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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Jul 16 15:36:59 EDT 2009

1.  You wrote:  “[E]vidence from the Babylonian calendar is not admissible 
in court of scholarship concerning the Patriarchal dates.”
My post explicitly said that the Babylonian month names are very late, 
dating to the Ezra era.  That is long after the composition of the Patriarchal 
narratives.  My theory of the case does not rely on Babylonian month names.
However, long before the exile, the Hebrews were well aware that in 
Mesopotamia, the New Year started in the spring, and that no New Year began in the 
fall there.
Moreover, the harvest of wheat and barley in spring was very important in 
Canaan.  So spring is a natural time for a New Year in Canaan.  But the fall 
is just as natural a time for a New Year in Canaan as is the spring.
2.  You wrote:  “As far as your claim about N(R, apparently you believe 
that the spies that Joshua sent to spy out Jericho were mere lads, about 10–12 
years old (Joshua
 6:23), or for late Hebrew, mere lads rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and
 fought against seasoned warriors to protect the construction effort
 (Nehemiah 4:10 Hebrew numbering).”
At Nehemiah 4: 10, the reference to N(R is to mere servants.  As I noted 
previously, Genesis 22: 3 uses N(R in that sense, referring to mere servants, 
who likely are teenagers, and who may well be in their upper teens.  No 
specific name is mentioned for any of such mere servants.  The reference at 
Joshua 6: 23 is not as clearcut.  Once again, no individual names are given.  
The spies involved probably are quite young.  They probably are about age 13 – 
Your two citations are quite different than when the narrator uses both the 
name “Joseph”, and the label N(R, at Genesis 37: 2, where the narrator has 
a high opinion of Joseph, who is Patriarch Jacob’s favorite son.  If Joseph 
were age 17 years in 12-month years, the narrator would not refer to 
Joseph, a grown man, as being a N(R.  By contrast, mere unnamed teenage servants 
who help Abraham at the beginning of the binding incident, and who help to 
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, are properly referred to as N(R.
3.  You wrote:  “As for the Gezar Calendar, I can read it, therefore you 
should be able to as well, right?”
Karl, I gave you the tip of the iceberg as to the monumental controversies 
regarding differing scholarly views as to the meaning of the Gezer Calendar, 
including how to translate the various words.  I must admit that of all the 
scholarly analyses I have seen of the Gezer Calendar, I have never seen a 
claim like yours that “you’ll recognize that the months are out of order.”  
Moreover, I have never seen any scholar assert your claim that the first 
month is in the spring.  The first month is usually interpreted to be the olive 
harvest in the fall.
Karl, I recommend you take a look at the article I cited in that post, to 
get a glimpse of the various ways scholars have interpreted the Gezer 
Calendar:  S. Talmon, "The Gezer Calendar and the Seasonal Cycle of Ancient 
Canaan", Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 83, No. 2 (Apr-Jun., 1963), 
at pp. 181-182.
4.  If I understand your view, it is that the Hebrew way was to start the 
New Year in the fall, and the Hebrews did not start a New Year in the spring. 
 Perhaps you see that as not changing until the Ezra era, when Ezra brought 
back from Babylon names of the months that had the first month start in the 
spring, the Babylonian way.
But certainly you must agree that the Hebrews were well aware of the fact 
that most people’s calendars in the ancient near east had a New Year in the 
spring.  Moreover, the harvest of grains in the spring was very important to 
the Hebrews themselves, and thus was one logical time for the Hebrews to 
start a New Year.  The Patriarchal narratives begin in Ur and Harran, and Jacob 
later spends 20 years (12-month years) in Harran.  Obviously the early 
Hebrews were well aware of the world-famous Mesopotamian spring New Year.
So when the Patriarchal narratives say that Ishmael died at age 137 “years”
, one logical way to interpret that is that at his death, Ishmael had 
witnessed 137 New Years:  69 spring New Years (the norm in the northern 
hemisphere, and very famous in Mesopotamia in particular, even without regard to 
whether a spring New Year was celebrated routinely in Canaan), and 68 fall New 
Years (the New Year that was unique to Canaan).
As long as the Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives was aware of 
both a spring New Year and a fall New Year, as he certainly was, that means 
that it is possible that he decided to express people’s ages in his text in 
terms of how many total New Years each person had witnessed, counting both 
spring New Years and fall New Years, combined.
We then look at the text of the Patriarchal narratives, to see which theory 
of the case makes sense.  Joseph and Ishmael would not be N(R at ages 17 
and 16, in terms of 12-month years.  At those ages, Joseph would not be merely 
helping his older half-brothers by his father’s minor wives tend the flock, 
and Joseph would be more circumspect in reporting his dreams.  Ishmael 
would not be carried into exile by his mother Hagar!  On the other end, Joseph 
and Ishmael would not live to ages 110 and 137, in terms of 12-month years.  
Yet all four such ages make perfect sense if the ages in question are being 
set forth in terms of how many total New Years each person had witnessed, 
counting both spring New Years and fall New Years, combined.
Karl, every single stated age in the Patriarchal narratives (beginning at 
Genesis 11: 26) makes perfect sense on that theory of the case.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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