The Shmita or Sabbatical Year
When Did It Begin?
The Creation New Year in the pagan Middle East began in September at the first crescent moon in the western sky at sunset. Thus the calendar in Mesopotamia, the area from which Abram emigrated, began each new year in the autumn (fall) of the year.
The Egyptian calendar, on the other hand, began its new year in the spring. It is interesting to see that when Yahweh was ready to lead Israel out of Egypt, He told Moses that the Passover (Pesach) month (Aviv) was to be reckoned as their first month (Ex.12:2). From then on, Israel numbered its months from the first new moon (Rosh Chodesh) in the spring of the year.
However, there was a problem: because of the climate in the Holy Land, the people planted their cereal crops in the autumn (fall) and allowed them to grow during the winter months. Accordingly, the Sabbaticals (every 7 years- Shmita) and Jubilees (every 50 years - Yovel) of Israel were proclaimed in the autumn (fall) of the year on the tenth day of the seventh month (i.e. September/October). This was a practical necessity, seeing as it was the end of the growing season. If Israel had proclaimed the land rest years to begin in the spring with the Scriptural New Year (not the pagan new year that we celebrate in the West), the people would not have been allowed to harvest their barley or wheat which was ripening at that time. Thus, to proclaim a rest year in the spring would have prevented them from harvesting that spring and from sowing the next autumn (fall), which would have still fallen within the year-long ban on sowing or reaping. Thus they would have had no crops for two years out of seven and have starved.
Thus both prophetically and physically as far as Eretz Israel or the actual Land of Israel is concerned, the Sabbatical Year or Shmita begins in the autumn (fall). Accordingly, geographical Israel's calendar followed a dual pattern. The months were numbered beginning in the spring (at first Aviv), when their moedim or feast day calendar of events began. However, their agricultural years (sabbath years) always began in the autumn (fall) after the people had harvested all the fruits of the land - particularly the grapes, which ripened in the autumn (fall).
Today, Israel remains in dispersion around the world in both hemispheres causing a number of problems as to when the Sabbaticals and Jubilees should begin to avoid the problem of surrendering not one harvest (as is required) but two. The Sabbatical and Jubilee cycles are thus tied down to where the children of Messianic Israel happen to be living. In temperate northern climates, where no sowing in the autumn (fall) takes place, and where the problems that obtain in the Holy Land do not exist, the Sabbatical Year begins in the spring, at Aviv 1, in line with the Scriptural New Year. As the portion of Ephraim (the presiding tribe of Messianic Israel) with his prince currently resides in the northern hemisphere (see the five-part series, Jacob's Trouble, for further explanations), the default calendar for the Sabbatical Year always begins in the spring, with other locations (southern hemisphere, equatorial regions, etc.) having exceptional modified calendars according to their agricultural cycles (since this is a purely agricultural cycle).
When the tribes return to the Holy Land upon the return of the Messiah, then the default calendar will again be the ancient one because of the agricultural cycle of Israel, with other locations in the world (including the temeprate northern hermisphere regions) becoming the exceptions.
The priests calculated the beginning of each month by the new moon and when they saw this, they knew to blow the trumpet to signal that this was the first day of the next month. The seventh such moon was a special day called Yom Teruah or the Feast of Trumpets. It was the seventh trumpet of the Book of Revelation (Rev.10:7) and "the last trump" in Paul's writings, which signifies the great day of Resurrection (1 Cor.15:52). The feast days, of course, contain the main biblical revelation regarding the times and seasons of Messiah's first and second work on earth.
Dr. Stephen E. Jones, Secrets of Time (God's Kingdom Ministries, Batesville, AR: 1996), Appendix B (p.201)
This page was created on 27 July 2009
Last updated on 27 July 2009
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