[b-hebrew] Genesis 41: 1: "Two Years of Days"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Jul 15 10:01:34 EDT 2009

In the ancient world, a person’s age was increased by one at the New Year.  
In northwest Mesopotamia (Harran) and Egypt there was only one New Year 
every 12 months, in the spring in Mesopotamia for the harvest of grains, and in 
early summer in Egypt for the annual flooding of the Nile River.  But 
Canaan celebrated a New Year both in the spring, for the harvest of grains, and 
in the fall, for the equally important harvest of fruits.  Thus to this very 
day, the Jewish calendar has the first month of the New Year in the spring 
(in honor of the spring harvest of grains), but the first day of the New Year 
in the fall (in honor of the fall harvest of fruits).  Although the spring 
New Year is the norm internationally, in the Jewish calendar note that the 
year number is increased not at the spring New Year, but rather at the fall 
New Year.  About half of the caloric intake of the Hebrews came from the fall 
harvest, and about half from the spring harvest.  These two annual 
harvests, that is, these two New Years every 12 months, were equally important to 
the Hebrews.
Consider now the case of Ishmael, who grows up in Canaan, which celebrated 
both a spring New Year and a fall New Year, which were of equal importance 
to the Hebrews.  Ishmael is circumcised by his father Abraham at the stated 
age of 13 “years” (Genesis 17: 25).  Logically, that means that Ishmael had 
witnessed 13 New Years to that point:  7 spring New Years and 6 fall New 
Years.  Ishmael is stated age 13 “years”, meaning that he is age 6½ regular, 
12-month years.
Isaac is born shortly thereafter, when Ishmael is age 7 regular years.  
Isaac is then weaned at age 2½ regular years, which was the normal age to wean 
an important male child in the ancient world.  Ishmael is then immediately 
exiled by his father Abraham (Genesis 21: 14), when Ishmael is age 9½ regular 
years.  That is the equivalent of being age 19 “years”, in terms of 
6-month “years”, Isaac having witnessed 19 New Years in Canaan:  10 spring New 
Years and 9 fall New Years.
One key proof of the foregoing analysis is the description of Ishmael when 
he is exiled.  Fittingly for a 9½- regular-year-old boy, (i) Ishmael is 
repeatedly called a nar/N(R/“boy” by YHWH, the angel of YHWH, and the narrator 
(Genesis 21: 12, 17, 17, 18, 19, 20), (ii) Ishmael is carried on his mother 
Hagar’s shoulder (Genesis 21: 14), and (iii) Ishmael cries in the wilderness 
(Genesis 21: 17).  If Ishmael were 13 regular, 12-month years old at his 
circumcision, then 3 regular years later when Isaac is weaned, Ishmael would 
be a grown man, age 16 regular years, at his exile.  The narrator would not 
call Ishmael as a grown man a nar/N(R/“boy”, Ishmael would carry his mother 
into exile, not vice versa, and Ishmael would not be limited in his actions 
to crying in the wilderness.  As noted in my prior post, the narrator 
likewise would not call beloved Joseph at age 17 regular years a nar/N(R/“boy”, 
because Joseph would be a grown man at that age.  Rather, Joseph is stated 
age 17 “years”, being a mere boy of age 8½ regular years, at Genesis 37: 2, 
so it makes perfect sense for the narrator to refer to Joseph as being a 
nar/N(R/“boy”, just as for Ishmael.
The Koran appears to know that Ishmael was age 19 “years”, in 6-month “
years”, when Ishmael separates from the Abraham-Isaac line of the family, with 
Ishmael traditionally being viewed as at that point becoming the founder of 
the Arabs.  That is the real reason for the outsized importance of the 
number 19 in the Koran, and in particular is the explanation for the otherwise 
mysterious sura 74: 30 in the Koran:  "Over it is 19."  As has often been 
noted, a famous verse called the Basmala ("In the name of Allah, most gracious, 
most merciful"), which opens every sura in the Koran but one, has 19 
letters.  The first word (the Arabic word ism, which can be viewed as being the 
root of the Biblical Hebrew name “Ishmael”) of that verse appears 19 times in 
the Koran.  It is only in modern times that the “secret” of people’s ages 
in the Patriarchal narratives being set forth in 6-month “years” has been 
In the Patriarchal narratives, each person’s age is always set forth in 
terms of how many spring New Years and fall New Years, combined, that person 
has witnessed.  Only on that basis can the narrator call nar/N(R/“boy” (i) 
Ishmael, who at his exile is indeed a mere “boy”, age 9½ regular years, being 
3 regular years beyond his circumcision at the stated age of 13 “years”, 
and (ii) Joseph, who as his father’s favorite son, but as a mere “boy”, is 
merely a helper to his older half-brothers by his father’s minor wives in 
tending the flock, when he is the stated age of 17 “years”.  When the narrator 
uses the word nar/N(R/“boy” in these two cases to describe Ishmael and 
Joseph, the narrator is not insulting grown men.  No way!  Rather, the narrator 
is accurately calling mere boys “boy”, with these two important boys being 
ages 9½ regular years and 8½ regular years, respectively.  
The Hebrew word nar/N(R/“boy” confirms that people’s ages in the truly 
ancient Patriarchal narratives are set forth in terms of how many spring New 
Years and fall New Years, combined, each person has witnessed.  That is a 
natural way to set forth people’s ages in a truly ancient document coming out of 
Canaan, which, so unlike northwest Mesopotamia (Harran) and Egypt, 
celebrated both a spring New Year and a fall New Year.  
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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