[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
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
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
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.
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