[b-hebrew] Biblical year lengths

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Oct 20 09:52:39 EDT 2009


Joel:
 
Thanks for sharing that interesting article.  As to possible older meanings 
of $NH/“year”, those might most likely appear in the Patriarchal 
narratives (not in the first 10 chapters of Genesis, dealing with pre-Flood ages).  
Many scholars see at least part of the Patriarchal narratives (especially 
chapter 14 of Genesis) as perhaps being older than most of the rest of the 
Bible.
 
Ancient Canaan had two New Years, one in the fall, and one in the spring.  
In Hebrew, $NH as a noun means “year”, and as a verb means either “to repeat
” or “to do a second time”.  As to that second meaning, $NY, which has the 
same root [$N] but a different ending, means “second”.  Focusing first on 
the concept of “to repeat”, a $NH/year would be a 12-month year, for it is 
after 12 months that the seasons “repeat” (both in Canaan and elsewhere).  
But when the focus shifts to the meaning of “to do a second time” or “second
”, a $NH/“year” would logically be a 6-month “year”, because in Canaan 
every 6 months a New Year was observed a “second time”, during the 12-month 
cycle.  In the Old Biblical Hebrew of the Patriarchal narratives (but not 
elsewhere in the Bible), $NH/year/“year” may originally have included both the 
concept of a 12-month year, when the seasons “repeat”, and also a 6-month “
year” -- since a New Year was observed every 6 months in ancient Canaan, a 
New Year was always observed a “second time” during each 12-month cycle.
 
In the Patriarchal narratives (beginning at Genesis 11: 26 with the first 
mention of Abraham), (i) people’s ages, and periods of years in Canaan, are 
always set forth in terms of 6-month “years”, whereas (ii) periods of years, 
or year numbers, that do not deal exclusively with Canaan are by contrast 
always set forth in terms of 12-month years.  That’s the sophisticated, 
bifurcated concept of $NH/year/“year” in the Patriarchal narratives.
 
Every single number in the Patriarchal narratives is perfect, and makes 
perfect sense, on all levels.  In particular, no one is unduly old in the 
Patriarchal narratives, once one understands that everyone’s ages are set forth 
in the text in terms of 6-month “years”, reflecting the two harvest seasons 
and two New Years of ancient Canaan that occurred every 12 months.  
 
Catch the pulsating excitement of the Patriarchal narratives!
 
Jim Stinehart




More information about the b-hebrew mailing list