[b-hebrew] Hebrew month names

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Mon Aug 30 05:35:32 EDT 2004


Dear Michael,

I have not yet managed to answer your previous long post, but I'll try to work in part of it together with the present one.
 
You wrote:

"The etymology of hebrew calendar names is not at all clear, since they not conform to a common meaningfull pattern and there is nowhere an explicit use of the month names"

This of course is true, since we do not have more than three or four names, we cannot speak of a "pattern". However, when you write:

"in the sense of for example Abib=ripened barley. This is a modern gloss, maybe correct, maybe wrong."

I disagree. This is clearly the meaning of the word in Ex. 9:31 and Lev. 2:14, and since March-April IS the season of the barley harvest in Israel, there is no reason NOT to accept this etymology for the name. 

There is no evidence of any connection between the Hebrew "Abib" and the Akkadian Ab-bi.

As for the Passover - ALL Biblical references, direct and indirect, point to it's being observed during the early spring. The celebration of Shavuot, 50 days later, as a festival of firstfruits also points to this season. And Sukkot, as a fruit harvest festival "at the turning of the year" points to the fall season.

As far as the 30-day month - yes, I agree that the "standard" month was referred to as being 30 days. This is why the "month" of mourning was 30 days, and also why the Flood story assumes 30 day months. But in "real life", the new moon (Xode$ or Yerax) was celebrated when the new moon came, and that sometimes happened a day "early". Read the Mishnah tractate Rosh Hashanah to see how this was dealt with during the late Second Temple Period and after - I'm not claiming that it reflects the actual practice in Iron Age Israel, but it certainly supplies a historical model.

You wrote:
"Concerning the celebration or non-celebration of Succoth in the month Bul ought be said, that a celebration of Succoth in front of an unfinished temple is uncompatible with the religious beliefs in the ANE. A temple has to be the dwelling of the god to which it pertains. Is the temple not yet finished, that is clear, the god is most probably not yet dwelling in it. The celebration at this place is thus devoid of meaning."

I think that you misunderstood me (in your previous post as well). The way I read it, the construction of the Temple building was completed in "the month of Bul, which is the eighth month" (1 Kings 6:38) - Marheshvan. There is no ceremony mentioned here. The following chapter then tells of the completion of the Temple implements, bronzework, the altars etc. This took another 11 months. In 7:51 - "And all the work was finished", and then, in 8:1-2, Solomon brings everyone in for the dedication ceremony, "in the festival of the month of Ethanim, the seventh month." This is what we call Tishri (I admit that the identification of "the festival" with Sukkot is not explicit). So you are right - Solomon would not dedicate an unfinished Temple. I say that he didn't. But "the festival" was celebrated in Tishri.

In your previous post, you pointed out that both the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians knew of both pure solar and lunar-solar calendars, but admitted that the lunar-solar was more common in Mesopotamia. I agree. And since the Hebrew's cultural background was Semitic rather than Egyptian, we should look to Mesopotamia for our model, even BEFORE the Exile. Just as the Semitic world has supplied our model for so much that we now know about biblical language, literature, law, custom, cult, myth and so on, it is reasonable to assume that the ancient Hebrews, like their Canaanite predecessors, used more-or-less the same calendar as did the rest of the Semitic world: a lunar one with some mechanism of keeping in tune with the solar-based seasons. The fact that this is also the calendar that was used by most Jews in later times may or may not be taken as evidence of a tradition continuing from First to Second Temple, and indeed after 70 CE as well. Yes, there were things that changed - the "Babylonian" names were adopted, first as "secular" names, and later, after Akkadian and Aramaic were no longer the language of government and the Greek calendar was used instead, they became identified as "Jewish". (Using different names for the same month is not as strange as it seems: in Arabic today the "civil" months have different names in different places - the month called "October" in Egypt is called "Tishrin" in Syria, and of course all Muslims use their purely lunar calendar for religious purposes). The "New Year" shifted from Tishri to Nisan and back again - not so strange: we all live with different "civil", fiscal, academic etc. "new years". The system of "declaring" the new moon and the intercalary month changed as well, until it was finally "fixed". Remember that when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in the West, Eastern Christians remained with the Julian Calendar, and even when the countries of Eastern Europe adopted the Gregorian Calendar, the Eastern Churches stayed with the old one. Does this mean that the Christian world no longer uses the "Roman" calendar? Of course not - but certain changes have been made through the centuries.

The same for the Hebrew calendar - it is basically the same as that used in Canaan and Israel, and throughout the Semitic world, with certain changes having been made.

Yes, I am aware that the Qumran sect, and some other Second Temple Jewish groups, did adopt a solar calendar. They also adopted some other practices that were outside what became "normative" Judaism. But to use them as "proof" of anything is incorrect.

Yigal
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Michael Banyai 
  To: Yigal Levin 
  Sent: Monday, August 30, 2004 8:26 AM
  Subject: Hebrew month names, was [b-hebrew] Thera quote


  Dear Yigal,

  should the thoughts concerning the name of the month Abib serve to its identification within the year, it is clear one ommits the possibility that the name is not hebrew at all and could have been identical in fact with Babylonian Ab, the 5-th month of the Babylonian calendar (month ab-bi in Ur tablets like UET 3 722, month ab-bi-in in Mari). The etymology of hebrew calendar names is not at all clear, since they not conform to a common meaningfull pattern and there is nowhere an explicit use of the month names in the sense of for example Abib=ripened barley. This is a modern gloss, maybe correct, maybe wrong.

  > Actually, Karl, "Abib" as used in P and D seems to be less the name of a
  > month than of a season. Literally, Abib means "ripened barley" (cf. Ex. 9:31
  > and Lev. 2:14), and so literally, "keep the Passover in the month in which
  > the barley ripens". This, of course, is because of the connection between
  > the Passover and the Omer, the offering of the first grain harvest. Since
  > this "month of harvest" became the first month of the year, "Abib" became
  > the actual name of the first month - the Babylonian Nisan.
  > 
  > In later Hebrew, BTW, when "Aviv" was no longer used as the name of a month,
  > it became the name of the spring season - as well as that of my youngest
  > son, who was actually born at the end of Adar.

  Concerning to Peter Kirk´s question about 30-days month´s lengths.

  There are biblical texts unquestionably relating to a purely lunar calendar ( so 1 Sam. 20: 22 and 27; or Ez. 1: 1, Ez. 3: 15, Ez. 4: 4-6, Ez. 8: 1 mentioning an intercalary month ). 
  At the same time Deut. 34: 8, Deut. 21: 3, Nu. 20: 29, Gen. 7: 11-24, Gen. 8: 4, refer constantly to 30-day months incompatible with a lunar month. For example, the month of mourning has a regular length of 30 days. The time between the beginning of Noah’s flood on the 17-th of the second month and the end of the rain on the 17-th of the seventh moth is calculated as standard 150 days. 

  Concerning the celebration or non-celebration of Succoth in the month Bul ought be said, that a celebration of Succoth in front of an unfinished temple is uncompatible with the religious beliefs in the ANE. A temple has to be the dwelling of the god to which it pertains. Is the temple not yet finished, that is clear, the god is most probably not yet dwelling in it. The celebration at this place is thus devoid of meaning. 

  Best regards,

  Bányai Michael
  Stuttgart




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