[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

Joel Salomon:
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 
scholars have
 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 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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