The Calendar in the Flood Narrative

5. Internationales Theodor Herzl Symposion, Wien, 14-17 Juni 2004, Wiener Rathaus: Der Bericht, Wien, 2004, pp. 114-120  Meir Bar-Ilan


The aim of this study is to analyze the Flood Narrative (Gen. 6-8; hereafter: FN). from a fresh methodology: Numerology. According to the method, numbers are not only signs of quantity but have a meaning of quality as well. This method is language non-conditional and while implying it to the FN it strengthen some scholarly modern concepts and rejects others while taking a fresh look at an old problem. The study is built upon former studies in Astronomy and Astrology among the Jews in Antiquity on the one hand,1 and on studies in Numerology on the other.2

A. State of the Art

In Rabbinic tradition there was a dispute concerning the dates in the FN, one dispute in Antiquity and another one in the Middle Ages, as can be seen in Rashi’s and Nahmanides’ commentaries ad locus. However, they all agreed upon the idea that the Flood lasted a whole solar year, that is from the beginning of the Flood 27/2 till the next year 27/2 meant a Lunar year + 11 days gap to full a solar year. Though ibn Ezra condemned those who thought that the FN reflects solar year, one is apt to say that the whole discussion of the calendar of the FN lacked from the theological bias. That is to say, it doesn’t seem it would have been easy for a Rabbinic commentator to assume that the Biblical calendar was different than his own. In Rabbinic circles it was claimed, thou far from being a dogma, that the Jewish calendar was already revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai, so having this notion in the background doesn’t help to make a new insight into an old issue.

U. Cassuto was one of the few modern commentators who paid attention to the numbers in the Genesis in general and in the FN in particular.3 He drew attention to the number 7 in the FN as well as in Mesopotamian sources. He also used the word “harmony” to denote the symmetry of the numbers in the FN, a sheer fact to any beginner. Cassuto discussed (only) two dates: the beginning and the end of the Flood, which doesn’t exceeded the Rabbis’ discussion, so it is clear that from the numerals point of view he added almost nothing to the modern study of the FN.

A new push to the whole subject was given because of the Qumranic findings. Not only did the Qumranites were interested in Calendrical issues (in some 18 different texts), but they took a special care of the FN by presenting it in a “slightly” different way: the final date of the FN is not 27/2 as in the Masoretic text rather 17/2.

Several modern studies have been made in the recent past and almost all of them are related one way or another to the theory of A. Jaubert, claiming that the explicit calendar in Qumran of 364 days was implicitly embedded in the FN.4 However, not only that her theory wasn’t focusing on the FN, rather on Qumran, claiming that their calendar was old, but it was criticized for several reasons.5 Other studies on the FN added more understanding to the text, and in a way one may look at the following discussion as built upon former studies, by F. H. Cryer included,6 though with a special touch on issues neglected until now: Numerology combined with textual criticism.

At the end of this short history of the study of the FN there is one more fact that should not be overlooked. In the study of Old Testament the FN served as a key-model for the theory of the sources-redaction theory, especially because it was easy to show that there are two separate stories that later were combined into one narrative.7 Former studies on this subject promoted not only the FN but rather the whole school of documentary criticism. This school is so certain in its sources-hypotheses that it takes its method for granted and imposes it on the Biblical text (and even claiming for missing lacuna) without trying to understand some of the issues that do not “belong” to its scholarly heritage. It is believed that the main issue that was disregard by former scholars was numbers, and the discussion hereafter focuses on them.

It is well-known, well more than a century, that Flood stories were told all over the world.8 However, collecting stories do not promote scholarship while making new observations and asking new questions is the core of modern learning. So the main question is not “How many variants of the FN are known?” (implying: the Bible has no importance, it is just one among many), but rather: “What is so unique in the Biblical FN?”, and the answer on that is simply: numbers. The text is embedded with many numbers of all sorts. Moreover, when one begins to analyze these numbers, even without paying attention to the text itself, it becomes apparent that there are two types of numbers in the FN: numbers that denote quantity, of days, animals, and so forth, and relative numbers, that is dates (that are always stated in a relative way: day/month/year). For that reason the discussion is made over each of the two types of the numbers and first come the quantitative numbers that are easier to grasp.

The aim of the following discussion is to discuss numbers, not text. The discussion has no prior premise concerning any method of counting Biblical calendars, or Biblical text composition. Needless to say that discussing numbers has no priority to any textual hypothesis; numbers commit a language of their own.

B. Quantitative (or: Absolute) Numbers

There are a lot of numbers in the FN, and they are easily divided into two groups: the quantitative, or: absolute, numbers, and relative numbers (or: dates). For the sake of coherence these two types of numbers deserved to be discussed separately. Let us begin with simple numbers, numbers that play a role as quantitative. These numbers may be summarized in a table as follows:

Quantity of Numbers used
Days 7, 40, 150, 150, 40, (7), 7, 7
Years 600, 601
Sons 3
Wives 3
Cubits 300, 50, 30, 15
Animals 2, 7

No doubt, the days are the most elaborate countable article which implies their importance. It is easily discern that one can count all the days, which come in a consecutive order, but not all the animals. In other words: there are a lot of numbers in the FN but the narrator focuses on countable days. Not only there are more numbers for days than for years, the numbers of the days are given in a kind of a symmetry set of numbers. Just as the water of the Flood went up and then down, so is the case in the numbers: first an increase in A B C that make a peak, and then a decrease in C B A (with repetitions). This symmetry in arranging the numbers echo ancient understanding of the universe known in the 360 days year, for example, round cosmos and so forth (until this very day: 3600 in a circle). When one looks at the Qumranite calendar symmetry [(30 + 30 + 31) x 4], the whole idea of symmetry in the world will come apparent.

However, the quantitative days in the FN are no calendar, or reflect a very poor one. To illuminate this, one should recall stories about people isolated from the world in a jail or an island that marked the days elapsed. That is to say that consequent number of days do not make a calendar but rather taken later to be calculated against a known calendar. Moreover, counting days reflects ignorance of precise Astronomy though it highly correspond the core story of FN. In rainy weather that usually come with a flood, when everybody was closed in an Ark on water, Noah couldn’t know the exact date by observing the sky (as usually been done in Mesopotamia). So it just becomes clear that counting days on such circumstances are the “right” way to know the time. The time is always like X days after the whole catastrophe began, that is not a given date rather a relative time-perspective of the situation.

How to count the days of the FN was a question under dispute and one may claim that the tally is done to achieve a specific figure denoting the total of all the days. First all the numbers that are manifested in the text should be counted, and they are: 7, 40, 150, 150, 40, 7, 7, totaled 401 days. This number doesn’t fit anything, and while some may claim that there is no reason it should fit any “meaningful” number, on the other hand, one is not allowed to forget that all the numbers build a symmetric structure so there is a good reason to assume that all the numbers should “make sense”. According to the Numerological concept, numbers do have a meaning, and a quick glance at the number seems to affirm this concept.9 However, the accumulation of all the days to 401 seems to be sense-less. The next step is to disregard the first two numbers since they denote the beginning of the FN but not the beginning of the Flood. God warned that in 7 days He will shower rain, and it happened for 40 days and 40 nights. As is well known, 10-20 successive days of rain do not imply a flood. However, 40 successive rainy days make one realize that he is in a flood, and therefore one should begin the counting of the days of the flood with 150 days of going upwards, and then 150 days going downwards (total 300 days). To these days one should add 40 days (Gen. 8:6) that before them the window of the Ark was closed (total 340 days). Then there were 4 different sendings, one of the crow, and three of the dove. The crow went back and forth and it is clear that nothing happened then, that is no time elapsed. However, in the case of the dove, at the first time when she went no time is given, and only later there are twice 7 days (total 354 days). However, on the second sending of the dove it is stated that the dove went for seven “other” days (or: in the second as in the former time).10 So the text, though in a bit concealed way, states another 7 days,11 and all these days total 361 days.

The bottom line of this tally is simple: according the quantitative days it is almost apparent, though with two different difficulties, that the Flood elapsed 361 days, or even better: a full year, since the 1 day denotes the beginning of the second year. This number reflects a solar year of 360 days without taking into consideration the days of intercalation since this year is too short. Moreover, the main two routes of the FN: 150 days, denote 5 months of 30 days each, a tally that only solar calendar can bear. In other words, the solar calendar is evident in the quantitative numbers either in their total, or even before that. To this one should add that the year of the Flood resembles ancient Judaic calendar from the early days of the monarchy. As already been assumed, the 12 victuallers to King Solomon (1 Kgs 4:7), and the 12 officers serving King David (1 Chr 27:1-15), each responsible for one month, denote a solar year with 12 months of 30 days each.12 Now the 360 days’ year of the Flood should be added to this fairly based assumption. In other words the 360 days of the FN, reflect a solar year that is known elsewhere in the Bible.13

It should be noted that there is no one solar year’s calendar only. Solar year means that the months are divided arbitrarily and it doesn’t imply how there will be an intercalation. The methods of intercalations are numerous, for example: 1) Each year there are 5-6 days “off” (not calculated); 2) Every two years there are 10-11 days “off” (celebrated in a feast, for example); 3) Every four months there is an “additional” day (=Qumran); 4) Every four years there is one “missing” day (the Gregorian calendar); etc. There is no need to explain each and every known or hypothetically system, since each has its own benefit. The most important thing in all these solar calendars is that when a modern scholar asks himself: how could it be? 360 days a year doesn’t make a sense, and so forth, the answer depends on the unique system of intercalation that must have been prevailed though not mentioned.

A numerologist should add another comment: 360 is a very round number. In a world that its numbers are built upon sexagesimal system, that is 60, then 6 times 60, or even better: 6 times 6 multiply by 10,14 it is a very round number indeed as everybody knows from his or hers experience concerning the 3600 of the circle. It is nice to live in a nice world, and nice numbers are nothing but a reflection of this world, divided harmoniously into 12 exact months (and who cares about the “left-overs”). This sexagesimal system is reflected in the age of Noah when the Flood began: 600, denoting in both cases some kind of perfectness. Moreover, just before the Flood God decrees that man’s life will be 120 years (Gen. 6:3) echoing a Sumerian tradition.15 So, in all, that in a text that makes a stress on 600 (= 60 x 10) and 120 (= 60 x 2) it is no surprise to find a year of 360 days. Somehow it looks like God punished the world with a complete Flood that took place around the world in a round number of a round year: a complete destruction.

Now, before ending this discussion a note should be made in regard of former scholars. Some scholars claimed that there are two calendars embedded in the text thought that the first 150 days (Gen. 7:24) “belongs” to the “other” narrative (claiming that this one is called J, [after the name of God: Jaheweh] while the next one, to be discussed later, is P [stands for Priestly]).16 Other scholars saw the intervals of 40 as derived from the Jahwist while the intervals of 150 derived from the Priestly editor. However, the numerical method is language non-conditional and it looks at numbers only while ignoring any style in which the numbers are written. Therefore, all the numbers of the same type, that is quantitative, were analyzed together and the other type, the relative numbers will be discussed separately.

In all, for those who look for sources one should be aware of the fact that the quantitative absolute numbers come all in texts that call God: Jaheweh (J in Biblical studies). In other wards, the Jahwist version of the FN is based on quantitative absolute numbers. These numbers, total 361 days, denote a 360 days’ (solar) year, assumed to be an ancient monarchic calendar. Though this argument is based on the quantitative numbers only, and it has its own disadvantages, it is hoped that the whole issue will be illuminated after discussing a different set of numbers, the relative numbers hereafter.

Summing up this discussion by a table, it looks as follows:

(Note: Red denotes inexplicit).

C. Relative Numbers

It is stated (Gen 7:11): ‘in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up’, etc. That is to say that while looking at the numbers, “second” is meaningless as well as the 17th, only when these numbers are given together and written as numerals: 17/2 they begin to appear as a meaningful concept. In other words, only after writing these numbers as relatives to each other, that is dates, it becomes apparent that they all deserved to be analyzed in such a way, a whole series of dates together: consecutive dates that mark the whole FN. No doubt, relative numbers are more sophisticated than quantitative ones since they reflect a more sophisticated understanding of time (and numbers).

Now, when one reads the FN it becomes evident that the dates, or relative numbers, denote some kind of a “station” or a “stop” in the history of the Ark. These dates are as follows: 17/2/600, 17/7/[600], 1/10/[600], 1/1/601, 27/2/[601] (while the brackets denote the self-evident number that does not appear in the text). These dates, and the way they are attributed to the Ark journey should be taken as a kind of a log-book of Captain Noah who made registers in the Ark-book. One is apt to assume that these dates were given not in vain, and they have some meaning, though, it must be admitted, that prima facie the dates look as if they just happened. Just as the whole narrative has its own meaning, the dates must have had theirs own meaning too. These relative numbers, not like the former quantitative ones, have no symmetry, a fact that denotes a more complex (in a way: “modern”) way of understanding the calendar (and science in general).

Before continuing discussing these dates, one should be warned that the dates presented here are those according the Masoretic text (=MT), the texstus receptus of the Jewish Bible. However, other versions of the text show differences in the beginning and the end of the Flood, and these dates must be discussed, though for the time being they are ignored. So it is assumed that just as the dates by themselves have their own meaning, so is the case with the changes, they didn’t just occurred, rather were deliberately changed. That is to say that the understanding of the changes in some of the dates should be seen from the perspective of the whole series of numbers. In other words: why these specific dates were chosen to describe Noah’s Ark maneuver? And why some were changed?17

From looking at these dates it is easily understood why already the Tannaim, the sages of the Mishnah, understood that the Flood lasted a full whole year (m. Eduyot 2:10). Very basic astronomical knowledge yields the difference of 11 days between a Solar and a Lunar years, so if the Flood began on 17/2 and ends on the 27/2 of the next year, it means, no doubt, a full solar year. True, in modern floods nobody remembers the exact number of days a region was under water, but there is nothing to compare with the Biblical narrative. The FN discusses Flood as a divinely punishment, and just like it tells that “all flesh” were extinguished, denoting completeness or fullness in lives-dimension, so the same applies to the time-dimension: a full punishment in a full year. Time is another dimension of God (Creator of time).

The Sages of the Mishnah made analogies to other divinely punishments in the Bible, such the Egyptians’ and Job (and villains in hell), all happened exactly in 12 months, that is a full (Solar) year. However, one should not forget that the FN has 5 dates, and not only two, so the main object of any discussion should be discussing the whole series of numbers, with no omission of any given data (and without moving to theology and other texts besides the FN). For example, taking a look at the beginning and the end of the Flood only leads one to a quick assumption, as just have been made, that the Flood was run by God according to a Solar-Lunar calendar. However, when one begins to analyze the other dates, or better: the other quantitative numbers, even without knowing the non-Masoretic versions, this assumption becomes highly impossible as will be seen later.

Few final notes concerning the difference between the two systems, the one reflected in the absolute numbers and the one reflected in the relative numbers, should not be overlooked. First, as already been stated, the absolute numbers are not a calendar, but rather denote an accumulative of days. They reflect not Astronomy but awareness of time. On the other hand, the relative numbers denote a calendar quite explicitly, that is astronomical knowledge to some degree. Moreover, the absolute numbers are “round” or typological numbers, such as 7, and 40 that are well-known and the twice 150 is a multiplication by 30, another “round” number. However, the calendar in the relative numbers has no “round” numbers. Only 1/1 can be considered a “round” (or even: noble) number (that is: date), though the place where this date is given (not at the beginning but in the process of the whole FN) makes one to believe that this date is in the “log-book” as if by a coincidence. The differences between the systems are exemplified in another aspect, a textual one: the relative numbers are not dispersed equally in the text. That is there are 16 verses between the first and second date, no verse-separation between the 2nd and the 3rd date, 7 verses between the 3rd and the 4th date, and there is no verse-separation between the 4th and the 5th date. That is to say that the content of the dates implies no harmony and the days are stated in the text in an inharmonious way. It may be also because the hand of the redactor was not skilled enough (or he preferred minimize intervention in the given text). At any event, the relative numbers denote not only a better understanding of calendar, but a more sophisticated usage of numbers than is reflected in the quantitative numbers. However, both systems are embedded in the text and they echo synchronization not only of different attitudes towards time and astronomy but rather different texts as well.

In all, for those who look for sources-theory one should be aware of the fact that the relative numbers, that is: the more elaborate system, come all in texts that call God: Elohim (=E, known in modern scholarship as P = Priestly). In other wards, the P version of the FN, from the numerical perspective, is more elaborate than the other source.

D. The First Date in the Relative system

The FN has not only dates of its beginning and end but it has three more, or extra, dates as well, and they all deserved to be analyzed. All these dates are part of the log-book of Noah that seems to be superfluous. Since the whole story might have had a meaning without all these dates why they were given on the first place? Now, before trying to solve this problem, the whole set of numbers, one should concentrate on the beginning of the FN and ask: why did the flood begin on 17/2? Was it a coincidence or rather it has its own meaning?

According to Arab astrologers in the Middle Ages, the question is meaningless. According to Al-Biruni and Al-Tanuki the flood began because of a specific position of the stars that took place either in 11 February 3381 or in 3102 BCE.18 However, these exact dates are based on an astrological assumption, and until it will be proven that God, as portrayed in the Bible, obeys medieval astrological rules, one must rule out this explanation. One further consideration should be made: finding the reason for the exact date of the beginning is not enough since the whole set of dates should not be overlooked.

It seems that one of the issues that was overlooked until now, is how the two different set of numbers, the quantitative and the relative ones, are related to each other. Whether one is sure that the text is compound out of two sources and whether he thinks it is a mere mistake, one should look at the text as it is now in hand and ask if there is a relation between the two sets, and the answer, so it looks, is simple. Yes, the two sets of numbers are related to each other not only because they are combined like Siamese twins but because they look as if one system is built upon the other. In other words: the more sophisticated system, the relative numbers, is a kind of manifestation and realization of the more ancient and primitive system of the quantitative numbers.

As already stated by the author of the book of Jubilees (6:25) God spoke to Noah on 1/1/[600] (Gen. 7:1, not 7:6).19 Taking this old idea, either as a commentary, or even as a preservation of an “original” text, helps in making sense with the quantity numbers and with the relative numbers as well. Moreover, attributing the words of God to Noah to a specific day, and an important one: the beginning of the year, finds its continuation in the date that is specifically mentioned later in the FN (Gen. 8:13, 1/1/601), which shows that dates are related to each other in a way (and given not in vain). This is the day when the water dried from Earth, an idea that echoes the creation story that according to some of the Tannaim took place in 1/1 and not in 1/7 as in the Rabbinic tradition (b. Rosh Hashana 11a).

The “addition” of the date to the first speech of the Lord to Noah goes very well together with dates that are given to some of the (later) prophecies. For example, the prophet Ezekiel gives the dates of 14 of his prophecies, for example: 29:1 – 12/10/10, 31:1 – 1/3/11; 32:1 – 1/12/12; 32:17 - 15/??/12 [but in the LXX – 15/1/12 = On Passover a prophecy on Egypt!]; 10/7/14 (“at the beginning of the year”) – 40:1.20 More prophecies with dates one can read in the book of Hagai where the date of some prophecies are given: 1/6/2, 21/7/[2], 24/9/2 (Hag 1:1; 2:1; 2:10, 2:20). Zechariah had a prophecy on 24/11/2 (Zec 1:7), and Daniel saw a vision on 24/1 (Dan 10:4). Without trying to include all the prophecies with dates it is clear that there was a tendency of prophets to hear God (or: tendency of God to announce His decisions) on the first day of the month or the year. This was probably because while being in a feast, praying to God and contemplating Him led prophets to a kind of a Theophany. So all this background helps to accept the assumption concerning the date when Noah heard the Lord: 1/1/600.21

The message of the Lord to Noah was that He decided to destroy the world, and this idea that God judges the world in the first day of the year is a well-known concept in Jewish Rabbinic thought, though the Jewish tradition attributes such heavenly judgments to 1/7 and not to 1/1 (m. Rosh Hashana 1:2). God spoke to Noah is nothing but the Day of Judgment: God decided to ruin the world according to the behavior of its inhabitants. So now it all fits; the assumption of the exact date of the beginning of the FN, which is 1/1/600 gives a starting-point to the whole narrative. It also corresponds to inter-Biblical ideas concerning the importance of the exact day of a prophecy, it corresponds to the importance of this specific date in the Bible,22 and it corresponds to post-Biblical ideas concerning the issues God discusses on the beginning of the year. This assumption is also a kind of a “balance” to the same date that is mentioned later in the FN, but the most important thing in this “additional” date, is that it begins a new epoch (=date 0) and so it improves the understanding of the FN from both sides (resembling the fulcrum Archimedes were looking for moving the world). The “new” date helps to understand the calendar, and it helps to understand the way the FN role in any (Temple) feast at the beginning of the year. Anyone who was an attendant of the drama, if (or how) it was played, or heard the story, when it was read, on the beginning of the year might learn that if he, and his community, misbehave, the punishment has just been introduced to all.23

Now that the beginning epoch is characterized, one can explain the sequence of the quantitative numbers. Since God talked to Noah on 1/1 and he said that in 7 days the flood will begin and then there will be 40 days and nights of rain, it is simple to calculate and reach 17/2. This date is tallied (only) with a solar month of 30 days, and then the 10 days left of the 40 with additional 7 days of the second month. So, this is a good start to understand the MT, but one should not forget that there were other versions of the relative numbers, such as the beginning of the Flood in 27/2 according to LX24 (but not in the quantitative ones).25 In other words, during the transmission process, one scribe or another changed a date or two given in the text. But the question remains: was this change done deliberately or by a coincidence? For example, when one compares numbers in two Biblical parallel texts, such as Ezra 2 and Nehemia 7, it becomes evident that numbers tend to be more “corrupted” under a scribe’s hand than regular non-numerical words (probably because “originally” they were written by a different set of notations). If this is the case, that numbers were just have been corrupted by the scribal transmitting technique, one may claim that all changes in the numbers in the FN are nothing but coincidences.

However, taking a close look at this problem leads to a conclusion that here the dates were deliberately changed, and there are several reasons why one would think so. First, there is a difference between quantitative numbers that tend to be corrupted and relative numbers. The quantitative numbers are (or: seems to be) in most cases meaningless, such as the exact number of the children of Arah: 775 in Ezra 2:5 but only 652 in Nehemia 7:10. However, relative numbers are written in string of words and chances are that in such a combination a misreading is less plausible. Another reason for this assumption is that the fluidity of the numbers appears only in two relative dates: at the beginning and at the end and they are not found in the other three dates embedded in the text. In explaining this view one should look at the dates and ask as follows. It is true that the FN is remarkable without any dates, but now that they are in the text, assuming they have an importance, what are the numbers that are more important than the others? Now, taking a look at the log-book of Noah on the one hand and looking at one’s experience in the other, thinking of his last journey abroad, for example, it will become evident that in any journey the most important dates are the beginning and the end because they mark the span of time under discussion. Moreover, the history of understanding the numbers under discussion shows that only two dates, out of five, were discussed, though in a very brief manner in Rabbinic circles for Millennia, and they are the first and the last dates (without paying attention to extra-Biblical different versions). In sum: after looking at the first date in the FN one should look at the final date with the assumption, or conclusion, that any change in that date is meaningful one way or another.

But the main reason why any scribe would change a date deliberately lies not in the aforementioned reasons, good as they are, but rather in the assumption that the scribe had a feeling, or a notion, that the dates have their own story. For example, when one reads that the Lord spoke to Hagi on 24/9/2 he may disregard the date since he believes, and it is quite reasonable to assume, that this date is a mere coincidence. However, this is not the case of the log-book of Noah where five consecutive dates are embedded as telling an “inner” story in an “outer” one. These dates together manifest in a way a calendar, and it is assumed that some early scribes understood them in the same way: the dates are telling the story of a calendar.

E. Dates denote a Calendar

Understanding calendar, any calendar, depends on several issues, some of which are beyond the scope of this study. However, in the case of the FN there is no calendar evident but rather several dates, or better: imprints of a calendar. The assumption that an early scribe took the dates as denoting a calendar is not a daring assumption since if modern scholarship attribute sophistication to the literary creativity of the ancient scribe there is a good reason to believe that this scribe or another was aware of the Calendrical aspect of the FN just as modern scholar is, though without modern tools of study. Moreover, the fact that the text of the FN was under redaction and that the dates are different in different versions are the best evidence that the ancient scribe understood the progression of dates not as several coincidences, but rather as a calendar.

Calendars have at least two problems and these problems should be seen as a background of the dates of the FN and especially their changes. The first problem is that calendars do not last forever. Calendars are changed from time to time. It is obvious that there is no systematic rule that describes the change of a calendar, and certainly there is no “pace” in changing calendars. Some calendars were used longer than others and though they were not changed every decade or a century, they still were changed. If there is a rule in the change of calendars that is the rule of precision. That is, a new calendar replaces an older calendar since the old one was found to be inferior, for astronomical reasons or that the newer is easier for daily use (or both). This rule is evident in any of the changes of the calendars in the last two millennia and there is no reason to assume that once an imprecise calendar replaced a more exact one. Calendars improved during the ages and this phenomenon should be taken while considering the changes of a Biblical text that exemplifies a calendar.

But calendars have a different problem and that is their role in society, culture and religion. In modern life calendar is nothing but a device to count days and years and it has no added-value. However, in Antiquity calendars were taken not as a mundane issue but rather as a Divine apparatus of God to run the world. That is why old calendars were religious in nature while modern calendar is just a device. If one wants to run a Temple, a Priest, for instance, he should know Calendrical issues to observe ritual commandments (such as Num. 28-29). Sabbath is no Calendrical issue so there is no need to make any connection between Sabbath and the FN, for example (though both are fixed and highly numerological in nature). However, a calendar has two problems together: being religious on the one hand, and being changed on the other, and this combination led to changes in the FN dates.

Whenever the FN was written it means that the calendar prevailed then is imprinted in the FN. However, if and when an old calendar was replaced by a newer one, the replacement caused a dilemma to the scribe, in most cases: a priest. On the one hand he wanted the text to stay as it is, according the rules of any scribe who copies with the greatest care. On the other hand, the scribe realized that there is a gap between his own daily calendar and the calendar in the text. This discrepancy caused the scribe to improve his text, since who doesn’t want to improve his own performance, and his dedication to his profession caused him to improve the text. From now on the text will not disclose an invalid calendar but rather a better one, the calendar at the time of the scribe.

Now, in Qumran some 20 odd texts with Calendrical issues were found, and this heavy literature from the 1-2 centuries BCE can not be taken but as reflecting a high awareness of Calendrical issues.26 Moreover, comparing the calendar(s) in Qumran with the (older) Rabbinic calendar shows several differences, and there is a good reason to assume that the calendar was one of the key-issues for sectarianism in Antiquity.27 So it is not too difficult to assume that such polemical attitudes towards any “other” calendar were in existence in earlier centuries, especially when King Jerobam (later to be rightfully a paradigm of a sectarian), is accused of inventing a month out of his heart (1 Kings 12:33). In other words, unlike other changes in the text that were caused more or less “naturally”, any change in a date in the FN should be taken as either as an adherence to an old calendar or as imposing on an old text a new calendar, and a more precise one.

F. Changed Dates – Changed Calendars

While remembering all this in the background one should look at the “problematic” dates, that is trying to explain for what reason one scribe would change a date, and what was the “direction” of the change, was it from A to B or from B to A. Now, in the LXX the Flood began at 27/2, not 17/2, and one should realize what stands behind this change. However, as was demonstrated earlier, the date of 17/2 at the beginning has a sense while 27/2 makes no sense, unless it is “deduced” from the last date: 27/2 of the second year. In other words, the scribe of LXX knew that the FN ends in 27/2 and therefore changed the first date to 27/2 to make the whole FN a full year, which is a solar year (that might be derived from the 150 days), as was the case for Egypt for Millennia.

The MT gives a final date of 27/2, which on a first glance doesn’t correspond with the beginning of 17/2, though in a second look it does make a sense. The gap between 17/2 of one year to 27/2 of the next year is a gap of 11 days, and that denotes the gap between a lunar year (of 354 days) and a solar year (365 days). That is to say that all scribes intended to denote a full year though each of them had a different calendar in mind. 360 days a year reflect one solar calendar, the Flood that lasted from 17/2 till 17/2 of the next year reflects another solar calendar (as well as from 27/2 till 27/2 of the next year), and it is clear that a beginning in 17/2 and an end on the next year 27/2 reflects a luni-solar year. However, to evaluate these calendars, who was first, and what was the “original” date of the end one should consider the other dates of the FN because they, as a whole, should be evaluated to give an idea concerning the calendar, so now it is time to consider the other dates in the FN.

The first date in the FN is 17/2 and the second is 17/7. If these dates make some meaning it is that they correspond to the 150 days in the quantitative system, or to 5 months of 30 days each, that is a solar year. As already stated the first date by itself is a kind of a tally from 1/1, since it reflects the 7 + 40 days from the beginning of the narrative till the beginning of the Flood. In all, the 3 consecutive date: 1/1 (that is not in the text), 17/2 and 17/7 reflect a solar calendar, and these “3 dots on a line” are the basis to analyze a forth date: the last one. The last date in the MT is 27/2 while in Qumran it is 17/2.28 To evaluate this text-deviation one is not allowed to consider theological concepts, nor one is supposed to rely on philology: only Numerology and Calendrical understanding should be used. All what is needed now is to extend the line of the “3 dots” to the fourth dot, and that is: ending in17/2. In other words, three dates in the FN (1st, 2nd and 5th) with the “calculated” date of its beginning (date 0) reflect together a solar calendar.

It is a well-known fact that Jewish calendar is a luni-solar one and now it is evident that this calendar is not reflected in the FN. It is true that some Medieval Rabbis claimed that the Jewish calendar was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, though not everybody agrees on that. From the astronomical point of view, so far as one can tell, this type of luni-solar calendar is named after Meton, an astronomer of Athens who “invented” this (type of) calendar in the 5th century BCE.29 Some modern scholars claim that Meton didn’t invent this calendar but actually he took it from Babylonian predecessor astronomers. With all the uncertainties of the origin of this calendar, two issues are clear: 1) this is a more modern calendar in comparison with the 360 days Solar year; 2) it is more precise. Given all the above data and analysis, it seems that now it is clear that the “original” calendar of the FN was a Solar one and it is assumed that only after the Judaic calendar was changed (or: improved) from the solar one to the luni-solar one, the last date of the FN was changed from 17/2 to 27/2. By this change the scribe “improved” the text. The slight change in the date was actually imposing the new calendar on the old text showing that already Noah in the Ark used it. Nothing is new under the sun.

There are still two dates left to be discussed, the third one: 1/10 and the fourth: 1/1, two separate dates that derived not necessarily from a solar calendar (and look like “cardinal dates”). While the discussed above dates end with 7, so they have a “circle” relation to each other, the other two dates are the first day of the month so they play a role of a smaller circle in a bigger one (though with a different axis). Needless to say that priority of discussion should be given to 1/1, the beginning of the year. Now the great event that happened in 1/1 was that the water dried up or the earth dried up, as the two expressions of the text declare. In a way this event resembles the beginning of the world when the Creator separated the water from earth. So the story of the Ark was not only the story of Noah but actually the story of the whole world: the Lord created the world twice, in the beginning and after the Flood, and both dates correspond to each other, though Gen. 1 doesn’t give any date (probably deliberately). It is granted that since one stands in 1/1 in any given year and calendar, because of the nature of the circling time, he comes back to the very beginning and this is the case of Noah of course: God recreated the world and it is self-evident that he acted at the “same” time: 1/1. When one recalls that “date 0” was earlier tallied as 1/1 without usage of this fourth date in the FN, it becomes evident that the dates do convey a meaning, though implicitly. Not only does 1/1 correspond to the beginning of the world, it also corresponds to the beginning of the story (with the hidden implication that it was told in the Temple in the very same date).

Only one date still waits to be analyzed and that is the third date: 1/10 (when the head of the mountains were seen). This date seems to be the “weakest” date in the whole structure.30 Its weakness is manifested in the fact that it doesn’t belong to any specific calendar: solar or luni-solar alike. This date is exactly 10 months after the beginning of the FN so it looks like tallied from the twice 150 days: 10 months of 30 days each (although the beginnings of the Flood and the FN were not the same).31 In other words, it looks like (for the second time) that the date of the relative system was built upon the quantitative system. At any event, one should admit that the whole Calendrical use in the FN wouldn’t have suffered much assuming this date wouldn’t be given so it may be that 1/10 was given to be correlated with 1/1: two dates at the beginning of a “season”. Two dates together make a better story and a better calendar; five dates during a year long are even much better.32

It the end, it should be admitted that so far the Calendrical astronomical background of the FN was concealed, even until this very day, probably because of changes in the way time was measured and calendar was made. Therefore, the scribe who adjusted the text to his own time calendar thought the changing the last date would suffice to reflect the luni-solr calendar. The ancient scribe (not later than the Hasmonean period) probably wasn’t aware of the fact that all of the dates together served as a kind of a finger-print and changing one date only will be disclosed, one day or another. At any even, our days, for millennia, the FN of the MT, reflects the Rabbinic tradition, imprinted in a Calendar that looks very similar to the one used in post-Biblical Judaism. In all, the calendar defeated the text.

Summing up this discussion by a table, it looks as follows:

(Note: Red or underlined denotes inexplicit).


The numbers in the FN have a message of their own. These numbers look like a way of telling a secret in a public manner. Many generations later the calendar was considered to be a secret and maybe the calendar might have had this type of secrecy much earlier. At any event, analysis of the numbers of the FN exposes several strata of development in the text: 1) FN without numbers, probably in oral tradition only (a Myth). 2) FN with a quantitative numbers denote solar calendar, primitive in nature. 3) FN with an improved understanding of a Solar calendar, from 17/2 to 17/2 (real History).33 4) FN with an improved calendar, a luni-Solar, from 17/2 to 27/2 (=MT), a calendar that the Jewish modern one is its descendants. 5) The LXX text was a response to the “modernization” of the text, from 27/2 to 27/2, though this is an inferior text that suffers from incoherence with the quantitative numbers.

When one is looking at the Flood he watches not only a divine punishment and salvation, rather also synchronization of texts and calendars. Discussing numbers only gives a new methodology of cross-reference of the source-theory. Since Numerology is a language non-conditional, it can be implied to text in whatever language (with whatever God’s name) and being “blind” to language, and “source” as well, it is found a useful tool in analyzing the FN, especially when the main concern of the scribe, in the final form of the text, is the calendar. It is hoped that in the future more studies like this will take place to reevaluate old theories concerning the meaning of numbers as well as the sources-theory that is related to them.

The numbers that are mentioned or discussed in this paper are: 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 15, 30, 40, 47, 60, 100, 120, 150, 300, 354, 360, 364, 365, 401, 600

The dates that are mentioned or discussed in this paper are: 1/1, 17/2, 27/2, 1/7, 17/7, 1/10,


d - day
E – Elohim, the name of God in the Biblical text, called Priestly source by modern scholars.
J – Jaheweh, the name of God in the Biblical text, called Jahwist source by modern scholars.
L – Lunar
LXX – Septuagint (The Greek Bible, named after its 70 translators)
MT – Masoretic Text, the texstus receptus of the Jewish Bible.
P - Priestly
Q - Qumran
S – Solar
t – time
Y - year

1. M. Bar-Ilan, ‘Astrology in Ancient Judaism’, Astronomy in Ancient Judaism’, J. Neusner, A. Avery-Peck and W. S. Green (eds.), The Encyclopaedia of Judaism, V, Supplement Two, Leiden - Boston: Brill, 2004, pp. 2031-2044.

2. M. Bar-Ilan, Genesis Numerology, Rehovot: Association for Jewish Astrology and Numerology, 2004 (Hebrew). For an English review of the book, see:

3. U. Cassuto, Genesis Commentary: miNoach vead Abraham, Second edition, Jerusalem: Magness, 1953, pp. 32-84 (Hebrew).

4. A. Jaubert, ‘Le calendrier des Jubilés et de la secte de Qumrân. Ses origines bibliques’, VT 3 (1953), 250-264.

5. Liora Ravid, ‘The Book of Jubilees and its Calendar – A Reexamination’, Dead Sea Discoveries, 10/3 (2003), pp. 371-394; S. Najm and Ph. Guillaume, ‘Jubilee Calendar Rescued from the Flood Narrative’, Journal of Hebrew scripture, 5/1 (2004) [in:].

6. Frederick H. Cryer, ‘The Interrelationships of Gen. 5,32; 11,10-11 and the Chronology of the Flood (Gen. 6-9)’, Biblica, 66 (1985), pp. 241-261.

7. Richard E. Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?, New York: Summit Books, 1987, pp. 53-60.

8. James G. Frazer, Folk-Lore in the Old Testament, London: MacMillan and Co., 1919, I., pp. 104-361.

9. The number 7 is one of the most famous numbers in the Bible. Here 7 serves as a rite of passage from normal life to chaos (and the other way around, compare: Lev. 12:2; 13:4). The number 40 (that comes from 4 that denotes cosmos multiplied by 10, that is corporeal) denotes a cosmic transformation (like in Gen. 25:20; 50:3; Exod 34:28; and more). The number 150 has no “meaning” by itself (as is clear by the fact that the numbers appears in the Bible only once more: 1 Kings 10:29 = 2 Chro. 1:17) which means that the number denotes practical (if not historical) usage: 5 months of 30 days each. However, 2 times 5 (months x 30 days) denote some kind of completeness like 2 x 5 that total 10 fingers.

10. Compare to the use of ‘aherim’ or ‘aherot’ in Biblical usage, such as: Gen. 29:27 or Gen. 41:3. It is evident that this word implies another sum of days (or whatever) as was done earlier.

11. These 3 times 7 days denote, so it looks, a kind of a gradual change as explicitly stated in the text. Compare: Ezekiel 45:18-20.

12. Ellen Robbins, Studies in the Prehistory of the Jewish calendar, Ph.D. New York University 1989 (University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan 1990), pp. 139-142.

13. The advantage of a solar year to the throne is evident since the support of each victuallers depends on agriculture and raising crops is done according the solar year, not the lunar one (The Arabs that hold the Lunar calendar until this very day were originally nomads so they had no advantage in the solar calendar).

14. 6 times 6 is called "dunamis" in Greek, that is strength, so the concept of 6 is strengthen by itself to be the "purest" of all 6 (just like in the Bible one reads about 7 times 7 to get the best idea of the 7; Lev 25:8). 10 is not explicitly stated in the FN, though it is concealed in the fact that Noah is the 10th generation of Adam (and Abraham is the 10th generation of Noah). That is to say, only the 10th is holy to God (Lev 27:32).

15. J. Klein, ‘The “Bane” of Humanity: A Lifespan of One Hundred Twenty Years’, Acta Sumerologica, 12 (1990), pp. 57-70. While Klein takes 120 as derived from 2x60, it should rather be taken as 12x10. The meaning of 12 is (a whole of a) time, and the whole issue is time (either in the Sumerian or the Biblical text). The meaning of 10 is (a whole of a) corporeal (after the 10 fingers) man, so 12x10 denotes a whole of a man in a whole of a time = 120.

16. Niels P. Lemche, ‘The Chronology of the Story of the Flood', JSOT, 18 (1980), pp. 52-62.

17. The discussion omits any assumption concerning numbers or dates that are not in the text, such as: 1) counting the intervals between two dates in the FN; 2) assuming that specific date happened in a specific day of the week (and then saying that the FN calendar is like the Qumranites’).

18. D. Pingree, ‘Indian and Pseudo-Indian Passages in Greek and Latin Astronomical and Astrological Texts’, Viator, 7 (1976), pp. 141-195 (esp. 149 ff.); D. Pingree, From Astral Omens to Astrology from Babylon to Bikaner, p. 53-54; Bernard R. Goldstein, ‘Astronomy and the Jewsih Community in Early Islam’, Aleph, 1 (2001), pp. 17-57 (esp. 26-30).

19. As a matter of fact, this author attributes other events to 1/1 such as: 1) Abraham built an altar (13:8); 2) The wine was kept by Noah until 1/1 (7:2); 3) The Lord spoke to Jacob in Bet El (27:19); 4) Levi was born (28:14). In Pseudepigrapha, as well as in Rabbinic traditions, there were more events said to happen on that special date.

20. J. Van Goudoever, Biblical Calendars (Second Revised edition), Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1961, pp. 71-86. There is no reason to assume an existence of a liturgical calendar, but the dates rather denote a deeper awareness of time than former prophets

21. When one imposes an additional data on a given text, who should consider the benefit, so when one imposes the date of the beginning of the FN it helps in a way. However, when one imposes the Sabbatical calendar on the FN it doesn’t help the text but rather it helps the modern scholar to claim that the Qumranic calendar is derived from the assumed Biblical one.

22. The most important event that happened on 1/1 is the inauguration of the Tabernacle (Ex. 40:17), but it was also the beginning of sanctifying the Temple in the days of King Hezkia (2 Chro. 29:17). It was the date of Ezikiel’s prophecy (Ezek. 29:17) and it was a special Feast to pure the Temple (Ezek. 45:18). Ezra began his jouney to the Land of Israel, and on the same date was the end of the process of separation from non-Jewish wives (Ezra 7:9, 10:7) See also the pseudepigraphic Ezra 5:6.

23. Reading punishments to the public on the first day of the year, though implicit, goes very ewell with Rabbinic tradition. See: M. Bar-Ilan, ‘Blessings and Curses are Read before Rosh Hashana’, Sinai, 110 (1992), pp. 29-35 (Hebrew).

24. It should be noted that not only in the FN there is a change between the numbers in the MT and the LXX, but in Genesis (and other books) there are other “deviations” between the two versions. Therefore, any discussion of this phenomenon will not be completed without discussing the whole range of numbers. See, for example: B.Z. Wacholder, Essays on Jewish Chronology and Chronography, New York: Ktav, 1976, pp. 106-113.

25. The reason why there is no textual fluidity in the quantitative numbers is simple since the calendar is not manifested and one can not see any threat in such numbers (and see below).

26. Sh. Talmon, ‘Calendars and Mishmarot’, L. H. Schiffman and J. C. VanderKam (eds.), Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Oxford: Oxford University press, 200, I, pp. 108-117.

27. M. Bar-Ilan, ‘The Reasons for Sectarianism According to the Tannaim and Josephus’s Allegation of the Impurity of Oil for the Essenes’, Lawrence H. Schiffman, E. Tov and J. C. VanderKam (eds.), The Dead Sea Scrolls Fifty Years after Their Discovery - Proceedings of the Jerusalem Congress, July 20-25, 1997, Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2000, pp. 587-599.

28. Timothy H. Lim, ‘The Chronology of the Flood Story in a Qumran Text (4Q252)’, JJS, 43/2 (1992), pp. 288-298; Moshe A. Zipor, ‘The Flood Chronology: Too Many An Accident’, DSD, 4/2 (1997), pp. 207-210.

29. Alan C. Bowen and Bernard R. Goldstein, ‘Meton of Athens and Astronomy in the Late Fifth Century B.C.’, E. Leichty, Maria deJ. Ellis and Pamela Gerardi (eds.), A Scientific Humanist: Studies in Memory of Abraham Sachs, Philadelphia: Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Fund, 9, 1988, pp. 39-81.

30. This date appears in: 1) Ezra 10:16-17 (the end of separation connected to 1/1); 2) Probably Esther 2:16; 3) Jubilees 33:1 while discussing the itinerary of Jacob.

31. Some scholars made their own calculation such as counting 73 days from 17/7/600 to 1/10/600. However, by doing this scholars do not serve the text but rather make virtual calculations that lead to nothing.

32. If one considers the hypothesis that each source comes from a different region (J from Judea and E from the northern monarchy) he make take 1 Kings 12:33 as a support for this hypothesis. That is to say: related monarchies, texts and calendars are reflected in the FN.

33. One may claim that this stage of two different solar calendars reflected in one text is like what had been said on 1 Enoch 72-74 (360 and 364 days’ calendars). See: G. Boccaccini, ‘The Solar Calendars of Daniel and Enoch’, John J. Collins and P. W. Flint (eds.), The Book of Daniel Composition and Reception, Leiden: Brill, 2001, pp. 311-328.