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When God set this globe spinning on its axis and sent it on its yearly course around the sun, accompanied by its smaller attendant, the moon, He decreed that these heavenly bodies should govern the earth’s day and night, and, further, that they should be “for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Genesis ).Thus time is measured for the earth by these motions.The ancient lunar month did not begin at the astronomical new moon, when that body stands between the earth and the sun—with its unlighted side toward us, and hence invisible—but one or more days later, with the appearance of the new crescent.

The Month Governed by the Moon.—Just as one complete rotation of the globe on its axis, from sunset on to sunset again, marks off one day on this earth, so the time required for the moon to go once around the earth—that is, to pass through its visible phases, as from crescent to full moon and to crescent again—constituted the original month.The ancients watched the skies for signs and seasons, for the time of day, and for the beginning of the month.Today the astronomers in the great observatories train their telescopes on the stars to regulate the time signals that set our clocks.The Year Measured by the Sun.—As our spinning earth, circled continuously by the moon, traverses its vast course around the sun, it makes the circuit of the four seasonal landmarks—the summer and winter solstices and the spring and autumnal equinoxes—to complete what we call a year.These points do not mark off the year as visibly as the moon does the lunar month, yet even relatively primitive peoples can recognize them by repeated observation of the shadows cast by the sun at rising, setting, and noon throughout the year.