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

Jonathan Mohler jonathan.mohler at gmail.com
Tue Jul 23 11:44:48 EDT 2013


On Jul 22, 2013, at 4:53 PM, JimStinehart at aol.com wrote:

> 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!

Thanks for elaborating the above.  I should have done the same.  This is exactly what I was thinking concerning Rebekah; the context does not support a young Rebekkah.
>  
> 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” (1993):
>  
It was probably not fair to compare your "math" wholesale to Rashi's three-year-old Rebekah.  I was feeling kinda cheeky.  The idea of a half year "shanah" is a nice theory.  But even it suffers from what it would do the stories of the patriarchal accounts.  Pharaoh's exchange with Jacob comes to mind.  60 years would hardly deserve Pharaoh's comment: "How many are the days of the years of your life?"

> 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.}
>  
The idea is novel, but there is no direct entailment between equinoxes and a six month year.  Additionally, it can't overcome the fact that they kept twelve-month years.  The very mention of a seventh month, which may or may not suggest that they acknowledged the equinox, entails a twelve-month year.  The language above simply shows that they recognized a turning point in the year.  Also, the laws regarding the sighting of the sliver of the new moon, and the dates of the feasts, reveal an intention to keep the Hebrews on a different track away from a "sun-driven" calendar, which is part and parcel of sun worship, the very antithesis of Biblical worship.

> “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 Tašrītu {=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

Jonathan Mohler
Baptist Bible Graduate School
Springfield, MO

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