Seven perhaps Eight...
Great clocks from God
A study on the phenomenon of Godís timing
Updated January, 2000
The plans of God for planet Earth did not end with Creationís week; rather, they merely began. The knowledge of what God planned to do from the beginning continues to unfold to this very day. Review in your mind all that God has done since the Creation of the world and put that within a context of what God planned to do before He even made the world! God did not create this world and abandon it. On the contrary, God put each of us on this orb to make Heaven a little larger. God loves children, thatís why He created Adam and Eve. God wanted Adam and Eve to experience (as He does) the joy of children; that is why He gave them the power to procreate. When sin entered the picture, it corrupted every good thing that God had made. Sinís legacy has produced a degenerate order in every dimension on Earth, God has not, like a deadbeat parent, abandoned this world or His children.
God is a mystery. His actions at times are baffling. Sometimes, it is hard to trust God, for His ways are not our ways. He does not operate within our boundaries, nor on our scale. To say that God is awesome is a terrible understatement. His knowledge and wisdom knows no boundaries. One feature of God that is impressive, and yet confusing, is His foreknowledge. For example, one popular question goes like this: "If God foreknew that Lucifer would become a devil, why did He create Him? There are several responses to this question and here is one: If God protected Himself and His government from the possibility of rebellion, He would prove that He is an eternal tyrant forever secure in His position as Dictator of the Universe. But, the very presence of the devil proves that God is not an eternal tyrant. On the contrary, the drama of sin has revealed as nothing else could do that God is love. Therefore, a positive benefit which springs from the experience of sin is the knowledge that God alone is worthy to forever hold the position of "Dictator of the Universe." In other words, Godís reaction to sin has earned Him the right to rule over the universe and His children. His actions will ultimately grant Him the honor, glory and praise He is due.
When God created the world, He foreknew the elements that would be needed to accomplish His objectives. Because He knows the duration of every event, God created the phenomenon we call time so that we could measure every event. What is time? Time is the duration between two events. As we shall see, time on Earth is measured in several ways. God foreknew from the beginning the duration of sin. He has given man seven, perhaps eight great clocks so that we might measure and understand the duration of His plans. In this light, every student of Daniel and Revelation faces the challenge of arranging a number of pre-determined time-periods which God ordained from the beginning. God has given us some prophetic time-periods that endure many centuries and some time-periods that endure for a few days. Why? Because each time-period reveals the timing of His plans that began at Creation. Do we really need to know about the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 before they come to pass? Yes! If they were not important, God would not have revealed them to us. What is so important about knowing the saints will reign with Jesus for a thousand years? If we consider the presence of a millennial week of seven thousand years for the duration of sin, then the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 implies the saints will reign with Jesus during Earthís sabbatical rest from sin!
A large number of people say, "Prophecy is not a matter that pertains to my salvation, therefore, why worry about it? Whatever will be, will be." No doubt the antediluvians said similar statements in Noahís day. Consider the parallel: For 120 years the antediluvians said the prophecies of Noah were not pertinent to salvation, but in one single day everything changed. How can this be? Did God send the antediluvians meaningless prophecies for 120 years and then suddenly send them meaningful prophecies? Of course not. From the beginning, Noahís message pertained to salvation, but the scoffers drowned in their own unbelief. (Matthew 24:39) Likewise, the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are pertinent right now, even though we may not fully understand everything about them. However, when the time for soul-saving clarity comes, who will understand the way to life eternal Ė the scoffers or the students?
Each Time-period Has a Place
The books of Daniel and Revelation contain several time-periods. For example, the book of Daniel mentions:
Likewise, Revelation also mentions several time-periods. These include:
Revelation also includes one reference of time that pinpoints a specific hour, day, month and year. Given the sheer size and number of time-periods found in Daniel and Revelation, the student is faced with the following questions: How does God reckon these time-periods? What do these time-periods say about His actions? Is there a self-evident rule within the Bible that mandates how time should be reckoned? Where does each time-period belong in prophetic chronology? Why does God use different names for time-periods? When a Bible student undertakes a close investigation of Daniel and Revelation, he must include all of these time-periods in his study. Therefore, some method of interpreting these time-periods becomes essential. One purpose for this paper is to suggest a rule for interpreting these time-periods.
The "Day Clock"
When God created Earth, He devised four great clocks and four seasons to enable man to quantify and measure the passage of "Earth time." (Genesis 1:14-19) Three of the four clocks and all four seasons were perpetually synchronized with planetary motion. For example, God synchronized the "day clock" with sundown. (Genesis 1:5) The end of one day establishes the beginning of the next because the day clock is perpetually reset at sundown. (Genesis 1:8) God confirmed this point some 2,500 years after Creation. (Leviticus 23:32) Ancient Egyptians may have synchronized their day clock with sunrise and the Romans may have synchronized their day clock with midnight, but the synchrony of Godís "day clock" remains unchanged and it operates from sundown to sundown.
The average length of Earthís solar day is 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds. The additional 3 minutes and 56 seconds needed to make up a 24 hour day is gained by traveling 1.728 million miles around the Sun. In other words, our orbital travel around the Sun plus the rotation of Earth produces 24 hours between sunsets. The amount of darkness and light per day constantly changes throughout the year because our planet axis is not vertical. Inclement weather also prevents the observation of sundown. Further, the season of the year, latitude and longitude also affect the local time for sundown. Even the horizon of the observer affects the time of sundown. The point here is that even though sundown marks the end and the beginning of a day, the observable moment of sundown is not fixed or precise, yet sundown is perfectly suited to reset the "day clock."
The "Month Clock"
God also created the "month clock" at Creation. A month is determined by one full cycle of the moon. A lunar month averages 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 sec in length. Apparently, God synchronized the commencement of the month with the approximate conjunction of a new moon. This appears to be the case in Davidís day because the second day after the new moon is called the second day of the month. (1 Samuel 20:24,27) A new moon conjunction occurs at the moment when the moon passes between Earth and the Sun. This event is rarely observed because the face of a new moon is totally dark. Even though a new moon conjunction is rarely observed, the ancients could calculate the approximate time of conjunction by subtracting the age a full moon from 29.53 days. The result is the approximate time of conjunction. The number, 29.53, is the number of days between full moons. Depending on the orbit of the moon, a new moon waxes into a full moon over a period of approximately 13.91 to 15.54 days. In the following example, the relationship between full moons and new moons can be seen:
FM = Full moon / NM = New moon
It may seem strange to suggest that God synchronized the beginning of the "month clock" with something that cannot be seen, that is, the approximate time of a new moon. The wisdom for starting the month with a calculated time is that calculation eliminates a host of problems that go with observation including longitude, latitude and inclement weather. Godís synchrony of the "month clock" was designed to serve a world of many time zones. (See Isaiah 66:22,23.) Though calculating the accuracy of a new moon in ancient times was not as precise as it is today, the imprecision was not serious. If an error did occur, synchrony was restored the following month by making a simple adjustment. When Godís method for synchronizing a "monthly clock" for everyone on Earth is considered, a calculated new moon is far superior to the ancient Babylonian practice of sighting the first crescent of a new moon to begin a month. The luminance of a full moon as well as the phases of the moon provide enough time for everyone on Earth to correctly calculate the beginning of the next month without having to actually observe conjunction.
The "Year Clock"
God devised a third clock, the "year clock," at Creation. A year is determined by one complete orbit of Earth about the Sun. A solar year is about 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds in length. For reasons that are forthcoming, this writer finds that God synchronized the yearly cycle with the commencement of the first new moon on or after the Spring equinox. (See Chart 2 below.)
If Monday, March 20 = Spring Equinox
Is the Record of Time in the Bible Reliable?
From time to time, people suggest that the record of time given in the Bible is not reliable because, they say, "time-periods today are not like time-periods at Creation." They hypothesize that a day at Creation could have been several years in length. Of course, such a comment presupposes enormous solar changes. For example, if the day at Creation was different than the present, the rotation-period of our planet would have to be different. If the length of a year at Creation was different, then our orbit around the Sun would have to be different. If our orbit around the Sun were different, our distance from the Sun (about 93 million miles) and velocity around the Sun (about 72,000 mph) would be different. This would cause the temperature of Earth and the seasons to be substantially different. For example, if Earth were 141 million miles from the Sun (like Mars) a year would take 687 Earth days and temperature at the equator would be 100 degrees F below zero in the summer. If we were as close as Mercury, a year would be 88 Earth days in length and the temperature would quickly evaporate the oceans. It is doubtful that life could endure on Earth if it were any other distance from the Sun. In short, any change in the measurement of time requires a series of destructive changes in the physics of Earth. Godís definition of time at Creation, the Flood, the Exodus and at Calvary leads this writer to conclude that Earth time remains constant.
Godís Synchrony Abandoned
God established the synchrony of the day, the month and the year at Creation. These great clocks have a synchrony that cannot be separated from planetary motion. Consequently, our understanding of the prophetic time-periods within Daniel and Revelation must include the original synchrony that God devised for each clock. The significance of this point will be seen later on. We know that God is deliberate and purposeful in everything He does. God designed and established the synchrony of each clock to serve this planet for as long as time lasts. Unfortunately, history reveals that man abandoned Godís excellent methods for measuring time. A number of diverse and asynchronous calendars from ancient and modern history confirm this fact.
Archeology has found that ancient Egyptians used a 365 day solar calendar that had 12 months of 30 days plus a 5 day appendage called "epagomenae." Consequently, their calendar fell behind the position of the Sun one day every four years. This fact did not seem to concern them because they did not correct their calendar every four years with a leap year. New Yearís day in Egypt may have been aligned with the annual flooding of the Nile. The river was the source of life for arid Egypt and itís annual innundation in June may have been the basis for their summer-to-summer calendar. Some have proposed the Egyptians started their calendar each summer with the appearance of the star, Sirius, in July. Some scholars say the Egyptians synchronized their day with sunrise and the beginning of a month with the last sighting of the moonís crescent before it waned from sight.
Ancient Babylonians were excellent astronomers. From earliest times they began a new month with the first sighting of a new moon crescent. This sighting usually occurs within a range of 15.5 to 60 hours after a new moon occurs (conjunction). The Babylonians also observed a Spring-to-Spring calendar established by the first new moon crescent on or after the Spring Equinox. It is also believed they synchronized their day with sunset. About 500 B.C., the Babylonians produced the first reliable solar-lunar calendar. They devised a clever schematic of months that kept months, seasons and years in alignment with the Sun and moon. This calendar consisted of 235 lunar months and it gained a mere 2 hours on the position of the Sun over a period of 19 years (an error of one day in 228 years). Although the Babylonians did not have mechanical clocks as we do today, they were able to compute time down to a resolution of 1080 parts per hour (a halaqim is the equivalent of 3.3 seconds)! By 125 B.C., the precise length of a solar year was calculated by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus to within 6.5 minutes of what we know today.
The "Week Clock"
The fourth clock to come from Creation was the weekly cycle of seven days. The weekly cycle is odd in that it is not based on planetary motion. Therefore, the operation of the weekly cycle cannot be physically observed. Knowledge of the weekly cycle exists only in the mind of man. Nothing in the heavens or on the Earth or within the Earth is synchronous with the weekly cycle. The synchrony of the weekly cycle cannot be determined by solar study or "test-tube" investigation because the weekly cycle was synchronized with a one-time event that no one saw; namely, Creationís week. (Actually, Adam and Eve did see the seventh day of Creation.) Every seventh day of the week marks an "anniversary" to Godís Creation and the only way one can accurately determine the synchrony of the weekly cycle is to compare Scripture with history and observe manís actions! God devised the weekly cycle at Creation and manís knowledge of it uniquely conveys from Eden -- to Noah -- to the Exodus -- to the time of Jesus -- to our day.
The passage of months, seasons, years, centuries or millenniums does not disrupt the weekly cycle. In Godís order, there are six days for work between seventh day Sabbaths. Man thinks nothing of starting a new month, a new year or even a new century on a Thursday or a Monday. The enduring and global presence of a seven day weekly cycle is one of the wonders of the world. How did ancient man, separated for centuries by oceans, mountains, deserts, religion, language and culture corporately know of a seven day weekly cycle? Even more, history confirms that many ancient nations not only knew of the weekly cycle, they knew of the synchrony that aligned their seventh day of the week with Creationís seventh day Sabbath. A document titled, A Chart of the Week, entered into the Library of Congress in 1886 by researcher, Dr. William Meade Jones, lists 160 ancient languages that identifies the seventh day of the week with a title that denotes "Sabbath rest." How did 160 ancient nations know that the seventh day of the week was a day of rest? One powerful defense for Creation (as opposed to the theory of evolution) is the perpetual presence of the weekly cycle among many nations even though the calendars of man have been as diverse and temporary as man himself.
A Knowledge of Godís Original Synchrony Required in Prophecy
The synchrony of Godís clocks is a topic of profound importance when studying the time-periods within Daniel and Revelation. Each time-period should be measured according to the original synchrony that came from the Creatorís hand. In other words, a month in prophecy begins with a new moon. A year in prophecy begins in the Spring, etc. This is important because Godís synchrony of time directly affects the time-periods He deliberately defined and placed in Daniel and Revelation. Even though the units of days, weeks, months and years are widely used today, their original synchrony is largely ignored.
All four clocks, the day, the week, the month and the year are perpetual, three on the basis of planetary motion and one on the basis of divine decree. These four clocks do not operate at intervals of time that violate their synchrony. In other words, this writer finds that God always reckons these four time-periods according to their creation. Therefore, a day always begins at sundown, not at midnight. (Leviticus 23:32) A month is not just any period of 30 days. As far as God is concerned, a month is a period of time that reaches from one new moon to another. (Numbers 10:10; Isaiah 66:23) Yes, a week may have seven days, but not just any seven days. (Exodus 20:8-11) A week is a time-period that is synchronous with Creationís week. If a week could be any seven day time-period, then the seventh day would occur randomly, at the whim of man. Even more, if man could redefine the weekly cycle (and short-lived attempts have been made), then man could eliminate the weekly anniversary of Creation and God expressly forbids this in the fourth commandment.
For 40 years God withheld manna on the seventh day of each week because He wanted Israel to understand His regard for the synchrony of the weekly cycle which He crowned with His Sabbath. (Exodus 16:29,35) The Lordís day of rest is perpetually synchronous with Creationís seventh day. (Genesis 2:1-3) To preserve this synchrony, God declared the seventh day holy at Creation and God included the observance of the seventh day in the Ten Commandments because the seventh day of the week is synchronous with the seventh day of Creation. (Exodus 20:8-11) Fallen man is naturally inclined to reject, neglect or ignore the works of God, so our Creator began the fourth commandment saying, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy..." When God sees His children resting on a Sabbath that is synchronous with Creationís Sabbath, He is pleased. (Exodus 20:8-11; Isaiah 58:13,14; Luke 4:16; Acts 13:44; Hebrews 4:9-11) No other seventh day will satisfy the fourth commandment because no other seventh day is synchronous with Creationís week. Therefore, no other unit of time should be understood as a week except the time-period of seven days that is synchronous with Creation's week. It also appears that from Godís perspective, time-periods should not be interpreted as a day, month or year except those which are synchronous with Godís great clocks. This point has serious ramifications for prophetic time-periods.
God Is Constant - Time Is Constant - Synchrony Is Perpetual
Godís actions at one time in history are consistent with His actions at another time in history unless there is compelling evidence from Scripture stating otherwise. The consistent ways of God have to be relied upon (by faith sometimes) because the Bible will not satisfactorily answer every question that we may have about a given event. From the very beginning of time, God designed how time should be measured by establishing the synchrony of days, weeks, months and years. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden for a period of time before sinning. How did they mark the commencement of months and years? Likewise, how did Noah mark the commencement of a new month and a new year? If Godís synchrony of time is consistent throughout the Bible, can we conclude that Adam and the antediluvians used the same synchrony for days, weeks, months and years as did Israel? This point is raised because 2,500 years after Creation God confirmed the existing synchrony of the day, week, month and year to Moses so there could be no doubt about the original order of time that began at Creation. (Exodus 12:1,2; 20:8-11; Numbers 10:10; Leviticus 23:5,32)
If the reader agrees with (a) the concept of perpetual synchrony of Godís clocks, and (b) that God reaffirmed this synchrony at the time of the Exodus, then a number of interesting questions can be resolved to some level of satisfaction. For example, if Noah entered into the ark during the second month of the year (Genesis 7:11), he must have entered the ark during April or May because Israelís second month occurred during April or May. Noahís year may have started in the Spring (March or April) because Israelís new year began during those months. Of course, we cannot prove these conclusions. We can, however, consider the impact that perpetual synchrony offers when studying the phenomenon of time.
Synchrony Is Nonnegotiable
God imposed the observance of Passover upon Israel at the time of the Exodus. (Exodus 12:6) Passover was to be celebrated on the 15th day of the first month each year. Godís synchrony for counting time in days, months and years began fifteen days before the actual death-angel pass-over took place in the Spring of the year. (Exodus 12:1,2) There is no record that God gave Israel a formal calendar for measuring months with a set number of days. Rather, the evidence indicates He wanted Israel to observe the phases of the moon and celebrate feasts according to the arrival of new moons (Numbers 10:10; 28:14; Colossians 2:16). The Jews were excellent time-keepers. (Exodus 12:41) They knew that a lunar month was about 29.53 days in length by measuring the days between full moons. They also knew that a solar year consisted of approximately 365.25 days by counting days between Spring Equinoxes. But, their ceremonial obligations required a more comprehensive calendar than either a solar calendar or a lunar calendar could provide. Therefore, the Jews had to use a solar-lunar calendar.
Remember that God confirmed the original synchrony of the weekly cycle shortly after the Exodus by withholding manna on the Sabbath day. (Exodus 16) God required the observance of the seventh day Sabbath, new moon celebrations, six annual feasts, sabbatical years and years of Jubilee for several reasons. Here are two that concern the recording process of the passage of time: First, the time-keeping process necessary to meet the obligations imposed upon Israel preserved the record of time and a knowledge of Godís synchrony. Second, because God has foreknowledge, He foreknew the last generation on Earth would need timely encouragement during the Great Tribulation. Therefore, He included a number of time-periods in prophecy that specifically benefit those who will live during the Great Tribulation. The records of time and synchrony as recorded by the Jews in the Old Testament are essential to understanding the correct position of each apocalyptic time-period.
Full Moons and Appointed Feasts
Astronomers tell us, depending on the orbit of the moon in a given season and year, that full moons can occur as early as 13.91 days or as late as 15.54 days into a month. We also know that Passover and the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles took place on the 15th day of their respective months. Therefore, a full moon sometimes occurred on these feast dates. The Bible confirms this synchrony saying, "Sound the ram's horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast." (Psalm 81:3) This issue is raised because most of the time, a full moon occurred on the day before these two feasts. History reveals that after their Babylonian captivity when the Jews abandoned Godís synchrony for new moon feasts, they created a calendar that regularly placed Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles on the day after a full moon. This deviation is well documented in history and it will be covered in more detail shortly.
What about the Beginning of a New Year?
Apparently, God reckons the beginning of a new year with the commencement of the first month on or after the Spring Equinox. This conclusion is not confirmed with a single "proof text." However, Scriptural and historical evidence show that God reckons a year from Spring-to-Spring. Some scholars have produced historical evidence showing that ancient Israel started their new year with the commencement of the first month on or after the Spring Equinox. This is reasonable because the Spring Equinox is not difficult to observe. At the Spring Equinox, the Sun crosses the Earth's celestial equator. In other words, the Sun comes up due East and sets due West. Also, the alignment of certain stars is "reset" at the Spring Equinox. Twice a year, with a high degree of regularity, an equinox occurs, once in the Spring (around March 21 ) and once in the Fall (around September 22). Other scholars conclude the Jews determined a new year with the commencement of the month closest to the Spring Equinox, while others say the Jews reckoned the commencement of a new year by watching the winter barley crop. According to this last group, a maturing barley crop allowed the Jews to always present a sheaf of barley at Passover. (Leviticus 23:10-14) However, if a new year begins with the first new moon on or after Spring begins, this would place Passover, at the earliest, about April 5 and this time-frame allows enough growing time for a barley harvest.
Genesis 1:14 says, "And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years."
Of course, this verse says nothing about determining a new year by the condition of a barley field. It does speak of using the sun, moon and stars to mark the seasons and the segments of time called days and years were used at Creation. Since seasons and years were measured in Eden before sin occurred, and since the synchrony of the day, week, month and new year remains perpetual from Eden, and since the measurement of years took place some 2,500 years before the Jews left Egypt, and since the Jews were in the wilderness for 40 years before they owned a barley field, there has to be a better answer for starting a new year than it being based on the condition of a barley crop.
The Sun Determines the Seasons
The Sun defines the arrival of four seasons. Spring begins at the Vernal Equinox. Summer begins at the Summer Solstice (the day having the longest period of daylight). Fall begins at the Fall Equinox and Winter begins at the winter solstice (the day having the shortest period of daylight). Because God imposed the observance of feasts based on new years and new moons and because He imposed the observance of Sabbatical years every seventh year and every fiftieth year, the Jews had to maintain a Solar-lunar calendar which followed the astronomical position of the Sun as well as the moon.
Three More "Clocks" Added at the Exodus
A few centuries before the Exodus, the descendants of Abraham measured time in days, months, years and weekly cycles. (Genesis 29:14,20,27,28) At the time of the Exodus, God not only reaffirmed the existing synchrony of His four great clocks, He also devised three more great clocks, bringing the total number to seven. These new clocks were built upon the synchrony of His existing clocks. He gave the Jews:
God aligned the additional clocks with the existing four clocks that started with Creationís week so that all seven clocks operate harmoniously together. (Exodus 12:1,2; 16:1-36, Leviticus 25:2-55). This feature will be examined as this study progresses.
The "Week of Seven Months" Clock
From the very beginning, God planned to use the weekly cycle of seven days as a template for creating other clocks. A "week of seven months" is an obvious parallel of the weekly cycle. Of course, a week of seven months translates a day of the week as a month. Therefore, this clock measured a time-span of seven months. This clock was synchronized with the year of the Exodus as well as with New Yearís day. Remember, New Yearís day occurred at the first new moon on or after the Spring Equinox. The first seven months of Israelís solar year have been called the religious year or "the ceremonial year." Do not confuse the end of the ceremonial year with the end of a solar year. (Exodus 23:16, 34:22) The ceremonial year operated for seven months much like a school year operates for nine or ten months today. Passover, the first compulsory feast of the ceremonial year, occurred on the 15th day of the first month (in Spring). The last compulsory feast was called the Feast of Ingathering or Feast of Tabernacles and it began on the 15th day of the seventh month and lasted for seven days. (Exodus 23:14; Leviticus 23:34) Ceremonies during the seventh month also included two other feasts of enormous significance. The Feast of Trumpets (1st day) and the Day of Atonement (10th day) were observed during the seventh month. When considering the theological and prophetic significance of all three events during the seventh month, it would be fair to say that the last month of the ceremonial year was a preeminent month.
For centuries, the Jews did not use names for the days of the week, (except to call the seventh day the "Sabbath"). Likewise, the Jews often referred to their months with numbers, although they did have names for them. (Deuteronomy 16:1, 1 Kings 6:1) After the Babylonian exile (605 B.C. - 536 B.C.), the Jews named all twelve or thirteen months with names derived from the Babylonians. For example, the Jewish name for the first month of the year became Nisan, taken from the Babylonian month of Nisanu. (See Nehemiah 2:1.) The seventh month or last month of the ceremonial year was called Tishri coming from the Babylonian Tashritu. The ninth month of the calendar year was called Kislev (Zechariah 7:1) and the twelfth month of the year was called Adar. (Ezra 6:15) If a calendar year had 13 moons in it, the Jews called it Ve-adar whereas the Babylonians called it Adar II.
The "Week of Seven Years" Clock
The "week of seven years" clock was also created from the weekly cycle template. The difference between a week of seven days, a week of seven months and a week of seven years is synchrony and scale. Whereas the weekly cycle of seven days synchronizes with Creationís week, the "week of seven months" clock and the "week of seven years" clock were synchronized with the year of the Exodus and New Yearís day. Seven great clocks were aligned 15 days before the Exodus. (1/1/1 = Nisan 1, year 1). Notice the alignment: A new day began (Sunday), a new week began (week 1), the first month of the year began (month 1), a new year began (year 1), the first month of the seven month clock began (ceremonial year began), the first year of the seven years clock and the first year of a Jubilee cycle also began at 1/1/1. Keep in mind, this occurred in the Spring of the year.
The "week of seven years" clock was notable for three reasons: (a) Slaves were to be set free every seventh year; (b) the land was to lie fallow during the sabbatical year; and (c) God used this clock to translate a day for a year on several occasions. Notice how all three clocks align in the following diagrams:
Note: The Exodus date of 1437 B.C. is a Sunday year and it will be discussed later. Notice how the count of years is associated with each day of the week. Each year began in the Spring. In this illustration, the first sabbatical year is 1431 B.C. and the first sabbatical year observed in Canaan was 1396 B.C.
Note: This clock shows the first seven months of 1437 B.C., the year of the Exodus. The death-angel pass-over occurred in the Spring, on the 15th day of Nisan, during the first month of the year. The ceremonial year ends with Tishri 30.
Note: Israelís week was synchronized with Creationís week and the new moon at the time of the Exodus. (Exodus 12:1,2; Exodus 16) The Exodus occurred in the Spring, on Sunday, the 15th day of the first month, year one (1/15/1). God visited with Israel seven weeks later, on Sabbath - the 49th day of the Exodus, and declared the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 19 and 20)
Sabbatical Year: The Emancipation of Slaves
God required Israel to free all slaves every sabbatical year. "If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free." (Deuteronomy 15:12) Notice these verses: "If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. He is to be treated as a hired worker or a temporary resident among you; he is to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then he and his children are to be released, and he will go back to his own clan and to the property of his forefathers. Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God. Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly." (Leviticus 25-39-46)
Two interesting points need to be made here. First, all slaves were to be set free at the beginning of each sabbatical year. God not only insisted that the land rest during the seventh year, He also insisted that all slaves go free. The emancipation of slaves was very important to God because the freeing of slaves at the beginning of the sabbatical year was a pattern of things to come. (The faithful children of God will be set free from the curse of sin at the beginning of the seventh millennium! More about this later.) Second, it was possible if both parties were willing, for a fellow Hebrew to sell his land and his services to another Hebrew. However, God wanted everyone to understand that employer/employee contracts could not endure beyond the next year of Jubilee, for at that time the land must be freely returned to the original family and the employee must be free to return to his own land. Again, this was a pattern of things to come. (Godís children are not Godís slaves. Rather, we are heirs who will receive our inheritance when the Earth is made new and divided among His children!)
With God as the Master Builder, templates are most important because He often reveals His ways and plans through patterns or templates. For example, when Moses was about to build the sanctuary in the wilderness, God said, "Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you." (Exodus 25:9, Hebrews 8:5) Likewise, God said told Moses, "If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 21:22,23) The basis for this last example is the crucifixion and death of Jesus. God does not allow the worst criminal to hang on a tree overnight because Jesus would have to do so. So, we find the weekly cycle to be a template that goes beyond the duration of seven days. We find the sabbatical year emancipation of slaves and the sabbatical rest for the land to be templates of things to come. If we look at the actions of God in terms of templates, many mysteries will vanish and wonderful insights will appear.
Sabbatical Year: Not for Agricultural Purposes
Review Chart 1 and consider that God required the "promised land" to rest every seventh year, as "a Sabbath to the Lord." (Exodus 23:10,11; Leviticus 25:4) The sabbatical rest for the land was as holy to God as was His Sabbath day for man. The mandated sabbatical for the land was not based on agricultural concerns, nor was this merely the mandate of civil government. On the contrary, God set the seventh year apart from the preceding six years and a curse was promised upon Israel if they failed to keep His sabbatical year. (Leviticus 26:32-38) Some argue that God mandated the sabbatical year for the benefit of improving agricultural yield. This claim makes no sense when one considers how the soil produced more during the sixth year than at any other time. (Leviticus 25:21) Just as the weekly cycle ends with its Sabbath rest for man, so the week of years terminated with a sabbatical year of rest for the land. Just as the interval between seventh day Sabbaths is six days, so the interval between sabbatical years was six years. Just as man is called away from his servile duties to reflect back on Godís creative actions every seventh day, so Israel was called away from its agricultural endeavors every seventh year to reflect back on Godís generous abundance and His mighty deliverance out of Egypt.
The sabbatical year served Godís purpose for testing the corporate faith of the nation of Israel. Faith in God is the basis of a relationship with God. Therefore, God tested Israelís faith through their agricultural needs every seventh year, much like He tested their faith with their daily food every seventh day in the wilderness. (Exodus 16:4) Unfortunately, Israel failed the faith test. (Isaiah 24:5)
The "Week of Seven Years" Clock Defines "A Time"
The week of seven years clock translates a day of the week into one year. (See previous chart 1.) Because Godís year is not fixed in length, a year was called "a time." Our calendar today fixes the length of a solar year at 365.256 days, but Godís year can vary between 354 to 384 days (12 or 13 moons) depending on when the first new moon in the year occurs. Therefore, the phrase, "a time" is an expression for one year that is synchronous with Godís great clocks; in other words, seven times represents a week of years. However, seven years are not necessarily seven times! It all depends on synchrony. A seven year period can be any seven years, but a week of years or seven times must be seven years that begin with a Sunday year and end with a Sabbath year. (Compare Ezekiel 39:9, Daniel 4:16.)
(Figure 1-Charts 7 & 8)
Variable Length Years
A solar year is about 365.256 days in length
Example of a Jewish Year with 12 lunar months (354 days)
(Figure 2 - Chart 9)
In this example, E1 and E2 represent the time between two Spring Equinoxes. E1 = March 20 and E2 = March 20 a year later. The first new moon (NM1) occurs 11 days after E1 on March 31. Therefore, the first new moon for the following year will occur on March 20. Consequently, the year that passed contained 12 moons or 354 days. (Incidentally, this example is identical with A.D. 29.)
Example of a Year having 13 lunar months (384 days)
(Figure 3 - Chart 10)
Again, E1 and E2 represent the time between two Spring Equinoxes. E1 = March 20 and E2 = March 20 a year later. A new moon, (NM1) occurs on the Spring Equinox, March 20. Therefore, the first new moon after the following Spring Equinox will occur at (NM2) April 8. Consequently, this lunar year has 13 moons or 384 days. (This example is identical with A.D. 30.)
Summary: "A time" is an expression for a year, not a set number of days. Also, the reader should notice that Figure 2 and Figure 3 are actually two consecutive years. The first year has 354 days, the second has 384 days.
What about 360 Days per Year?
The Julian/Gregorian calendar we follow today is strictly a solar calendar. We observe a year that is 365.256 days in length without regard to the phases of the moon and we use leap years to correct our position with respect to the Sun and its seasons. Because Godís calendar produces a variable length year, the ancients regarded a year as one circle or "one time" of the sun in its travel around Earth. We must remember that it was believed the Earth stood still and the Sun traveled around Earth until the 16th century. Likewise, native Americans described a month as "one moon" and a year as "one time" or "one sun" even as late as the 19th century.
When seven times were sentenced upon King Nebuchadnezzar because of arrogance, God described the term of punishment as "seven times" because "a time" is synchronous with Godís seven year clock. God could have said "seven years," as he did with Danielís contemporary, Ezekiel. Instead, God said "seven times" because of the synchrony that "seven times" require. (See Ezekiel 39:9)
For purposes of computing time, ancient peoples reckoned 360 degrees of arc as a complete circle or cycle of the Sun. Obviously, they could not use the actual number of days in a particular year for computationís sake because the number of days varied. Since the Sun moves almost 1 degree of arc per day in a year, the use of 360 degrees of arc to represent a year is reasonable. The Aramaic word Ďhiddan translated "a time" in Daniel 4, 7 and 12 refers to "a set time," as in a year that begins at an appointed time. Daniel and Revelation both speak of a time-period called "a time, times and a half a time." Revelation 12 indicates that this time-period is 1,260 days in length. This number of days is found by the following formula:
When added together, the total is 1,260 degrees of arc or for purposes of counting years, 1,260 years.
No one has produced evidence of an ancient calendar based on a 360 day year. Even the ancients knew that such a calendar would be 31.5 days out of sync with the arrival of Spring in just 6 years. Therefore, we are left with a bit of mystery. Some Bible students have concluded that "a time, times and half a time" is 3.5 years because Revelation 12 appears to translate the time-period "a time, times and half a time" into 1,260 days. But, 3.5 years is 1,278 days, not 1,260 days. Given this discrepancy, others have wondered if perhaps there was a financial year or some type of civil calendar based on 360 days, but no evidence has been found to support this supposition. Could it be that God chose the language and defined the time-periods in Daniel 7:25 and Revelation 12:14 because they uniquely conform to the great clocks He created?
Seven Times upon Nebuchadnezzar
During the operation of the "week of seven years" clock we know that a day of the week represents a year. Therefore, the seven times pronounced on King Nebuchadnezzar could be (a) seven years, or (b) a week of seven years that is synchronous with a "week of seven years" clock. The difference, of course, would be synchrony. If the seven times are synchronous with the "week of seven years" clock, they are synchronous then with the year of the Exodus as well as the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. We know from Scripture that when the time came to implement Nebuchadnezzarís sentence it began immediately -- at the end of a 12 month period of probation. Notice: "Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?" The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, "This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. . . . Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled." (Daniel 4:29-33) Granted, the words "12 months later" do not prove synchrony with the 70 weeks of Daniel 9, but they do suggest "at yearís end." Further, the immediacy of execution suggests alignment with the beginning of a new month. If the execution of "seven times" occurred during 569-563 B.C., they would have been near the end of the kingís reign which occurred in 562 or 561 B.C. Further, some historians place the end of Nebuchadnezzarís lengthy conquest of Tyre and Egypt around 570 B.C. (Ezekiel 29:18,19) Maybe the king was so pleased with his successful conquests that he began to think of himself as invincible and the words recorded in Daniel 4:30 reflect the ultimate deception of pride. King Nebuchadnezzar came to believe that he had established the mighty empire of Babylon on the basis of his prowess. The point is that 569-563 B.C. is a very good place to insert a week of seven times upon Nebuchadnezzar and history does not seem to frustrate this placement.
The "Seven Weeks of Seven Years" Clock
The third clock initiated just before the Exodus was a 49 year clock called a Jubilee cycle. This clock was based on seven weeks of seven years (a total of 49 years). (Leviticus 25:8-55) The year of Jubilee, or the 50th year celebration, was a very special sabbatical year. Not only was the 50th year a sabbatical rest for the land, the land was also restored to its original owners in that year. God wanted each generation in Israel to grasp the salient point that He gave the land to His people without merit and it was theirs as long as they kept His covenant. (Leviticus 25:23-55) Recall that when Israel entered the Promised Land, the land was divided according to the size of the tribes. (Joshua 14:5) During the 49 years, the owners could "sell" or lease the land to their kinsmen, but it was Godís intention that each parcel of land forever belong to the family that originally "inherited" the land. This is one reason why He required them to set every 50th year apart from all other years. During the first six months of the 50th year, God mandated the return of the land to its original family. At the end of the ceremonial year when harvests were completed, the year of Jubilee was consecrated (set apart from the previous 49 years) on the Day of Atonement. (Leviticus 25:9,10) Consecration means "to set apart" from the common. For example, after God finished His work on six days, He consecrated the seventh day by setting it apart from the other days of the week. Similarly, Israel was required to consecrate the year of Jubilee after they had met the restoration requirements of God.
49 or 50 Years?
There has been needless debate on whether the Jubilee calendar followed 49 or 50 year cycles. Since there is never more than six years between two seventh-year sabbatical years, Jubilee cycles have to be 49 years in length. The synchronism of uninterrupted weeks (and the years of Jubilee) is confirmed in the fulfillment of the 70 weeks (490 years) of Daniel 9. The perpetual round of the weekly cycle eliminates the argument. The year of Jubilee (the 50th year) occurred concurrently with the first year (the Sunday year) of the next Jubilee cycle. In other words, both years began at the same time. It may sound strange at first that Israel would count two years simultaneously. But, consider the fact that the Feast of Weeks (also known as the Feast of Pentecost -- the 50th day) always fell on a Sunday, the first day of the week after seven weeks had passed. Remember, a week is a time-period that is always synchronous with Creationís week. In this light, it should not be hard to grasp how the 50th day Feast of Weeks and the first day of the week, Sunday, concurrently align. (See the following chart.) The year of Jubilee and the Sunday year of the next Jubilee cycle aligned similarly.
Note: In this example of A.D. 30, Passover occurred on Thursday, April 6. The Wave Sheaf Offering occurred on Sunday, April 9, which is the first day for the count of seven full weeks. The Feast of Weeks (so called because the time of the feast is determined by whole weeks) occurs after seven weeks have passed, on Sunday, May 28. The 50th day feast of Pentecost always occurred on the 1st day of the week. (Leviticus 23:16) The 50th day and the 1st day of the week are the same day.
A Jubilee Cycle Has 8 Sabbatical Years
During a Jubilee cycle of seven weeks of 49 years, there are 8 sabbatical years. There are seven "Sabbath years" plus the year of Jubilee (also a sabbatical year) making a total of eight. (See the following chart.) During the Babylonian captivity, God used the "week of seven years" clock to make an important point. He required Ezekiel to lay on his left side for 390 days and on his right side for 40 days as a sign to indicate the apostasy of His people. The total number of days that Ezekiel "rested" was 430 days. These 430 days represent 430 years of apostasy, because "days" within the Jubilee calendar represent "years." (Ezekiel 4:5,6) Since the Jubilee calendar was operating during Ezekielís life, Godís use of a day for a year is not arbitrary nor surprising. In fact, the reader may be surprised to learn that the Babylonian captivity is exactly 70 years in length because Israel and Judah had violated 70 Sabbath years. In 430 years of apostasy, there are exactly 70 Sabbatical years.
Note: Seven Sabbath years + 1 year of Jubilee = 8 sabbatical years per Jubilee cycle of 49 years.
God Warned Israel
Consider the warning that God originally gave Israel in the wilderness: "If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. . . . [I will drive you out of the land] Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it." (Leviticus 26:27,28,34,35, insertion mine) Now that the threat is understood, notice what is said at the end of the 70 years of Babylonian captivity, "The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah." (2 Chronicles 36:21) There is a compelling mathematical point associated with the numbers given to Ezekiel. They prove beyond any doubt that God defines a Jubilee cycle to be 49 years in length. A 50 year cycle is out of the question since there are not 70 sabbatical years within 430 years.
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