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Reference: Month


The Hebrews months were lunar months, that is, from one new moon to another. These lunar months were each reckoned at twenty-nine days and a half; or rather, one was of thirty days, the following of twenty-nine, and so on alternately: that which had thirty days was called a full or complete month; that which had but twenty-nine days was called incomplete. The new moon was always the beginning of the month and this day they called new-moon day, or new month . The Hebrews usually designated the months only as first, second, etc.; and the names by which they are now known are believed to be of Persian origin, and to have been adopted by the Jews during the captivity. At the exodus from Egypt, which occurred in April, God ordained that that month - the seventh of the civil year - should be the first of the sacred year, according to which the religious festivals were to be reckoned; and from that time both these modes of numbering the months continued to be employed.

As the Jewish months were governed by the moon, while ours entirely disregard it, the two systems cannot wholly coincide. It is generally agreed, however, that their month Nisan answers most nearly to our April, Iyar to our May, etc.

Twelve lunar months making but three hundred and fifty-four days and six hours, the Jewish year was short of the Roman by twelve days. To recover the equinoctial points, from which this difference of the solar and lunar year would separate the new moon of the first month, the Jews every three years intercalated a thirteenth month, which they called Veadar, the second Adar. By this means their lunar year nearly equaled the solar. See YEAR.


Among the Egyptians the month of thirty days each was in use long before the time of the Exodus, and formed the basis of their calculations. From the time of the institution of the Mosaic law the month among the Jews was lunar. The cycle of religious feasts depended on the moon. The commencement of a month was determined by the observation of the new moon. The number of months in the year was usually twelve (1Ki 4:7; 1Ch 27:1-15); but every third year an additional month (ve-Adar) was inserted, so as to make the months coincide with the seasons.

The Hebrews and Phoenicians had no word for month save 'moon,' and only saved their calendar from becoming vague like that of the Moslems by the interpolation of an additional month. There is no evidence at all that they ever used a true solar year such as the Egyptians possessed. The latter had twelve months of thirty days and five epagomenac or odd days., Palestine Quarterly, January 1889.

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Chodesh from chadash, "new," namely, new moon; chodesh yamin "a month of days" (Ge 29:14); also the poetical yerach from yareach "the moon," so month is connected with moon in European languages; German mond and monat; Greek meen, mene; Latin, mensis; Sanskrit, masa, both "moon" and "month". The interval between the 17th day of the second month (Ge 7:11) and the 17th day of the seventh month is said to be 150 days (Ge 8:3-4), i.e. five months of 30 days each; thus the year would be 360 days, corresponding to the old Egyptian year, possibly too five days were intercalated to complete the 365 of the solar year; at all events there is an approximation to the solar year. The total duration of the flood was eleven days above a year (Ge 7:11; 8:14), the exact excess of the solar year above the lunar of 354 days. Ge 1:14,16 harmonizes with the theory of a double year, solar and lunar.

The Passover depended on the moon, the 14th of Abib coinciding with full moon. The new moon was a regular feast day (Nu 10:10; 28:11-14). Latterly, its appearance (which may be seen 40 hours after the moon's conjunction with the sun) was reported by proper witnesses to the authorities, who announced the month's commencement by twice repeating "mequdash," consecrated. Modern Jews observe the lunar month. Its length would be alternately 29 (a "deficient month," chasar in the Talmud) and 30 days ("full month," malee'). The seasons regulated the months, e.g. Abib the first month of the year was that of "ears of grain"; in the Passover in it, on the second day, the sheaf of harvest firstfruits was waved to the Lord (Le 23:10-39; Joe 2:28). So the feast of tabernacles in the seventh month celebrated the ingathering of the autumnal fruits; so that a solar year must have regulated the months.

The months were 12 (1Ki 4:7), with an intercalary month every third year, not noticed in the Bible. The modern Jews have seven intercalary months in every 19 years, according to the metonic cycle adopted A.D. 360. Four names of months are mentioned before the Babylonish captivity: Abib ("the month of ears of grain") made the first month in memory of the Exodus (Ex 9:35; 12:2; 13:4); Zif ("the bloom of flowers", or the Assyrian gay, "bull," the zodiacal Taurus), the second month (1Ki 6:1,37); Bul ("the month of rain"), the eighth month (1Ki 6:38); Ethanim ("the month of gifts", namely, fruits), the seventh (1Ki 8:2). The three latter names are found only in Solomon's reign, when there was much intercourse with Phoenicia; they are probably Phoenician in origin. "Bul" is mentioned on a sarcophagus found near Sidon in 1855. They are explained by the addition "which is the" second, the eighth, the seventh month.

After the captivity the first month (that of the Passover) was called Nisan (Ne 2:1); Sivan the third (from the Assyrian siv "the moon", to whom the Assyrians consecrated it): Es 8:9. Elul the sixth (Ne 6:15); Chisleu the ninth (Ne 1:1); Tebeth (from the Egyptian tobi) the tenth (Es 2:16); Sebat the eleventh (Zec 1:7); Adar the twelfth (Es 3:7). The Talmud gives the remaining five: Iyar the second, Tammuz the fourth (sacred to that idol), Ab the fifth, Tisri the seventh, Marchesvan (from mar "to drop") the eighth; mainly named from the Syrian calendar. The intercalary month was Veadar, i.e. the additional Adar. The variations between the lunar and the solar month, each of the lunar ranging over two solar months, prevent exact coincidence with our months. The barley harvest is not until the middle of April, so that Abib or Nisan, in which the Passover first sheaf was offered on the 15th day, coincides with April. Josephus (Ant. 3:10, section 5) says the Passover was while the sun is in Aries, which it does not enter until the end of March. Zif or Iyar is May, Sivan is June, Tammuz is July, Ab is August, Elul is September, Ethanim or Tisri is October, Bul or Marchesvan is November, Chisleu is December, Tebeth is January, Sebat is February, Adar is March.

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From the time of the institution of the Mosaic law downward the religious feasts commencing with the passover depended not simply on the month, but on the moon; the 14th of Abib was coincident with the full moon; and the new moons themselves were the occasions of regular festivals.

Nu 10:10; 28:11-14

The commencement of the month was generally decided by observation of the new moon. The usual number of months in a year was twelve, as implied in

1Ki 4:7; 1Ch 27:1-15

but since twelve lunar months would make but 354 1/2 days, the years would be short twelve days of the short twelve days of the true year, and therefore it follows as a matter of course that an additional month must have been inserted about every third year, which would bring the number up to thirteen. No notice, however, is taken of this month in the Bible. In the modern Jewish calendar the intercalary month is introduced seven times in every nineteen years. The usual method of designating the months was by their numerical order, e.g. "the second month,"

Ge 7:11

the fourth month,

2Ki 25:3

and this was generally retained even when the names were given, e.g. "in the month Zif, which is the second month."

1Ki 6:1

The names of the months belong to two distinct periods. In the first place we have those peculiar to the period of Jewish independence, of which four only, even including Abib, which we hardly regard as a proper name are mentioned, viz.: Abib, in which the passover fell,

Ex 13:4; 23:15; 34:18; De 16:1

and which was established as the first month in commemoration of the exodus,

Ex 12:2

Zif, the second month,

1Ki 6:1,37

Bul, the eighth,

1Ki 6:38

and Ethanim, the seventh.

1Ki 6:38

and Ethanim, the seventh.

1Ki 8:2

In the second place we have the names which prevailed subsequent to the Babylonish captivity; of these the following seven appear in the Bible: Nisan, the first, in which the passover was held,

Ne 2:1; Es 3:7

Sivan, the third

Es 8:9

Bar. 1:8; Elul, the sixth,

Ne 6:15

1 Macc. 14:27; Chisleu, the ninth,

Ne 1:1; Zec 7:1

1 Macc. 1:54; Tebeth, the tenth,

Es 2:16

Sebat, the eleventh,

Zec 1:7

1 Macc. 16:14; and Adar, the twelfth.

Es 3:7; 8:1

2 Macc. 15:36. The names of the remaining five occur int he Talmud and other works; they were, Iyar, the second, Targum;

2Ch 30:2

Tammuz, the fourth; Ab, the fifth; Tisri, the seventh; and Marcheshvan, the eighth. The name of the intercalary month was Ve-adar, i.e. the additional Adar. The identification of the jewish months with our own cannot be effected with precision on account of the variations that must inevitably exist between the lunar and the solar month. Nisan (or Abib) answers to March; Zif or Iyar to May; Sivan to June; Tammuz to July; Ab to August; Elul to September; Ethanim or Tisri to October; Bul or Marcheshvan to November; Chisleu to December; Tebeth to January; Sebat to February; and Adar to March.

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