“These are the designated times of Adonai, the holy convocations you are to proclaim at their designated times. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between sundown and complete darkness, comes Pesach for Adonai. On the fifteenth day of the same month is the festival of matzah; for seven days you are to eat matzah. On the first day you are to have a holy convocation; don’t do any kind of ordinary work. Bring an offering made by fire to Adonai for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work.”-Leviticus 23:4-8
The purpose of the Biblical festivals was to serve as reminders of God’s presence.
These feasts broke up the monotony and let the Israelites know that amidst all the ups and downs of their daily lives, YHVH was still their God and was to be held preeminent in their lives.
Unlike believers today, the ancient Israelites had no idea about the prophetic nature of these MO’EDIM or “fixed times”.
The Hebrews simply observed the feasts in obedience to the Law.
And observing these festivals did not come without their inconvenience.
Three of these festivals required them to be celebrated at the Temple in Jerusalem.
If one lived near Jerusalem, that wasn’t such a big deal but for those who dwelled far to the north or south of Jerusalem, we’re talking about possibly a journey of several days, a journey that could sometimes be fraught with danger.
Preparation for these folks would have to begin much sooner.
In verse 5, we are given the dates and the requirements for Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matza).
As you can see, these TWO SEPARATE FEASTS fall consecutively one right after another.
This can cause some confusion.
Depending on how you look at it, Passover could be a part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or the Feast of Unleavened could be a part of Passover.
We’re told that things are to kick off on the 14th day of the first month or the Biblical month of NISSAN.
NISSAN would correspond roughly to our March-April time frame.
So this is a spring feast.
NISSAN is also the 1st month of the year for Israel.
But that statement is not completely accurate.
Let me rephrase that by saying that NISSAN is the first month of the RELIGIOUS EVENT CALENDAR used by the Israelites.
There were actually two main types of calendars used.
One was the CIVIL CALENDAR and the other was the RELIGIOUS EVENT CALENDAR.
In addition, there were a couple more minor calendars used to govern the tithing of animals and fruit etcetera.
But the religious and civil calendars were the two main ones.
We shouldn’t get too confused about this because we pretty much have the same thing with our normal civil calendar and the fiscal calendars we use for business.
Both calendars consist of 365 days for the year.
It’s just the first month that is different.
For accounting and tax purposes, companies will make up their own fiscal calendar years.
They’ll start the year with any month they see fit for their business purposes.
A company’s fiscal calendar could start in February, July, December, it doesn’t really matter.
There are still 365 days, 52 weeks, and 12 months for both calendars.
It’s just the starting point that’s different.
So the Hebrew religious calendar makes NISSAN the first month.
And the Hebrew civil calendar makes TISHRI the first month.
These two months are about a half a year apart from each other.
Again, each calendar has the SAME number of days, months, and weeks.
For example, the Jewish New Year is NOT a religious calendar event!
It’s a civil calendar event that takes place on the 1st day of TISHRI.
On the other hand, since NISSAN is the first month of the religious calendar, then the first Biblical Festival which kicks off the yearly cycle is in that month (NISSAN).
Here’s something else you should know.
The Jews didn’t start giving names to the months of the year like NISSAN and TISHRI until after they were exiled to Babylon.
Words like NISSAN, KISLEV, and TISHRI etcetera are all Babylonian names!
When the Jews returned from their exile back to Judah, these Babylonian month names were Hebrew-ized, but still not so much different from their Babylonian originals.
The only reason we have Bibles containing Babylonian month names like KISLEV, TISHREI and so on is because they were edited in afterwards.
Before Babylon, months of the year were simply numbered 1, 2, and 3 on up to 12.
Just like the days of the week were numbered the 1st day, the 2nd day etcetera (except the SHABBAT of course!).
When reading a very literal rendering of the TORAH, you’ll find that it will call NISSAN the 1st month and TISHRI the 7th month.
Hence, from a Biblical perspective, the Jewish New Year occurs on the 1st day of the 7th month!
No wonder so much confusion arises when people try to figure out exactly when some event occurred in Scripture.