The Jewish calendar has two "New Years":
- The Biblical New Year, which begins on Nisan 1 (the first day of the first month (Nisan) of the Jewish calendar);
- The Civil New Year, which begins on Tishrei 1 (the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei) of the Jewish calendar), called "Rosh Hashanah."
In 2019 the Biblical New Year began on Nisan 1, which was Saturday April 6th (Friday April 5, 2019 at sundown).
In 2019 the Jewish Civil New Year of 5780 began on Tishrei 1, which was Monday Sept 30th, 2019 (Sunday Sept 29th at sundown).
Western Calendar / Jewish Calendar
Septmbr 30, 2019 = Tishrei 1, 5780
October 1, 2019 = Tishrei 2, 5780
October 2, 2019 = Tishrei 3, 5780
...and so forth.
Note: The Jewish day begins at sundown the night before. For example: since the date "Tishrei 1" falls on a Monday, Tishrei 1 actually began Sunday night at sundown.
THE CIVIL "NEW YEAR"
Israel has chosen its Civil New Year (for governmental purposes) to begin the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei), a celebration called Rosh Hashanah ("Head of the Year"). So the current year 5780 started on Tishrei 1, 5780, which coincides to September 30th, 2019 on the Western calendar. For governmental purposes Israel has chosen to start each new Civil year on the 7th month, much like the West has chosen to start each new school year on the 9th month (September).
But the Bible always starts each new year on the first day of the first month, Nisan (Nisan 1).
THE BIBLICAL "NEW YEAR"
Each Biblical "New Year" begins on Nisan 1. In 2019 Nisan 1 (the start of a Biblical new year) occurred on the Western calendar on Friday April 5, 2019 at sundown. This coincides to a different date each year on the Western calendar (called the Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory who instituted it), but typically Nisan 1 occurs in March or April. (The two calendars are based on different celestial observances: the Jewish calendar is lunar based (based on the phases of the moon), whereas the Gregorian calendar (or "solar calendar) is based on the yearly cycle of the sun.) Typically Nisan 1 occurs in March or April.
The web page stevekuban.com/torah-portions lists various Bible passages that are read throughout each year by the Jewish people, and specifically the pattern of Torah portions and the Haftarah portions (from the Prophetic books) that have been read systematically by observant Jews every week of every year for the past 2,500 years! Also listed are many New Testament passages that relate to each of the 54 traditional weekly passages. God's Word is very powerful, and reading His scriptures systematically brings great revelation and builds our faith.
Nisan 1 (April 6, 2019) was the beginning of a new year on the Biblical calendar.
The first new month on the Jewish calendar always has a lot happening in it! For example Passover always occurs during this month, as does the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and other Jewish holidays ("Holy Days"). In fact four very important days which are celebrated by Christians during the month of Nisan — Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, and Resurrection Sunday — are closely related to these Jewish dates and Holy Days: (Note, the name of the day of the week may not exactly coincide with the exact date on the Jewish calendar, because whereas (Passover) or 15 (week of Unleavened Bread) fall on exact calendar numbers (dates) Christians commemorate move them to a specific day of the week. Eg Palm Sunday is always on a Sunday, Good Friday is always on a Friday, Easter Sunday is always on a Sunday, etc) :
a) Nisan 10 (when the heads of Jewish households would choose which lamb to slay) coincides with Palm Sunday
b) Nisan 14 (when the Passover lamb was slain) coincides with Good Friday
c) Nisan 15 (when the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread begins) coincides with Holy Saturday, the day after Good Friday, before Easter Sunday
d) Nisan 16 (when the Festival of Firstfruits was celebrated) coincides with Easter Sunday when Yeshua (Jesus) rose from the dead.
Indeed all of these important days in the month Nisan reveal that Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ) IS our Passover Lamb! And He died exactly on Passover almost 2,00 years ago.
But before we talk about the specific holidays (Holy Days) that occur and all the Bible passages that are read throughout the Jewish year, let's look for a moment at why the Bible calls this a new year.
Are there other "New Years"?
Yes. Here are a few examples. The Gregorian calendar used by most of the world begins the New Year on January 1st. The Chinese New Year is celebrated every January. The Jewish civil calendar celebrates their "Civil New Year" (called "Rosh Hashana") on the first day of the seventh month on the Jewish calendar (in September or October). And as kids didn't we groan thinking about the "new school year" every September that meant the end of our summer holidays? Or the new College year? Or in business we learned about the "Fiscal New Year." These are only a few of the different types of New Years. But let's talk about the Biblical New Year.
Why is Nisan the first month of the Biblical New Year?
Originally God called this month by the Hebrew term Abib.* You can see more about "Abib" here. Below are listed some of the key scriptures that discuss the month of Abib and what takes place during this month. (*note: according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Abib is not properly a name of a month, but is part of a descriptive phrase which means "the month of young ears of grain.")
In Exodus 12:1-2 we read the very first commandment God gave Israel, even before the Exodus from Egypt took place. Here YHVH commanded Moses, Aaron and the Israelites to start counting their biblical calendar from this day forward. He said it would be the first new moon when the barley was at the stage just before being ripe (at the precise time when the barley would be “abib” meaning "at the stage before being ripe"). From this point forward they were to begin measuring each month according to the lunar cycle, or new moon — that is, when the waxing crescent of the moon is first sighted (that is, when the first sliver of white would be visible upon the new moon). From this point on, every new moon would be a new month, and 12 months later a new year would begin at this same point in time. A year later, when the barley would once again be at this stage of growth (the "abib" stage) and the waxing crescent of the new moon could be sighted, would be the beginning of the new year. It's a Biblical New Year. On the Gregorian calendar the Biblical New Year occurs in March or April. Usually there are 12 months (12 new moons) in each year. However, on occasion when the 12th month was over but the barley was not yet at this stage, a 13th month would be inserted (called a "leap month"), thus allowing the seasons to synchronize with the year.
So Exodus 12 is the point in time, historically, when the Jewish calendar actually began. And Jews have been "keeping the time" ever since, quite precisely as a matter of fact.
When did the Biblical New Year begin in 2019 on the Gregorian calendar?
In 2019, day 1 of the Jewish New Year fell on April 6, starting at sundown the night before (because the Jewish day is measured from sundown to sundown). Thus the Jewish New Year actually began on the evening of Friday, April 5th.
Nisan 1 this year occurred on a Shabbat (Saturday). Due to this reason there is a special Torah reading that takes place on this HaChodesh, from Exodus 12:1-20! (see also www.stevekuban.com/holiday-portions, where the left column shows April 6)
What does the Bible say about the biblical new year? What did the Lord say would happen?
Exodus 12:1 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
2 “This month shall be to you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year to you. (Ex. 12:1-2)
Exodus 13:3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day, in which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today you go out in the month Abib. (Ex. 13:3-4)
Deuteronomy 16:1 Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover to YHVH your God; for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.
Exodus 23:15 You shall observe the feast of unleavened bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib (for in it you came out of Egypt)
Exodus 34:18 “You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib; for in the month Abib you came out of Egypt.
Thus YHVH said that during this month Abib He would deliver the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. They were to eat only leavened bread (bread without yeast). He commanded them to observe the Passover (slay the passover lamb) and in future years to come they must "observe the Passover" and the Feast of Unleavened bread, as a memorial Festival, at this same time every year:
Why is the first month of the Biblical New Year also called "Nisan"?
During the Babylonian captivity Abib was given the Assyrian/Babylonian name Nisanu which became the Jewish name "Nisan." (for more information about the Jewish calendar and years please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nisan-years and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunisolar_calendar)
Happy Biblical New Year everyone!
Dr. Steve Kuban