by Beth Piepenburg
I have enjoyed watching in anticipation every year when the Aviv barley is ready in the land of Israel. On that day or soon after, the New Moon would be sighted and the New Year would begin. Two weeks later, Passover could be observed. As I studied and watched how the ancient Hebrew calendar functioned, it led to further research. I discovered how the Feasts also tied with the nighttime sky in conjunction with the appointed times of the work of Christ. What I found was an astronomical-agricultural based calendar. However, some of my original understanding of how the New Year was determined began to change. The sighting of the Aviv barley as an agricultural marker was now dovetailed by the Vernal Equinox as an astronomical marker.
A small sect of Jews, called the Karaites, have maintained for centuries that the Aviv barley had to be sighted on or before the New Moon, in order to start the New Year and for Passover to be observed fourteen days later. In Exodus, the barley was in the Aviv prior to Moses’ establishing the New Year. However, the Karaites have maintained that Rabbinical Judaism had changed the sighting of the Aviv barley for the Babylonian system of using the Vernal Equinox and also had changed the calendar in other ways. As a result of these differences, Passover could be celebrated a month apart by each group. Now if the Jews can’t seem to agree in determining the Passover date, the Western and Eastern Christians fair no better having two separate systems in determining Easter.
From the time of Moses, the Israelites have used the Aviv barley, the Vernal Equinox, and the New Moon to determine the New Year. As the Egyptian Sphinx was aligned to the Vernal Equinox, Moses, having been educated in the courts of Pharaoh, would have known about the Vernal Equinox. However, the ancient Egyptian calendar was based on the heliacal rising of Sirius, and the New Year began in July. When Moses commanded the Israelites to begin the New Year on the evening of Aviv 1, the moon was a New Moon and the Vernal Equinox was just beginning. This particular day in history, the calendar was naturally aligned to both the moon and the sun. Thus, the Israelite calendar is a lunisolar calendar, and begins in the spring. Passover and the other Feasts would be aligned to the proper constellations, which were pointing to the Savior.
Along with finding new insights of the importance of the nighttime sky, I also began to see problems with the Aviv method pointing to the New Moon to usher in the New Year. Sightings of the Aviv barley differed in respect to the grain, location, time, etc. Did ancient barley grown naturally ripen sooner or later than the modern methods of growing new strains of barley? Because of the micro climates in Israel, which micro-climate was more suited for maturation? If the Aviv barley was not quite ready when the New Moon appeared, then how could one preserve the Aviv barley during an intercalary month? The integrity of checking the Aviv barley was maintained by the Levitical priests, but how can one know now when one group claims they have found the Aviv a little too early for comfort? Does the Scripture say, one must see the Aviv first? In Egypt, the Aviv barley would have naturally occurred much earlier than in the land of Israel. As far as the nighttime sky, the importance of the sun and moon being in the right constellations during Passover was important for the Feasts to correlate with the sky.
Since I follow the ancient Israelite lunisolar calendar in my personal life, I look forward to starting the New Year in the Spring rather than in the dead of Winter. While I can follow the lunisolar calendar with ease, this ancient calendar should coincide fairly well with the Jewish Passover and the Western Church observance of Easter. Most important, I will view the nighttime sky with the Feasts in mind along with the significance of Christ. While the New Moon and the Vernal Equinox will determine the New Year, yet the sighting of the Aviv barley will add purpose to the meaning calendar. As I follow the lunar months throughout the year, I hope to understand further how astronomy worked in connection with the agricultural seasons in ancient Israel.
Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2017. All rights reserved.