[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, 
12-month  years. 
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". 
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois  

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