[b-hebrew] Gezer Calendar and a 6-Month "Year"

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Wed Oct 24 14:44:11 EDT 2007

Dear Jim,

The New Year began in the Spring for the Israelites for the Sacred Festivals. It
is noticeable that Passover, being initiated in Exodus 11-12. Notice, 12:2,
"This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first
month of the year to you."

Jewish Encyclopedia, "New Year,"  www.jewishencyclopedia.com.
By : Isidore Singer   J. F. McLaughlin   Wilhelm Bacher   Judah David Eisenstein

  —Biblical Data:
  The Regnal Year.
  Possibly Two Modes of Reckoning.
  How Celebrated.
  —In Rabbinical Literature:
  Rosh ha-Shanah.
  Omens of Good Luck.
  The Second Day.

—Biblical Data:

"In the earliest times the Hebrew year began in autumn with the opening of the
economic year. There followed in regular succession the seasons of seed-sowing,
growth and ripening of the corn under the influence of the former and the latter
rains, harvest and ingathering of the fruits. In harmony with this was the order
of the great agricultural festivals, according to the oldest legislation,
namely, the feast of unleavened bread at the beginning of the barley harvest, in
the month of Abib; the feast of harvest, seven weeks later; and the feast of
ingathering at the going out or turn of the year (; see Ex. xxiii. 14-17; xxxiv.
18, 22-23; Deut. xvi. 1-16).

This system of dating the New-Year is that which was adopted by the Semites
generally, while other peoples, as the Greeks and Persians, began the year in
spring, both methods of reckoning being primarily agricultural and based on the
seasons of seed-time and harvest."

Leviticus 23 lists several feasts/festivals.
    1)    Passover, 23:5
    2)    Feast of Unleavened Bread, 23:6
    3)    Feast of Firstfruits, 23:9-11
    4)    Feast of Pentecost, 23:15-19
            a)    23:20-22 is the explanation regarding what is to be done on
the 3 & 4 above.
    5)    Feast of Trumpets, 23:23-24.
    6)    Yom Kippur, 23:25-32.
            a)    Rabbinic Literature listed 4 New Years with Passover and Yom
Kippur being the 2 New years for Sacred and Economic beginnings, respectively.
            b)    Rosh ha-Shanah.

"The observance of the 1st of Tishri as Rosh ha-Shanah, the most solemn day next
to Yom Kippur, is based principally on the traditional law to which the mention
of "Zikkaron" (= "memorial day"; Lev. xxiii. 24) and the reference of Ezra to
the day as one "holy to the Lord" (Neh. viii. 9) seem to point. The passage in
Psalms (lxxxi. 5) referring to the solemn feast which is held on New Moon Day,
when the shofar is sounded, as a day of "mishpaṭ" (judgment) of "the God of
Jacob" is taken to indicate the character of Rosh ha-Shanah. Rosh ha-Shanah is
the most important judgment-day, on which all the inhabitants of the world pass
for judgment before the Creator, as sheep pass for examination before the
shepherd (R. H. i. 2; See Day of Judgment). Three books of account are opened on
Rosh ha-Shanah wherein the fate of the wicked, the righteous, and those of an
intermediate class (not utterly wicked) are recorded. The names of the righteous
are immediately inscribed, and they are sealed "to live." The middle class are
allowed a respite of ten days till Yom Kippur, to repent and become righteous
(R. H. 16b); the wicked are "blotted out of the book of the living" (Ps. lxix.
Jewish Encyclopedia, www.jewishencyclopedia.com.

    7)    Feast of Tabernacles, 23:33-44.
            a)    23:43 gives the reason for this feast.
Below is the information regarding the differences of determining the new year
from Jewish Encyclopedia from the article on the "New Year."

"Possibly Two Modes of Reckoning.
(see image) Blowing the Shofar on New-Year's Day.(From a Passover Haggadah,
Amsterdam, 1695.)
(see image) Celebration of the New-Year in Germany in the Eighteenth
Century.(From Bodenschatz, "Kirchiiche Verfassung," 1748.)There is much
difference of opinion as to whether or not there was in preexilic times a second
mode of reckoning from the vernal equinox. This inference has been drawn from
such passages as II Sam. xi. 1, I Kings xx. 22, 26, and II Chron. xxxvi. 10. The
expression used here, "at the return of the year," is, however, sufficiently
explained as "the time when kings go out"; that is to say, the usual time for
opening a military campaign. Of course if the law of the Passover (Ex. xii. 1;
Lev. xxiii. 5; Num. ix. 1-5, xxviii. 16-17) is pre-exilic, the question admits
of no further argument. It seems, however, to be now very generally accepted
that this law in its present form is not earlier than the sixth century and that
it represents post-exilic practise. According to this legislation, which
henceforth prevailed, the month Abib, or Nisan (March-April), became the first
of the year. It is possible that this change was due, in part at least, to the
influence of the Babylonian sacred year, which likewise began with the month
Nisan. It appears, however, that the festival of the New-Year continued to be
observed in the autumn, perhaps originally on the tenth, and later on the first
day of the seventh month, Tishri. Josephus asserts (l.c. i. 3, § 3) that while
Moses appointed Nisan to be the first month for the sacred festivals and other
solemnities, he preserved the original order of the months for buying and
selling and for the transaction of other business. The Seleucidan calendar, from
312 B.C., placed the beginning of the year in the autumn; but it appears that
the Palestinian Jews still reckoned from the spring and dated the Seleucidan era
according to that reckoning (see Schürer, "The Jewish People in the Time of
Jesus Christ," 2d ed., Eng. transl., I. i 36-46, on the dates in the Books of
Maccabees; comp. Esth. iii. 7)."

I should note that I think that there is another reason for the differences. The
reason is that the Israelites were not to be like the nations that they were to
expel from the land of Canaan. Unfortunately, history and the Tanakh show that
Israel not only followed after the nations they were commanded to expel from
Canaan, but actually did worse. Thus, they were sent into exile. First, the
Assyrian, then the Babylonian.

It is clear from what Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy that a year is not 6
months long, but a full twelve months.

Rev. Bryant J. Williams

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 10:00 AM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Gezer Calendar and a 6-Month "Year"

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
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.
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
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
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
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
Each of those two seasons -- spring and fall  -- is equally important in
Canaan.  Each features a critically important harvest season, and they are
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
 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 68 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 6 years, in
regular, 12-month  years.  Very soon thereafter, Sarah  gets pregnant with
Isaac  would have been weaned at about age 2 years, in regular, 12-month
years.  So on my view, Ishmael is age 9 years,  in regular, 12-month years, when
Ishmael is exiled after Isaac's weaning  party.  At age 9, 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
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
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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