What Is Rosh Hashanah and Why It Matters To You

    Rosh Hashanah is the Festival for the Jewish New Year. It is the first day of Israel's civil calendar.  Rosh Hashanah means the head of the year. But it is not the new year feast day God appointed in the Bible for them to celebrate. That day is in the spring. In the month of Nisan at Passover.


    Rosh Hashanah falls in the seventh month. And God didn't call the feast day they are to keep in the seventh month the head of the year. He called it Yom Teruah which means "day of blowing the trumpet". The trumpet is actually a hollowed out ram's horn.


    Yom Teruah is the only feast day featuring the blowing of trumpets. This excites people who study endtimes details because God said He will blow a trumpet to call His children to heaven.


      In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1Co 15:52).


    For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1Th 4:16-17). 



    The Feast of Trumpets as Christians call it, including Jewish Christians­, is thought by some to be about the rapture while others think it is Jesus' second coming.


    But if you wished the average Jewish person Happy Yom Teruah on Rosh Hashanah, they would have no idea what you were talking about. Even though Yom Teruah is the correct name of festival on that day as stated in the Old Testament and their Torah. While Jews still blow trumpets on Rosh Hashanah, the New Year celebration has overshadowed Yom Teruah.


    So where did Rosh Hashanah come from and when did it start in Israel's history?


    Scholars believe it started while the ancient Israelites were captives in Babylon. They could be right because the one reference to the words "Rosh Hashanah" occurs in Ezekiel 40:1 while the prophet Ezekiel was in Babylon. The Israelites also began using the Babylonian names for months while they were there. The Old Testament refers to the months by their ordinal numbers, the first month, the second month, etc. But the books written during the captivity like Ezra, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Esther and Zechariah refer to months like Nisan. Nisannu was Babylon's first month.


    Remember, however, the Jews already had fall feast days and spring feast days at the time of Moses. God called them moedim, the appointed times. But while the Jews were captives in Babylon which began around 597 BC, they may have been influenced by the Babylonian holidays. One of them was a new year celebration. Akitu was a Babylonian festival celebrating the creation of the earth and the agricultural cycle. Akitu was celebrated in the spring during the first month and again in the fall during the seventh month, Tašrītu. 


    Priests at Marduke's temple called Esagila  prayed to Marduke asking for protection and success. Marduke became the supreme demon god of Babylon. He was honored because he had overcome the chaos god Tiamat and kept the other gods safe. He killed Tiamat and brought peace. The he built the Esagila. When Assyria ended Babylon's first empire, they kept Akitu and Sennacherib built an Akitu temple at Assur and Ninevah.


    But it was Nebuchadnezzar, not Marduke, who completed the temple in Babylon. The Esagila Tablet provides historians with an early description that sounds like a ziggurat. Nebuchadnezzar wrote his prayers to Marduke and Shamash in stone, er, brick. He said to Marduke, "Continuously look with favor upon me and a long life and abundance of offspring A firm throne and an enduring reign." To Shamash he said, "...recall my gracious deeds."1


    During this ceremony of Akitu, the king would visit the Esagila and humbly assure Marduke he had not sinned. The high priest's job was to belt the king in the face so hard he had tears in his eyes. Perhaps it was a sign of humilitybut it is funny to imagine Nebuchadnezzar getting slugged during worship. Xerxes destroyed the Esagila and Alexander the Great restored it.


    Scholars point to Akitu and see Rosh Hashanah, but there are major differences. (Like nobody slaps Netanyahu.) While Babylon celebrated their gruesome creation story as told in the Enuma Elish, Jews told the account written in Genesis. While Nebuchadnezzar prayed to Marduke and Shamash for success, the Jews prayed to God, asking Him to strengthen them to help others, and in the days following, they focused on repentance.


    Many scholars believe Israel invented their history written in the Torah in Babylon after they became educated. They say Israel copied from Babylon their myths and created the God of the Bible. But it really comes down to your worldview.


    A true biblical worldview sees God first and pagan religions existing later. It sees pagan religions like Babylon's influenced by demons and sees in their myths perverted truth. Who is to say that it was not general knowledge after the flood that creation did occur at this time of the year and the Babylonians adapted their myth to the Genesis account?


    Is it surprising that the ancient world saw spring as the time of the new year? It is hard to imagine after living with a Gregorian calendar, but maybe they are right after all because it is God who told Israel March/April is the new year.


    Anyway, somewhere during this era of Babylonian captivity up to the time of publishing the Mishnah around 200 AD, Rosh Hashanah was recognized and gained more attention than Yom Teruah. (The Mishnah is the collection of oral traditions taught in Judaism.)


    The Israelites adapted their original culture written in the Torah to accommodate it. But today the average Jew would not understand if you wished them a Happy Feast of Trumpets Day because the original feast day has been hidden in Rosh Hashanah.


    There are Jewish Christians who think Yom Teruah is the day to be prepared for the rapture. But no one is predicting which Yom Teruah. Jesus said no one would know the day or the hour, and to our Jewish brothers and sisters, those words are like a signpost pointing out the season.


    Yom Teruah was called the hidden day. It begins on a new moon, which means the moon is hidden. You cannot easily see a new moon because it is dark. It rises and sets with the sun. 


    Jews had to be watching the skies earnestly. When the designated person saw signs of the new moon, a messenger was sent from Jerusalem to alert people that Yom Teruah was upon them. At first fires were lit. Later messengers were sent throughout Israel to inform the people quickly. The call could come at anytime, day or night.


    For example, this year's Yom Teruah's new moon begins in Israel on September 15 at 4:39 AM. For Americans that's September 14 at 9:40PM. But it will be observed at sundown on the 15th and on the 16th through the 17th.  Other feast days fall on full moons or a few days after a new moon. Yom Teruah is the only day associated with mystery and balanced with preparedness.


    Yom Teruah is one of the appointed times of the Lord, the moedim. The root for this Hebrew word is target and these moedim have a purpose and a targeted time on God's calendar. Yom Teruah begins a ten day period of repentance and reflection leading up to Yom Kippur.


    It is important for us to realize every feast day in the spring was fulfilled to the day by Jesus' crucifixion and the baptism of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. For those who think the book of Revelation has already been fulfilled with the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, you must realize that the Jewish priests would have said Passover had been fulfilled on that day in Egypt when Israelites put blood over their doorways. They would have said that and thought that while Jesus hung on the cross at the time of the evening sacrifice at Passover. Actually the true fulfillment of Passover was happening right under their noses and they didn't know it.


    Whatever you think of the fall feasts of Judaism, they are awaiting their true fulfillment and Revelation 7:9 says Christians of every nation and tongue will be part of it.


    Image by Pexels from Pixabay


    1Harper, Robert Francis. “Prayers from the Neo-Babylonian Historical Inscriptions.” The Biblical World 23, no. 6 (1904): 428–34. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3141180.


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