Did Yeshua ever indicate when the Sabbath day was? I used to think not, but then an online acquaintance brought to my attention the following gospel accounts, which I now realize clearly indicates a particular day of a month (“chodesh”) to be a Sabbath day.
(NOTE: This is not an argument for a Lunar Sabbath reckoning.)
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Mat 12:1-8 ESV)
One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mar 2:23-28 ESV)
On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Luk 6:1-5 ESV)
These three gospel accounts testify to the fact that on a Sabbath, Yeshua and his disciples were going through the grainfields. The disciples began to pluck heads of grain and the Pharisees asked why they were doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.
First of all, it is not unlawful to pluck heads of grain when walking through someone else’s grainfield. Torah actually makes a point to say this is allowed.
“If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag. If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain. (Deu 23:24-25 ESV)
The Pharisees were questioning whether or not this could be done specifically on the Sabbath day. Yeshua responded by calling their attention to what David did when he and his companions were hungry in the account found in 1 Samuel 21.
Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread–if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the LORD, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. (1Sa 21:1-6 ESV)
We learn here that the only available bread was that which was replaced each Sabbath day.
“You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.” (Lev 24:5-9 ESV)
Given this it appears that the day on which David did this was a Sabbath day. The question is, Do we know when this Sabbath day was?
Looking at the previous chapter we can see that David is fleeing from Saul after it became clear to Jonathan that Saul’s intent was to harm David. Let’s look back at that part of the story…
David said to Jonathan, “Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit at table with the king. But let me go, that I may hide myself in the field till the third day at evening. If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the clan.’ If he says, ‘Good!’ it will be well with your servant, but if he is angry, then know that harm is determined by him. Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the LORD with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?”
And Jonathan said, “Far be it from you! If I knew that it was determined by my father that harm should come to you, would I not tell you?”
Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you roughly?”
And Jonathan said to David, “Come, let us go out into the field.” So they both went out into the field. (1Sa 20:5-11 ESV)
First, I need to point out that while most of our Bibles, which are based on the Masoretic Text, say “new moon” in English, the word in Hebrew is “chodesh” (H2320), which simply means “renewal”. But, in the Septuagint, which is a Greek text translated from an earlier Hebrew text, the Greek word is “noumenia” (G3561). This is a form of a compound word for “neos” (new) and “men” (month).
When we study the Hebrew word “chodesh” in the Tanakh, we find there are only 12 chodesh in a year, and the word is most often translated as “month”. Taking this into consideration and the Septuagint’s text with the Masoretic Text, it appears that a more accurate rendering of verse 5 is that David is saying, “tomorrow is the new month”.
And Jonathan said to David, “The LORD, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But should it please my father to do you harm, the LORD do so to Jonathan and more also if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. May the LORD be with you, as he has been with my father. If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the LORD, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”
And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD take vengeance on David’s enemies.” And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul. (1Sa 20:12-17 ESV)
We see here that Jonathan will sound out Saul’s disposition towards David on the “new month day”, which is “tomorrow” in this scene, and the day after that, which is the “third day” from the present time in this scene.
Then Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon (new month), and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty. On the third day go down quickly to the place where you hid yourself when the matter was in hand, and remain beside the stone heap. And I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. And behold, I will send the boy, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you, take them,’ then you are to come, for, as the LORD lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. But if I say to the youth, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then go, for the LORD has sent you away. And as for the matter of which you and I have spoken, behold, the LORD is between you and me forever.” (1Sa 20:18-23 ESV)
It’s a bit unclear as to the reference to “the third day” here since a few verses prior, it appears to be referring to the 2nd day of the chodesh, but a look at this verse in the Septuagint seems to clear it up (plus what we see unfold in the rest of this chapter).
(1Sa 20:19 Brenton Septuagint) And thou shalt stay three days, and watch an opportunity, and shalt come to thy place where thou mayest hide thyself in the day of thy business, and thou shalt wait by that ergab.
If the day that Jonathan is speaking is the day before the new month, staying three days would be “tomorrow” (the new month), the next day (the 2nd day of the chodesh), and the 3rd day (the 3rd day of the chodesh). As we see the events play out, we’ll see that it is on the third day of the chodesh when the arrows are shot.
So David hid himself in the field. And when the new moon (new month) came, the king sat down to eat food. The king sat on his seat, as at other times, on the seat by the wall. Jonathan sat opposite, and Abner sat by Saul’s side, but David’s place was empty. Yet Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, “Something has happened to him. He is not clean; surely he is not clean.”
But on the second day, the day after the new moon (new month), David’s place was empty. And Saul said to Jonathan his son, “Why has not the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?”
Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Let me go, for our clan holds a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers.’ For this reason he has not come to the king’s table.”
Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.”
Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death. And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him. (1Sa 20:24-34 ESV)
We see here that on the 1st day of the “chodesh” David wasn’t at the king’s table, and then on the 2nd day of the “chodesh”, he wasn’t there again.
In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him a little boy. And he said to his boy, “Run and find the arrows that I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. And when the boy came to the place of the arrow that Jonathan had shot, Jonathan called after the boy and said, “Is not the arrow beyond you?” And Jonathan called after the boy, “Hurry! Be quick! Do not stay!” So Jonathan’s boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. But the boy knew nothing. Only Jonathan and David knew the matter. And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, “Go and carry them to the city.” And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.'” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city. (1Sa 20:35-42 ESV)
Here it is made clear that it is the third day of the “chodesh” when Jonathan indicates it is not safe for David to stay. So David rose and departed. The next verse tells us…
Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” (1Sa 21:1 ESV)
When we read these passages together, it becomes clear that David went to the priest on the 3rd day of the chodesh. It doesn’t state which chodesh it is, but it is clear as to which day of the chodesh it is and Yeshua identifies it as a Sabbath day.
Three Schools of Thought
There are three schools of thought that I am aware of who hold to the testimony of Enoch that there are precisely 364 days in a year, indicating that the Sabbath day falls on the same days of the year, year after year (364 is evenly divisible by 7).
One notion states the first Sabbath day is on the 7th day of the year. I do not agree with this notion since the pattern laid out in Genesis 1-2:3 indicates the luminaries were not put in the heavens to be “for days and years” until the 4th day. How can you have a year starting on the 1st day of the 7-day pattern if there were no luminaries to serve for days and years until the 4th day?
Another notion is that the first Sabbath day is on the 4th day of the year. This is based on the idea that since the luminaries were put in the heavens to be “for days and years” on the 4th day of the 7-day pattern, then that would be the first day of the year. That would mean: 1st day of the year is 4th day of the 7-day pattern; 2nd day of the year is 5th day of the 7-day pattern; 3rd day of the year is 6th day of the 7-day pattern; and 4th day of the year is the Sabbath day.
The third notion is that the first Sabbath day is on the 3rd day of the year. This is based on the fact that the Day of Atonement (10th day of the 7th chodesh) is called a Sabbath in Leviticus 16 and 23, and the 7th day from the 15th day of the 2nd chodesh is called a Sabbath in Exodus 16. When you apply both of these dates as the 7th day of a 7-day pattern, it is revealed that the 5th day of the 7-day pattern is the first day of the year, yielding the first Sabbath to be on “the 3rd day” of the year.
Here is a comparison of these two last calendar models side by side with the 5th day start of the year on the left and the 4th day start of the year on the right. If you notice, only one of the calendar models identifies a Sabbath to be on the third day of the chodesh. It is the one that lines up with Leviticus 16 & 23 and Exodus 16. This is the one I believe to be true.
What say you?