Though this is not intended to be either the first or the last look at the New Moon, one of the most enigmatic and obscure time markers in scripture, it is intended to look at the New Moon in a context of how it appears in the Bible. Though this note is not intended to be exhaustive (in fact, I would appreciate any other verses that could be added to this discussion), I do wish to at least touch on a variety of ways in which the New Moon is mentioned in scripture so that without making any definitive statements about its observance, one may be prompted to further study and examination of the scriptures.
In The Beginning
Let us note, in the beginning, that the New Moon is part of the complicated and intriguing set of biblical cycles of time. A day is marked in scripture from sunset to sunset. A week is marked from Sabbath to Sabbath. A month is marked from New Moon to New Moon. Years are marked from spring harvest to spring harvest, with three “seasons” of Holy Days (Spring, Summer, and Fall). There are 7 and 49 year cycles of years (the Jubilee year, the 50th year, happens to be the first year of the next 7 and 49 year cycle).
The way that time is organized is itself highly important. It is our responsibility, if we wish to adopt a consistently biblical worldview, not to merely pay lip service to God’s time while operating under other (heathen) systems of time. This means that we have to recover in our own mind and practice the rhythms and patterns of biblical life. I have a hard time doing this myself, but it’s something I make a conscious effort to think about, however difficult it is to do in practice.
The Sacrifices of the New Moon
While the sacrificial system is not currently in operation, it is useful to examine the sacrifices required under the Mosaic covenant for the New Moon in comparison to those of the Holy Days. We find the sacrifice of the New Moon in Numbers 28:11-15: “At the beginnings of your months you shall present a burnt offering to the Lord: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish; three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with the oil, for each bull; two tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, for the one ram; and one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with oil, as a grain offering for each lamb, as a burnt offering of sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord. Their drink offering shall be a half a hin of wine for a bull, one third of a hin for a ram, and one-fourth of a hin for a lamp; this is the burnt offering for each month throughout the months of the year. Also one kid of the goats as a sin offering to the Lord shall be offered, besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.”
While reading the offerings is not always the most exciting part of the Bible, it does tell us some intriguing details about the interconnections of the various sacrifices (in this case, burnt, grain, drink, and sin offerings). Of note is the comparison between the weekly, monthly, and festival sacrifices. The Sabbath offering every week was only two lambs per week, while the monthly sacrifice at the New Moon was two bulls, a ram, and seven lambs. The First Day of Unleavened Bread had the same sacrifice as the New Moon, as did the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of Trumpets and Day of Atonement had only one bull to sacrifice (but otherwise the same as the New Moon), and the Feast of Tabernacles had a lot more bulls and lambs. The Eighth day had the same number of bulls, rams, and lambs as the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement, as can be found in Numbers 29.
Judging by the sacrifices, then, the New Moon was considered as notable a part of the passage of time as the Holy Days, within the general range between the low end (the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Eighth Day) and the high end (the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles). In terms of the amount of sacrifice it required, it was considered on a par with the Holy Days, a matter worth reflecting about.
The “Observance” of the New Moon
It is rare to find any specific observance of the New Moon. Nonetheless, in the one place in scripture where a calculated calendar is indicated in the Historical Prophets , we also (not coincidentally) find a reference to the New Moon and how it was celebrated in biblical times, in1 Samuel 20:5: “And David said to Jonathan, “Indeed tomorrow is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat But let me go, that I may hide in the field until the third day at evening.”
Here we see that the New Moon, which was known ahead of time (and therefore not determined by observation, even in ancient times), and that it was apparently marked by monthly household feasts (at least in the royal household). We can imply, based on David’s comment, that his absence from this customary feast would have been noticed and would have required some explanation–in this case (1 Samuel 20:6) the excuse of a yearly sacrifice in Bethlehem with David’s family. At any rate, though, it is clear that the ancient Israelites were aware of, and noticed, the passage of each New Moon as part of their ordinary accounting of time.
The Relationship Between The Sabbath And The New Moon
There are at least two scriptures that explicitly place the New Moon in the context of the Sabbath in terms of their practice. First, let us examine a chilling warning from Amos 8:4-6: “Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, and make the poor of the land fail, saying: “When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, falsifying the scales by deceit, that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals–even sell the bad wheat.”
In this particular passage we see that business, including the sale of food, was apparently not done on either the New Moon or the Sabbath in the times of Amos. Those corrupt individuals who desired to use shady business practices (shrinking the weight of merchandise and inflating the amount of currency necessary to buy food), and sought to exploit the poor for their daily requirements of food and clothing, are seen here as being impatient for “God’s time” to pass so they could engage in their ungodly business practices. That said, they apparently did not practice their business on either the Sabbath or the New Moon.
The other place where the Sabbath and New Moon (and Holy Days) are explicitly compared is one of the most misinterpreted parts of scripture (and that is saying a lot!), in Colossians 2:16-17: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a Festival or New Moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” Since we know that a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9)  as the promised rest of the Kingdom of God has not yet arrived, therefore the Sabbath (and New Moon, and annual Holy Days) still point forward to an ultimate fulfillment, this verse means that no one is to condemn anyone for keeping these biblical festivals which Paul and the early Church kept themselves. At any rate, the Sabbath, New Moon, and Annual Festivals are all marked in Colossians 2 as belonging to the ordinary rhythm of biblical time that remain applicable for Christians.
The New Moon In Prophecy
Not only does the New Moon have a past observance in the Historical Prophets during the time of David and in the sacrificial system as well as a present validity for Christians according to Paul, but the New Moon also has a future prophetic observance according to the prophet Isaiah. Let us therefore examine briefly what Isaiah has to say about the New Moon.
Isaiah 66:22-23 gives a ringing endorsement of the future observance of the New Moon in similar terms to Zechariah 14’s prophecy of Holy Day observance: “”For as the new heavens and the new earth which I make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord, “So shall your descendents and your name remain. And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.” We may take this as the strongest endorsement for the continued observance of the New Moon, which would appear (from this passage) to involve a holy convocation before God just as the Sabbath assembly and the Feast of Tabernacles in its future fulfillment, applicable not merely to Jews or Israelites but to “all flesh.”
Therefore, in light of the fact that the Bible speaks of the New Moon in both past, present, and future, as far as belief and practice are concerned, and considering that the New Moon is one of the several cycles that are a part of the biblical view of time in its lunar-solar calendar, let us carefully examine what the Bible says about the New Moon and how it is to be remembered. Those of us who (correctly) keep the biblical Sabbath and the Holy Days have already made a commitment to view time as God sees it and not as those around us see it, even though we may not be aware of the full implications of that choice. Let us therefore examine further the continued importance of the New Moon in marking time God’s way, as just one element of many in the biblical view of time.