I tell them that I celebrate the time of the new moon. I recently heard a speaker explain how that a person should not consider the observance of the new moon as important in this day and time. I guess these two positions on the new moon are entirely different though. One simply is ignorant of the celebration, maybe they've never even heard of such a celebration. The other knows of the occurence but believes the New Covenant era is not concerned with such a practice.
I remember talking to a very friendly woman one time about the Biblical Calendar. I explained to her, by going to Genesis 1:14-18, that according to the Bible we should based time on the sun, moon, and stars. Here response was, "Sounds like astrology to me!" I'll never forget that response.
Of course astrology was the furthest thing from my mind as well as Yahweh's mind when He inspired this text to be written. Maybe the word astronomy would better explain (at least to some extent) what I am speaking of. Genesis 1:14-18, when compared with Psalm 104:19, 136:7-9 and Jeremiah 31:34-35 teach that the sun and the moon were appointed for signs, festivals, days, and years. Most Bibles have the word "seasons" at Genesis 1:14 but many will footnote the word explaining that a fuller meaning of the Hebrew word here (moedim) has the meaning of appointed times or festivals. Some Bibles (HCSB, Moffat) will actually translate this Hebrew word as festivals or something of such like. What this teaches us clearly is that time, according to Scripture, should be based upon the heavenly lights created by the heavenly Father.
One such period of time that is sacred on Yahweh's calendar is the time of the new moon. We read in Scripture of special banquets at this time (1 Samuel 20), of people inquiring of prophets (2 Kings 4:23), of worship at the temple of Yahweh (Ezekiel 46:1-3), of Israelites refraining from commerce (Amos 8:5), and of not letting any man judge us in regards to celebrating the time (Colossians 2:16-17).
One of my favorite texts in regards to the sanctity and relavence of the new moon is Isaiah 66:22-23.
"For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says Yahweh, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares Yahweh." [ESV]
Here we have what I like to call a "kingdom text." Verses 18-24 of this chapter have the idea of the kingdom written all over them. What I mean is the kingdom of Yahweh that Yeshua was sent to preach about (Luke 4:43). That is a king and domain or dominion that will rule in righteousness and holiness on the earth. According to this text in Isaiah we see not only Sabbath worship going on in the kingdom, but also worship taking place on the new moon! Thus a new moon celebration will be held in the kingdom! If that's the case, shouldn't there be relevance for a celebration on the new moon taking place now in preparation for the coming kingdom? I would think that this would be an accurate assessment.
Why not look up all the places in Scripture that deal with the new moon. I truly believe you will be astounded at what the Bible has to say about it.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.