[b-hebrew] Genesis 8:22
Harold R. Holmyard III
hholmyard at ont.com
Thu Apr 27 12:33:13 EDT 2006
> > HH: The word MW(D ("time") clearly can refer to the seasons of
>> nature. In Jer 8:7 it refers to the migration season for birds. In Ps
> > 104:19 it refers to nature's seasons:
>I think you are mistranslating Psalm 104. The word mw(d very often
>refers to the full moon holiday.
HH: A full moon holiday is foreign to the context
of the natural world of Psalm 104:
Psa. 104:18 The high mountains belong to the wild
goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys.
Psa. 104:19 The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.
Psa. 104:20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
Psa. 104:21 The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.
Psa. 104:22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
Psa. 104:23 Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening.
HH: What do wild goats care about a full moon
holiday? What do beasts of the forest care about
it? What do lions care about it?
HH: Here is a small piece of writing about this part of Psalm 104:
The second section which mentions mankind, verses
19-23, demonstrates Yahweh's sovereignty over
creation by appointing heavenly bodies to
regulate the seasons and days. The key word here
is "for the seasons" The rest of the section is a
series of specific illustrations on how the sun
and moon regulate the animal world and man. Key
terms are used to express the regulation of the
natural world by the moon and sun. The sun knows
"its setting or going down" darkness becomes
"night" all forest life roams under the cover of
"night" the sun "rises" to mark the end of the
day; man goes out to his work "until evening"
The specific illustration demonstrating the
regulation of the moon and sun is the interplay
between mankind and the lion. The lion hunts at
night and rests in the day; mankind rests at
night and "tills" the land in the day. Here man
and animal are placed on an egalitarian level as
workers from the natural world who illustrate how
wonderfully the sun and moon regulate the cycle
> This appears clearly from its use to
>denote the special holidays such as Passover and Sukkoth.
HH: I know, but that's not the context here.
>Shavuoth is included because the date given in the Bible falls on the
>15th of the month when assuming a 12x30 or 4x91 calendar, and this
>can be considered a further development from an original date in the
>15th of a lunisolar calendar.
HH: Fine, but the context does not mention the sabbath.
> Moed also appears in conjuction with
>the term Hodesh (new moon) and also Hag and Shabbat, the later
>also probably a term for the full moon in certain cases.
> In the case
>of Psalm 104, this kind of interpretation is also very plausible. In
>fact, the moon is not usually associated with the seasonal calendar
>(this is the role of the sun), so this interpretation of Psalm 104 is
>probably more likely, and yours seems rather unlikely.
HH: The moon is related to the cycle of day and
night, to the cycle of months, to the tides. It
seems to do other things. Here are a few quotes
from people writing on this topic (note
especially the second quote):
Neil F. Comins's What if the Moon Didn't Exist
addresses this very possibility [the existence of
the earth without the moon] in an article. His
consensus--he's a physicist, by the way--is that
the Earth would rotate much more rapidly, and
hence probably be a windier and stormier place.
"According to three French scientists, the moon's
gravity is now believed to be what keeps the
earth's axis inclined 23 degrees, thus ensuring a
regular change of seasons. (Nature, February 18,
1993)." -"Awake!," 7/8/94, p. 4.
To the already striking list of factors that make
planet Earth uniquely suitable for life,
astronomers may have to add another item: the
Moon. Our satellite does far more than provide an
ornamental night light for the skies and create
tides. According to computer studies by French
astronomers, it also helps to regulate earth's
obliquity, that is, the degree of tilt of its
spin axis. Mars, which does not have such a large
satellite, has apparently shifted in its degree
of tilt between 10 and 50 degrees over the ages.
This instability has probably caused catastrophic
climate changes, with the polar caps melting and
then refreezing. The computer studies revealed
that without the moon, which exerts a restraining
influence, the earth's obliquity may well have
shifted by some 85 degrees. Thus, the French
astronomers conclude: "One might consider the
Moon to act as a potential climate regulator for
the Earth."- Ibid., 9/22/93, pp. 28,29.
HH: Here's a comment about moon and time marking,
showing that the moon could mark not only days
and months but seasons (I capitalized the key
word "seasonal" below) and cycles of years:
Just as much as the sun, the moon has always been
an object of wonder and veneration. It is a
spectacular night sky object, and has the
advantage over the sun that it can always be
looked at directly. Its cycle of phases during
each month is obvious and those phases, and the
months themselves, are a convenient way of
dividing time and describing different periods of
time in a pre-literate society.
Anyone observing the moon even casually over the
period of a year would inevitably notice several
The most important is probably that the twelve or
thirteen full moons over the course of the year
do not rise and set in the same positions on the
horizon. The full moons in summer rise and set
much further to the south compared with those in
winter. This means that the full moons of summer
are in the sky for a shorter period than those of
winter, and reach a lower altitude in the sky.
From the perspective of a pre-technological
society, it would seem very lucky that the winter
full moons rose earlier and set later, providing
light through the long winter nights just when it
was needed most. In fact, it probably seemed
miraculous. The full moon nearest to midwinter is
always the highest and longest shining full moon
of the year, and everyone has experienced bright
moonlit frosty nights around the winter holiday.
Once this SEASONAL difference in the full moons
had been noticed, a further fact would probably
have been observed as well, as the years passed.
This is that from year to year the rising and
setting positions of these winter and summer
solstice moons themselves change. The change from
one winter solstice or summer solstice to its
equivalent a year later is about 3°. (This is the
same as the width of six moon diameters, and the
change would be plain to any careful observer.)
This is the most obvious way in which the other
cycle of the moon's movement reveals itself. The
moon goes through a cycle of horizon positions
which repeats itself every 18.6 years.
Fundamentally, the cycle is of a widening and
narrowing band of rising and setting positions
which the moon at any phase can attain. At one
extreme point of the cycle, called the 'major
standstill' (following Alexander Thom), the moon
will rise and set far to the north, well beyond
the position of the sun at the summer solstice.
Two weeks later, the moon will be rising and
setting far to the south, only appearing in the
sky for a very short period.
Figure 9 illustrates the very different paths of
the full moon across the horizon at the winter
solstice and the summer solstice, during the
lunar major standstill period. The contrast in
rising positions and the time that the moon is in
the sky at those two times of year is very
marked, and would not have been missed by people
who spent most of their lives out of doors.
During the period of the major standstill the
moon at phases other than full will swing between
the two limits shown; in other words a waxing or
waning moon could appear in the extreme positions
to north or to south. But the only full moons
which will attain the extreme positions shown in
the diagram are those closest to the summer and
Just over nine years later, during the 'minor
standstill', the limits of the moon's path have
contracted, and the positions of the solstice
full moons will be as shown in Figure 10. It will
be seen that now there is less of a contrast
between the summer and winter full moon
positions, though the winter full moon is still
in the sky for a much longer period than the
summer full moon. Again it must be remembered
that at other times of year during the minor
standstill the moon's phases will move between
those limits, with a waxing or waning moon
capable of reaching the limiting positions.
Such are the fundamentally simple movements of
the sun and the moon across our skies. The key
positions for the sun are the two solstices and
the two equinoxes, and for the moon the positions
of the full moon closest to the two solstices at
the times of the standstills. The easiest way of
defining and recording such events for a society
with no writing or instruments is by erecting
permanent markers which cause a viewer to look
towards the positions on the horizon where the
sun or the moon will rise or set at the times in
question. It is now accepted that this is part of
the purpose of many of the standing stones, stone
circles and chambered cairns erected in the late
stone age or Neolithic period, and in the early
>As for Jeremiah, I had considered the possibility that the terms in
>Jer 8:7 refer to constellations. The main argument is the joint
>terms sws and (gwr, which appear jointly in places I consider to
>be astrological contexts. This example is a rebuke of astrology.
HH: The obvious meaning of the passage stands:
Jer. 8:7 Even the stork in the sky knows her
appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and
the thrush observe the time of their migration.
But my people do not know the requirements of the
HH: This text is unmistakably taking about the
migration patterns of birds, which are seasonal.
>In Isaiah 38:14 it appears as part of a prayer following an
>astrological sign (Isaiah 38:8). I would also argue there are
>reasons to read the Balaam inscription, where this term also
>seems to appear, as an astrological document. While these
>considerations are not conclusive, the word "seasons" as the
>translation of Jer 8:7 is not necessary, and the usual translation
>"appointed times" is more reasonable in this case as well.
HH: But they are times that come seasonally.
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