[b-hebrew] 6-Month "Year"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Oct 26 09:19:42 EDT 2007

George  Athas: 
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 
6-month  "years"? 
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 
Patriarchal  narratives: 
"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. 
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois

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