Lunar Sabbatarians defend their notion of pegging the weekly Sabbath on the lunar month by citing primarily two scriptures. One is Genesis 1:14 (Holman Christian Standard Bible [HCSB]): “Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will serve as signs for festivals and for days and years.'”
The Hebrew word translated as “festivals” is moedim, a word that is key to lunar Sabbatarians' arguments. Moedim, a plural noun (#4150 in Strong's Hebrew Concordance) occurs for the first time in this passage. Translators often render it as “seasons” or “times.” Properly, it denotes “appointed seasons” or “appointed times,” referring to the festivals of God, His feast days. Today, we generally call these festivals by the term “holy days.” Lunar Sabbatarians, looking at Genesis 1:14, correctly conclude that the sun—and particularly the moon—play a key role in establishing the seasons, and most specifically, the appointed feast days, the holy days of God.
The biblical chapter that summarizes these festival days, these moedim, is Leviticus 23. This is the second passage on which lunar Sabbatarians focus. Most specifically, they cite Leviticus 23:1-4. (Note: Moedim is translated as “appointed times” in verses 2 and 4.)
The Lord spoke to Moses: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: These are My appointed times, the times of the Lord that you will proclaim as sacred assemblies. Work may be done for six days, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest, a sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; it is a Sabbath to the Lord wherever you live. These are the Lord's appointed times, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times.” (HCSB) (emphasis ours)
The remainder of Leviticus 23 discusses the moedim, the holy days, in their sequence through the year.
Here is the thrust of the lunar Sabbatarians' arguments. They note that the weekly Sabbath, discussed in Leviticus 23:3, appears in the midst of the discussion of the moedim, the appointed times, mentioned in verses 2 and 4. They submit that the inclusion of the weekly Sabbath in verse 3, in the context of the moedim, the focus of the chapter, proves that the weekly Sabbath is connected to the moedim. Hence, they conclude that the moon, as mentioned in Genesis 1:14, is the basis for determining the weekly Sabbath, just as it is basic in determining the arrival of the holy days.
In other words, lunar Sabbatarians argue that the moon, which determines when a new month begins, also determines when the count toward the weekly Sabbaths begins.
Lunar Sabbatarians' a priori dismissal of an important fact has led them to a wrong conclusion. That fact is this: God recognizes two distinct cycles in determining Sabbaths: He created an annual cycle. He also created a weekly one. They are not the same.
The annual cycle, which defines the appointed feasts (moedim), is intrinsically connected with the moon, as Genesis 1:14 says. Specifically, the annual cycle is connected with the new moon, which in Hebrew is khodesh (Strong's #2320). The annual cycle actually begins on a new moon, the one starting the Hebrew month of Abib. The fall of most moedim, that is, most appointed festivals, is determined by the occurrence of a new moon.
For example, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread falls on the fifteenth day of Abib. It falls fifteen days into the month of Abib—fifteen days after the new moon that ushered in Abib. Likewise, the Feast of Trumpets is the first day (that is, the new moon itself) of the seventh month, Tishri. The Day of Atonement falls on the tenth day of Tishri.
As an illustration of the importance of the new moon in determining the “appointed feasts,” notice Leviticus 23:4-6 (HCSB), which renders khodesh as “month”: “The Passover to the Lord comes in the first month, at twilight on the fourteenth day of the month. The Festival of Unleavened Bread to the Lord is on the fifteenth day of the same month.”
Khodesh appears ten times in Leviticus 23, always in reference to determining the day on which the moedim arrive. This stress on the new moon is consistent with God's comments in Genesis 1:14 that the moon would “serve as signs for festivals.”
So, the fall of the annual “appointed feasts” is based on the arrival of new moons, which define the start of the Hebrew lunar months. The annual holy days define one cycle, a cycle of seven holy days throughout the year.
The Lunar Sabbath or the Seventh-Day Sabbath: Which?
The events of the fourth day are somewhat controversial. Some claim that verses 14 and 15 simply repeat what God said in verses 3 and 4. However, note the difference:
- "Let there be light"; and there was light. (verse 3)
- "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. (verses 14-15)
In verse 3, God describes the creation of conditions to permit light to penetrate the earth's atmosphere. In verse 14, God is being very specific about certain "lights" that became visible from the surface of the earth. These specific lights were created to serve "for signs and seasons, and for days and years."
On the fourth day, God made visual observation of the sun, moon, and stars possible. Before this, the earth's cloud-cover did not permit an observer on earth's surface to see these heavenly bodies. God diminished the cloud-cover so that clear days would be possible, and thus heavenly bodies could be used to keep track of time. Once time was regulated, men could determine when to observe God's holy days. Most likely, God also adjusted the speed of the earth's revolution around the sun as well as the moon's speed of orbit around the earth.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Genesis 1: Fact or Fiction?
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 1:14: