Where Did the Jewish Calendar Come From?

Returning from exile in the 5th century BCE, Jews brought with them the Babylonian names for the months and the Babylonian calendar itself. As Sacha Stern writes, it suited them:

The Babylonian calendar originated in Babylonia (southern Iraq) in the early second millennium BCE, spread to the rest of Mesopotamia in the late second millennium BCE, and then became, in the first millennium BCE, the official calendar of the great empires of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia, in use across the whole Near East. The Jews under Persian rule adopted it as their own calendar, as did many other peoples in the Persian empire.

The Jews adopted not only Babylonian month names but also the entire Babylonian calendar. This calendar was lunar, with each month beginning at the sight of a new moon. Since twelve lunar months are approximately eleven days shorter than the solar year, the Babylonian calendar was intercalated (or evened out) every two or three years by the addition of a thirteenth month (usually by duplicating the twelfth month, Adar, and less frequently by duplicating the sixth month, Elul). This allowed the lunar system to catch up with the sun and the seasons. This calendar may have been quite similar to the original Israelite one, which was most likely also lunar; indeed, this may have helped the Jews to adopt it without qualms. . . .

[A]fter the Jewish Hasmonean state broke off from its Hellenistic Seleucid overlords in the mid-2nd century BCE, the Jews no longer had any reason to comply with the calendar of distant Babylon, and their calendar soon acquired distinct features.

Get unlimited access to Mosaic: Subscribe now

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories FREE.

Register Now

Get unlimited access to Mosaic: Subscribe now

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories FREE.

Register Now

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: Ancient Persia, Babylonian Jewry, Halakhah, Maccabees, Religion & Holidays, Second Temple

The UN’s New Blacklist of Israeli Businesses Threatens Palestinians Most of All

Feb. 18 2020

Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council publicized a database of 112 companies—94 of which are based in Israel—that do business in “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory [sic], including East Jerusalem.” This list, three years in the making, evidently serves as a guide for those wishing, or promoting, a boycott of the Jewish state. As Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik explain in a detailed report, such a boycott would above all hurt Palestinians:

Sign up to read more.

You've read all your free articles for this month. Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture and politics.

Register Now

Sign up to read more.

You've read all your free articles for this month. Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture and politics.

Register Now

Read more at Palestinian Media Watch

More about: BDS, Palestinian economy, UNHRC