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The Relationship of the Barley Harvest
to the First Month of a New Year

by Dave Clark

Firstly, this is in no way to cast mud upon the understandings of others.  Instead, this is merely the result of my own investigations -- as the Bereans would.  If someone has additional Bible references to pass on, along this topic line, I'd be more than happy to receive them.  You see, I believe that objective examination of the Bible shows the determination of the first month of the year, by the barley harvest, to be almost purely coincidental in nature.  In other words, I've come to the conclusion that this usage is more one of man's traditions rather than by explicit command of God.  For, nowhere in the Bible did I find a clear, "Thus saith the LORD," to test the beginning of the year against the barley harvest.  The following Bible quotations (KJV) are what I've found on this subject.

The first reference to the barley, along this topic line, is during the plagues of Egypt:

Ex. 9:31 And the flax6594 and the barley8184 was smitten:5221 for3588 the barley8184 was in the ear,24 and the flax6594 was bolled.1392

Interestingly enough, this means that there was no barley available at all, that year, for this type of determination.  At any rate, the next reference is a, "Thus saith the LORD," type of reference:

Ex. 12:1 And the LORD3068 spoke559 unto413 Moses4872 and Aaron175 in the land776 of Egypt,4714 saying,559
Ex. 12:2 This2088 month2320 shall be unto you the beginning7218 of months:2320 it1931 shall be the first7223 month2320 of the year8141 to you.

I believe that here is where the first presumption is made.  No instruction is recorded, here or later, as to just how to determine which month is "this month" as designated by the LORD to start the year — other than it was the month in which He brought them out of Egypt.  I believe people use the next reference, in connection with this one, to jump to the conclusion that the barley determines the first month of the year:

Ex. 13:4 This day3117 came ye out3318, 859 in the month2320 Abib.24

Note the Strong's reference number (24) is the same Strong's number given in Ex. 9:31 for the English phrase "in the ear."  Thus, seemingly, just because the name of the first month means the same thing as the barley being just ready to harvest (being tender, or "green," in the ear — basically, "spring"), man has decided that God must mean that the determination for the first month of the year is to be based on the actual barley harvest.

Well, I have to tell you, I think our God is a more precise God than that.  Natural fluctuations in the weather patterns (including drought) can, and do, cause wildly shifting patterns for the harvests of food crops.  Then there are the very real times in which there would be no barley harvest at all — due to severe drought, disease, hail, a horde or two of locusts, or a Great Flood!  Meaning, Noah knew when the year began yet there was no barley harvest on which to base it:

Gen. 8:13 And it came to pass1961 in the six8337 hundredth3967 and first259 year,8141 in the first7223 month, the first259 day of the month,2320 the waters4325 were dried up2717 from off4480, 5921 the earth:776 and Noah5146 removed5493 (853) the covering4372 of the ark,8392 and looked,7200 and, behold,2009 the face6440 of the ground127 was dry.2717

Is God going to leave the determination of His "appointed times" or "set times" (moed) to the vagaries of a crop harvest that may come too early, too late, or may not even happen at all?  I think not.

To put that another way...  Just because the name of the month means "the month of the tender, green grain" doesn't mean that this month cannot occur unless you actually have tender, green grain to go with the month.  After all, in the Jubilee cycle, they planted no barley for every seventh and fiftieth years and, thus, would have had no barley harvest from which to make a new year determination.  There was also no barley harvest for the forty years in the wilderness — yet, they knew the passing of the years.  This includes the commonly held notion that if the barley isn't ripe in the expected month, then they were to wait until the next month to begin the year.  I have found no reference for this in the Bible.  Thus, this would seem to be another of the traditions of men.  I have found two Biblical references for a "second" Passover but this had to do with missing the first Passover for reasons of being unclean or away on a far journey:

Num. 9:9 And the LORD3068 spoke1696 unto413 Moses,4872 saying,559
Num. 9:10 Speak1696 unto413 the children1121 of Israel,3478 saying,559 If3588 any man376, 376 of you or176 of your posterity1755 shall be1961 unclean2931 by reason of a dead body,5315 or176 be in a journey1870 afar off,7350 yet he shall keep6213 the passover6453 unto the LORD.3068
Num. 9:11 The fourteenth702, 6240 day3117 of the second8145 month2320 at996 even6153 they shall keep6213 it, and eat398 it with5921 unleavened bread4682 and bitter4844 herbs.
Num. 9:12 They shall leave7604 none3808 of4480 it unto5704 the morning,1242 nor3808 break7665 any bone6106 of it: according to all3605 the ordinances2708 of the passover6453 they shall keep6213 it.
Num. 9:13 But the man376 that834 is clean,2889 and is1961 not3808 in a journey,1870 and forbeareth2308 to keep6213 the passover,6453 even the same1931 soul5315 shall be cut off3772 from among his people:4480, 5971 because3588 he brought7126 not3808 the offering7133 of the LORD3068 in his appointed season,4150 that1931 man376 shall bear5375 his sin.2399
Num. 9:14 And if3588 a stranger1616 shall sojourn1481 among854 you, and will keep6213 the passover6453 unto the LORD;3068 according to the ordinance2708 of the passover,6453 and according to the manner4941 thereof, so3651 shall he do:6213 ye shall have1961 one259 ordinance,2708 both for the stranger,1616 and for him that was born249 in the land.776


2 Chr. 30:1 And Hezekiah3169 sent7971 to5921 all3605 Israel3478 and Judah,3063 and wrote3789 letters107 also1571 to5921 Ephraim669 and Manasseh,4519 that they should come935 to the house1004 of the LORD3068 at Jerusalem,3389 to keep6213 the passover6453 unto the LORD3068 God430 of Israel.3478
2 Chr. 30:2 For the king4428 had taken counsel,3289 and his princes,8269 and all3605 the congregation6951 in Jerusalem,3389 to keep6213 the passover6453 in the second8145 month.2320
2 Chr. 30:3 For3588 they could3201 not3808 keep6213 it at that1931 time,6256 because3588 the priests3548 had not3808 sanctified themselves6942 sufficiently,4078 neither3808 had the people5971 gathered themselves together622 to Jerusalem.3389

(just for enjoyment, see the rest of the story: 2 Chr. 30:13-27)

To continue, though, here are the rest of the references, along this topic line, for Strong's reference number 24:

Ex. 23:15 Thou shalt keep8104 (853) the feast2282 of unleavened bread:4682 (thou shalt eat398 unleavened bread4682 seven7651 days,3117 as834 I commanded6680 thee, in the time appointed4150 of the month2320 Abib;24 for3588 in it thou camest out3318 from Egypt:4480, 4714 and none3808 shall appear7200 before6440 me empty:)7387

Note that some have also used that last phrase (above) as further "proof" that the determination of God's Feast was based on the barley harvest.  However, if you look up the Strong's reference for that word "empty" (7387) you'll find that it means "undeservedly."  This is not about empty hands (no barley).  Continuing:

Ex. 34:18 (853) The feast2282 of unleavened bread4682 shalt thou keep.8104 Seven7651 days3117 thou shalt eat398 unleavened bread,4682 as834 I commanded6680 thee, in the time4150 of the month2320 Abib:24 for3588 in the month2320 Abib24 thou camest out3318 from Egypt.4480, 4714

Deu. 16:1 Observe8104 (853) the month2320 of Abib,24 and keep6213 the passover6453 unto the LORD3068 thy God:430 for3588 in the month2320 of Abib24 the LORD3068 thy God430 brought thee forth3318 out of Egypt4480, 4714 by night.3915

And that's the end of them.  So, what is the short and the long of this?  In short, there are two other methods used, both based on the cycle of the sun, for determining the first month of the year.  After all, God did set the sun, moon, and stars for signs, seasons, days, and years:

Gen. 1:14 And God430 said,559 Let there be1961 lights3974 in the firmament7549 of the heaven8064 to divide914, 996 the day3117 from996 the night;3915 and let them be1961 for signs,226 and for seasons,4150 and for days,3117 and years:8141

Strong's reference number 226 says that the sun, moon, and stars are for "signals."  Strong's reference number 4150 says that the sun, moon, and stars are to signal God's "appointed times" or the "set times" (moed) for His Feasts.  Thus it seems obvious, to me, that we are to await the first signal, of the sun, to mark the vernal equinox.  Then, we are to await the second signal, of the moon, to mark the beginning of the first month of the year.  Why await the new moon after the vernal equinox?  Because you have to wait for the old year to end, or be completed (Strong's 8141 with 8666 and 8622) — which is also what happens at the vernal equinox.  At any rate...  From there (the new moon after the vernal equinox), we count off the days to His spring Feasts — the Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits.  That way, if there is no barley harvest at all, God's Feasts will still take place at their appointed time.

That's just the way I see it.  As chance may or may not have it, the Millerite Movement and Ellen G. White agrees.  Read the Appendix of either The Spirit of Prophecy volume 4 (1884), page 497.2, or The Great Controversy (1888), page 681.4, for what she believed:


If she was wrong, in this belief, God would have corrected her.  Why?  Because we're talking about God's "appointed times" or "set times" (moed) here.  Our God is a particular God.  After all, Cain made the required offering, at the correct time, and to the correct God.  He only changed what was to be sacrificed.  God would not have us worship Him in our own way nor at our own times.  God would have us worship Him in His way and at His set times.

So, now, that being the long of it, why doesn't the Bible record this?  I wouldn't presume to guess at God's reasonings in this.  However, it is a well-known fact that, as historical recordings go, some of the most well-known facts were omitted (from such historical recordings), apparently, because such facts were so well known that they were not considered as needing to be recorded.  On the other hand, some people consider Gen. 1:14 (as quoted above) to be such recording (albeit, somewhat implicitly).

The End