The Hebrews always had years of twelve months. But at the beginning, as some suppose, they were solar years of twelve months, each month having thirty days, excepting the twelfth, which had thirty-five days. We see, by the enumeration of the days of the deluge, Ge 7-8, that the original year consisted of three hundred and sixty-five days. It is supposed that they had an intercalary month at the end of one hundred and twenty years, at which time the beginning of their year would be out of its place full thirty days. Subsequently, however, and throughout the history of the Jews, the year was wholly lunar, having alternately a full month of thirty days, and a defective month of twenty-nine days, thus completing their year in three hundred and fifty-four days. To accommodate this lunar year to the solar year, (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 47.7 seconds,) or the period of the revolution of the earth around the sun, and to the return of the seasons, they added a whole month after Adar, usually once in three years. This intercalary month they call Ve-adar. See MONTH.
The ancient Hebrews appear to have had no formal and established era, but to have dated from the most memorable events in their history; as from the exodus out of Egypt, Ex 19:1; Nu 33:38; 1Ki 6:1; from the erection of Solomon's temple, 1Ki 8:1; 9:10; and from the Babylonish captivity, Eze 33:21; 40:1. See SABBATICAL YEAR, and JUBILEE.
The phrase, "from two years old and under," Mt 2:16, that is, "from a child of two years and under," is thought by some to include all the male children who had not entered their second year; and by others, all who were near the beginning of their second year, within a few months before or after. The cardinal and ordinal numbers are often used indiscriminately. Thus in Ge 7:6,11, Noah is six hundred years old, and soon after in his six hundredth year; Christ rose from the dead "three days after," Mt 27:63, and "on the third day," Mt 16:21; circumcision took place when the child was "eight days old," Ge 17:11, and "on the eighth day," Le 12:3. Compare Lu 1:59; 2:21. Many slight discrepancies in chronology may be thus accounted for.
Heb shanah, meaning "repetition" or "revolution" (Ge 1:14; 5:3). Among the ancient Egyptians the year consisted of twelve months of thirty days each, with five days added to make it a complete revolution of the earth round the sun. The Jews reckoned the year in two ways, (1) according to a sacred calendar, in which the year began about the time of the vernal equinox, with the month Abib; and (2) according to a civil calendar, in which the year began about the time of the autumnal equinox, with the month Nisan. The month Tisri is now the beginning of the Jewish year.
shanah, a repetition, like the Latin annus, "year." Literally, a circle, namely, of seasons, in which the same recur yearly. The 360 day year, 12 months of 30 days each, is indicated in Da 7:25; 12:7, time (i.e. one year) times and dividing of a time, or 3 1/2 years; the 42 months (Re 11:2), 1260 days (Re 5:3; 12:6). The Egyptian vague year was the same, without the five intercalary days. So the year of Noah in Ge 7:11-24; 8:3-4,13; the interval between the 17th day of the second month and the 17th of the seventh month being stated as 150 days, i.e. 30 days in each of the five months. Also between the tenth month, first day, and the first day of the first month, the second year, at least 54 days, namely, 40 + 7 + 7 (oxen. Ge 8:5-6,10,12-13). Hence, we infer a year of 12 months. The Hebrew month at the time of the Exodus was lunar, but their year was solar.
(See WEIGHTS AND MEASURES, on P. Smyth's view of the year marked in the great pyramid). The Egyptian vague year is thought to be as old as the 12th dynasty. (See EGYPT.) The Hebrew religious year began in spring, the natural beginning when all nature revives; the season also of the beginning of Israel's national life, when the religious year's beginning was transferred from autumn to spring, the month Abib or Nisan (the name given by later Hebrew: Ex 12:2; 13:4; 23:15-16; 34:18,22). The civil year began at the close of autumn in the month Tisri, when, the fruits of the earth having been gathered in, the husbandman began his work again preparing for another year's harvest, analogous to the twofold beginning of day at sunrise and sunset. "The feast of ingathering in the end of the year" (Ex 23:16) must refer to the civil or agrarian year.
The Egyptian year began in June at the rise of the Nile. Hebrew sabbatic years and Jubilees were counted from the beginning of Tisri (Le 25:9-17). The Hebrew year was as nearly solar as was compatible with its commencement coinciding with the new moon or first day of the month. They began it with the new moon nearest to the equinox, yet late enough to allow of the firstfruits of barley harvest being offered about the middle of the first month. So Josephus (Ant. 3:10, section 5) states that the Passover was celebrated when the sun was in Aries. They may have determined their new year's day by observing the heliacal or other star risings or settings marking the right time of the solar year (compare Jg 5:20-21; Job 38:31). They certainly after the captivity, and probably ages before, added a 13th month whenever the 12th ended too long before the equinox for the offering of the firstfruits to be made at the time fixed. (See JUBILEE.)
In Ex 23:10; De 31:10; 15:1, the sabbatical year appears as a rest to the land (no sowing, reaping, planting, pruning, gathering) in which its ownership was in abeyance, and its chance produce at the service of all comers. Debtors were released from obligations for the year, except when they could repay without impoverishment (De 15:2-4). Trade, handicrafts, the chase, and the care of cattle occupied the people during the year. Education and the reading of the law at the feast of tabernacles characterized it (De 31:10-13). The soil lay fallow one year out of seven at a time when rotation of crops and manuring were unknown; the habit of economizing grain was fostered by the institution (Ge 41:48-56).
Israel learned too that absolute ownership in the land was Jehovah's alone, and that the human owners held it in trust, to be made the most of for the good of every creature which dwelt upon it (Le 25:23,1-7,11-17; Ex 23:11, "that the poor may eat, and what they leave the beasts," etc.). The weekly sabbath witnessed the equality of the people as to the covenant with Jehovah. The Jubilee year witnessed that every Israelite had an equal claim to the Lord's land, and that the hired servant, the foreigner, the cattle, and even wild beasts, had a claim. The whole thus indicates what a blessed state would have followed the Sabbath of Paradise, had not sin disturbed all. During 70 Sabbath years, i.e. 490, the period of the monarchy, the Sabbath year was mainly slighted, and so 70 years' captivity was the retributive punishment (2Ch 36:20-21; Le 26:34-35,43).
Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar exempted the Jews from tribute on the sabbatical year (Josephus Ant. 11:8, section 6, 14:10, section 6; compare 16, Section 2; 15:1, section 2; compare also under Antiochus Epiphanes, 1Ma 4:49); the institution has no parallel in the world's history, and would have been submitted to by no people except under a divine revelation. The day of atonement on which the sabbatical year was proclaimed stood in the same relation to the civil year that the Passover did to the religious year. The new moon festival of Tisri is the only one distinguished by peculiar observance, which confirms the view that the civil year began then. The Hebrew divided the year into "summer and winter "(Ge 8:22; Ps 74:17; Zec 14:8), and designated the earth's produce as the fruits of summer (Jer 8:20; 40:10-12; Mic 7:1).
Abib "the month of green ears" commenced summer; and the seventh month, Ethanim, "the month of flowing streams," began winter. The 'atsereth or "concluding festival" of the feast of tabernacles closed the year (Le 23:34). Both the spring feast in Abib and the autumn feast in Ethanim began at the full moon in their respective months. (See MONTH; SABBATICAL YEAR; JUBILEE.) The observances at the beginning festival of the religious year resemble those at the beginning festival of the civil year. The Passover lamb in the first month Abib corresponds to the atonement goats on the tenth of Tisri, the seventh month. The feast of unleavened bread from the 15th to the gist of Abib answers to the feast of tabernacles from the 15th to 22nd of Tisri. As there is a Sabbath attached to the first day as well as to the seventh, so the first and the seventh month begin respectively the religious and the civil year.
Under the word MONTHS it has been stated that the Jews reckoned the months to consist alternately of twenty-nine and thirty days, being therefore in twelve months eleven and a quarter days short of the year. To remedy this an additional month was added about every three years. In the various data given for the last half of the last of Daniel's Seventy Weeks, it will be seen that all the months are reckoned as having thirty days; thus 'a time, times, and a half' in Da 12:7 and Re 12:14 point out three and a half years: this period is again called forty two months in Re 11:2; 13:5; and again twelve hundred and sixty days in Re 11:3; 12:6. The prophetic year may therefore be called three hundred and sixty days. See MONTHS and SEASONS.
the highest ordinary division of time. Two years were known to, and apparently used by, the Hebrews.
1. A year of 360 days appears to have been in use in Noah's time.
2. The year used by the Hebrews from the time of the exodus may: be said to have been then instituted, since a current month, Abib, on the 14th day of which the first Passover was kept, was then made the first month of the year. The essential characteristics of this year can be clearly determined, though we cannot fix those of any single year. It was essentially solar for the offering of productions of the earth, first-fruits, harvest produce and ingathered fruits, was fixed to certain days of the year, two of which were in the periods of great feasts, the third itself a feast reckoned from one of the former days. But it is certain that the months were lunar, each commencing with a new moon. There must therefore have been some method of adjustment. The first point to be decided is how the commencement of each gear was fixed. Probably the Hebrews determined their new year's day by the observation of heliacal or other star-risings or settings known to mark the right time of the solar year. It follows, from the determination of the proper new moon of the first month, whether by observation of a stellar phenomenon or of the forwardness of the crops, that the method of intercalation can only have been that in use after the captivity, --the addition of a thirteenth month whenever the twelfth ended too long before the equinox for the offering of the first-fruits to be made at the time fixed. The later Jews had two commencements of the year, whence it is commonly but inaccurately said that they had two years, the sacred year and the civil. We prefer to speak of the sacred and civil reckonings. The sacred reckoning was that instituted at the exodus, according to which the first month was Abib; by the civil reckoning the first month was the seventh. The interval between the two commencements was thus exactly half a year. It has been supposed that the institution at the time of the exodus was a change of commencement, not the introduction of a new year, and that thenceforward the year had two beginnings, respectively at about the vernal and the autumnal equinox. The year was divided into --
1. Seasons. Two seasons are mentioned in the Bible, "summer" and "winter." The former properly means the time of cutting fruits, the latter that, of gathering fruits; they are therefore originally rather summer and autumn than summer and winter. But that they signify ordinarily the two grand divisions of the year, the warm and cold seasons, is evident from their use for the whole year in the expression "summer and winter."
Ps 74:17; Zec 14:18
2. Months. [MONTHS]
3. Weeks. [WEEKS]
YEAR. The Hebrews had always years, of twelve months each. But at the beginning, and in the time of Moses, these were solar years, of twelve months; each having thirty days, except the twelfth, which had thirty-five. We see, by the reckoning that Moses gives us of the days of the deluge, Genesis vii, that the Hebrew year consisted of three hundred and sixty-five days. It is supposed that they had an intercalary month at the end of one hundred and twenty years; at which time the beginning of their year would be out of its place full thirty days. But it must be owned, that no mention is made in Scripture of the thirteenth month, or of any intercalation. It is not improbable that Moses retained the order of the Egyptian year, since he himself came out of Egypt, was born in that country, had been instructed and brought up there, and since the people of Israel, whose chief he was, had been for a long time accustomed to this kind of year. But the Egyptian year was solar, and consisted of twelve months of thirty days each, and that for a very long time before. After the time of Alexander the Great, and the reign of the Grecians in Asia, the Jews reckoned by lunar months, chiefly in what related to religion, and the order of the festivals. St. John, in his Re 11:2-3; 12:6,14; 13:5, assigns but twelve hundred and sixty days to three years and a half, and consequently just thirty days to every month, and just three hundred and sixty days to every year. Maimonides tells us, that the years of the Jews were solar, and their months lunar. Since the completing of the Talmud, they have made use of years that are purely lunar, having alternately a full month of thirty days, and then a defective month of twenty-nine days. And to accommodate this lunar year to the course of the sun, at the end of three years their intercalate a whole month after Adar; which intercalated month they call Ve-adar, or the second Adar.
The beginning of the year was various among different nations: the ancient Chaldeans, Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Armenians, and Syrians, began their year about the vernal equinox; and the Chinese in the east, and Latins and Romans in the west, originally followed the same usage. The Egyptians, and from them the Jews, began their civil year about the autumnal equinox. The Athenians and Greeks in general began theirs about the summer solstice; and the Chinese, and the Romans after Numa's correction, about the winter solstice. At which of these the primeval year, instituted at the creation, began, has been long contested among astronomers and chronologers. Philo, Eusebius, Cyril, Augustine, Abulfaragi, Kepler, Capellus, Simpson, Lange, and Jackson, contend for the vernal equinox; and Josephus, Scaliger, Petavius, Usher, Bedford, Kennedy, &c, for the autumnal. The weight of ancient authorities, and also of argument, seems to preponderate in favour of the former opinion.
1. All the ancient nations, except the Egyptians, began their civil year about the vernal equinox: but the deviation of the Egyptians from the general usage may easily be accounted for, from a local circumstance peculiar to their country; namely, that the annual inundation of the Nile rises to its greatest height at the autumnal equinox.
2. Josephus, the only ancient authority of any weight on the other side, seems to be inconsistent with himself, in supposing that the deluge began in the second civil month, Dius, or Markeshvan, rather than in the second sacred month; because Moses, throughout the Pentateuch, uniformly adopts the sacred year; and fixes its first month by an indelible and unequivocal character, calling it Abib, as ushering in the season of green corn. And as Josephus calls the second month elsewhere Artemisius, or Iar, in conformity with Scripture, there is no reason why he should deviate from the same usage in the case of the deluge.
3. To the authority of Josephus, we may oppose that of the great Jewish antiquary, Philo, in the generation before him; who thus accounts for the institution of the sacred year by Moses: