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The Scandalous Truth Behind the Jewish New Year!

Updated: Sep 21, 2023



Tomorrow night begins what has come to be known as Rosh Hashanah, or Head of the Year. While I am not against a New Year celebration, the truth is, however, it is an invented, not Biblical, holiday. Before I continue, let me say two things:


  1. Scandalous is a pretty strong word; maybe too strong. I am not saying that there was some conspiracy by the rabbis. I simply want folks to know what the Bible says we are to do on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month.

  2. Also, I am not bashing Christian ministries that want to bring their people into an understanding of the Jewish or Biblical calendar. After 2,000 years of antisemitism from the church, I am thrilled that there is even an awareness of the Jewish people and their customs.

  3. I know I said two, but one more...even though Rosh Hashanah is not biblical, God in his sovereignty can work through the customs of men, if their hearts are in the right place.


There is no such holiday in the Bible called Rosh Hashanah. Let's look at the verse where God commands a celebration on the first of Tishrei.


The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month, you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the Lord.’” (Lev. 23:23-24)

As you can see, this day takes place in the middle of the year in the seventh month, not at the beginning. The actual name is זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה or (Yom) Zichron Teruah, roughly translated, A Day of Remembrance by Sounding (the Shofar). How and why did this turn into a New Year?


We also see this in Numbers:

"On the first day of the seventh month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets. (Num. 29:1)

Here it says clearly that it is a יום תרועה, (a day to sound the trumpets—literally, a day of blasting [making a loud sound]).


What does it even mean?

If you read the verse again, it is clear that it is pretty unclear. With Passover, we are celebrating freedom from Egypt. The Feast of Tabernacles points back to when the Israelites lived in Tabernacles during our 40 years of wandering in the desert. The Day of Atonement is about forgiveness. But this holiday or appointed time is about blowing trumpets???


It's only understandable that when you celebrate a holiday year after year, over time, traditions are developed. Even more so when you're not quite sure what it is you are commemorating.


You Must Look Forward

I believe that this holiday points to the coming of Yeshua. It was confusing because it looked forward instead of pointing backward. The day focuses on the blowing of the shofar or the trumpet. If I were to ask somebody who was not familiar with the Hebrew scriptures, but only the New Testament: “What is the significance of the blowing of the trumpet?” they would most likely point to the Parousia—the return of the Lord.


Outside of the Book of Revelation, the word trumpet is only mentioned eight times in the New Testament. Three of those times are references to Yeshua’s return.


And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matt. 24:31) In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Cor. 15:52) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thes. 4:16-17)

And the last and final trumpet is in Revelation 11:15


The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”

Paul refers to this as the last trumpet. This is why I believe that the rapture, when we meet the Lord in the air and are changed into immortal beings, is at the Second Coming. There can only be one last trumpet. Paul says that the last trumpet will be blasted at the rapture (1 Cor. 15:52). John says that the seventh (and last) trumpet will announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God to planet Earth (Rev. 11:15).


Babylonian calendar

Did you notice I called the seventh month, the month of Tishrei? The Bible never actually uses the name Tishrei. In fact, only a few months are actually named in the Bible, and the others are adopted from the Babylonians. Most of the time they are referred to by numbers, e.g. "On the first day of the seventh month," (Lev. 23:24). It is believed that the rabbis turned Yom Hateruah (The Feast of Trumpets) into a New Year, most likely to coincide with the Babylonian New Year during the Jewish captivity. The Talmud, which serves as the primary text for orthodox Judaism and the main source for establishing Jewish religious law and theology, confirms this:


“The names of the months came up with them from Babylonia.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 1:2 56d)

And this was very convenient since nobody really understood what the holiday was all about. It was very common for conquered nations to adopt the customs of the conquerer; especially if you have been deported to their capital city. Since Babylon was an empire, the conquered nations were expected to observe their traditions, if not commanded.

“[T]he names of the months that we use to this very day are the Babylonian names. Tishrei, for example, (the seventh month in the Bible) is a Babylonian month, the name of which is derived from the Akkadian word tishritu or beginning. “In addition, the Babylonians took their New Year’s Day celebrations very seriously. They called the holiday Akitu (from the Sumerian word for barley) and Resh Shattim, the Akkadian equivalent of the Hebrew Rosh Hashanah. This was celebrated twice a year, at the beginning of Tishrei and the beginning of Nisan, and lasted for 12 days.”[1]

Orthodox Judaism denies this and claims that the holy day is the anniversary of creation. There is no scholarly evidence to back this up. The actual Jewish or Hebrew New Year is in the spring, on the first of Nisan (Ex. 12:2), two weeks before Passover. We also see this in Esther 3:7, “In the First Month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Achashverosh.”


(Now, someone might say that Rosh Hashanah appears in Ezekiel 40:1. I’m gonna save you an email. :-) The passage in Ezekiel 40:1 does not refer to a holiday but simply the beginning of the year. It does not mention the month, so it most likely was Nisan in the spring. But if someone could prove that it was during Tishrei, in the fall, that would only prove my point that the Jewish people adopted the Babylonian New Year. Ezekiel 40 is written 25 years into the Babylonian exile!)


Christmas and Rosh Hashanah

In the same way that I do not run around condemning people for celebrating the birth of Jesus in December (when he was most likely born during Sukkot or, as I believe, near Passover, with the birthing of the Passover lambs), I will not be running around tomorrow night condemning people for saying shana tova (Happy New Year). As a Messianic Jew, I want to honor the traditions of my people, as long as they don't dishonor God.


Let's throw a party!

At the same time, I think it is very important that we as believers, both Jew and Gentile, understand the significance of this day.


Friend, God created a Biblical holy day that was commemorated with the sounding of trumpet blasts that point to the arrival of the Kingdom of God. Though we remember the birth and the resurrection of Yeshua every day, the early church chose two specific days to emphasize it. God Almighty chose one day for us to cry out to God for the return of Jesus—Yom Teruah!—even though we should long for his coming every day.


The glorious day of his appearance is the great hope of the ecclesia. We need to reclaim this day as a day that points to the great trumpet to come. On that day, we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, quicker than a flash of lightning, and we will shed all that ails our physical bodies, as we are clothed in immortality.


I'm all for another New Year. I can always use another new beginning. But I'm far more excited about looking toward and longing for the appearance of Yeshua in the sky. He left in a cloud, and he's going to return in a cloud. He left from the Mount of Olives, and he's going to return to the Mount of Olives. He left just before revival hit Jerusalem, and he's going to return to a revived Jerusalem.


Let's not be complacent about our Bridegroom, but long for his appearing.

[1] Elon Gilad, “Rosh Hashanah Wasn't Always the 'New Year.' Here's This Jewish Holiday's History,” Haaretz, September 14, 2023, accessed September 14, 2023, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-09-14/ty-article/.premium/the-history-of-rosh-hashanah-which-wasnt-always-the-new-year/0000017f-e689-dea7-adff-f7fb613d0000

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