[b-hebrew] 6-Month "Year"
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Oct 26 09:19:42 EDT 2007
1. You wrote: "[T]he phrase 'two years of days' sounds weird in English
lingo, but it really does not sound all that strange in Hebrew. It has the
rhetorical effect of portraying the two years as a long time when, in other
contexts, two years might be considered a very short space of time. It's a
narrative device, that's all."
Is that view of yours supported by the text of the Patriarchal narratives?
Let's take a look.
Kenneth Greifer, in an extremely helpful post, noted in effect that the
phrase "two years of days" has only one other parallel in the Patriarchal
narratives, at Genesis 29: 14. It occurs when Jacob has just gotten out to Laban's
place in Harran:
"And Laban said to him: 'Surely thou art my bone and my flesh.' And he
abode with him [a month of days]." Genesis 29: 14
Is that a "narratives device" to portray this month as taking "a long time",
from Jacob's subjective point of view? No, quite the opposite. Jacob spends
that month ogling statuesque Rachel, and blissfully figuring out how he is
going to talk Laban into letting Jacob marry shapely Rachel. The time is
actually flying by, as the text lets us know explicitly:
"Rachel was of beautiful form and fair to look upon. And Jacob loved Rachel;
and he said: 'I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger
daughter.' …And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a
few days, for the love he had to her." Genesis 29: 17-18, 20
Note how the text contradicts your view that the expressions "two years of
days" and "a month of days" mean that the time period in question is seeming
abnormally long. The text at Genesis 29: 20 explicitly says, on the contrary,
that Jacob's time at Harran in blissful contemplation of his marriage to
statuesque Rachel "seemed unto him but a few days".
2. You previously said that a "na'ar" was not a person who was young, but
rather was a person who was inexperienced. Yet that did not explain the
reference to Joseph as being a "na'ar" at Genesis 41: 12, because the text
specifically tells us that Joseph was effectively in charge of running the most
important jail in Egypt at the time, meaning that Joseph was in fact
Now you have come up with a new view of "na'ar":
"If someone is called a *na`ar* in a text, it's because the person has
chosen to call them that. It may well be the case that the person is not really
that much of a *na`ar*, but the point is that someone else has chosen to call
them that for some reason. If someone in authority calls an underling a
*na`ar*, it does not necessarily mean they are young - it just means they are
viewed as an inferior."
But on that view, why would the narrator twice call Isaac a "na'ar" in the
binding incident, and call Joseph a "na'ar" when Joseph, at stated age 17, is
helping his half-brothers by his father's minor wives tend the flock? The
narrator does not consider either Isaac or Joseph to be an "inferior". Isaac
is Abraham's only son by his main wife #1, Sarah, and Joseph is Jacob's only
son to that point by Jacob's favorite main wife, Rachel. If Isaac is age 37
regular years or thereabouts, how can Isaac be called a "na'ar"? If Joseph is
age 17 regular years, that would be a grown adult in the ancient world.
Joseph at that point would be greatly experienced at herding goats and sheep.
Why would Joseph merely be helping his half-brothers by minor wives, and why
would Joseph tattle on his older half-brothers? Note how all these
insurmountable problems disappear instantly once one applies the 6-month "year" theory.
Isaac is probably age 15 regular years, and at a naïve age 15, Isaac could
well be called a "na'ar"/boy. Joseph is age 8½ regular years, and as such
would naturally be called a "na'ar"/boy. Likewise, Ishmael is a "na'ar"/boy, age
9½ regular years, and that is why Ishmael is carried by his mother, Hagar,
into exile. If Ishmael were age 16 regular years, Ishmael would be carrying
Hagar, not vice versa.
3. George, doesn't it seem odd that your attempted explanations of "na'ar"
and "two years of days" in the Patriarchal narratives seem so problematic?
Doesn't it make you wonder why there are no such problems if all persons' ages
in the Patriarchal narratives are viewed as being set forth in terms of
Let me now set forth a scholarly quote that succinctly summarizes the views
of today's secular scholars regarding the ages of the persons in the
"The over-all chronological scheme [of the Patriarchal narratives] remains
obscure." E.A. Speiser, Genesis (1962), at p. 126.
The first step in understanding the "obscure" chronological scheme of the
Patriarchal narratives is to recognize that each person's age that is set forth
in the Patriarchal narratives is always stated in terms of 6-month "years".
George, why not "think outside the box" and reconsider what the ages of
people in the Patriarchal narratives would look like if each age in the text is
set forth in terms of a 6-month "year"? That would instantly solve all the
"na'ar" problems. It would also be a good start in figuring out why, as soon
as a Hebrew gets to Harran or Egypt (far away from Canaan and the 6-month
"year" idea in Canaan), the author goes out of his way to talk about either "a
month of days" or "two years of days", and then follows that up with the Hebrew
speaking to the leader of that locale, not using a translator, about a
period of 7 years. The peculiar phrasing "a month of days" and "two years of
days" has a particular purpose, and it's not to signify a long period of time.
George, if you would recognize that today's secular scholars have not
figured out how to understand the ages of people in the Patriarchal narratives,
then maybe you might be open-minded enough to consider my 6-month "year" theory
of the case. Try it. You'll like it.
I will close this post by setting forth one more scholarly comment about the
ages of people in the Patriarchal narratives. George, is this secular
scholarly view of people's ages in the Patriarchal narratives, which insists that
none of such ages makes any sense, something that you really want to be
defending? Why not give the 6-month "year" theory a shot instead?
"In fact, the episodic style of the [Patriarchal] narratives that recount
the life of Abraham is only tenuously attached to a biological clock; witness
the ages in which Abraham and his spouse go through major moments of their
lives. The same can be said of Isaac. Rebekah herself is famously unattached
to chronology…." Jack M. Sasson, "The Servant's Tale: How Rebekah Found a
Spouse", in 'Journal of Near Eastern Studies', January-October 2006, volume
65, at p. 248.
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