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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Jul 17 14:58:46 EDT 2009

Let me set forth one more item of non-Biblical evidence for the Hebrews 
celebrating a fall New Year, and then I will ask you about the Biblical 
1.  As to the ancient Hebrews celebrating a fall New Year (in addition to a 
spring New Year), consider the following comments by Prof. Aaron Demsky,
Department of Jewish History, Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.  
“The first of Tishre, the seventh month, is yet another new year listed in 
the Mishnah. This date marks the day from which the years are reckoned and 
it is the "official" beginning of the year (e.g., the transition from the 
year 5760 to the year 5761). According to one opinion this date was chosen 
because it was the beginning of the year for other ancient peoples. For example, 
in ancient Canaan the year began in the autumn, when the rainy season set 
Note that Prof. Demsky sees a fall New Year as the natural New Year for 
ancient Canaan:  “[I]n ancient Canaan the year began in the autumn, when the 
rainy season set in.”
2.  Genesis 7: 11-12
“In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the 
seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the 
great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.  And the rain was 
upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”
The traditional analysis is that the “second month” referenced there is 
October, near the beginning of the rainy season.  Note Prof. Demsky’s comment 
that “in ancient Canaan the year began in the autumn, when the rainy season 
set in.”
3.  Leviticus 25: 9
“Then shalt thou make proclamation with the blast of the horn on the tenth 
day of the seventh month;  in the day of atonement shall ye make 
proclamation with the horn throughout all your land.”
Prof. Demsky notes:  “The Mishnah notes that the sabbatical year, when 
tilling the soil is forbidden, also begins on this date, and likewise also the 
jubilee year.”

4.  II Kings 22: 3 to II Kings 23: 21-23
Many things happen in the 18th year of King Josiah.  Then a great Passover 
is celebrated (presumably in the spring).  In order for all those things to 
come to pass before the Passover, King Josiah’s Year 18 would have to start 
in the fall.
5.  Leviticus 23: 5
“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, in the 
first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest unto you, a memorial proclaimed 
with the blast of horns, a holy convocation. Ye shall do no manner of 
servile work; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD.”
Your response to this was “This passage has nothing said about a new year, 
just a special celebration.”
6.  Ezekiel 40: 1;  45: 21, 25
“In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the 
year [R)$ H$NH], in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after 
that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day, the hand of the LORD was 
upon me, and He brought me thither.  … ‘In the first month, in the fourteenth 
day of the month, ye shall have the passover; a feast of seven days; 
unleavened bread shall be eaten.  … In the seventh month, in the fifteenth day of 
the month, in the feast, shall he do the like the seven days; to the 
sin-offering as well as the burnt-offering, and the meal-offering as well as the oil.
Many (though by no means all) scholars see the scene here as opening in the 
fall, “in the beginning of the year”.  Then later, the Passover in spring 
is referenced, being “the first month”, which is 6 months after the 
beginning of the year in the fall.  Then finally a feast near the fall New Year is 
referenced, being “in the seventh month”.  The “beginning of the year” and 
“the seventh month” are both in the fall, whereas “the first month” is in 
the spring.  At Ezekiel 40: 1, the reference to “in the beginning of the 
year” is often viewed as being a reference to the fall, and the fall New Year, 
as opposed to the reference at Ezekiel 45: 21 to the “first month”, which 
is the spring New Year, being the time of the Passover.
This is the only explicit Biblical reference to R)$ H$NH, the beginning of 
the year, the New Year.
7.  Exodus 23: 16
Karl, I’ve saved the best for last:
“…the feast of ingathering, at the end of the year, when thou gatherest in 
thy labours out of the field.”
The feast of ingathering was in the fall.  It was the end of the 
agricultural 12-month year, which began in the fall (with the rainy season) and ended 
the following fall, with the harvest of fruits.  The fall here is called “
the end of the year”.  That means that the fall is also the time of a New Year 
as well, since the end of the old year means the beginning of a new year.  
If the Hebrews only thought of spring as being their one and only New Year, 
it would not make sense to say that the feast of ingathering in the fall 
occurs “at the end of the year”.  No, the end of the year for a spring New 
Year would be early spring, in the 12th month of the year, not the 7th month of 
the year.
8.  Based on the foregoing, there is plenty of Biblical support for a fall 
New Year being an ancient, authentic Hebrew custom.  As to non-Biblical 
evidence, most scholars see the fall New Year as being the older, and more 
authentically Hebrew, of the two New Years in the Jewish calendar, where the 
first day of the New Year is in the fall, but the first month of the New Year is 
in the spring.
9.  I realize that scholars are split as to these various matters.  But one 
thing that does seem clear is that the Hebrew author of the Patriarchal 
narratives would have been intimately familiar with both a fall New Year and a 
spring New Year.  In Canaan, the natural beginning of the year was when the 
rainy season started in the fall, which is when things started growing 
again, plant life was reborn, and it was a New Year.  There is plenty of both 
secular historical support, and Biblical support, for the received wisdom that 
the ancient Hebrews observed a New Year in the fall. 
10.  Karl, in your opinion, why does the year number in the Jewish calendar 
increase by one at the fall New Year?  I am surprised that you would reject 
all of the foregoing Biblical basis for the Hebrews having a fall New Year, 
in addition to having a spring New Year.
If a fall New Year is not an authentic Hebrew custom, in your unique 
opinion, then where did the Jewish custom of a fall New Year come from?  A fall 
New Year couldn’t come from Mesopotamia, which famously had a spring New Year. 
 Rather, a fall New Year is redolent of ancient Canaan and the ancient 
Hebrews.  In addition to having the international spring New Year, like most 
people, the Hebrews, on a semi-unique basis, also observed a New Year in the 
fall as well.  Accordingly, each stated age in the Patriarchal narratives may 
be referencing how many New Years in total -- both spring New Years and fall 
New Years, combined -- the person had witnessed.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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