Servants' News

Jul/Aug 2002

Does Psalm 81:3 Mention a “Full Moon”?

By Tim Henry and Norman Edwards

 

      
If you are not interested in determining the Biblical calendar, we still encourage you to keep the Feast Days with other believers. But if you are one trying to find out exactly what the Bible says about calendars, please consider this information.

Psalm 81:3 is a scripture frequently quoted by those striving to keep the Biblical calendar. The Hebrew word “chodesh” (Strong’s #2320) is used for the month or “new month” in the Bible. Almost every calendar researcher agrees with that. Most would say a “new month” is the same as a “new moon” and use moon observation or calculation to determine the start of a month. Unfortunately, there is no scripture that clearly says: “you will know when a new month begins because you will see… or because you will calculate…”. Psalm 81:3 does appear to describe events related to a new moon, but it is not clear how they are related or even what is related.

Who wants an article that explains why things are unclear? People who want the truth should want this article. Major portions of calendar systems have been based around this scripture alone. If those system’s assumptions about this verse are wrong, then the whole system is wrong.

To help understand the problem, we will quote this verse from Green’s Interlinear. We will give the meaning of each Hebrew word in the order that it appears, followed by its Strong’s number in parentheses:

Blow (8678) in the new moon (2320) the ram’s horn (7782) at the full moon (3677) on day (3177) our feast (2282).

Some believe that the “new moon” here is the dark moon or first crescent which would be the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) and that the ram’s horn was also blown on the full moon, which would be the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Num 10:10). However, Numbers 10:10 specifies silver trumpets, and this verse says “ram’s horn”, though different trumpets may not be an issue. Others claim that Psalm 81:3 proves that the first day of the month is the same thing as the full moon. This is the most likely meaning of this verse as there is no “and” connector between the words specifying that they are different events—but Hebrew grammar apparently allows separate, unconnected events (the ancient Israelites knew when months began, so they understood this verse).

Unfortunately, the Hebrew word translated “full moon”, kehseh (Strong’s #3677) is of uncertain meaning. It is completely different than yereach (Strong’s #3394), the normal Hebrew word for “moon”. It only appears twice in the Bible: Psalm 81:3 (81:4 in Hebrew Bibles) and in Proverbs 7:20, where it is actually spelled slightly differently. The usage in Proverbs is of little help in figuring out what the word means. Above, it seems the NIV translators think kehseh means “full moon”, the KJV think it means “time appointed” and the NKJV translators are split half and half. The Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (ISBN 0801037360, $22.99 from Christian Book Distributors) excerpted below, says the root word means “to cover” and should have the sense of “being hid”, but never “covered with light”. This would fit in much better with dark moon, or even first crescent moon calendar research. The translation would be:

Blow the trumpet on the new moon, at the hidden moon on our solemn feast day.

 

 
Psalm 81:3
Proverbs 7:20
KJV

Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.

He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.

NKJV

Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, At the full moon, on our solemn feast day.

He has taken a bag of money with him, And will come home on the appointed day.

NIV

Sound the ram's horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast;

He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.

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