[b-hebrew] Dates of Ezra and Nehemiah

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Sep 17 23:12:36 EDT 2006

On 9/17/06, Peter Kirk wrote:

> I have seen a rather convincing argument that the "30th year" of Ezekiel
> 1:1, and various other dates in Ezekiel, refer to the jubilee year
> cycle. This is in a paper
> http://www.etsjets.org/jets/journal/47/47-1/47-1-pp021-038_JETS.pdf,
> from the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (so not from a
> crackpot). The author, Rodger Young, argues (from the Talmud, more
> details in a companion article
> http://www.etsjets.org/jets/journal/46/46-4/46-4-pp589-603_JETS.pdf )
> that a jubilee cycle started in 623 BCE, and so this date in Ezekiel is
> 594 BCE.

I skimmed through the article.  Unfortunately, it makes various
assumptions that make it hard for me to accept the work as a work that
investigates all possibilities.   He doesn't investigate a 364-day calendar
for Ezekiel.  This isn't a big issue, especially because I think a 364-day
calendar fails miserably.  But there is an important theory that involves
calendarical calculations in the post-exilic period and it is important to
explore this possibility when one claims to explore all possibilities.

Furthermore, he assumes that months were counted from Nisan even if
the year begins in Tishri (p. 27).  This is an unproven and even unlikely
assumption.  Also, he assumes that he can use the Babylonian Talmud
for dating, when, as you can see from the discussion with Shoshanna,
the Babylonian Talmud had different ideas from him about when to date
Josiah.  It is therefore problematic for him to use this data.  The very
least, there should be a discussion on the validity of the data, in view
of the Talmud's dating scheme, and in view of the specific arguments
where the data is found.  For example, he uses two pieces of data from
different places in the Talmud regarding the Jubilee cycle.  How do these
pieces of data relate to each other?  Are they independent?  Are they
both brought in or related to one side of an argument?  Are they related
to different sides of the same argument on some halachic issue?  You
can't just pick up sentences from the Talmud like that.  A case in point
is b. Meg 14b.  It doesn't say that the 18th year of Josiah was a Jubilee
year.  It says the Jubilee year began to be counted again during this
year.  This is based on the consideration that the Jubilee should have
stopped being observed in Hezekiah's time when the Northern Israelite
tribes were exiled, and the Talmud interprets Lev 25:10 "to all its
citizens" to mean that if all the citizens are not present (in exile), the
Jubilee is not observed.  The Talmud figures from Ezek 7:13 that the
Jubilee is in force when Ezek prophecies because Ezekiel won't prophecy
that the Jubilee will stop unless it was in force.  Jerusalem has not yet
been destroyed so that exile wasn't affecting the Jubilee observance.  So
when did it start being observed again?  In Josiah's 18th year, because in
that year, Josiah goes to Huldah, and it wouldn't be honorable to Jeremiah
(an elder prophet) to go to Huldah unless Jeremiah wasn't around.  So
obviously Jeremiah must have gone to bring the 10 tribes back from exile.
There is a competing explanation that Jeremiah was around but as Huldah
was Jeremiah's relative and Huldah was, being a woman, more
compassionate, Josiah went to Huldah to attempt a more compassionate
prophecy.  None of this says that Josiah's 18th year was a Jubilee year --
just that it was a year when the Jubilee started being counted again.
Perhaps they started counting from the point they left off in Hezekiah's
time, or perhaps they counted as if Jubilees were still counted all this time,
just from now the Jubilee was in force again.  All of this is one side to an
argument, and it is inconsistent with viewing Ezek 40:1's 25th year as a
jubilee year because the 25th year was 14 years after the city was
destroyed, and according to this argument, once the city is destroyed the
Jubilee won't be in force because the exile begins.  The argument's reading
of the Talmud is therefore problematic to say the list.

And if we mentioned Ezek 40:1, just how did this guy get the word "ahar"
(p. 26, top)?  I mean, doesn't he have a bible that he can type it in properly?
I'm not sure which is more problematic: This, or misusing the Talmud.

> So, could the 20th year of Nehemiah 1:1 also refer to a jubilee cycle?

But Neh 2:1 refers to Artaxerxes' 20th year.  The straightforward reading is
that it refers also to Artaxerxes' 20th year.  A jubilee year reading is really
very forced.

> Young's date for the next jubilee cycle is 574, the next would be 525,
> then 476.

And Young also mentions that Ezek 40:1's jubilee year is the last.  Not
that it matters much given Young's misuse of the Talmud, but now you
are misusing Young.

Yitzhak Sapir

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