Head of the Year/Months
Some people have concluded that there is a conflict between the Scriptural definitions of the "Head of the Year". But a close look will demonstrate that there indeed is no conflict. Why are there places where it seems like the 7th month is the head of the year and why do we begin counting the year in the 7th month?
The Masoret text of Lev/Vay 25:9 says...
And you shall sound a shofar, a signal, in the 7th month in the 10th of the month, in the Day of Atonement
This tells us clearly that the Jubilee year is counted when?.....Tishri to Tishri. Read all of Vayikra/Leviticus 25, and you will see it clearly teaches us that ALL counting of Shmitta (7th year or Sabbatical year), harvest, etc., must be in line with Jubilee. Note in verse 8, where it tells us that the counting of Shmitta years must align with Jubilee. So obviously, the 7th month is the start of the year of Jubilee, Sabbath years, harvest, buying property, etc.
Some people see this as being in conflict with Exodus/Shemot 12:2, but it is not. Aviv is the first month for the purpose of setting the calendar. But no where does scripture call Aviv the "the head of the year". What it says is (I'll simply quote the English here)....
"This month is to ye the head of months. It is to ye the first of the months of the year." (Exodus/Shemot 12:2)
It does not call Aviv the "Head of the year" but the "head of the months of the year". So Aviv is counted as month 1, the next month is month 2, etc....but the Year of Jubilee, Year of Shmitta, Years of harvest, selling/buying property, are counted from the 7th month until the 7th month. When we count years as 5770...5771...5772...5773...etc...we are COMMANDED in scripture to count them from the 7th month to the 7th month. Note that Lev 25:8 says....
= "And COUNT to you 7 sabbaths of years...." (Vay 25:8)
So we're suppose to count the years, and we are suppose to mark that count from the 7th month, until the next 7th month, as is clearly explained in the rest of Vayikra 25. (You'll have to read on to see where it says this starts in the 7th month, but I just quoted the most important verse from here earlier in this post.) So Rabbinical Judaism is counting years just like Elohim told them to do it. No where does it say to count year 1, year 2, year 3, .... year 577x... from Aviv to Aviv. It says to count the MONTHS from Aviv to Aviv, but not the years.
So we count our months 1,2,3,4,....12, (sometimes 13) from Aviv to Aviv, and years 1,2,3,...5762, 5763, 5764....etc.... from Tishri/Ethanim to Tishri/Ethanim. This is why the FALL is called the "turn of the year" in Exodus/Shemot 34:22, because it is when the year "turns" or its count is incremented. Note how it says this....
- the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest and
- the Feast of Ingathering at the TURN OF THE YEAR" (Exod 34:22)
Is this confusing? Maybe a bit so to newcomers of Torah since no other society counts their years from anything other than the 1st month. But we can't let the traditions of men influence how we interpret scripture. Just because human traditions call month 1 the month a year starts in does not mean Elohim will do the same. But its important to understand the Jewish point of view before arguing its wrong. Many people in the Church are eager to say that Judaism has messed everything up, but they are in fact, following these instructions exactly as they are laid out, even if it is not how men would have numbered things.
Jewish tradition teaches that there are 4 "heads" to 4 different types of years. In the Mishnah, Rosh HaShanah 1:1 says:
"There are four new years:
- B. (1) The first day of Nisan is the new year for kings and festivals.
- C. (2) The first day of Elul is the new year for tithing cattle.
- D. ___R. Eleazar and R. Simeon say, "It is on the first day of Tishre".
- E. (3) The first day of Tishri is the new year for the counting of years, for Sabbatical years, and for Jubiliees
- F. ___for planting and vegitation
- G. (4) the first day of Shebat is the new year for trees, in accord with the opinion of the House of Shammai.
- H. ___the House of Hillel say, "On the 15th day of that month" "
So while there is some minor disagreement in Jewish tradition on this topic, we still see in RH 1:1E that Jewish tradition correctly determnied that Tishri to Tishri is when years are COUNTED, just as Lev 25:9 describes. But it also recognizes another type of "year" that begins on the "Head of the months" of Aviv/Nisan for kings and for setting the calendar.
Now note that for the 2 "years" that are described in scripture, Jewish tradition contains no debate on. But for the other 2 "years", we see some disagreement on how to reckon those.
And biblically one could say there used to be at least one more fifth "head of the year". The phrase, "Rosh HaShanah" or "Head of the Year" appears only once in Scripture, in Ezekiel 40:1 it says,
"In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year [Rosh HaShanah], in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day...." (Ezek 40:1, KJV [with annotation])
When he uses the phrase "head of the year", this is referring to the head of the "years of exile", measured as how long since Israel was in exile, not the year as Israel came out of Egypt (which is measured from the 1st month), or Sabbatical / Jubilee years (measured from the 7th month), or the year for tithing cattle (measured from the 6th month), etc. This is not talking about the 7th month or the first , but the month of Av, for it says "in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day". There is no history of any attack on Israel starting or ending on the 10th day of either Aviv/Nisan or Ethanim / Tishri. But the temple was set afire on the 9th of Av and it took 2 days for it to burn, so the buring of the temple was completed on the 10th of Av. Ezek 40:1 was the exact 25th anniversary of that destruction of the temple. And when we read on in Ezekiel 40, what does G-d choose to reveal to Ezekiel on the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the temple? ..... He reveals what the NEW TEMPLE will look like!!!!! How poetic.
The date Ezekiel is giving here is the 10th of Av, on the 25th anniversary of Israel's exile, measured from the day the temple finished burning to the ground. Now this "year" that Ezekiel is referring to, the years of exile, no longer existed when the Mishnah was written, so it was not worth mentioning at that point. But it was mentioned by Ezekiel.
This could be compared to how in our modern society, we have a "calendar year" that stretches from January to December. But many companies and governments also operate under a "fiscal year" that may run from July 1 to June 30, or August 1 to July 31, etc. In government this is often done so fiscal planning for the school year is smoother, which isn't really a "year" since the "school year" often runs from August/September to May/June.
So while we see the phrase "turn of the year" applied to the 7th month to the next 7th month, and the phrase "Head of the year (Rosh HaShanah)" applied to the 10th of Av through the next 10th of Av, there are still multiple types of "years" being discussed in Scripture that correlate to multiple "heads of the year" as a result of that. It is not "wrong" to call one type of year "rosh hashanah" and another not, for if there are multiple ways to divide the year, then there are multiple heads; one for each type of year. But the most important "year", and therefore the most important "Rosh Hashanah" (or "Head of the Year") is the one by which we count our Sabbatical years, Jubilees, etc.
Now why does the Scirptures tell us to count the Sabbatical / Jubilee years from one seventh month to another? Keep in mind several things: A word for "year" really doesn't exist in Hebrew the same as in English - that is - a word used EXCLUSIVELY to refer to a measure of time. The Hebrew word for "year" (shanah) also can mean "change", "repeat", "study", and perhaps G-d wants us to see all these concepts in this time of year. And there are several instances in which the 7th measure of something creates or precedes a great change in Scripture.
Also, we know that Rosh HaShanah (The "Head of the Year" or the "Head of the Change") symbolically represents the second coming of the Messiah, which is when the biggest change the world will ever see will happen. And setting this in the 7th month could be a hint as to how this event will happen in the 7th Millenium of mankind. The Scriptures tell us that a day is like a thousand years, and many people believe that our Savior will return after the world has had 6,000 years of existance to start the 7th Millenium of mankind on earth as its earthly ruler. At http://www.messiahalive.com/timeline.htm is an interesting discussion on why the year 2000 was probably somewhere between 5,954 to 6,034 years since creation, though no one can pin the time frame exactly. But perhaps He wants us to see His return to earth as something that happens in the 7th of a measure of something as a hint towards what time frame He will return to those of us who do believe?
Now in many ways, the number 7 is symbolically linked to rest. But we see a change connected in two ways; things in motion are set to rest and other things changing immediately after a measure of 7.
Whatever the case, we can say this with all safe conclusions:
So whatever God's reasons where for having us "see" a "year" or a "change" in the 7th measure of something, this is the association He made and there must have been something symbolically important in the 7th measure of something in which he wanted us to see a change.