20211225 Parsha Shemot – When was Yeshua (Jesus) born and does it matter.
Torah Portion – Ex 2:1-10
Haftarah – Isaiah 27:7-13
Brit Chadashah Matthew 1:18-25
Shemot is both the title for the second book from the scroll of the Torah and the title of the first Torah portion therein. Shemot means “names.” The English-speaking world calls this book Exodus. The Hebrew title for the book comes from the opening phrase of the book: “Now these are the names (shemot) of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob” (Exodus 1:1).
The English name Exodus comes from the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The Greek title for the book is Exodus Aigyptou, which translates as “Departure from Egypt.” The name Exodus is an abbreviated form of that title. Exodus means “departure.” The book of Exodus tells the story of the children of Israel enslaved in Egypt and their miraculous redemption through the hand of Moses, the story of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the construction of the golden calf and the construction of the Tabernacle.
As we read the first week’s reading from the book of Exodus, we find the children of Israel in slavery. It seems at first that the God of their forefathers has forgotten them. But God has not forgotten His promises. He remembers His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and brings a Redeemer to their children’s children, for the sake of His name, with love.
Today is a day celebrated around the world as the birthday of another Redeemer. The Redeemer we call Yeshua. But many if not most educated people today readily admit that Yeshua, Jesus was not born on December 25th. When was he born? Alternate dates include Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot. Sukkot being the most popular among Messianics. Sukkot is popular because it is the Feast of Tabernacles, and it would fit that Yeshua was tabernacling with us. However, this doesn’t work because Sukkot is one of the Regalim, the required feasts where every male was supposed to be in Jerusalem. Joseph would not have broken the law to be in Bethlehem rather than in Jerusalem. As a side note, the Romans would not have ordered a census on one of these holy days because it would have most certainly cause resistance if not outright revolt among the Jewish populace.
I would like to propose another date. This date is based on a careful study of God’s word coupled with contemporary, extrabiblical sources and an interview with Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. Before I begin, I would like to lay out some ground rules.
1. Please hear me out to the end. Don’t get up and walk out because you disagree.
2. Listen with an open mind and heart.
3. Please do not throw rocks or rotten vegetables.
I don’t remember when I came to the realization that Yeshua was not born on December 25. But I do remember many years ago when I first began studying Messianic Judaism under Rabbi Michael Rudolph. He spoke of an alternate date for the birth of the Messiah. We were deep into another subject when he said that he thought Yeshua was born in the springtime when the lambs were being born. Unfortunately, he didn’t elaborate because we had course requirements that precluded further discussion regarding the birth of the Messiah. Over the years I have heard the various hypotheses as to the actual day Yeshua was born.
One thing that hurts my heart as a Messianic leader is the invective spewed by some regarding the celebration of the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter. Has the celebration of Yeshua’s birth been hijacked and cheapened by secular commercialism? It most certainly has. But I think calling it a pagan holiday and denigrating friends and family for wanting to celebrate Christmas must stop. Christmas is no more pagan than you are for being born on a Sunday, named for the worship of the sun, or in January, named after the Roman god Janus, July named Julius Caesar, proclaimed a god. If you are somehow convinced that you should not celebrate the birth of the Messiah on December 25th, then by all means, don’t do it. But in the process, please don’t sever ties and poison relationships with family and friends. Those relationships are God given for your blessing and possibly as your own mission field. You can’t win someone to the Lord by insulting them. Ok, that’s enough of me fussing you out. Let’s get on with the study.
After a lot of study, I’ve settled on a date. Please stay with me and at least have an open mind. Let’s begin. There are several clues to which we can point.
Year – What year was Yeshua born?
We have to go about setting the year based on the death of the king of Israel. His name was Herod the Great. He was a great builder who remodeled the Temple over the course of 46 years. He built up the area known today as the Temple Mount. Herod was a great builder and engineer, but he was also a sociopath. He killed anyone who he considered a threat to his throne. We know with certainty that he died in 4 BCE based on the writings of Josephus as well as other contemporary historians.
Shortly before he died, he issued an order to kill all the male children in Bethlehem aged 2 and under. This was based on the time that the Magi from the east visited him in his winter palace in Jericho and inquired about the one born king of the Jews. Two years had elapsed from the birth of Yeshua until Herod heard about this birth from the wise men. So, to be sure that he did not have a rival to his throne, Herod issued his murderous edict. That would have placed the birth of the Messiah in the year 6 BCE.
Another clue would come from Luke 2:8.
Luke 2:8 Now there were shepherds in the same region, living out in the fields and guarding their flock at night.
The Talmud obliquely discusses the care of sheep and when shepherds would be taking care of them. It says that the shepherds would be in the fields with their sheep from some time in the spring until the latter rains began during the fall of the year. Shepherds would not be in the field with their sheep during the winter in Israel because it would be too cold and rainy.
The breed of sheep most likely to have been encountered during this time period was the Awassi. It is a breed especially adapted to the harsh environment of the Middle East. Unlike many other mammals, sheep are seasonal breeders. That means they breed only once a year and the offspring are born in the springtime, mid-March to late April. That is the only time that shepherds would have been out in the fields guarding the sheep is during the lambing period. Springtime.
Another interesting fact is that the area around Bethlehem was well known for providing lambs for Temple sacrifices. The shepherds were well acquainted with the halachic requirements for sacrificial lambs. It was to these sacrificial lamb shepherds that the angel appeared announcing the birth of the Lamb of God.
All the major events surrounding the life of Yeshua occurred in conjunction with one of the Appointed Times of the Lord, the Moedim, feasts of Israel.
Yeshua was killed as the sacrificial lamb on Pesach, Passover. He rose from the dead on the First Fruits. The giving of the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh was on Shavuot, or Pentecost.
There was also another event tied to Yeshua’s life that fell on a specific date. Today we call it Palm Sunday, when Yeshua rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. So how is that a Jewish holiday? It is connected to Passover.
Exodus 12:3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb for his family one lamb for the household.
The lambs for Passover were to be a year old. They were selected from the flock that had been born the previous year. The month referred to in this passage is Nisan, the 10th day was when the lamb was selected and brought into the home. During this time the lamb would be inspected to ensure that it was without defect. It was on the tenth day of Nisan that Yeshua rode the colt into Jerusalem, the city of God, home of the Temple. He did not leave Jerusalem proper until his arrest by the Temple guards and the eventual crucifixion. The Lamb of God was brought into the Home of God on the day specified in Exodus.
Keep in mind that Yeshua’s first coming was centered around the spring feasts.
So what other springtime date is important? The first of Nisan.
Exodus 12:2 This month will mark the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year for you.
The first of Nisan is the actual God-given Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah came to be known as the Jewish New Year as a result of calendar assimilation during the Babylonian captivity. (Where are all the pagan trash talkers now?) But on God’s calendar, it is the first of Nisan.
• God’s New Year
• Exodus from Egypt
• Passover on the 15th
• “Nes” means “miracle,” so it’s Miracle Month
• Aaronic priesthood initiated
• Temple sacrifices initiated
• First incidence of Fire from Heaven
• First time the Divine Presence rested with B’nei Israel
It should be no surprise to you by now that I’m proposing the 1st of Nisan as the birth of Yeshua. If I was a better writer, I would have strung this out for a big finale, but I’m not a great writer.
Let’s look at some more clues.
Yeshua died on Passover which is always a full moon. The full moon was said to be the fullness of that month. Yeshua died on the fullness of Nisan. He fulfilled God’s plan of salvation on that date.
The Wise Men or Magi were actually prophesied in Isaiah.
(Isaiah 60:1) Arise, shine, for your light has come! The glory of Adonai has risen on you.
(Isaiah 60:6) A multitude of camels will cover you, young camels of Midian and Ephah, all those from Sheba will come. They will bring gold and frankincense, and proclaim the praises of Adonai.
There’s so much packed into that verse. “Your Light has Come” The star. Multitude of camels bringing gold and frankincense. It is exactly what happened. Now these guys didn’t make it to the birth. They were a couple of years late. So all the nativity scenes…yeah they got it wrong. But they did come. We read in Matthew…
Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Yeshua was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, magi from the east came to Jerusalem, (2) saying, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
Astronomers tell us that in the spring of 6 BCE there was a great convergence of the planets which to the ancients appeared a stars. This particular astronomical event occurs only once every 6000 years. Jupiter aligned with other planets in the constellation of Aries. Jupiter was known as the King Star. Aries the ram represented the Jewish people. So the Magi deduced that this King Star (Jupiter) being seen in the Aries constellation meant that a king of the Jews was being born.
Luke 1:5 In the days of Herod, King of Judah, there was a kohen named Zechariah from the priestly division of Abijah. Elizabeth, his wife, was from the daughters of Aaron.
There were 24 divisions of priests ordained by King David. Priestly duties were on a rotational basis throughout the year. Abijah was the eighth group and Zechariah was on duty in the temple when an angel appeared to him and announced the conception and eventual birth of a son. This would be Yochanan, better known in English speaking circles as John the Baptist. If we knew when the division known as Abijah was on duty, we could work back to know when Miriam, mother of Yeshua visited Elizabeth and pinpoint the time of Yeshua’s birth. Well as it happened the Dead Sea Scrolls provided the clue. They gave us a time for when the actual rotation began. When the Temple was destroyed, we know what division was on duty, and then by backtracking, we can know with reasonable certainty that Yeshua was born on 1 Nisan.
There are several other clues, but I would like to end with these final indicators.
Exodus 40:2 “On the first day of the first month, you will set up the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting.
The first day of the first month could only be the first of Nisan. This was a little less than a year after the Torah was given to the people at Mount Sinai. They had been working on building the Tabernacle from that time. Finally, the tabernacle was complete and ready for dedication on the first of Nisan. That was when God came down and dwelt among His people.
It was about nine months of building and preparation to build the tabernacle. It was about nine months for the building and preparation of a baby named Yeshua. Nisan is the month of new beginnings. The Rosh Chodesh (the new moon) of Nisan is called the head of the months. Yeshua was born at this time of new beginnings.
If the Tabernacle construction started at the time of Shavuot, when ADONAI gave the Torah to B’nei Israel, and the birth of the Tabernacle was just over 9 months later, then likewise, Miriam would have been covered by the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) around Shavuot, which is the same time that Messianic Believers and Christians alike, celebrate the Pentecost, giving of the Holy Spirit.
Does it matter what day Yeshua was born? I think that in some ways yes and some ways no. The Spring feasts all point to the first coming of the Messiah. The Fall feasts represent His second coming. It just makes so much more sense that the Lamb of God was born when the Passover lambs were being born.
I believe that what is more important than what day we settle on or disagree on for the birth of the Messiah is that there WAS a birth of the Messiah. He was born of a virgin, in Bethlehem. He lived a sinless life so that he could be that sacrifice lamb that whoever believed in Him could be saved from a life of sin.
For a believer, every day is like the birth of the Messiah because we are a new creation, His mercies are renewed every morning. Everyday should be celebrated as the birthday of the Messiah, because He is born anew every day in the lives of those who are His followers.