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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Sun Jul 19 18:37:53 EDT 2009

Rather than being "discredited", the theory of the Patriarchs' ages 
discussed two years ago showed that mathematically, every person’s age in the 
Patriarchal narratives makes perfect sense if each age is un-doubled, in order to 
produce the equivalent age in 12-month years.  What’s new in the current 
discussion is a closer look at the calendars of ancient Canaan, and the 
reasons why the author of the Patriarchal narratives chose to set forth people’s 
ages the unusual way he did.
Karl has properly pointed out that at Exodus 12: 2;  13: 4-5, Moses is po
rtrayed as instituting the first month of the year as being in the spring.  
That is a spring New Year, but it is obviously a  c-h-a-n-g-e.  I presume you 
agree with Prof. Demsky of Bar-Ilan University in Israel that the natural, 
agricultural year in Canaan starts in the fall, with the fall rains.  The 
rain in the fall renews plant life, and it’s a New Year in Canaan.  The 
tent-dwelling Hebrews in Canaan certainly celebrated a fall New Year.  The Bible 
presents Moses as instituting something different than in the past, namely a 
spring New Year, in honor of the Exodus/Passover (long after the Patriarchal 
Age).  (You yourself might see the spring New Year as actually dating to the 
Ezra era, and simply being put into the mouth of Moses in the post-exilic 
period.)  But we should all agree that the Patriarchs knew a fall New Year, 
which is the natural, agricultural year in Canaan.
So in the Patriarchal narratives, our first thought would naturally be that 
everyone's age would increase by one year at the fall New Year.  But in 
looking at the text, we find out that, in context, that simply does not work.  
It would be an insult for the narrator to refer to Joseph as a N(R if Joseph 
were age 17 years in 12-month years.  Your own theory is that impossibly 
old ages make the Patriarchs look “regal”, as the Babylonians did for their 
mythical kings.  But nothing could be less regal than the narrator calling 
Joseph a N(R at age 17 regular years!
We must then ask:  Is there something about the text that indicates that 
the author may have increased each person’s age at the spring New Year, in 
addition to the fall New Year?  Yes!  The Patriarchal narratives open in 
Mesopotamia, which, as you know, famously had a spring New Year.  Jacob/“Israel” 
spends 20 years (12-month years) in Harran in northwest Mesopotamia (Genesis 
31: 38), a locale where the locals celebrated only a spring New Year.  
Moreover, the first two ages we are given in the Patriarchal narratives are of 
Abraham’s father Terakh, who spends the last 3 decades of his life in Harran, 
where only a spring New Year was celebrated.  So when we’re told that 
Terakh died in Harran at age 205 “years” (Genesis 11: 32), does it really make 
sense to ignore the spring New Year?  It appears that the author is 
increasing each person’s age by one “year” at both the fall New Year  a-n-d  the 
spring New Year.  Terakh dies at un-doubled age 102½ years, in 12-month years.  
  In the very sentence that gives us that age, note that it is stated that 
Terakh died “in Harran”.  All the locals at Harran observed a spring New 
And what's the first geographical locale mentioned in the Patriarchal 
narratives?  Ur.  Ur was still remembered in the Patriarchal Age as previously 
having had an Akitu/New Year festival in the spring, in the first month, and 
an even bigger Akitu/New Year festival in the fall, in the 7th month.  The 
odd initial reference to Ur in the Patriarchal narratives is a huge clue that 
the author of the Patriarchal narratives may have decided to increase each 
person’s age at both the fall New Year and the spring New Year.  Ancient Ur 
had had two huge New Year festivals during every 12-month period:  one New 
Year every 6 months.
Finally, as you know, Canaan has two annual harvests of equal importance, 
spaced about 6 months apart:  the harvest of fruits in the fall, and the 
harvest of grains in the spring.  So to the tent-dwelling Hebrews in Canaan, who 
also had a Mesopotamian connection, it would make sense to be well aware of 
both a fall New Year and a spring New Year.  Both a fall New Year and a 
spring New Year feel natural to agriculturists in Canaan, because of the fall 
and spring harvest seasons.  Accordingly, one legitimate option for the 
author of the Patriarchal narratives was to choose to increase each person’s age 
in the text by one “year” at every New Year:  both at the fall New Year  
a-n-d  at the spring New Year.
That unusual gambit then explains  a-l-l  ages in the text of the 
Patriarchal narratives (beginning at Genesis 11: 26).  Joseph is a N(R at age 8½ 
regular years.  Hagar carries her son Ishmael into exile on her shoulder when 
Ishmael is a mere boy, a N(R, age 9½ regular years.  Isaac marries at age 20 
regular years.  Sarah gives birth to Isaac at age 45 regular years, when 
Abraham is age 50 regular years.  Isaac (the oldest Patriarch) dies at age 90 
regular years.  Every single age in the text is  p-e-r-f-e-c-t.
George, there are multiple clues in the text that the author of the 
Patriarchal narratives may be increasing each person’s age at both the fall New 
Year  a-n-d  the spring New Year.  Even Abraham’s first stated age of 75 “years
” is set forth in the text in the express context of Abraham “leaving 
Harran”.  Genesis 12: 4  Harran had only a spring New Year, as you well know.  
So it’s not clear that we should ignore the spring New Years regarding people’
s ages in the Patriarchal narratives.  As to Joseph’s age in particular, 
Joseph spends only 3½ regular years of his life in the place that had a fall 
New Year:  Canaan.  All the rest of his life Joseph lives in either Harran or 
Egypt, places that had either a spring New Year or an early summer New 
Year, but no fall New Year.  So why would you insist so stringently that we must 
ignore all spring New Years in analyzing Joseph’s age?  That longstanding 
traditional view is not rational here, in context.  Surely you are not 
suggesting that a Hebrew knew to increase his age by one “year” on a date other 
than at a New Year, are you?  Terakh, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob/“Israel” and 
Joseph, being a majority of the people whose ages are set forth in the text, 
were all very familiar with both a fall New Year and a spring New Year.  So 
how can you be so absolutely certain that in analyzing their stated ages, we 
must always ignore all spring New Years?
George, if you would be open-minded enough to consider that it is  
p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e  that the author of the Patriarchal narratives might choose to 
increase each person’s age at both the fall New Year and the spring New Year, 
then all ages in the text instantly make perfect sense, with no exceptions.  
And as stated in the first post on this thread, the author uses the peculiar 
phrase “of days” to clue us into the fact that periods of years (but not 
people’s ages) in Harran and Egypt will, by contrast, be set forth in terms of 
12-month years, since those places did not know a fall New Year.  (As you 
know, Harran in northwest Mesopotamia had only a spring New Year, and Egypt 
had only an early summer New Year.)
George, all 40 numbers in the Patriarchal narratives that are ages or 
periods of years make perfect sense on all levels, on that theory of the case.  
All 40 of those 40 numbers work perfectly.  Absolutely perfectly.  That 
theory of mine has not been “discredited”.
If my theory of the Patriarchs' ages makes the Patriarchal narratives seem 
"historical", so much the better.  The Patriarchal narratives have nothing 
in common with Babylonian myths about incredibly long-lived, legendary 
Babylonian kings, as you would have it.  No way!  Not.  
Once one considers both fall New Years and spring New Years in analyzing 
stated ages in the Patriarchal narratives, one finds that not a single 
Patriarch is portrayed as living to a “prodigious” age. 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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