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YEAR (Heb. שָׁנָה, shanah), the period during which the earth makes one complete revolution around the sun. This period corresponds roughly to 12 revolutions of the moon around the earth. The determination of the length of a year and its 12 parts for fixing agricultural, cultic, and political cycles led to the development of calendars. Three of these are clearly attested in the Bible. The most common one, which is accepted by the priestly stratum of the Pentateuch (e.g., Lev. 16:29), designates the months of the year numerically as do the pre-Exilic prophets (e.g., Jer. 28:1). Elsewhere in the Pentateuch, as in the pre-Exilic historical books, the months are given names of apparently Canaanite origin. The Book of Deuteronomy employs each system once (Deut. 1:3; 16:1). Post-Exilic writings designate the months by names of Babylonian origin.

The priestly calendar called for a solar year made up of 12 months of 30 days each. Thus the sun and moon were to "serve as signs for the set times – the days and the years" (Gen. 1:14), but not for the months. Consequently, the duration of the Deluge – from the 17th of the second month to the 17th of the seventh month – was exactly 150 days (Gen. 7:11; 8:3–4).

In this calendar the days were counted from sunrise, as noted by Ibn Ezra in his commentary on Genesis 1:5. Leviticus 23:32, however, may point to the reckoning of days from the end of twilight.

The first month of the year in the priestly calendar was that in which Passover fell (Ex. 12:1–2, 18). Thus there were five and a half months intervening between the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:39ff.) and the beginning of the new year and exactly six months between the former and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. A second biblical calendar, that of the Covenant Code (Ex. 21–24) and the Smaller Covenant Code (Ex. 34) designated the Feast of Ingathering as the end of the year (Ex. 23:16) or the turn of the year (Ex. 34:22). In this calendar, therefore, the Feast of Unleavened Bread would presumably come in the seventh month. The latter was designated by the name Abib, "green ear of grain," rather than by number.

The designation of this month by name and the general agreement that the Covenant Code reflects the early monarchical period or the period of the Judges have led to the assumption that the calendar of je is the same as that referred to in i Kings 6–8. There it is stated that the foundations of Solomon's Temple were laid in the month of Ziv (i Kings 6:1,37), that the Temple was completed seven years later in the month of Bul (i Kings 6:38), and that it was dedicated in the month of Ethanim (i Kings 8:2). The special word for month (Heb. yeraḥ) used in these contexts which is attested altogether only 12 times in the entire Hebrew Bible, refers specifically to a lunar month. In each of these passages in i Kings the narrator gives the equivalent date according to the priestly calendar. The lunar month of Ziv is therefore designated also as the second 30-day month (Heb. ḥodesh).

Evidently the transition from a year of named lunar months to a year of numerically designated months of 30 days each took place between the time of King Solomon and the redaction of the Book of Kings. The months of the later calendar were designated by the term previously employed for New Moon (Heb. ḥodesh, e.g., i Sam. 20:18).

The calendar of the early monarchy corresponds to the *Gezer Calendar in three respects. These are (1) the lunar month (Her. yeraḥ); (2) the association of the names of months with agricultural phenomena; and (3) the beginning of the year with the ingathering (Heb. ʾasif).

There is no biblical evidence as to how the lunar calendar of the early monarchy was reconciled with the solar year. It is obvious, however, that this agricultural calendar could not ignore it. The 360-day priestly calendar, however, may very well not have been reconciled with the true solar year by intercalation inasmuch as the Egyptians assumed a 360-day year down to 237 b.c.e.

The third biblical calendar, which is first attested in Zechariah 1:7 and 7:1, employs the Babylonian month names, which go back to the calendar of Nippur that antedated Hammurapi. According to rabbinic tradition, these names were imported by those who returned to the land of Israel from the Babylonian Exile (tj, rh 1:2, 56d). It is most likely that these immigrants also introduced the lunar-solar calendar and the intercalation of a month to reconcile the lunar and solar years, a characteristic of the Babylonian calendar. The adoption of the Babylonian calendar was also responsible for the custom of reckoning the day from the previous evening (e.g., Esth. 4:16; Dan. 8:14). While Zechariah and Esther (Esth. 2:16, et al.) clarify dates in the priestly calendar by reference to the Babylonian system, Nehemiah (Neh. 2:1) employs only the Babylonian names of months.

The Book of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch both reflect sectarian tendencies which regarded the Babylonian lunar-solar calendar as offensive to God as the eating of blood (Jub. 6:38). The sectarians opposed the rabbis' adjustment of the calendar based on the observation of the moon, and they insisted on no deviation from a year of 52 weeks and 364 days (Jub. 6:30–32). The 364 days were attained by counting 12 months of 30 days each and four intercalary days (i En. 82:6). Despite speculations to the contrary, the testimony of the sources admits of no further adjustments.

It has been widely asserted that the priestly calendar's numbering of the months beginning with that in which Passover falls reflects the Babylonian akītu-festival or spring New Year. Y. Kaufmann, however, has argued convincingly that both the spring and the autumn New Years are of equally ancient native Israelite origin. Thus the very oldest biblical calendars (Ex. 23:15; 34:18) begin the numbering of the festivals with the Feast of Unleavened Bread while even the priestly calendar figured the beginning of the agricultural year from the seventh month of the liturgical year (Lev. 25:8; cf. Deut. 11:12; 31:10).

Aside from the 50 days which intervene between Passover and Pentecost (Lev. 23:16; Deut. 16:9), there is no evidence for a pentecostal calendar in ancient Israel. The theory which assumes such a calendar is based on a most dubious interpretation of the time-unit ḥumuštum mentioned in Old Assyrian economic texts from Cappadocia.

In the Pentateuch years and months are sometimes numbered from the Exodus (Ex. 19:1; Num. 9:1) as in i Kings 6:1. The pre-Exilic prophets and historical books generally number the years in accordance with the years of the reign of the kings of Israel and Judah while post-Exilic writers number the years with reference to the years of the reign of the ruler of Persia (Haggai 1:1; Neh. 2:1).

In Jewish tradition, the religious year begins in the month of Nisan, while the civil year (e.g., in reigns of kings or in contracts) in Tishri.


M. Muss-Arnolt, in: jbl, 11 (1829), 72–94; B. Meissner, Babylonien und Assyrien, 1 (1920), 125ff.; J. Morgenstern, in: huca, 1 (1924), 13–77; Kaufmann Y., Toledot, 2 (1960), 491–8; de Vaux, Anc Isr, 178–93; M. Gruber, in: Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society of Columbia University, 1 (1969), 14–20; R.T. Beckwith, in: Revue de Qumran, 27 (1970), 379–96.

[Mayer Irwin Gruber]

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