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Do the paleo-Hebrew inscriptions of the Gezer calendar, dated around the 10th century BCE, suggest that at one time the ancient Israelites used a strictly lunar calendar?

The calendar is written crudely in paleo Hebrew on stone. The inscription goes something like:

"Two months of harvest Two months of planting Two months are late planting One month of hoeing One month of barley-harvest One month of harvest and festival Two months of grape harvesting One month of summer fruit"

The word "month" is translated to mean "moon", according to online sources. There's no indication of a possible 13th month; neither are any of the months named to give an indication as to when in calendar year did the harvest begin etc. This possibly suggests that the years were strictly lunar, with harvest time etc occurring in various months throughout a typical decade.

If it doesn't indicate a strictly lunar calendar, would it point to the notion that a typical year would've been pictured as 12 lunar months?

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    A typical Jewish year is still 12 months. Most years aren't leap years. – Double AA Jun 22 '17 at 13:56
  • Since season s are according to the climate and weather the notation cannot be absolutely lunar. Planting must be at the appropriate time of the year – sabbahillel Jun 22 '17 at 14:43
  • Who said the Gezer calendar was used bu Israelites? – Clint Eastwood Jun 22 '17 at 15:28
  • Well it's written in paleo hebrew – user329957 Jun 22 '17 at 16:09
  • @user329957 - Is it Paleo-Hebrew or Phoenician? The languages are very similar and the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet is the Phoenician one. google.com/…: – ezra Jun 22 '17 at 19:56
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I do not think it suggests that the ancient Israelites used a strictly lunar calendar for a number of reasons:

  1. There is no evidence that the Gezer calendar is meant to be a calendar in the sense of setting forth a normative year. It is a description or proscription of the farming that would take place over a year, broken down by months. It might very well be a farming plan for a specific farm for a specific year.

  2. A typical year in the Jewish calendar is 12 lunar months. And leap months in biblical and second temple times were added every few years but were not added until the end of the year, so any prospective statement would presume 12 months.

  3. The word for month ירח comes from the hebrew word for "moon" (just like the english word "month") but came to mean month in general, not just a lunar month. Therefore, the mere fact that the term used is ירח does not mean that it was strictly lunar at that time.

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It is disputed by scholars as to whether the Gezer Calendar is of Israelite origin in the first place.

The calendar could very well be written in the Phoenician language, Proto-Canaanite, or Paleo-Hebrew, as all three languages share the same alphabet and root vocabulary.

Since there is no definite proof that the calendar was written by the Israelites, we cannot determine for sure whether or not the Israelites once used a strictly lunar calendar. However, I would always trust thousands of years of tradition over an archeological discovery.

  • Well it was found in Gezer, hence the name, and dated around 10th century BCE. Gezer was part of the kingdom of Israel during 10th century BCE. – user329957 Jun 23 '17 at 12:16
  • That does not make it Hebrew. There were other peoples living in the land even when Israelite and Judean Kings ruled over it. Gezer is listed on Wiki to have been a Canaanite city before it was ever a Levitical one. – ezra Jun 23 '17 at 13:16
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The Jewish people (Israelites) are bound by the Biblical command to have Passover in the spring as it says in Devorim 15 (1):

Keep the month of spring, and make the Passover offering to the Lord, your God, for in the month of spring, the Lord, your God, brought you out of Egypt at night.

On which Rashi says from the Gemoro:

Keep the month of spring: Heb. אָבִיב. Before it [Nissan] arrives, watch that it should be fit for the אָבִיב, ripening [capable of producing ripe ears of barley by the sixteenth of the month], to offer up in it the omer meal offering. And if not, proclaim it a leap year [thereby enabling you to wait another month, until the barley ripens]. — [San. 11b]

A purely lunar calendar is 354 days. The solar year is approximately 365 days. Without the use of a leap year, Passover could not always be in the spring. The intercalation of a leap month keeps the lunar calendar in line with the seasons. So it is not possible that the Jewish people could have used a purely lunar calendar.

  • Yeah but couldn't the name of the first month "abib, meaning Spring simply be taken from the Canaanite calendar? It's like the tenth gregorian month is October but Oct means 8th in Latin. The Gregorian calendar just took it from the Roman calendar. But the Torah does say to keep Passover in the "1st month" but the "1st month" has nothing to do with the season. Nor do the offerings demanded require Passover to be in spring time. – user329957 Jun 22 '17 at 16:06
  • October was originally the 8th month of the Roman calendar. Now it's the tenth month. We've just been too lazy to change the name. It could be the same for the name of the first month "abib". – user329957 Jun 22 '17 at 16:19
  • @user329957 The Torah writes "chodesh ha'aviv" not "chodesh aviv" which implies that it is not a proper name of the but a description of something related to the month. Also, as far as I can tell there was no Canaanite month called "aviv." – conceptualinertia Jun 22 '17 at 16:47

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