Sabbath Origins

George Athas gathas at mail.usyd.edu.au
Mon Dec 6 02:19:12 EST 1999


>
> One of frequency. Feasts being least frequent go last. In late times
> sabbaths being most frequent go first. If sabbath is as frequent but comes
> after the new moon, that's how I would expect the ordering. It so happens
> that Ps81:3 preserves the order where the full moon comes after the new
> moon (logical isn't it?) reflected in the order given by Hosea and Isaiah.

I understand the thought behind it, but I don't think it necessarily has to be in rigid
order.

> >I don't see why this has to be the case. Yet, even allowing for such a
> fixed progression,
> >there's no reason why Sabbath must equal 'full moon'. Why not just say
> 'full moon' rather
> >than 'Sabbath'?
>
> The term "full moon" is extremely rare in Hebrew it would seem, and only
> found on two occasions in the OT/HB. If the word sabbath already existed
> with the significance of "full moon" as shapattu did, one would use sabbath
> for "full moon". This I wrote to Irene: <<In the Enuma Elish V, providing
> lunar movements, "Go forth every month without fail in a corona, At the
> beginning of the month, to glow over the land. You shine with horns to mark
> out six days; On the seventh day the crown is half. The fifteenth day
> [shapattu] shall always be the mid-point, the half of each month..."
> (S.Dalley, "Myths of Mesopotamia" Oxford) Naturally "fifteenth day" is the
> shapattu, the word normally recognised as cognate with sabbath.>>

With regards to philology, how do we explain the single labial ('p') in Akkadian
"shapattu", but the double labial ('bb) in Hebrew "shabbat"? And how do we explain the
double dental ('tt') in Akkadian "shapattu", but the singular dental ("t") in Hebrew
"shabbat"? Also, is the dental consonant the same in both words? Are they both
representing the taw?

>
> >Isn't 'stopping' part of all festivals? Yet, the terminology at least
> >suggests that 'Sabbath' is an explicitly stop-oriented festival or
> week-oriented festival,
> >not a lunar-oriented festival.
>
> Could you explain this (stopping) for me? (Ta.)

'Shabbat' means the 'stop', or something akin to it. Why refer it to only one particular
festival (the full moon festival) if all the other festivals involved a stopping of work
also? It seems to make more sense that the term be applied to a festival that was
explicitly about stopping work rather than the full moon phase.

I'm still not convinced - but keep trying.  ;-)

Best regards,
George Athas
 Dept of Semitic Studies,
 University of Sydney
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