How many of you have heard of the course of Abija (Abijah)? Did you know it is one of the only ways to date the birth of Jesus in the Bible? 95% of Americans will celebrate the birth of Christ this year, so I thought some might be interested in the Biblical case for the timing of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Most are familiar with story of the birth of Christ from Luke 2. But it is Luke 1 that provides the means by which the timing of the birth of Jesus can be determined. In Luke 1 we have the story of Zacharias, the priest, and his wife, Elisabeth. Zacharias and Elisabeth were well on in years and without children. As it is told in Luke 1, Zacharias was performing his duty in the temple when the angel appeared and told him they would have a son and to call his name John. Needless to say Zacharias was somewhat incredulous considering their age. As proof of his message the angel told Zacharias he would be unable to speak until the day the message was fulfilled.
The passage goes on to say that Elisabeth conceived after Zacharias’ service ended. Then 6 months later Mary, the mother of Jesus, conceived. Zacharias performed his priestly service during the course of Abijah which fell during the latter part of the 4th month. From this it is a simple matter to determine the general time of the birth of Jesus. The chart below gives the priestly courses in relation to the conception of Elisabeth and Mary.
Luke 1:35-37 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
The birth of Jesus fell during the 7th month of the Biblical calendar which is our September/October. It is during the 7th month that the Biblical holy day of Succoth is celebrated. The term Succoth comes from the Hebrew word “cukkah” which literally means booth or tabernacle. The Jewish people were commanded to dwell in booths during the 8 days of this feast. Succoth is one of the Biblical holydays which all adult males were commanded to observe in Jerusalem. This is likely the reason the only lodgings which Mary and Joseph found were in a stable.
Further confirmation of the evidence of Luke 1 is found in Luke 2. The shepherds were still in the fields keeping watch over their flocks when the angles announced the birth of Christ. This places the birth of Jesus sometime between the spring and fall. It was not common practice in Israel to stay in the fields with the sheep during the winter months.
John 1:14 makes a possible allusion to the birth of Jesus during the feast of Succoth.
John 1:14 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The “Word” (Jesus) “was made flesh” (conceived) “and dwelt” (skenoo – from the Greek meaning to dwell or fix ones tabernacle.)
Now look at the priestly courses again. Jesus “dwelt” with man at his birth during the 13th and 14th priestly courses. The names of these courses were Huppah (Canopy) and Jeshebeab (dwelling of the father). Pretty neat if you ask me! Now take a look again at my blog post A New Testamen;t Cipher, note especially the missing names and their arrangement in the list. Matthew’s lineage of Jesus was intentional wasn’t it? The 13th Enumeration is the key!
Isaiah 7:14 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Over the years some of you have written in asking about the priestly courses and their order. This article was based upon the assumption that King David organized the courses in the same manner he did the other courses of service. (i.e. the courses each served their complete term in one service.) Some believe that the priestly courses served only 1 week then returned home and then approximately 6 months later came back and served another week. In the following chart I’ve tried to work out such an organization included the feast days when all priests were required to serve. Please note, neither of the charts in this article account for a 13th month or other required intercalations.
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Colossians 1:19 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
1 Chronicles 24:1-19 Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 2 But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest’s office. 3 And David distributed them, both Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, according to their offices in their service. 4 And there were more chief men found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar; and thus were they divided. Among the sons of Eleazar there were sixteen chief men of the house of their fathers, and eight among the sons of Ithamar according to the house of their fathers. 5 Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for the governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God, were of the sons of Eleazar, and of the sons of Ithamar. 6 And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar. 7 Now the first lot came forth to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah, 8 The third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim, 9 The fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin, 10 The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah, 11 The ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah, 12 The eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim, 13 The thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab, 14 The fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer, 15 The seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Aphses, 16 The nineteenth to Pethahiah, the twentieth to Jehezekel, 17 The one and twentieth to Jachin, the two and twentieth to Gamul, 18 The three and twentieth to Delaiah, the four and twentieth to Maaziah. 19 These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of YHWH, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as YHWH God of Israel had commanded him.
1 Chronicles 27:1-15 Now the children of Israel after their number, to wit, the chief fathers and captains of thousands and hundreds, and their officers that served the king in any matter of the courses, which came in and went out month by month throughout all the months of the year, of every course were twenty and four thousand. 2 Over the first course for the first month was Jashobeam the son of Zabdiel: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. 3 Of the children of Perez was the chief of all the captains of the host for the first month. 4 And over the course of the second month was Dodai an Ahohite, and of his course was Mikloth also the ruler: in his course likewise were twenty and four thousand. 5 The third captain of the host for the third month was Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, a chief priest: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. 6 This is that Benaiah, who was mighty among the thirty, and above the thirty: and in his course was Ammizabad his son. 7 The fourth captain for the fourth month was Asahel the brother of Joab, and Zebadiah his son after him: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. 8 The fifth captain for the fifth month was Shamhuth the Izrahite: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. 9 The sixth captain for the sixth month was Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. 10 The seventh captain for the seventh month was Helez the Pelonite, of the children of Ephraim: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. 11 The eighth captain for the eighth month was Sibbecai the Hushathite, of the Zarhites: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. 12 The ninth captain for the ninth month was Abiezer the Anetothite, of the Benjamites: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. 13 The tenth captain for the tenth month was Maharai the Netophathite, of the Zarhites: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. 14 The eleventh captain for the eleventh month was Benaiah the Pirathonite, of the children of Ephraim: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. 15 The twelfth captain for the twelfth month was Heldai the Netophathite, of Othniel: and in his course were twenty and four thousand.
1 Kings 4:7 7 And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, which provided victuals for the king and his household: each man his month in a year made provision.