[b-hebrew] Ruth 1:12 too old for a husband

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Jul 22 17:53:04 EDT 2013

Jonathan Mohler: 
Isaac Fried had written:  “Bear in mind that many of the biblical  
heroines, Rebekah, Rachel, Lea, Ruth, Esther, were just little girls (if I  
correctly remembers Rashi says Rebekah was 3 years old when she married Isaac,  then 
she was "childless").” 
Both you and I disagree with seeing Rebekah as being age  3 when she 
married Isaac.  You  responded to Isaac Fried’s post and to my post as follows: 
“With all due respect to a great Rabbi, I think Rashi's  math here is about 
as off as Jim Stinehart's math.” 
My post laid out objective reasons for implying that  Rebekah was age 15 
years [in 12-month years] when she married Isaac.  My post both set forth 
mathematical  calculations in that regard, and also cited several passages from 
chapter 24 of  Genesis that fit perfectly with the notion that Rebekah was 
age 15  years. 
Let me add here that in the ancient world, the normal  ages for a female to 
wed were probably ages 12-15.  Yes, there are some marriages attested  at 
younger ages, but ages 12-15 would probably be the normal range [although the 
 data is surprisingly sparse regarding these matters].  It’s clear from 
chapter 24 of Genesis  that Rebekah is an “adult”, not a mere “child”, based 
on Rebekah’s actions and  on the way that Rebekah’s family treats her, even 
deferring to Rebekah’s own  judgment! 
So why do you say that “Rashi's math here is about as off  as Jim 
Stinehart's math”? 
Could you specify what is “off” about my math? 
I am guessing, without knowing, that you may think that  the idea of shanah 
having an archaic meaning of “the turn of the year”, being a  six-month 
concept, is not reasonable as my hypothesis as to how each person’s  stated 
age is set forth in the Patriarchal narratives.  Assuming that your reluctance 
to  consider that shanah may have had an archaic meaning of a 6-month 
period is your  main basis for claiming that my math is “off”, let me set forth 
here some of the  relevant passages from the leading scholarly treatment of 
this subject, Mark E.  Cohen, “The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East”
p. 6:  “In  addition to the seasonal cycle and the lunar cycle, the 
Mesopotamians were  affected by a third cycle -- the cycle between the equinoxes, a 
period when the  sun and the moon vied with each other for time in the sky. 
  The ancient Hebrews recognized the  significance of this cycle, referring 
to the equinoxes, the times when the year  turns, as teqūfat haššānā 
(Exodus  34:22):  ‘You shall observe the  Feast of Weeks, of the first fruits of 
the wheat harvest;  and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn  of the year’ 
(the autumnal equinox) and as tešūbat haššānā (2 Samuel 11:1):  ‘At the 
turn of the year, the season when kings go out {to battle}’, (probably  
referring to the vernal equinox).  The Israelite incorporation of this six-month ‘
year’ into its ritual can  further be detected in the duration and timing 
of the festival of the first  month, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the 
festival of the seventh month, the  Feast of Ingathering.  {footnote  4.  
This six month year concept in  ancient Israel may perhaps be detected in  
Ezekiel 45:18-20: ‘On the first day of the first month, you shall take a bull of 
 the herd without blemish, and you shall cleanse the Sanctuary….  You shall 
do the same thing on the  seventh day of the month to purge the Temple from 
uncleanness cause by unwitting or  ignorant persons.’  The Septuagint,  
however, reads ‘in the seventh month’ instead of ‘on the seventh day of the  
month’.  Thus the Septuagint shows a  clear parallelism between the first and 
seventh months.} 
“This concept of a six-month equinox year appears to have  been a major 
factor in the establishment of the cultic calendar throughout the  Near East.  
[p. 7]  In many locations there were parallel  major festivals in the first 
and seventh month -- suggesting that rather than  considering one of these 
festivals as marking the beginning and the other the  half-way point of the 
year, the ancients viewed each as a beginning, the onset  of this six-month 
equinox year. 
“Sumerian mu-an-na, a term which was eventually used  synonymously with mu ‘
year’, originally may have connoted this six-month period,  as echoed in 
the first-millennium B.C. observation:  itiŠE itiKIN SAG MU.AN.NA ki-i ša 
itiBAR itiDU6 “(this year) the  months Addaru {= Feb./Mar.} and Ulūlu 
{Aug./Sep.] begin the MU.AN.NA  year, what the months Nisannu {=Mar./Apr.} and Tašrī
tu  {=Sep./Oct.} (normally) do.’  {footnote 1.  RMA 16:5  (Parpola, AOAT 
5/2, 187).  For a  brief discussion of the term mu-an-na, see B. Landsberger, 
JNES 8 (1949),  254-255 note 33, wherein Landsberger cites various theories 
as to the meaning of  the term, although he does mention the possible 
interpretation we have put  forth.  Note the Emar version of the  composition 
Enlil and Namzitarra….‘Day to day they verily decrease, month after  month they 
verily decrease, year after year they verily decrease!’  Perhaps, then, 
-an-na in the term  mu-an-na, connotes the alternating year pattern of equinox 
cycles (‘one after  the other’).  …} 
“This concept of two six-month periods defined by the  equinoxes was 
further ingrained in the Mesopotamian psyche by the natural  weather pattern of 
the seasonal year.  The Babylonians divided the seasonal year into two 
periods, each  beginning in the month of an equinox.  The summer (EMEŠ/um mātum),  
the hot season (umšum), or the  harvest season (ebūrum) began around  
March;  the winter (ENTEN) or the  cold season (kuşşum) began around  
September.  …” 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois
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