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The Sabbath and the Seige of Jericho


We shall study whether the seige of Jericho took place at least on one day which was a Sabbath. This will lead us to understand how Sabbath was calculated at that time. Then we will learn how and when it legitimately changed later. This will also help us know which day today is the Sabbath day. 

Was The Seige Ordered to Begin on a Sabbath?

In Joshua 6:11-165, God (in 1409 BC) commands the people to go on the offensive to take the town of Jericho. They are in a battle. God tells them for six days to march around the city. Then on the 7th day, to do it seven times, and blow the horns. The mighty men must be ready for when the people shout at the last horn, the walls of Jericho will fall. This happens, and the men rush in, taking Jericho.

The question is did God authorize an offensive military action to take place at least on one day which was a Sabbath? This would be true if any of the 7 days were a Sabbath, and no non-days are included. (More on non-days later.) God commanded military activities, and if this is "labor," then God commanded a work on a sabbath if no non-days are involved.

One solution to Sabbath rest never being crossed at least one day of the seven day seige is that God supposedly initiated the attack on a non-"day" of the month -- supposedly the day of a new moon. Some contend the battle began on a new Moon, and that this was a non-day of the month that never could be a Sabbath. Thus, the first day of the battle supposedly started on a "non-day," according to this view of some. This preserves the idea that God never excuses obeying the no-work on Sabbath rule.

Here is a defense of this idea at this link. He says the 7 days of the seige of Jericho began on the "first day of the month" according to the book of Jasher. This book was referred to as legitimate authority in both Joshua and Second Samuel. (Link.) It never made it into canon for some unknown reason.

Indeed, Jasher is the best evidence on what day the battle began, but it will still not end up being material anyway, as we shall see. The defender that this is not a Sabbath day contends that the first day of any month at that time was a non-day. It supposedly did not belong to  the 7 day week. Don't laugh because there were at that time non-days -- but they were added at the end of the month as a 29th or 30th day until the next new moon crescent would first appear. Here is this author's contention in his own words, unaware of the true non-day practice of the 1400s BC:

Now we know that the first day of the month is the new moon day (that third category of days that are not counted as 
week days).

However, this is wrong as of 1409 BC, as we shall see. The non-days at that time preceded the new moon. The new moon was the first sabbath of the month, and then each 7 days thereafter was the next sabbath. Then non-days were added after the 4th week, if necessary, until the next new moon, which would become the next sabbath, and so on.

The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia explains that the very ancient Hebrews (pre-1000 BC / pre-Jericho) would treat the Moon-day as the Sabbath, and this would start the month. And thus Sabbath was the 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd of each month. It explains:

The association of the sabbath rest with the account of creation must have been very ancient among the Hebrews, and it is noteworthy that no other Semitic peoples, even the Babylonians, have any tradition of the creation in six days. It would appear that the primitive Semites had FOUR CHIEF MOON DAYS, probably the first, eighth, fifteenth, and twenty-second of each month, CALLED SABBATHS from the fact that there was a tendency to end work before them so that they might be celebrated joyfully. 

Thus, rather than the "Moon-Day" that starts the month being a non-day of the month, as this defender said so that no part of the seige of Jericho was on a Sabbath,  it was in fact the Sabbath day prior to 1000 BC. (Moses was given the Law in 1446 BC.) If Jasher were correct that the seige of Jericho took place the first of the month, and this practice is the same as was originally used prior to 1000 BC, then God sent them out to march on the first day of the month which means on a Sabbath. So Day #1 of the seige would be the Sabbath!

This is further confirmed by Hutton Webster's Rest Days: A Study in Early Law and Morality (N.Y: 1916) at 252-53:

This remarkable association of the Sabbath with the day of the new moon had been previously noticed by such acute critics as Wellhausen and Robertson Smith, who were unable to offer a satisfactory solution of the problem thus presented. When, however, the cuneiform records disclosed the fact that the Baylonian shabattum fell on the fifteenth (or fourteenth) day of the month and [was] referred to as the day of the full moon, it became clear that in these Biblical passages we have another survival of what must have been the PRIMARY MEANING of the Hebrew term shabbath. As late, then, as the eighth century B.C., popular phraseology retained a lingering trace of the original collocation [arrangement] of the new-moon and full-moon days as festival occasions characterized by abstinence from secular activities. How long-lived were the old ideas is further illustrated by the provision in Ezekiel's reforming legislation that the inner eastern gate of the new Temple in Jerusalem should be shut during the six working days, but should be opened on the Sabbath and on the new-moon day for the religious assemblage of the people. That the term shabbath, the designation of the full-moon day, should have come to be applied to EVERY SEVENTH DAY OF THE MONTH seems to be quite in accord with both Babylonian and Hebrew usage, which, as we have seen, led the month itself to be called after the new-moon day.

Likewise, in the book Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum (pt. xxv, pl. 50 (K. 170)), the rest days of the month are identical to the moon's phases in the following order: "first day, new moon; seventh day, moon's 'kidney' (half-moon); fifteenth day, full moon."

Again, this was not a Biblical mandate that Sabbaths begin the first moon day of each month. However, it shows that if Jasher is correct the seige of Jericho began at the first of the month, and if the most ancient Hebrew practice of Sabbath is assumed, then the seige of Jericho began on the Sabbath.

Non-Days Did Exist But They Were Not The First of the Month

We should in fairness to the claim that the first of the month was a non-day of any week agree that as of the seige of Jericho in 1406 BC there was such a thing as non-days of weeks...Up to 2 per month. But prior to 1000 BC, the non-days were not used on the first day of the month. The first day of the month took place upon the moon's crescent appearing. This was the first Sabbath of the month.

The practice prior to 1000 BC, inclusive therefore of the seige of Jericho in 1406 BC, was that the time after the 28th day until a New Moon were simply 1 or 2 non-week days added until the start of the next new moon. These were non-days of any week in counting Sabbath. Then at the next New Moon (i.e.,when the first crescent appeared), that day became day 1 and was the Sabbath. To repeat, this lunar sabbath is not mandated expressly in the Law. But this means as of 1406 BC, there were 1-2 non-days prior to the next New Moon, depending upon when the first crescent would appear. This is recorded in Stephen Langdon's Babylonian Menologies and Semitic Calendars (London: Oxford University Press, 1935) at 89-90:

 ...the...days 7, 14, 21, [and] 28 in the [Babylonian] calendar of the seventh century obviously constitute the seven-day division of the month. This scheme is fully carried out somewhere between 1000 B.C. and 600 B.C. Here the weeks DO NOT continue in a regular cycle regardless of the new moon. Each month has four weeks, beginning with the new moon. Days 29 and 30, or in case of a 29-day month, day 29, are simply thrown out [figuratively] of the four-week system. I have NO DOUBT but that this was the old Hebrew scheme also. In other words the fourth week has one or two extra days . [This can be still be seen in the Jewish calendars of today]. Every month must begin with the first day of the first week...The institution of days 7, 14, 21, [and] 28 of every month as rest-days was, then, carried out after 1000 B.C. The idea obtained up to that period and at that time it included day 1, New Moon, days 9 + 19, and days 29, 30, Dark of the moon. All of these were thrown out to obtain a seven-day week throughout the year in the reformation of the calendar about 700 B.C. 

 This quote proves that as of 1409 BC, the extra days were added to the 4th week, and stopped when the New Moon Day arrived, and that day was the Sabbath.

Yet, to repeat, this is not clearly mandated in the Law. 

Any gap or ambiguity in the law opens up the authority of Levites to make binding resolutions. See Deut 17:8. This is why modifications were done between 1000 BC and 700 BC. The religious authorities moved sabbath to the 7th day, 14th day, 21st day and 28th day, adding a 29th and 30th day that were non-days.

Then after 700 BC, the Jewish calendar was reformed to simply cycle 7 days at a time, as we have today. But again, none of this violates any express dictate in the Law. It never says that the new moon had to be the first Sabbath of every month, as it originally began, and was in force as of 1409 BC -- the siege of Jericho.


Moral Lessons

First, this teaches us that indeed the earliest practice of Sabbath was lunar sabbatarianism. 

Second, this teaches us that God did command a military offensive to begin on a Sabbath under the lunar sabbatarianism then being practiced -- the first of the month, based upon the Book of Jasher that is cited as authority in the book of Joshua and in Samuel. Why did God issue such a command? Is it because Jesus / Yahshua said it is ok to do "good" on the Sabbath? Hence, it appears one can cite that Yahweh-God recognized such a principle in the Seige of Jericho, and it sometimes is dictated by battles that must be fought, and cannot be post-poned.

Third, God did not mandate lunar sabbatarianism in the Law. The Levites were given the right in the Law to make binding interpretations of the Law when there were gaps or it was too difficult to decide from the Law alone. This is what apparently let the religious authorities treat the Sabbath as a seven day cycle that they could move around from the original 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22d of the month (pre-1000 BC) to later be the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th, etc., akin to what we have today.

Fourth, this supports my view of resting on the "Saturday" Sabbath in the USA. The name "Sabbath" is still attached to what we call Saturday in English and in Germanic languages -- but is Sabado in Spanish, Sabbato in Italian, etc.  It is the best evidence of the remnant construction by the legitimate Levitical authorities that existed at the time of Christ on what day they determined we should rest each month. The Roman emperor Constantine in the 300s battled to change the name Sabbath to Saturn's day, but people continued to use the popular religious name in brave defiance of his wishes. We should honor their heroism to keep what had been decreed as of that time as the day of Sabbath -- which coincides in the Roman calendar from 312 AD as Saturn's day in the degraded names given us by Constantine.