[b-hebrew] Dates of Ezra and Nehemiah

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Sep 20 00:15:29 EDT 2006

On 9/19/06, Peter Kirk wrote:
> Thanks for the article from Clines (I presume). I note that he supports
> me and Young in taking numbered months as starting in spring even if the
> new year was celebrated in the autumn, for he writes:

> > late in Jehoiakim's fourth year, say in September, Jeremiah is bidden
> > to write his scroll, and Baruch gives a public reading in December
> > (Kislev, the ninth month) of the fifth year. ...
> > some advocates of the autumn new year claim that the year was still
> > regarded as beginning in the autumn even when the months were numbered
> > from the spring.
> The implication of this is that even if Nehemiah was using an autumnal
> calendar he left Susa in spring, arrived in Jerusalem in midsummer,
> finished the wall in Elul in late summer, and the "seventh month"
> dedication (8:2) was at the autumn new year festival. And Ezra's travel
> seasons were similar.

Yes, it is his article.  Please note that the article is out to prove that
an autumnal calendar was not in force, and so it is divided into two
parts, one where the argument for an autumnal calendar is presented
and one where the counter-argument is presented.  I think examples
like this where a fireplace is mentioned are clear examples that would
have been changed by those who practiced a spring calendar.  I
believe an autumnal calendar was in force until the 4th century BCE.
Until this point, the calendar was always counted from the start of the
year whether in the spring or in the fall.  In the 4th century under Persian
influence, a spring 12x30 calendar was adopted and months were
now counted from the spring.  Because during this time, the Torah as
we know it gained canonization status, this status remained and when
under Greek influence, the fall was viewed as the start of the year again,
the months were still counted from the spring.  Verses which were
obvious in their intent, when mentioning holidays or, in the case of
Jeremiah, a fireplace, were emended such that he number assumed
a fall based scenario.  Month numbers where this was not clear, were
not always emended.  This is how the numbers in the story of the
Deluge remained.  In the case of Jer 36:22, a critical edition of the book
notes: "89 pr h$b(y (non voc)".

I take my point about Ezra's month numbers back.

I agree that Ezra made a spring journey.  Susa is spoken of as the
winter capital of Persian kings, and said to be very unpleasant in the
summer.  It is under those assumptions that I believe that Esther 8:9,
14 speak for a winter journey as well (making Sivan a later addition).
However, if the calendar was changed in the 4th century to a spring
based calendar, then the book of Ezra could well have been written
using spring-based month numbers.  Nehemiah also made a spring
journey, and apparently in the same dates (as far as months are
concerned).   Still more problematic is the years, since they are not
equivalent.  In view of Susa's climate, and its use as a winter palace,
perhaps months Nisan through Ab were just good months to make
a journey from Susa.

Yitzhak Sapir

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