The regular course of nature, caused by the change in the position of the sun in the heavens, has naturally made the year the division of time most important after the day all over the earth. The word employed by Semites generally to express the idea year shows the dependence of the reckoning upon the sun. While the period itself is common to all peoples, there is no general agreement as to the time when the year begins. Necessity for fixing a time of reckoning occurs only when some matter has to be dated, and from this fact in the development of culture arose the definition of a starting-point for the year. Among many peoples the course of the moon furnished a means to the yearly reckoning, the month varying between twenty-nine and thirty days in length, and twelve months being reckoned a year (see MOON, § 1). But when this is strictly adhered to, there is a discrepancy of about eleven days between a solar and a lunar year, and such a reckoning brings the beginning of the year backward through all the seasons in the course of thirty three years, as is the case with the Mohammedans. But adherence to a strict solar year does not produce agreement of solar and lunar reckoning, so some peoples assigned thirty days to a month and added five days besides to complete the solar year. The Hebrews employed the lunar month, but from time to time intercalated a month, in this matter following the Babylonians, and thus the beginning of the year fluctuated only within narrow limits.
That the Hebrew month was lunar is proved by the term for month, hodhesh, "newness (of the moon)," and yerah, from yareah, " moon," cognate with the Assyrian and Babylonian arlau. Dillmann's hypothesis that the Hebrews derived their use of yerah from the Canaanites does not seem well supported, nor does the other supposition that the latter had a sun-month, either by Phenician or by Cypriote inscriptions. Nor are the names of the month as found in the Old Testament or in the inscriptions indicative of months based on solar reckoning. Indeed, no special name was given to the intercalated month, which would be required on the Dillmann hypothesis. And his contention that, since no mention of an intercalated month occurs in I Kings iv. 7, the reckoning there must be on a solar basis, is beside the mark, inasmuch as the narrator there is not concerned with an exact report of time and does not assert that each officer performed his duty in the same month. That the usual length of the month is thirty days is only natural, since that is the apparent length of about half of the lunar months. So in the account of the flood, where lunar months are meant, the period of five months gives 150 days (Gen. vii. 11, viii. 3-4). Similarly, the division of the month into three parts is as natural to a lunar month as to one based on the sun. It is highly probable that the editor of the Book of Kings by his addition of the later designations of the months conveyed intentionally the implication of the identity of the earlier and the later reckoning (I Kings vi., viii., cf. vi. 1, 37). In all probability in civil life the early Hebrews had proper names as well as numbers for the months. That the names of only four occur is due merely to the fact that the occasion for naming the others did not arise (Ex. xiii. 4, etc.; I Kings vi. 1, 37, etc.,viii. 2, vi. 38).
No definite and fast assertion is made in the Old Testament of the month with which the New Year began. While the autumn festival is designated as "the end of the year" (Ex. xxiii. 16), the "return of the year" is marked as "the time when kings go forth to battle." Probably the autumn marks simply the end of the season the beginning of which is the sowing of the crops, coincident with the time when the operations of war can be carried on; while the season of the winter rains marked a pause when the staple business life was interrupted. Such designations as these are indeed inexact, though sufficient for the needs of the times. Yet the demands of civil life caused a demand for definite agreement, and in the priestly account of the flood and in Nehemiah the beginning of the year fell in autumn, in earlier times in the spring. In the Books of Kings, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel
After the exile the Babylonian names for the months gradually came into use, this being determined by Persian control of Hither Asia and the official use by the Persians of these names. In Zech. i. 7, vii. 1, the names of the months may be interpolations; but in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra the names are used as customary, while in Esther the numbers are added for the sake of clearness. The Chronieler adheres to the usage in the law. The names used by the Jews are as follows: Nisan, Assyr. Nisanu (Neh. ii. 1, etc.); lyyar, Assyr. Airu (Targum on II Chron. xxx. 2); Siwan, Assyr. Simanu (Esth. viii. 9); Tammuz, Assyr. Duzu (Targum Jerusalem, Gen. viii. 5); Ab, Assyr. Abu (Targum Jerusalem, Num. xx. 29, etc.); Elul, Assyr. Ululu (Neh. vi. 15); Tishri, Assyr. Tishritu (Targum Jerusalem, Lev. xxiii. 24); Marheshwan, Assyr. Arah-shamnu (Targum Jerusalem, Deut. xi. 14); Kishlew, Assyr. Kislimu (Neh. i. 1, etc.); Tebeth, Assyr. Tebetu (Esth. ii. 16); Shebat, Assyr. Shabatu (Zech. i. 7); Adar, Assyr. Adaru (Esth. iii. 7, etc.). The beginning of the month was doubtless in both early and later times determined by actual observation of the new moon. The intercalation of a month was in late times determined by the Sanhedrin, but whether that month was called Adar or (with the Babylonians) Elul is not determined. Reckoning by cycles belongs to times in the Christian era.
From Neh. ii. 1 compared with Neh. i.1 it appears that the regnal years of Persian kings were reckoned from the first of Tishri. Whether a New Year beginning on that date first began to be observed by the Jews in Persian times or originated under the Seleucidæ is not determined, though the later date is the more probable. The seasons among the Jews were two, summer and winter, the dry, hot season and the cool and wet one. A hard and fast division is not made, since sometimes the late rains of spring were reckoned to the summer.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Besides the works of Ideler and Wieseler cited under DAY, consult: L. M. Lewisohn, Geschichte und System des jüdischen Kalenderwesem, Leipsic, 1855; A. Schwarz, Der jüdische Kalender, Breslau, 1872; H. Gr&aauml;ts, Hist. of the Jews, ii. 134, London, 1891; Dillmann, in the Monatsberichte of the Vienna Royal Academy, 1881, pp. 914-935; Schürer, Geschichte, i. 745-760, Eng. transl., I., ii. 363-398 and the sources there cited; DB, iv. 762-766; EB, iv. 5363-70.
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