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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Jul 22 10:17:02 EDT 2009


George:
 
You wrote:  “In any case, your theory fails to make sense of Gen 18. So I 
just don't buy it.”
 
Let’s take a look at chapter 18 of Genesis.  
 
1.  Actual Ages
 
We know from Genesis 21: 5 that Abraham is age 100 “years”, in 6-month “
years”, when Isaac is born.  So Abraham is age 50.0 regular years, in 12-month 
years, at Isaac’s birth.  We know from Genesis 17: 24 that prior to the 
chapter 18 meeting with YHWH, Abraham is already age 99 “years”, in 6-month “
years”, being age 49½ regular years.  So Abraham is age 49½ regular years in 
chapter 18 of Genesis.  We know from Genesis 17: 17 that Sarah is 10 “years”
, in 6-month “years”, younger than Abraham, meaning that Sarah is 5 
regular years younger than Abraham.  So Sarah is age 44½ regular years in chapter 
18 of Genesis.  [The fact that Abraham gets essentially the same divine 
promise twice, both in chapter 17 and chapter 18 of Genesis, is typical of the 
theology of the Patriarchal narratives.  Genesis 41: 32.]
 
Genesis 18: 11 gives us the new information that Sarah is now in menopause. 
 Sarah’s menopause likely set in at age 44.0 regular years, but Sarah 
herself was not certain of this until age 44½ regular years.  Since Sarah had 
menopause at age 44.0 regular years, that means that Sarah must bear Isaac at 
age 45.0 years, or else Sarah would never be able to get pregnant, absent a 
biology-defying miracle.  The clock is ticking!  Moreover, Abraham is already 
age 49½ regular years, so in order for Abraham to have a son by Sarah when 
Abraham is age 50.0 years, Sarah must get pregnant right away.  The clock is 
ticking!
 
Age 44 regular years is a normal age at which a woman may have menopause.  
Age 44½ would be an old age for a woman to get pregnant in the Bronze Age.  
But the main factor there is that it would be very dangerous for a woman to 
get pregnant at such a late age.  A woman who has had menopause less than 12 
months ago could get pregnant at age 44½, but it would be dangerous to do 
so.  In the Bronze Age, it would be extremely rare for a woman to have her 
first child at age 45, and have a successful birth.  But though extremely 
rare, it is by no means biologically impossible.  Giving birth at such a late 
age would be certain to reduce a woman’s life expectancy, however.  Note here 
that Sarah dies at an un-doubled age 24 regular years younger than Abraham’s 
age at death.   Genesis 23: 1;  25: 7  The author wants us to realize that 
Sarah is incredibly brave in sacrificing her own life expectancy to bear a 
child at such an old, dangerous age.
 
B.  Text Analysis
 
On the foregoing basis, we can now analyze each of the sentences in chapter 
18 of Genesis that I presume you are thinking about.
 
Genesis 18: 10:  “And He said: 'I will certainly return unto thee when the 
season cometh round; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.' And Sarah 
heard in the tent door, which was behind him.—”  
 
YHWH promises Abraham that Sarah will bear Abraham a son less than 12 
months from now, “when the [same] season cometh round [again]”.
 
[It is likely, though not certain, that this conversation occurs in late 
fall, after the fall New Year, and Isaac is then born early the next fall, at 
or just before the fall New Year.  The reference to “the reviving season” 
here may, in old Biblical Hebrew, be a reference to fall, since the fall 
rains meant that fall was “the reviving season” in Canaan, when the fall rains 
revived plant life in Canaan.  On that view, Abraham is age 49½ in the 
winter, and age 50.0 in the summer.]
 
Genesis 18: 11(a):  “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, and well stricken in 
age;…”
 
In a Bronze Age context, Abraham is old at age 49½ regular years, and Sarah 
is old at age 44½ regular years.  Many people died before those ages in the 
Bronze Age.  In particular, few men age 49½ regular years or older in the 
Bronze Age sired children, though it would by no means be impossible.  Almost 
no women age 44½ regular years or older in the Bronze Age bore children, 
but it would not be a biological impossibility, at least not until some time 
after age 45 regular years.
 
 Genesis 18: 11(b):  “…it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of 
women.—” 
 
Sarah has had menopause at a normal age:  age 44.0 years.  That means that 
there is now only a 12-month last chance period of time for Sarah to get 
pregnant, or else Sarah will never get pregnant, absent a miracle that would 
defy the human condition.
 
 Genesis 18: 12:  “And Sarah laughed within herself, saying:  'After I am 
waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'”
 
It seems that Abraham and Sarah have now ceased having physical relations, 
on the assumption that Sarah was too old to be able to bear a child now.  It 
likely was difficult for Abraham at his age, but not impossible, to sire a 
child by any woman.  (Though Abraham’s children by his minor wives are not 
mentioned until chapter 25 of Genesis, Abraham in fact sired such children 
many years before the chapter 18 conversation.)
 
Genesis 18: 13:  “And the LORD said unto Abraham: 'Wherefore did Sarah 
laugh, saying: Shall I of a surety bear a child, who am old?’”
 
Sarah cannot believe that, at age 44½, she is still capable of bearing a 
child, where both she and the child could survive the childbirth.  The fact 
that she is in advanced middle age is the main factor.  But also remember that 
Abraham and Sarah have been trying for almost 30 regular years now to have 
a child, without success.  (Abraham likely married at age 20 regular years.  
We know that each of Isaac and Esau married at that age.)  So it seems very 
unlikely to Sarah that at this point she could bear a child. 
 
6.  Genesis 18: 14:   “‘Is any thing too hard for the LORD.  At the set 
time I will return unto thee, when the season cometh round, and Sarah shall 
have a son.'”
 
YHWH assures Abraham that, nevertheless, old Sarah shall bear Abraham a son 
and heir less than 12 months hence.  It was by no means biologically 
impossible for a woman in the Bronze Age to bear a child at age 45 years.  That 
would have been extremely rare, and very dangerous, but by no means impossible.
 
C.  Numerical Symbolism
 
1.  The Number 45 in Sodom Bargaining.  When Abraham bargains with YHWH as 
to how many righteous men should save Sodom from destruction, we might 
expect the sequence to go 50, or 40, or 30, or 20, or 15, or 10, with the bigger 
decreases in the numbers coming earlier.  But that’s not what we see in the 
second half of chapter 18 of Genesis.  Instead, the sequence is 50, or 45, 
or 40, or 30, or 20, or 10.  Note that accent on the number 45:
 
“Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous; wilt Thou 
destroy all the city for lack of five?'  And He said:  'I will not destroy it, if 
I find there forty and five.'”  Genesis 18: 25
 
This unexpected accent on the number 45 at Genesis 18: 25 beautifully 
correlates with the fact that, pursuant to YHWH’s promise earlier in chapter 18, 
Sarah will bear Isaac when Sarah is age 45 years in 12-month years.
 
2.  Abraham’s Awkward Age of 49½.  Abraham is an awkward age in chapter 18, 
because 49½ is good 40 + awkward 9½ = awkward 49½.  Note that Abraham is 
twice stated to be age 99 “years”, in 6-month “years”.  Genesis 17: 1, 24  
Each of Ishmael, Joseph and Dinah will be involuntarily separated from his or 
her father’s family at awkward age 9½ regular years.  That happens to 
Joseph and Dinah in awkward regular Year 129.5, which is good 120 + awkward 9½ = 
awkward 129½.  In the Patriarchal narratives, the only two awkward numbers 
are 9½ and 13.  At age 49½, Abraham awkwardly laughs at YHWH in chapter 17, 
Abraham awkwardly bargains with YHWH about Sodom’s fate in chapter 18, 
Abraham sees Sodom’s terrible destruction in chapter 19, and in chapter 20 Abraham 
awkwardly sees Sarah taken into the bedroom of young Abimelek at Gerar.  
Age 49½ regular years is definitely an awkward age for Abraham. 
 
3.  Sarah’s Age of 44½ Means Resolution Is Near.  Sarah’s age of 44½ 
regular years in chapter 18 means that resolution is near, in that Sarah will 
bear Isaac at age 45.0 regular years.  A similar scenario plays out 100 regular 
years later.  In regular Year 144.5, Judah finally convinces Jacob to allow 
Judah to take youngest son Benjamin to Egypt, at a disguised Joseph’s 
insistence.  That is what allows the matter to be resolved:  in regular Year 
145.0, Jacob leads all the Hebrews out of famine-ravaged Canaan to Egypt.  We 
can determine from my prior post that Jacob enters Egypt in Year 145.0.  Jacob 
is born in regular Year 80.0, and Jacob is stated age 130 “years” when 
Jacob enters Egypt.  That is age 65.0 regular years.  80.0 + 65.0 = 145.0.  
Somewhat similarly, Abraham hesitates to leave Harran when his father Terakh is 
age 144.5 “years”, in 6-month “years”.  But then the matter is resolved 
when Abraham leaves Harran when Terakh is age 145 “years”.  Terakh is age 70 
“years” at Abraham’s birth (Genesis 11: 26), and Abraham leaves Harran at 
stated age 75 “years” (Genesis 12: 4).  70 + 75 = 145.
 
Note how all the numerical symbolism works beautifully, once one knows the 
actual, un-doubled ages of people, as well as their ages in 6-month “years”
. 
 
D.  Conclusion
 
Once we realize the actual ages of Abraham and Sarah, we can identify with 
their hopes and fears.  It is certain that if Sarah gets pregnant in 
advanced middle age, Sarah will significantly reduce her life expectancy.  Both 
Sarah and Abraham are fully willing to take that risk.  We come to see that 
Sarah is incredibly brave to bear a child at such an old age.  That is one of 
the main themes of the Patriarchal narratives, a theme that is often missed 
by analysts.
 
Sarah is the oldest age a woman could realistically be in the Bronze Age to 
bear her first child successfully, absent a pure, nature-defying miracle.  
The text shows Abraham and Sarah as being divinely blessed, in having a son 
against very long odds.  But the text does not want us to think that Abraham 
and Sarah are not subject to the human condition.  No woman in any era 
could bear a child at age 90 years, in 12-month years.  But Sarah bears Isaac at 
the last possible minute, almost 12 months after menopause, at the very old 
age in the Bronze Age of 45 regular years.
 
We cannot appreciate the great human passion of this critical story unless 
we know the actual, un-doubled ages of Abraham and Sarah.  Chapter 18 of 
Genesis strongly supports my theory of the ages of the Patriarchs.
 
George, after reviewing this post, I hope that you may, at long last, be 
persuaded that my theory of the ages of the Patriarchs is not only “possible”
, but indeed is “plausible”. 
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois 

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