The mysterious Hebrew Calendar

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/Hebrew-Calendar.html

The mysterious Hebrew Calendar

— A complex and fractalic affair —

In Biblical times, the use of a universal calendar was not as widespread as it is to us today, and human events were commonly timed against the reign of kings rather than against a greater cosmological temporal clockwork. That means that if the Bible makes reference to a calendar month, the events pegged to that date have a cosmological and universal character rather than a human or political one. But, as usual, there is something deeply profound and utterly mysterious about the Hebrew calendar:

🔼Watchman, what of the night?

There's an obvious correlation between the day and the year, because in both of these periods the sun journeys a discrete cycle. Hence seven days add up to a Sabbath-day and seven years add up to a Sabbath-year (Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:1-7). But where a solar day consists of a light part (day) and a dark part (night), the year doesn't. At least not at latitudes between the polar circles.

Smack in the middle of dealing with Lazarus' death (or rather, "sleep"; John 11:11), Jesus asks: "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him" (John 11:9-10).

The word "hour" does not occur in the Hebrew Bible, but its idea was certainly familiar to Hebrew scholars. Starting in deep antiquity the Egyptians began to divide their nights in equal periods, according to stars that began to be visible in the rotating night sky — as the Creator had himself decreed: "let [the stars] be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years" (Genesis 1:14). Much later the Egyptians cleverly began to project the measured progression of time in the night upon the day, which is how they ended up with 10 equal but rather arbitrary periods that corresponded with 10 equal but arbitrary nudges on their sun dials. To those 10 periods were added the "hours" of dawn and dusk, when sun dials didn't function because there was no sun, which resulted in our familiar 12 hour day.

The Bible maintains a very strong link between (a) Egypt and (b) sleeping and meaningful dreaming. Tribal patriarch Joseph was renowned for his ability to explain dreams, which, as Genesis tells, was forcibly imported from its natural origin in Canaan via the trade routes of Midian to Egypt, where it ultimately thrived in Heliopolis, the priestly City of the Sun.

Much later, the wisdom tradition of Persia — which thrived because (a) Daniel had been able to explain the king's dreams (Daniel 2:30), and (b) Esther, which means "star", had been able to avert the holocaust — successfully identified the Word in the Flesh by following an otherwise unspecified stellar phenomenon (Matthew 2:1-2). Subsequently, Joseph of Nazareth saved Mary and Jesus by taking refuge in Egypt; a cycle governed by five major dream sequences (Matthew 1:20, 2:12, 2:13, 2:19, 2:22; also see our article on the verb חלם, halam, to dream).

🔼Thus Joseph stored up grain in great abundance

A year consists of 12 natural months (or new moons, which is a nightly phenomenon), which correspond to the 12 natural hours of the night rather than the modern 24 hours of the solar day or the 12 artificial hours of the daytime. And sure enough, the verb ישן (yashen), to sleep, yields the noun שנה (shena), sleep, whereas the nearly identical verb שנה (shana), to change, yields the noun שנה (shana), year. In Leviticus 26:10 our verb ישן (yashen) is used three times. Twice it means 'old' and once it means 'stored.' That suggests that both the act of sleeping and the year were seen as having to do with storage. Dreaming, therefore, was like retrieving seeds from a storage house and sowing it into the field of consciousness. That explains the many seed and sower metaphors in the Bible, as well as the curious use of the term 'house' in astrology (see our dictionary article for more on these words).

The night may have a bad rep, but the Creator set the stars in the sky as signs and to "give light on the earth" (Genesis 1:15). Abraham's seed would be like the stars (Genesis 15:5, see Galatians 3:7) and so would the righteous leaders of mankind (Daniel 12:3, see Nehemiah 4:21). The Hebrew word for month is חדש (hadash), which derives from the identical verb חדש (hadash), to renew or repair (hence the name Hodesh). Another word for month is ירה (yerah), from noun ירה (yereah), moon (hence the name Jericho), which apparently stems from verb ארח ('arah), to wander, travel or keep company with (noun ארח, orah, means way or path). The word for sun is שמש (shemesh), hence the names Samson and Beth-shemesh.

Also note that Hebrew name Elijah (אליה) is a compound of the two divine names Elohim (אלהים) and YHWH (יהוה). The Greek form of the name Elijah as used in the Septuagint is Ηλιον. The genitive form of this name in Greek, namely Ηλιου, is the same as the genitive of the name Ηλιος (Helios), meaning Sun. In other words: in Greek the terms "of the Lord God" and "of Elijah" and "of the Solar Deity" are identical.

🔼The thief in the night

Contrary to popular belief, the universe isn't blindly evolving but rigged to home in on some final, unavoidable and utterly stable state. The universe began in a state that was wholly opposed, which is why it Banged so Bigly, and will end in a state that is wholly unopposed. What that state might be and how the process of getting there works in terms of natural principles isn't wholly clear but what is obvious is that the universe has been finding ways to store discrete bits of information from the beginning: first in atomic nuclei, then DNA, then consciousness.

So, what does the universe want? Experts assert that the universe doesn't "want" anything because it's a big empty hole, "cold, unloving and impersonal" in the words of Steven Weinberg. Others will observe that a human body is 60% water and 2% brain. A human's water can't think because it's unloving and impersonal, and that's why she thinks with her brain. Likewise, the universe thinks with its brain, which is its network of sapient elements. Ergo, the universe wants the same thing humanity wants and vice versa.

Again contrary to popular belief, the universe didn't start at some point in time but time began at some point in the universe. Time, after all, depends entirely on data retention and for data retention you need stable particles. Particles only came into existence when the universe had cooled off enough and only when these particles began to bond and build things, spacetime as we know it began. Mind too depends entirely on data retention, and is therefore closely akin to time. Since Einstein we know that time and space are essentially the same thing, and here at Abarim Publications we're pretty sure that mind is a natural phenomenon wholly on a par with the rest of the natural world, and that consciousness yields real physical spatial dimensions and memory real physical temporal dimensions (read our article on Nominal Reasoning, which explains that words are to the mind what particles are to spacetime).

The mental equivalent of stars in the night sky is people of natural wisdom who operate separate from a global convention, and the mental equivalent of the sun is global convention. The story of mankind is in fact the story of the construction of any kind of convention that allows interaction and exchange of information (from language to technology to theoretical science and even art and philosophy). Opposition to any convention either kills it or makes it stronger, but ultimately the only thing that everybody is ever going to wholeheartedly agree on is the scientific understanding of natural reality and the utter personal freedom to say anything about it. And complete knowledge and utter freedom are summed up in Christ (see Galatians 5:1 and Colossians 2:3).

A day is the result of the earth rotating around its axis and a year is the result of the earth rotating around the sun's axis. Daylight, though heliacal in origin, is typically terrestrial, and it allows a perspective typically married to the location of the observer. All animals with eyes have that perspective, and most animals with eyes are not aware of anything outside their own local perspective. But a perspective drawn from the sun itself allows a view upon every local position possible. The great library of scientific theory provides that heliacal perspective: all scientific truths are true all the time for anyone, irrespective of the observer's personal perspective and location or even mood.

🔼And the darkness could not bring it down

The Word of God is not a religious phenomenon but a cosmological one, initially supernatural (as its most rudimentary form necessarily supersedes all of creation) but paranatural is its fullness. It's the summary of whatever brings forth, maintains and describes the whole of physical reality, like a kind of DNA of the whole universe (or rather that what our organic DNA is modeled after).

Mankind's most pressing endeavor is to learn what works and what doesn't, and that and only that is what the Bible writers were concerned with (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Knowledge of what works leads to prosperity, peace and reverence for nature, for man and ultimately the Creator. Ignorance of what works leads to enormous losses of energy, wealth and hope. Ignorance of what works leads to hunger, disease, strife, wars and finally annihilation. Knowledge of what works leads to stability and the absence of any kind of opposition, whether natural, social or emotional. A humanity that is emerged in the knowledge of what works will not be effectively opposed by any natural force or any animal huge or minute, or any fellow human being or anything that might come from outer space. There will be no opposition to any form of life that operates out of a conscious understanding of how the natural world works.

The Bible's central theme is the "coming of the Word into human flesh," which in more standard terms translates as the evolution of mankind's wisdom tradition, and thus that of science and technology. The troubled story of mankind's waxing wisdom is obviously told as the transition from the tabernacle of Moses to the glorious Temple of Solomon (which was founded on Phoenician efforts; 1 Kings 5), to its corruption, destruction and ultimate resurrection as the inferior Temple of Zerubbabel (which was based Persian efforts; Ezra 6), and in turn its desecration and commercialization into Herod's Temple (which was obviously Roman). When that latter monstrosity was destroyed by Titus and the Zealots, human wisdom resurrected in living human minds rather than stagnant traditions: the Body of Christ consists of sovereign and mature human beings, who use their wisdom to decide for themselves where they will go (Luke 2:52).

All of this makes perfect sense when we remember that temples grew out of storage houses where societies stored their yearly surplus. If the surplus of the harvest was more than a society could consume and use as seeds in the next spring, it could be sold for, say, gold, which in turn lubricated the transition from dusty seed barn to glorious storage vault. Since societies were naturally prone to put their smartest people in charge of the central bank, central banks also quickly doubled as centers of learning. See our article on Temples - The beginning of human societies.

🔼She who was called barren

The gestation period of humans is nine months. Add to this a fourth trimester for healing of the mother and stabilizing of the child, and the result is a period rather remarkably coincidental with the agricultural year, including winter. Religious theology would probably claim that God made the solar year to conveniently coincide with humanity's reproduction cycle, but the opposite is probably truer. Mammalian gestation periods roughly depend on the mammal's size (19 days for mice; 600 for elephants) and as the evolution of man homed in on the universe's primary function of storing information, which requires a high degree of freedom within a high degree of similarity, humanity's size grew to accommodate a reproductive cycle in synch with the solar year.

Each of the twelve months has a name and a sequential number. There are two sets of month-names used in the Bible, namely an ancient Canaanite set and a more modern Babylonian set. There are also two sets of numberings, six months apart:

Since ancient times, the first month was considered the one in which the agricultural year began, immediately after the winter during which nature slept. But the Sabbath of Trumpets, mentioned in Leviticus 23:23-32, six months after the start of spring, indicated the beginning of the commercial year, when the harvest had been brought in and trade reignited with fresh imports and products. Having different years for different purposes is maintained until our modern age, which its tax-year and school-year, which are obviously out of synch with the calendar year.

Aligning the monthly count with the beginning of the agricultural year — that is the natural, cosmological return of light and life — was associated with the priestly perspective on the cosmos. Aligning the monthly count with the culminated human response to the natural order — the laborious plowing a field, calculated sowing of seed, nurturing the seedlings and finally harvesting the proceeds — was associated with the civil take on the cosmos.

Associating number 1 to the spring-month reflected reverence for the Creator, whose eternal power and divine nature could be clearly seen in physical reality, particularly in the wild harmony of nature and the universe (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20). Associating number 1 to the manufactured abundance of the harvest, six months later, reflected reverence for the Word of God, which is the set of natural laws by which God's creation operates, which can be studied and deducted by human scholars and ultimately employed to bring about peace and prosperity.

These things are obviously alluded to by Luke as he writes that Gabriel was sent to Mary of Nazareth to tell her about her imminent pregnancy in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy in the sixth month of the year (Luke 1:26, 1:36). Both parents of John the Baptist had been outstanding members of the priestly tribe of Levi and father Zacharias even held some important priestly office. In obvious contrast, Joseph was a technician or assembler — no, not a carpenter; see our article on the noun τεκτων (tekton) — of the family of David of Judah. David's most enduring legacy was one of scholarship and wisdom. The invention of script, in which people could forever preserve their thoughts, made him exclaim: "You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One [i.e. the Word] to undergo decay" (Psalm 16:10). David's son Solomon spoke to a global audience about the natural world (1 Kings 4:29-34), and built the Temple of YHWH in Jerusalem as the center of the worldwide quest for the Word of God (1 Kings 10:24).

Solomon started building the temple in the spring month Ziv and concluded it in the autumn month Bul, six months (and seven years) later (1 Kings 6:37-38).

🔼The months

Just like the hours of the day, the months of the year come with their own character and qualities, which in turn may be utilized by an author to set tone or context of a story. It's virtually never important to the Biblical authors when certain events played out in an absolute sense, and in the Bible the months are predominantly referred to as the temporal stage from which the events draw their character.

Prior to the exile, the Hebrew scribes used the Canaanite names for the months but in exile they adopted to Babylonian names for them.

The following table lists the sequential number of each month according to the priestly and the civil count, and how many times the Canaanite and/or Jewish names of the months occur in the Bible (follow the links to the articles on each month separately for more details). It also lists the months of our modern Gregorian calendar to which these Hebrew months corresponded.

Of the Canaanite names only four are mentioned in the Bible. The other eight come from inscriptions that were unearthed by archeologists during the last century or so. We cannot always be wholly sure if we've put the right name to the right month, but the following table gives our best guess. We can also not be wholly sure if the name we have is the complete one (perhaps a bit fell off with a shard), or perhaps too complete (a scribe may be forgiven to state: "March, my favorite one", but that doesn't mean that March-My-Favorite-One was the full name). Since the ancient Canaanite script only had consonants (and no spelling standard) we also can't be sure how to transliterate these ancient names into modern Latin script, but below are our best guesses (i.e. the name ZBH SMS may be Zabah Sams, as some scholars propose, but here at Abarim Publications we guess it's Zabah Shemesh).

Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
1 / 7Abib4Nisan2March - April
Green sproutsSetting Out / It has been stored
• The name Abib occurs 4 times in the Hebrew Bible, consistently as the month of the Exodus and thus Passover: "On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth" (Exodus 13:4). It's because of this link that Abib counts as the beginning of the year to the priestly class: "This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you" (Exodus 12:2). The Feast of Unleavened Bread starts on the 14th day and lasts nearly the whole second half of the month Abib (Exodus 12:18, Leviticus 23:5, also see Numbers 33:3).
The name Abib is the same as the noun אביב ('abib), freshly budded barley.
• The name Nisan occurs twice. In the book of Nehemiah the name Nisan is fittingly associated to the very beginning of the return from the Babylonian exile, which resulted in the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1). The second time the name Nisan occurs is when Haman begins to design his plans for the Jewish holocaust (Esther 3:7). These plans were finalized on 13 Nissan (3:12) and the date of the genocide was set on 13 Adar (3:13), which is the twelfth month. Haman's design ultimately resulted in a vast victory for the Jews and annihilation of Haman and his family. This event too is clearly similar to the original Exodus, which resulted in Israel's liberty and the destruction of Egypt's army.
The name Nisan probably stems from a Babylonian verb nesu, to move out or proceed, and may have seemed associated to the verb ישן (yashen), to sleep or store.
• The first month is also often referred to without its name, and its first day is surprisingly dominant: On specifically the first day of the first month:
  • The waters of the great flood of Noah were dried up (Genesis 8:13),
  • Moses erected the tabernacle (Exodus 40:2),
  • King Hezekiah began his reforms of the Temple (2 Chronicles 29:17),
  • Ezra the Reformer began his journey from Babylon to Judea (Ezra 7:9; after 12 days they were at the river Ahava — Ezra 8:31)
  • Ezra completed his review of men who had married foreign wives (Ezra 10:17).
  • The Word of God came to Ezekiel, and told him that Babylon would overtake Egypt because of the labor Nebuchadnezzar had performed for YHWH (Ezekiel 29:17). The Word came again to Ezekiel on the 7th of the first month (of a whole other year), and gave him a similar message (Ezekiel 30:20).
  • Later still, God ordered as part of the restored Temple service, a ritualistic sanctuary cleansing on the first day of the first month as a prelude to Passover (Ezekiel 45:18).
• Other references to the first month:
  • The prophet Daniel received his great latter-days vision on the 24th of the first month, from an angelic messenger who had been delayed for 21 days (Daniel 10:4, 10:21).
  • On unspecified days of the first month of the second year, YHWH spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 9:1),
  • In the first month, the Israelites came to the wilderness of Zin and stayed at Kadesh, where Miriam died (Numbers 20:1).
  • On the 10th of the first month, Israel crossed the Jordan into Canaan at Gilgal (Joshua 4:19).
  • King David's commander of the first month was Jashobeam of Zabdiel of Perez of Judah (1 Chronicles 27:2).
Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
2 / 8Ziv2Iyar0April - May
Bright, Sprouting, BlossomsLight, Gathering, Binding
• The name Ziv occurs only twice in the Bible, but in one context: in the month Ziv king Solomon commenced the building of the Temple of YHWH in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:1 and 6:37; specifically on the 2nd day of the month, — 2 Chronicles 3:2).
The name Ziv (זו), appears to derive from the verb זהה (zahah, to bloom, to be ready to reproduce.
• The name Iyar, spelled איר, isn't used in the Bible. It's of unclear pedigree but over the centuries most commentators have linked it to the verb אור ('or), to be light or to shine. Other verbs of interest are ארה ('ara), to pluck or gather, and ארר ('arar), to bind (or curse), which could possibly be applied to the very early stages of agricultural production.
• The second month is also often referred to namelessly in the Bible, quite frequently with a secondary link to some second year:
  • On the 17th day of the second month, the water of the great flood began to come upon the earth (Genesis 7:11).
  • On the 27th day of the second month of the second year of the flood, Noah and his family exited the Ark (Genesis 8:14) onto the land that had been dry since the first of the first month of that year.
  • On the 15th day of the second month, Israel departed from Elim and entered the wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:1) on their trek away from Egypt, which started in the first month (and which obviously tells of a move away from Egypt's dominant wisdom tradition — see our article on the name Exodus).
  • If in the first month a person was unclean because of a death, or he was on a journey, he had to celebrate Passover on the 14th of the second month (Numbers 9:1). Later king Hezekiah appears to invoke this rule as he has the whole of Israel celebrate Passover in the second month (2 Chronicles 30:2, 30:13).
  • On the 1st day of the second month of the second year of Israel's wanderings, YHWH spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 1:1, 1:18) and ordered the census of battle-ready males, twenty years old and older, and organized Israel in battle array. The Levites were exempt from military duty, because they formed the priestly caste. This made Israel 11/12 martial and 1/12 priestly.
  • On the 20th day of the second month of the second year of wandering, the Shekinah was lifted from over the tabernacle and Israel departed from Sinai (Numbers 10:11).
  • In the second month of the second year after their arrival, Zerubbabel and company began the work on the Temple's restoration (Ezra 3:8).
  • King David's commander of the second month was Dodai the Ahohite of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 27:4). His chief was Mikloth, also of Benjamin.
Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
3 / 9Mattan0Sivan1May - June
Gift, Offeringunknown
• The name Mattan occurs in the Bible only as personal name, not as the name of the third month. But it obviously derives from the verb נתן (natan), to give, yield or offer, and shares this root with familiar names like Nathan and Matthew.
• The name Sivan occurs once in the Bible. On 23 Sivan the scribes of Persia were gathered to record the decree that the Jews of the empire were allowed to assemble and strike back when they were attacked (in response to the idiotic but irrevocable decree that Haman had brought about, which commanded the genocide of the Jews; Esther 8:9).
It's unclear where the name Sivan comes from, other than that it is a transliteration of the Babylonian original simanu. An unearthed Akkadian inscription dubs this month the "month of baking bricks," which has prompted countless commentators to declare that the name simanu must mean mud or to appoint or even brick, which is like saying that since Saturday is the Day of Getting Groceries, "satur" must mean grocery. It's incorrect.
Much more striking is a remark by king Sargon of Akkad that Sivan was the "royal month". The presiding deity of this month was a moon goddess named Sin, from whom Assyrian and Babylonian kings traced their decent (in the words of W. Muss-Arnolt, The Names of Assyro-Babylonian Months and their Regents). As spelled by Jewish scribes, our name Sivan (סיון) seems deliberately similar to the names Sin (סין) and Sinai (סיני), which ultimately may derive from the verb אסם ('asam), to gather or store. This appears to be more than a cute coincidence because precisely three months after their departure from Egypt, the Israelites entered the wilderness of Sinai, where the Creator deposited his Law into their keep.
• References to the unnamed third month:
  • In the third month, precisely three months after their departure from Egypt, the Israelites entered the wilderness of Sinai (Exodus 19:1), and pledged their hearts and minds to the covenant with YHWH. They purified and consecrated themselves, and very soon after this they received the Ten Commandments.
  • In the third month of the fifteenth year of king Asa's reign, the king removed all contaminants from the Temple, restored the altar and refocused the southern coalition of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon upon YHWH (suggesting that the resident Levites required no such correction). Hence the people re-entered into the covenant to seek YHWH, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul (2 Chronicles 15:10). The people began to place their gifts and tithes in heaps, and this process of offering was completed in the seventh month (2 Chronicles 31:7).
  • On the first day of the third month, the Word of YHWH came to Ezekiel, with an explanation to Pharaoh as to why Egypt was going to go the way of the once glorious but now defunct empire of Assyria (Ezekiel 31:1).
  • King David's commander of the third month was Benaiah of Jehoiada of Levi (1 Chronicles 27:5). His chief was Ammizabad, his son.
Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
4 / 10Zabah Shemesh0Tammuz0 / 1June - July
Sun OfferingUnclear but perhaps Son Of Life
• The name Zabah Shemesh does not occur in the Bible. The first part of this name comes from the common verb זבח (zabah), to slaughter or sacrifice. The second part is obviously similar to the equally common noun שמש (shemesh), meaning sun (see our article on the name Samson).
• The month Tammuz isn't really mentioned by name in the Bible. But on the fifth day of the sixth month (that's the month Elul), the prophet Ezekiel envisioned the Temple of YHWH in which northern gate women were weeping over Tammuz. Tammuz was a much revered deity, linked to resurrection from the realm of the dead, fertility, shepherds and the provision of milk, and the growth of food on fields (hence the ritualistic mourning of his perceived death during the dry and hot summer). Much later, the prophet envisioned the restored temple, with the glory of YHWH visible from the north gate instead of the abominable women weeping over Tammuz (compare Ezekiel 8:14 to 44:4).
The month Tammuz received its name from the deity much in the same way in which our January derives from the Roman deity Janus, March from the god Mars, and July and August from the august and deified Julius Caesar, so the actual month Tammuz is technically not mentioned in the Bible. Still, the fourth month is obvious themed with the famine of Jerusalem and its subsequent restoration.
• Nameless references to the fourth month:
  • On the 9th day of the fourth month, Nebuchadnezzar's third siege of Jerusalem (nine years after the undated second, counting the defeat of Jehoiakim as first) culminated, and the famished city fell (2 Kings 25:3, Jeremiah 39:2 and 52:6).
  • On the 5th day of the fourth month, Ezekiel had his magnificent vision of the wheeled throne of God, and received his mission to the rebellious house of Israel (Ezekiel 1:1).
  • Through Zechariah, YHWH promises that the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joy, gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah (Zechariah 8:19), to such a degree that people and nations will seek YHWH in Jerusalem and "men from all nations will cling to the garment of a Jew saying, "Let us go with you, for we have hear that YHWH is with you"" (Zechariah 8:23).
  • King David's commander of the fourth month was Asahel of Judah (1 Chronicles 27:7). His chief was Zebadiah, his son.
  • Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
    5 / 11Karar0Ab0July - August
    • The name Karar is not used in the Bible. It appears to have been imported from Hurrian, but in Hebrew it became spelled the same as the verb כרר (karar), to create a circular space to keep things in: a bordered pasture for cattle, a storage pit dug in the ground, a metal pot, a round storage basket, and so on.
    • The name Ab also does not occur in the Bible, and it's not clear how it was formed (perhaps from an Assyrian word meaning hostile on account of the heat of this month). In Akkadian this month was described as the month of making much fire, which again relates to heat but which may be the heat from brick-baking ovens (see the month Sivan). King Sargon called this month (1) the month of building, and somewhere else (2) the month of the descent of fire (later told as the Prometheus myth), which connects the agricultural year to the wisdom tradition.
    In Hebrew this name is obviously identical to the familiar word אב ('ab), which denotes any unifying factor such as a social constitution or common joy or enemy, and which is therefore also the word for father. The month named Father suggests a deliberate reaction to the previous month named Son (Of Life), which in turn confirms one of the Bible's central principles, namely that fatherhood results from the brotherhood of his sons. See the obvious connections between the nouns בן  בת (ben / bat), son / daughter, the verb בנה (bana), to build, the noun בית (bayit or beth), temple, and the noun אבן ('eben), stone.
    • The fifth month is the only month that has neither of its names in the Bible. Nameless references to the fifth month are:
    • On the first day of the fifth month, Aaron died (Numbers 33:38).
    • In the fifth month, just after Babylon's second invasion of Jerusalem and about nine years before the third invasion and subsequent utter destruction of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah had a clash with the false prophet Hananiah in the Temple. Hananiah wishfully but falsely foretold Jerusalem's restoration within two years (Jeremiah 28:).
    • Beginning on the 7th or 10th day of the fifth month, Nebuchadnezzar's captain Nebuzaradan destroyed Jerusalem, its wall and its Temple, and carried away the remaining people in a third wave of exile (2 Kings 25:8, Jeremiah 1:3, 52:12). This much lamented utter destruction resulted in the celebrated restoration, 70 years later.
    • On the 1st of the fifth month, Ezra arrived in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:9), spearheading the third wave of returnees (counting Sheshbazzar's as first; Ezra 1:11). By then, the Temple building had already been restored by Zerubbabel and the second wave of returnees, and Ezra was left with the restoration of the Temple's economy and the ritual and marital purity of the people.
    • On the 10th of the fifth month, the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel, to inquire of YHWH (Ezekiel 20:1). The Lord responded with a recounting of the Exodus, and explained the purpose of his law and the effects of keeping them, and hence the reasons why things were so bad for the inquiring elders and their desolate people. He also explained why their wishful predictions never panned out (Ezekiel 20:32), whereas their capturers were proverbially known to be able to make all their wishes come true (Genesis 11:6). His subsequent promise to purge the rebels from among them (Ezekiel 20:38) clearly resounds with Ezra's purge of those who had married foreign wives (Ezra 9:14).
    • Through Zechariah, YHWH promises that the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joy, gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah (Zechariah 8:19, also see Zechariah 7:3 and 7:5).
    • King David's commander of the fifth month was Shamhuth the Izrahite of unclear tribal pedigree (1 Chronicles 27:8).
    Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
    6 / 12Sah0Elul1August - September
    ScorchingChaff, Futility
    • The name Sah or Zah (צח) doesn't occur in the Bible. In Hebrew it's spelled like it came from the verb צחח (sahah), to be dazzling, sizzling, scorching, and is similar to the adjective צח (sah), dazzling, scorching.
    • The name Elul occurs only one time in the Bible. On the 25th day of Elul Nehemiah completed the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 6:15).
    The name Elul (אלול), though probably based on a Babylonian word for harvest, clearly resembles the Hebrew verb אלל ('alal), to protrude, and is identical to the noun אלול ('elul), futility. The identical Aramaic verb אלל ('alal), means to encircle or search out, and corresponds to the Hebrew verb עלל ('alal), to glean. All this suggests that the name Elul represented or reminded of the phase of the agricultural cycle that includes gleaning and separating chaff from grain.
    • Unnamed references to the sixth month:
    • On the 5th day of the sixth month, Ezekiel had his vision of the Glory of God and the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8:1), also containing the women weeping over Tammuz. In fact, at that time the actual Temple lay in ruins.
    • On the 1st day of the sixth month, the Word of YHWH came via Haggai to Zerubbabel, warning him that the time to rebuild the Temple had come (Haggai 1:1). Three and a half week later, on the 24th of the sixth month, the people gathered and the work began (Haggai 1:15).
    • In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth to inform Mary of Joseph about her immanent pregnancy of Jesus (Luke 1:26). Strikingly, Elizabeth was in her sixth month (Luke 1:36). This single tandem is the only occurrence of a reference to a calendar (or numbered months) in the New Testament. As noted above, the civil and ecclesiastic calendars ran six month apart, and the beginning and completion of the Temple of Solomon also lay six months apart (from Ziv to Bul seven years later).
    • King David's commander of the sixth month was Ira of Ikkesh the Tekoite of Judah (1 Chronicles 27:9).
    Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
    7 / 1Ethanim1Tishri0September - October (autumnal equinox)
    Perennials, Eternal FlowsStorage Of Wealth
    • The seventh month is one of festive assemblies. In the month Ethanim "all the men of Israel assembled themselves to King Solomon at the feast" in order to transport the Ark of the Covenant from David's Zion to Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 8:2, 2 Chronicles 5:3). Upon its arrival, the Shekinah too returned (1 Kings 8:10, 2 Chronicles 5:13). It's not immediately clear which feast exactly is associated with these events, but it seems that the whole of the seventh month consisted of pretty much back-to-back festivals. The return of the Ark was both associated with trumpets (2 Chronicles 5:12-13) and with the week-long, or even two-week-long Feast of Booths (1 Kings 8:65-66, 2 Chronicles 7:8-10).
    The name Ethanim is a regular plural of a noun derived from the verb יתן (yatan), to flow continuously.
    • The name Tishri isn't used in the Bible. Its name appears to be a Hebrew adaptation of the original Babylonian word abutu, which in turn was based on אב ('ab), father. As spelled, it's indistinguishable from an infinite form of any of the verbs שרה (sara) of the even larger שרר (sarar)-cluster, which appears to center on the idea of storing wealth or being royal. Verb שרה (shara I), means to fill and release. Derived noun משרה (mishra) literally describes a "place or agent of" shara, and means grape juice.
    • Although its name occurs only once, the seventh month is quite often referred to namelessly:
    • The 1st of the seventh month was a special Sabbath of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24, Numbers 29:1). What this festival was supposed to accomplish isn't immediately clear but the synchronized nation-wide sounding of trumpets would certainly have alerted everybody that the month of festivals had begun. Obviously, these festivals required much preparation of all sorts of specialized people, and although the actual feast may have lasted a day or week, the preparations and post-party dealings doubtfully covered the entire month. When the first returnees reinstated the festival cycles, they initiated their Feast of Booths (Ezra 3:4) with burnt offerings on the first day (Ezra 3:6) of the seventh month (Ezra 3:1). The author stresses that this was before the foundation of the Temple was even laid, indicating that the Creator's temple cannot be established if the bounties of his creation aren't first celebrated. Nehemiah adds to this that the returnees interpreted their Feast of Trumpets by gathering from all over the country to Jerusalem on the first day of the seventh month, to hear Ezra read from the Book of the Law of Moses (Nehemiah 8:2). The Great Feast of Booths followed their astonished understanding of the Law (Nehemiah 8:12, 8:17).
    • The 10th of the seventh month was the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29, 23:27, 25:9, 29:7). This day was designed to be a special Sabbath upon which the people would be cleaned from all their sins before YHWH. Every 7th year was a Sabbath year (Leviticus 25:4) and every 7th Sabbath year was Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee began on this day of Atonement, on the 10th of the seventh month (Leviticus 25:9).
    • The 15th of the seventh month was the first of seven days of the Feast of Booths (Leviticus 23:34, 23:39, Numbers 29:12, Ezekiel 45:25). This festival followed the conclusion of the harvest and commemorated the Exodus and subsequent wandering years. It was followed by an eighth day of contemplation and solemness (Numbers 29:35, Ezra 8:18).
    • On the 17th day of the seventh month — what later would be the third day of the Feast of Booths (Numbers 29:20) — the Ark [of Noah] rested upon the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:4.)
    • Concomitant king Asa's reform and cleansing of the Temple, the people began to place gifts and tithes in heaps, beginning in the third month and completing it in the seventh month (2 Chronicles 31:7).
    • On an undisclosed day in the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah plus assembled company killed Babylonian governor Gedaliah plus assembled company at Mizpah and many more after that (2 Kings 25:25, Jeremiah 41:1). This was after the second Babylonian invasion and utter destruction of Jerusalem, and for fear of Babylonian retaliation, pretty much all who were left in Judah fled to Egypt. This included Jeremiah.
    • Celebrations follow a bountiful harvest and a bountiful harvest follows understanding of the Creator's natural law. This is a matter of science and technology, and certainly not one of religion or other such superstitions and wishful thinking. Those latter exercises are tools for politicians and populists and herald store houses as empty as their promises. Science and adherence to technological discipline leads to bounty, prosperity and joy. Stupidity and adherence to religious rituals leads to famine, war and misery. In the seventh month, the false prophet Hananiah died as a result of his idiotic prophesies (Jeremiah 28:17).
    • On the 1st day of the sixth month, YHWH had spoken through Haggai and inspired Zerubbabel to consider rebuilding the Temple (Haggai 1:1). On the 24th of the sixth month, the people gathered and the work began (Haggai 1:15). On the 21st of the seventh month, that's the 7th day of the Feast of Booths, YHWH told Zerubbabel that even though the new Temple was small compared to the former one, it would grow to equal it and even surpass it (Haggai 2:1, 2:9).
    • Through Zechariah, YHWH promises that the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joy, gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah (Zechariah 7:5 and 8:19).
    • King David's commander of the seventh month was Helez the Pelonite of Ephraim of Joseph (1 Chronicles 27:10).
    Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
    8 / 2Bul1Cheshvan0October - November
    Produce, CropsDust Removed / Making Haste
    • In the month Bul king Solomon completed the Temple of YHWH (1 Kings 6:38). The building was started in the month Ziv, the second month, seven years prior. That means that the building of the Temple is associated with the Sabbath year, and also that between commencing the building and completing it sits the same six-month shift that sits between the civil and ecclesiastic calendars, as well as between the conceptions and births of John the Baptist and Jesus the Nazarene (see the month Elul).
    The name Bul is the same as the noun בול (bul), produce, from the verb יבל (yabal), to bring or flush forth.
    • The name Cheshvan isn't used in the Bible. It stems from the Babylonian araxsamna, which simply means "eighth month" (as does the name October). The Hebrew transliteration morphed from ורחשמן (urachshaman) to מרחשון (marachshavan), which was subsequently explained to consist of (1) the noun מר (mar), a drop, but with a very strong association to מר (mor), bitter or myrrh, the "oil of joy" or rather the consummation of marriage (hence the amazing name Mary), and (2) the "name" Chesvan (חשון), which clearly reminds of the verb חשש (hashash), to hurry or fly quickly about, and its noun חשש (hashash), chaff or flying particles of debris.
    • After the busy festivities of the seventh month, the eight month is strikingly quiet. Besides its mention as the month in which the Temple was completed, it is referred to a mere two more times:
    • Fearing that the people might return to the house of David and knock him off for the imposter he was, the rebel Jeroboam decided to make his own religion, loosely based on the original Law but obviously designed for immediate comfort rather than long term benefit. Hence he arranged for an unprecedented festival on the 15th day of the eighth month (1 Kings 12:32-33). Basing something loosely on natural law is of course utterly fatal. Adherence to natural law leads to mastery and freedom, but any violation of it, no matter how minute or well-meant, ultimately leads to slavery and death. That too is one of nature's laws (Matthew 5:18).
    • In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the Word of YHWH came to Zechariah the prophet, son of Berechiah (Zechariah 1:1), saying: "YHWH was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, 'Thus says YHWH Sabaoth, "Return to Me," declares YHWH Sabaoth, "that I may return to you," says YHWH Sabaoth. "Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds. Did not My words and My statutes overtake your fathers?"' (Zechariah 1:1-6; abridged).
    • King David's commander of the eight month was Sibbecai the Hushathite of the Zerahites of Judah (1 Chronicles 27:11).
    Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
    9 / 3Marpa(yim)0Chislev2November - December
    Remedies, Getting ColderSoggy, Soft
    • The name Marpa (מרפא, singular) or Marpayim (מרפאים, plural) appears to derive from the verb רפא (rapa'), to heal. The prefix "m" indicates "place or agency of..." and the month of Marpayim may have been known as the "month of healing". Alternatively, this name may draw from the verb רפה (rapa), to drop or sink down, perhaps referring to the temperature. Note that the completion of Solomon's temple resulted in a brief golden period but was quickly followed by an era of decline that ultimately resulted in the exile.
    • The name Chislev is mentioned twice: In the month Chislev Nehemiah, the royal cup bearer of Artaxerxes, began to lift the distress of the Jewish remnant in Judah and the ruined state of the wall of Jerusalem up to YHWH (Nehemiah 1:1). In prayer he quotes the Lord's own words by speaking of the promised gathering of the righteous among the scattered, even though they might be "in the most remote part of the heavens." This rather obviously alludes to stars in the night sky.
    On the 4th day of Chislev, the Word of YHWH came to Zechariah (Zechariah 7:1), regarding questions concerning fasting in the 5th and 7th months during the 70 years of the exile, and also speaks of the scattering of the people (Zechariah 7:14).
    How this name was originally formed isn't clear (perhaps from the Akkadian word for nine, or else from a verb that means to surround or a derived noun that means period) but in Hebrew, the name Chislev, כסלו, is obviously similar to the verb כסל (kasal), to have no skeletal strength, and hence to be blubbery or to be stupid. The noun כסיל (kesil) means fool and may refer to the constellations in general or Orion in particular. These meanings appear to allude both to rainy weather and to a qualitative decline as a result of abundance. Rain is as essential for the harvest as instructions are for wisdom (the noun מורה, moreh, means both rain and teacher, and is related to the noun צרה, torah, instruction or Law) but too much rain results in mud and too much instruction leads to religion.
    • Nameless references to the ninth month:
    • On the 17th of the ninth month, Ezra summoned all men of Judah and Benjamin to Jerusalem for the marital purge. They gathered on the 20th, shivering in the pouring rain (Ezra 10:9).
    • On an undisclosed day in the ninth month, about fourteen years before the first exile, the people of Jerusalem and Judah at large pronounced a fast (Jeremiah 36:9). A year earlier, the Word of YHWH had come to Jeremiah and had dictated a message to the people concerning the impending exile, which Baruch the scribe had penned down. Baruch read the message to the fasting people, and a man named Micaiah related the message verbally to king Jehoiakim. A man named Jehudi took the scroll to the king, who sat in his winter palace near a fire, still in the ninth month (Jeremiah 36:22). Before he had heard the whole message, the king cut the scroll and threw it into the fire. But the message was reduplicated and embellished with additional details of Jehoiakim's grim fate.
    • On the 24th of the ninth month, the Word of YHWH came to Haggai with a rather confusing message about the tactile transferal of holiness and uncleanness (Haggai 2:10). But he adds: Take this to heart from this day onward, from the 24th day of the ninth month; from the day when the Temple YHWH was founded, consider: Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you (Haggai 2:18-19). Then, again on the 24th of the ninth month the Word came to Haggai a second time, now with a message to Zerubbabel, saying the famous words: "I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another. 'On that day,' declares YHWH Sabaoth, 'I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,' declares YHWH, 'and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,'" declares YHWH Sabaoth (Haggai 2:20-23)."
    • King David's commander of the ninth month was Abiezer the Anathothite of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 27:12).
    Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
    10 / 4Pagrim0Tebeth1December - January
    Rottings, DecaysSink Into Mud, Perpetual
    • The name Pagrim (פגרימ) does not occur in the Bible but it looks like a common plural of a noun derived from the verb פגר (pagar), to be physically and socially faint due to exhaustion or depletion. Noun פגר (peger) describes a carcass (usually human) in which decay has already set in. Since winter was the period with the least social interaction, this verb certainly applies to society at large.
    • The name Tebeth occurs only once in the Bible. In the month Tebeth Esther was taken to the palace of king Ahasuerus of Persia, to replace the deposed queen Vashti (Esther 2:16).
    The name Tebeth (טבת) comes from the Assyrian verb tebu, which corresponds to the Hebrew verb טבע (taba'), to sink in, to make an imprint. The Hebrew spelling seems to suggest an association with the familiar adjective טוב (tob), good.
    • Nameless references to the tenth month:
    • On the 1st day of the tenth month, two and a half months after the Ark rested on Ararat, the tops of the mountains became visible (Genesis 8:5).
    • On the 10th day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem for the final time (2 Kings 25:1, Jeremiah 39:1 and 52:4, Ezekiel 24:1; note the stress on the date in this later reference). At this time, Ezekiel was already in exile and after this final siege nearly all people would be exiled and the city would be utterly destroyed.
    • On the 1st day of the tenth month, Ezra and the heads of households convened to investigate the matter of foreign wives among Israel (Ezra 10:16). This was ten days after everybody had shown up. On the first of the first month, the investigation was completed (Ezra 10:17).
    • On the 12th day of the tenth month, one year into Nebuchadnezzar's final siege of Jerusalem, the Word came to Ezekiel with prophesies against Egypt (Ezekiel 29:1).
    • On the 5th of the tenth month, three years into the siege, refugees from Jerusalem arrived at Ezekiel's and declared the city fallen (Ezekiel 33:21).
    • Through Zechariah, YHWH promises that the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joy, gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah (Zechariah 8:19).
    • King David's commander of the tenth month was Maharai the Netophathite of the Zerahites of Judah (1 Chronicles 27:11).
    Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
    11 / 5Pu'ullat0Shebat1January - February
    Works, ChoresBeating, Rod
    • The name Pu'ullat (פעלות) does not occur in the Bible but it's obviously associated with the verb פעל (pa'al), to do a deed or to work a work, and looks like a plural of a feminine noun derived from that verb. Since the winter is the quietest period of the agricultural year, it was the perfect time to do housework or handcraft and that sort of thing. This name appears to reflect that.
    • The name of the 11th month, namely Shebat, occurs only once in the Bible. On 24 Shebat the Word of YHWH came to Zechariah to speak of the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple (Zechariah 1:7).
    The name Shebat is similar to the noun שבט (shebet), staff or rod, from the verb שבט (shabat), to beat, presumably referring to the heavy rain storms of this period but otherwise perhaps to the period of processing and storing, or even to learning, guiding and training.
    • There is strikingly little activity in any kind of eleventh month:
    • At the conclusion of the wandering years, on the 1st day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had commanded him to give to them (Deuteronomy 1:3).
    • King David's commander of the eleventh month was Benaiah the Pirathonite of Ephraim of Joseph (1 Chronicles 27:14).
    Priestly/civilPre-exilic namefreq.Post-exilic namefreq.Gregorian
    12 / 6Hayr0Adar9February-March
    White, BlazingMajestic, Glorious
    • The name Hayr is not used in the Bible. It stems from the verb חור (hawar), to be or become white and is related to the words חור (hur), חורי (huray) and חרי (hori), which describe white items. Many commentators appear to assume that our name Hayr reflects frost or snow, but the white items these words describe are commonly baked, such as white bricks and white bread. Moreover, our verb חור (hawar) appears to belong to a group of verbs that have to do with the concentration of energy (fires at the center of a tribal camp), and serves as a metaphor to describe a more complex society's organization around a (centralized) ruler or a (decentralized) wisdom tradition.
    • The name Adar occurs more than any other month-name: once in Ezra 6:15, where it is revealed that the temple of Zerubbabel was finished on 3 Adar, and 8 times in the Book of Esther, as Haman planned the Jewish holocaust on 13 Adar, which resulted in the Feast of Purim on 13 and 14 Adar (Esther 3:7, 3:13, 9:1, 9:15, 9:17, 9:19 and 9:21).
    It's not clear where this name comes from, but excellent candidates are the verbs אדר ('adar), to be majestic or wide, and הדר (adar), to be majestic or glorify.
    • Nameless references to the twelfth month:
    • On the 27th day of the twelfth month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison (2 Kings 25:27). Jeremiah places this event on the 25th of the twelfth month (Jeremiah 52:31).
    • On the 1st day of the twelfth month, the Word came to Ezekiel with more negative prophesies about Egypt (Ezekiel 32:1).
    • King David's commander of the twelfth month was Heldai the Netophathite of Othniel of Judah (1 Chronicles 27:15).