[b-hebrew] Fw: Re: Names of Rachel's Second-Born Son

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Fri Sep 30 00:47:34 EDT 2011

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III:
You wrote:  “[T]he calendars of Israel were of two types: sacred and secular. There is a six month difference between them since Passover, followed by Feast of Unleavened Bread, begins the sacred calendar in March-April; while the secular calendar begins with Hashanah, followed by the Feast of Tabernacles (Booth), in September-October. Your calendrical half-years is speculative.”
But that’s after the Exodus.  What were the calendars of Canaan like before the Exodus?  Didn’t Canaan have a fall New Year, for the harvest of fruits, and a spring New Year, for the harvest of grains?  Weren’t those two New Years of approximately equal importance in Canaan prior to the Exodus, because the people of Canaan got about half their caloric intake from each of those two harvests?
Joseph cannot be age 17 in 12-month years at Genesis 37: 2.  The sympathetic narrator calls him a “boy”.  That works perfectly if Joseph had witnessed 17 fall and spring New Years, being a boy age 8½ in 12-month years.  But it would be a terrible insult for the narrator to call Israel’s favorite son “boy” if he were a full-grown man in the ancient world, age 17 in 12-month years.

And consider how, with childish naivete, Joseph excitedly tells all his older half-brothers of his dream when all their sheaves of grain bow down to him.  That is charming for a boy age 8½ in 12-month years.  But it would be dumb for an adult man, age 17 in 12-month years, to be that naïve as to how his older half-brothers would react to the telling of such a dream.

We know that Joseph was born in Year 12 tenfold, being Year 120.  So Genesis 37: 2 announces to the audience that chapter 37 of Genesis will begin in Year 128.5, as Joseph is age 8½ in 12-month years.  The audience knows that Benjamin was born in Year 13 tenfold, being Year 130, shortly after the bloody Shechem incident [per chapter 35 of Genesis], with the ruler of Shechem historically being assassinated in Year 13.  So the audience knows that chapter 37 of Genesis is a flashback.

Why do you say my counting of people’s ages in the Patriarchal narratives is “speculative”?  You don’t think that Ishmael lived to age 137 in 12-month years, do you?  You don’t think Sarah bore Isaac at age 90 in 12-month years, do you?  Sarah had witnessed 90 fall and spring New Years, and was age 45 in 12-month years.

As you probably know, scholars advise us to ignore all the numbers in the Patriarchal narratives for all purposes.  Do you think that’s good advice?  When Genesis 37: 2 says that Joseph was stated age 17, don’t you think that has real meaning?  It tells us he’s a boy, age 8½ in 12-month years, and that chapter 37 of Genesis is a flashback, going back to the time period shortly before Benjamin’s birth.

My guess is that you yourself do not see the name BN-YMYN as being a “euphemism”.  It’s a perfectly logical name, once one realizes that not only Rachel, but also Joseph, had disappeared from Jacob’s life shortly before Jacob decided to call Rachel’s second son “Son of my Right Hand”, that is, Jacob’s heir-apparent.

My guess is that you agree with me that all the numbers in the Patriarchal narratives are perfect, as is, rather than being senseless and something that should be ignored.  Every single stated age in that text makes perfect sense, once one realizes that all stated ages are set forth in terms of how many fall and spring New Years a person had witnessed.  Only on that basis can we understand why Jacob called Rachel’s second-born son, non-euphemistically, BN-YMYN/“Son of my Right Hand” [because Joseph had just recently disappeared and was presumed dead by Jacob, so that Benjamin promptly took Joseph’s place in Jacob’s heart].  And finally, my guess is that you would agree with me that there’s not a single mistake in chapters 37 and 35 of Genesis.  Rachel is not alive at Genesis 37: 10, after previously being dead at Genesis 35: 19.  No, chapter 37 of Genesis is a flashback.  The received Hebrew text is perfect, as is.  We simply need to figure out how the early Hebrew author wants us to interpret his incomparable text.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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