[b-hebrew] Genesis 41: 1: "Two Years of Days"
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Jul 16 15:08:19 EDT 2009
1. Thank you for your interesting comments about the Hebrew month names.
My post barely scratched the surface of the issues concerning Hebrew month
names and, more importantly from my view, the various calendars from ancient
2. You wrote: “Interesting theory. Is there any indication that other
put this theory forth before you?”
Not in modern times. But I believe that this theory was well-known to the
Hebrews, the Koran, and the medieval Christians who put chapter divisions
and chapter numbers into the Book of Genesis. If one knows that Abraham had
witnessed 50 spring New Years and 50 fall New Years at Isaac’s birth, so that
Abraham was age 50, in 12-month years, at the foundational moment of
Judaism, then it makes sense for the Hebrews to set the holy Jubilee at every 50 y
ears, and for the medieval Christian scribes to divide up the Book of
Genesis into exactly 50 chapters. Likewise, if one knows that Ishmael had
witnessed a total of 19 New Years -- 10 spring New Years and 9 fall New Years --
when Ishmael was exiled by Abraham and is viewed as becoming the founder of
the Arabs (and hence in effect of Islam), then it makes sense for the Koran to
have such a positive, prominent view of the unusual number 19.
As to the views of modern scholars, on the other hand, we know that modern
scholars tend to quote other modern scholars. So when several modern
scholars, in their published, peer-reviewed works, say that the numbers in the
Patriarchal narratives make no sense on any level, that likely means, even
though I have not personally read all the scholarly literature, that there is no
modern scholarly theory out there which would account for Joseph being a
N(R at age 17 “years”, or for Ishmael dying at age 137 “years”. Here is a
representative sampling of scholarly remarks about these topics. I have put
my own brief comments in brackets at the end of each scholarly comment.
(1) "[P]rodigious life spans [are] attributed to the Patriarchs.” John J.
Collins, “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible” (2004), at p. 84. [Not true.]
(2) "The actual chronological place of this event [Isaac's death, reported
at Genesis 35: 28-29] is obviously considerably earlier in the narrative.
The biblical writers observe no fixed commitment to linear chronology, a
phenomenon recognized by the rabbis in the dictum, 'there is neither early nor
late in the Torah'." Robert Alter, “Genesis: Translation and Commentary”
(1996), footnote 29 at p. 201. [Not true.]
(3) "The over-all chronological scheme [of the Patriarchal narratives]
remains obscure." E.A. Speiser, “Genesis” (1962), at p. 126. [Maybe to
modern scholars, but not to earlier scholars.]
(4) "In fact, the episodic style of the 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", Journal of Near Eastern Studies, January-October 2006, volume 65, at p.
248. [Not true.]
(5) “The story of Benjamin’s birth and the death of Rachel, while Jacob
and family were still en-route from Bethel towards Bethlehem-Ephrathah, is
told in Gen 35, 16-20. …On the other hand,…Jacob’s reaction to the second
dream (verse 10)…seems to pre-suppose that Joseph’s mother was still alive.”
Yigal Levin, “Joseph, Judah and the ‘Benjamin Conundrum’”, Zeitschrift
für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (June, 2004) Volume 116, Issue 2, at p.
237. [Rachel is alive at Genesis 37: 10, though Rachel’s death was
reported earlier, at Genesis 35: 19. The fact that chapter 37 of Genesis is
narrating events that preceded the bloody Shechem incident (which was narrated
earlier, in chapters 34 and 35 of Genesis) should be obvious, based on the
notable fact that Jacob sends his beloved, favorite son Joseph alone from Hebron
to report on Joseph’s older half-brothers at Shechem (Genesis 37: 12-14),
something that Jacob would never have done after the bloody Shechem incident,
from which Jacob and his family barely escape with their lives (Genesis 34:
30; 35: 4-5).]
Those five scholarly comments make clear that modern scholars do not
understand how ages, and periods of years, are set forth in the Patriarchal
narratives, nor do they understand the internal chronology of the Patriarchal
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