[b-hebrew] Gezer Calendar and a 6-Month "Year"
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Oct 24 13:00:39 EDT 2007
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III:
1. You wrote: "All the Gezer Calendar (if that is what it actually is,
but, I digress) is doing is showing the agricultural periods with the two
harvest periods, one before the
early rains (Fall) and one after the latter rains (Spring) which is roughly
months apart. It is not even indicating that a year = six months."
(a) Even apart from the Gezer Calendar, we know that there were two annual
harvest periods in ancient Canaan, spaced about 6 months apart, one in the
spring, and one in the fall. The Gezer Calendar in part confirms that, and in
part the Gezer Calendar should be read in that light.
(b) The Gezer Calendar lists 8 periods. Traditionally, 4 of those periods
have been viewed as being 2-month periods, with the other 4 being 1-month
periods, for a total of 12 months. But as Joel Hoffman pointed out, the
traditional view that a VAV means a double-month is quite questionable. It seems more
reasonable to me that the periods of agricultural inactivity were just left
out of the Gezer Calendar. The 8 months in which great agricultural
activity took place in Canaan are what are listed in the Gezer Calendar. Those 8
months occurred over a 12-month period of time.
(c) The Gezer Calendar is clearly chronicling agricultural activity in
ancient Canaan over a 12-month period. It is not proposing an 8-month year. But
is it suggesting two 6-month "years" during that 12-month period, as opposed
to one 12-month year?
Per Albright's old translation, there is one and only one mention of
"feasting". If one winter month of inactivity has been left out, and there are no
double-months, that month of feasting would be in March, the 7th month. (On
that view, 3 months of summer inactivity are left out of the Gezer Calendar.)
There would be a New Year festival in the fall, in the 1st month, when the
Gezer Calendar starts, and a New Year festival or "feasting" in the 7th month,
when the next 6-month "year" starts.
If Albright's translation of "feasting" is rejected, the other main
candidate is "end" or "complete" or "termination". (The word "measure" has also been
suggested; that could mean "end" or "complete" or "termination", though it
would not necessarily have such a meaning.) If the 7th month is an "end" or
a "completion" or a "termination", that fits the concept of a 6-month "year"
(d) Thus the Gezer Calendar is consistent with, though it does not mandate,
the concept of a 6-month "year".
2. Now let us assume, however, that you are right and that the Gezer
Calendar does not indicate that a year is 6 months. The Gezer Calendar still gives
us important information: the New Year starts in the fall.
We know that most calendars from the ancient near east (excluding Egypt)
started a New Year in the spring. Certainly the people of ancient Canaan would
have known that many people in the world (excluding Egypt) started a New Year
in the spring. But the Gezer Calendar starts a New Year in the fall. That
suggests that in ancient Canaan, a New Year could begin either in the fall,
or in the spring, or perhaps at both times. The Qumran calendar may be
accurately reporting ancient thinking of Canaan, and it starts the New Year in the
Each of those two seasons -- spring and fall -- is equally important in
Canaan. Each features a critically important harvest season, and they are spaced
about 6 months apart. Thus it is not too strange to think of a New Year
starting every 6 months in ancient Canaan, in the fall, and in the spring as well.
After all, the Jewish calendar to this day has the first day of the New
Year in the fall, and the first month of the New Year in the spring.
Thus the very fact that the Gezer Calendar starts a New Year in the fall,
even if there were no "feasting" or "termination" 6 months later, is very
important in considering whether the author of the Patriarchal narratives could
have conceived of a true 6-month "year" calendar.
3. Consider now the age of Ishmael at his death: 137. Genesis 25: 17
The author of the Patriarchal narratives considers it proper that Ishmael
was exiled by his father Abraham with only bread and water. Why then should
Ishmael be portrayed as living a miraculously long life? Everything makes
sense if Ishmael lived to age 137 "years" in 6-month "years". Ishmael died at
age 68½ years, in regular, 12-month years.
4. Now consider the age of Ishmael when he is exiled by Abraham. Ishmael is
carried by his mother Hagar. Ishmael's only reported action is to cry in
the wilderness. Ishmael is repeatedly referred to as being a "nar"/boy. All
of that fits only if Ishmael is under the age of 10 years, in regular,
Ishmael is circumcised at age 13. Genesis 17: 25 If that means age 13
"years", in 6-month "years", then Ishmael is circumcised at age 6½ years, in
regular, 12-month years. Very soon thereafter, Sarah gets pregnant with Isaac.
Isaac would have been weaned at about age 2½ years, in regular, 12-month
years. So on my view, Ishmael is age 9½ years, in regular, 12-month years, when
Ishmael is exiled after Isaac's weaning party. At age 9½, Ishmael is a
"nar"/boy, he could be carried by his mother, and he could be reduced to only
crying in the wilderness. None of that would make any sense, though, if Ishmael
was already age 13 in regular, 12-month years when he was circumcised, so
that Ishmael would be about age 16 when he is exiled. At age 16 regular
years, Ishmael would be carrying his mother, not vice versa.
The Koran figured out that Ishmael was age 19 "years" (in 6-month "years")
when he was exiled and split from the line of his half-brother Isaac. That is
why the number 19 is so prominent, and positive, in the Koran.
5. Whether all the stated ages in the Patriarchal narratives are impossible,
or rather make perfect sense, is riding on the issue of whether all such
ages are being set forth in terms of 6-month "years". The Gezer Calendar is an
important bit of evidence on that score. It may itself embody a 6-month
"year" concept. But even if that is not the case, it certainly starts a New Year
in the fall, whereas most calendars in the ancient near east (outside of
Egypt) started a New Year in the spring. If a New Year in ancient Canaan can
start either in the fall or in the spring, a Biblical author could envision a
New Year starting in both the fall and the spring in ancient Canaan.
The text of the Patriarchal narratives is perfect, as is. We simply need to
re-evaluate our interpretation of that text.
All the ages in the Patriarchal narratives make perfect sense, once one
looks at them as being set forth in terms of 6-month "years".
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