The Gezer Calendar Inscription (10th c. BCE)

The Gezer Calendar Inscription (10th c. BCE)

BiblicalHebrew.com, 2022

The Gezer Calendar, which dates to the tenth century BCE, is one of the oldest Hebrew inscriptions from ancient Israel. It was originally found in the material dumped from the Israelite layer of the Gezer site. It was probably written at some point between the time that Solomon rebuilt Gezer and its destruction by Pharaoh Shishak in around 925 BCE (Ah蹋ituv 2008, 252). The content of the inscription details various times of the agricultural year by months. The inscription reads as follows:

Original Text

饜饜饜饜 饜饜饜 饜饜饜饜 饜

饜饜 饜饜饜饜 饜饜饜

饜饜饜 饜饜饜 饜饜饜

饜饜饜 饜饜饜 饜饜饜饜

饜饜饜 饜饜饜 饜饜饜

饜饜饜饜 饜饜饜

饜饜饜 饜饜

饜饜饜[

Transcription with Audio (Ancient Script)

Ancient ScriptHistorical PronunciationTranslation

饜饜饜饜 饜饜饜

jar藞蠂e藧w 蕯a藞si藧p

鈥楬is two months,
i.e. ingathering鈥

饜饜饜饜 饜饜饜

jar藞蠂e藧w 藞zar蕰

鈥榟is two months,
i.e. sowing鈥

饜饜饜饜 饜饜饜

jar藞蠂e藧w la藞qi藧蕛

鈥榟is two months,
i.e. late sowing鈥

饜饜饜 饜饜饜 饜饜饜

jar藞蠂o藧 蕰藞峁d pi蕛藞ta藧

鈥榟is month,
i.e. cutting of flax鈥

饜饜饜 饜饜饜 饜饜饜饜

jar藞蠂o藧 qa藞峁藧r 涩i蕰o藧藞ri藧m

鈥榟is month,
i.e. harvest of barley鈥

饜饜饜 饜饜饜 饜饜饜

jar藞蠂o藧 qa藞峁藧r wa-藞ke藧l

鈥榟is month,
i.e. harvest and measuring鈥

饜饜饜饜 饜饜饜

jar藞蠂e藧w za藞mi藧r

鈥榟is two months,
i.e. vine harvest鈥

饜饜饜 饜饜

jar藞蠂o藧 藞qe藧峁

鈥榟is month,
i.e. summer harvest鈥

饜饜饜[饜

蕯abi藧藞jaw

鈥樖攁b墨y膩[w](?)鈥

Transcription with Audio (Modern Script)

Modern ScriptModern PointedTranslation

讬专讞讜 讗住祝

讬址专职讞指讜 讗指住执祝

鈥楬is two months,
i.e. ingathering鈥

讬专讞讜 讝专注

讬址专职讞指讜 讝侄专址注

鈥榟is two months,
i.e. sowing鈥

讬专讞讜 诇拽砖

讬址专职讞指讜 诇指拽执砖讈

鈥榟is two months,
i.e. late sowing鈥

讬专讞 注爪讚 驻砖转

讬址专职讞止 注植爪止讚 驻旨执砖讈职转旨指

鈥榟is month,
i.e. cutting of flax鈥

讬专讞 拽爪专 砖注专诐

讬址专职讞止 拽职爪执专 砖讉职注止专执诐

鈥榟is month,
i.e. harvest of barley鈥

讬专讞 拽爪专 讜讻诇

讬址专职讞止 拽指爪执专 讜指讻值诇

鈥榟is month,
i.e. harvest and measuring鈥

讬专讞讜 讝诪专

讬址专职讞指讜 讝指诪执专

鈥榟is two months,
i.e. vine harvest鈥

讬专讞 拽抓

讬址专职讞止 拽值抓

鈥榟is month,
i.e. summer harvest鈥

讗讘讬[讜

讗植讘执讬指[讜

鈥樖攁b墨y膩[w](?)鈥

Commentary

讬专状讞

Note that at this early stage of the language, two consonants were represented by the Hebrew letter 饜 岣t, namely the voiceless pharyngeal fricative /魔/ and the voiceless uvular fricative /蠂/. Based on cognates elsewhere in Semitic, such as Akkadian /war蠂um/ 鈥榤onth; new moon鈥, we may reasonably conclude that at this early stage of Hebrew the noun 讬专讞 鈥榤onth; new moon鈥 was pronounced as something like /jar蠂/.

讬专讞讜

At this early period, we should also generally assume that a vav, yod, or heh is not a mater lectionis. As such, the final vav would have to represent a consonantal [w]. For a complete calendar of 12 months, the 4 instances of 讬专讞讜 should each refer to 鈥榟is/its two months鈥 and the 4 cases of 讬专讞 (see below) should each refer to 鈥榟is/its month鈥 to add up to a total of 12 months. Therefore, the orthography 讬专讞讜 should reflect the 3MS possessive suffix on a dual noun: i.e., *jar蠂ayhu(藧) 鈫 *jar蠂e藧hu(藧) 鈫 *jar蠂e藧(h)u 鈫 *jar蠂e藧w.

讬专讞

The forms without any ending may be read according to the context with a 3MS suffix on the singular noun: i.e., /jar蠂u(h)/ or /jar蠂o(藧)(h)/. Although a final consonantal heh is common in such contexts in ancient epigraphy, it is possible that in this dialect the 3MS possessive suffix had lost the final /h/ so that it was pronounced simply as a long [o藧] vowel.

讗住祝

Note that the form 讗指住执祝 or 讗指住执讬祝 for 鈥榠ngathering鈥 occurs in the Bible: 讜职讞址证讙 讛指纸讗指住执祝謾 鈥榓nd the feast of ingathering鈥 (Exod. 23.16); 讜职讞址讙謾 讛指纸讗指住执謹讬祝 鈥榓nd the feast of ingathering鈥 (Exod. 34.22).

诇拽砖

A segholate noun for this root does appear in one verse in the Bible: 鈥徸懼贾醋白椫醋溨贾分栕 注植诇郑讜止转 讛址诇旨指謶拽侄砖讈 讜职讛执吱谞旨值讛志诇侄謹拽侄砖讈 讗址讞址謻专 讙旨执讝旨值芝讬 讛址诪旨侄纸诇侄讱职變 鈥榓t the beginning of when the latter growth came up, and look, latter growth after the king鈥檚 mowings鈥 (Amos 7.1). However, it may be preferable to posit a vocalization like 诇指拽执砖讈, as Ah蹋ituv does, since the term here is probably referring to the period of 鈥榣ate sowing鈥 (related to 诪址诇职拽讜止砖讈 鈥榣atter rain鈥) rather than the 鈥榣ate growth鈥 itself (2008, 254鈥255).

注爪讚

The root 注爪状讚 is not attested as a verb in the Bible, but the term 诪址注植爪指讚 鈥榓xe; adze鈥 is attested on two occasions: 讞指专址证砖讈 讘旨址专职讝侄诇謾 诪址纸注植爪指謹讚 鈥榯he ironsmith (takes) a cutting tool鈥 (Isa. 44.12); 讻旨执纸讬志注值抓謾 诪执讬旨址郑注址专 讻旨职专指转謹讜止 诪址注植砖讉值芝讛 讬职讚值芝讬志讞指专指謻砖讈 讘旨址纸诪旨址注植爪指纸讚變 鈥榝or he cuts down a tree from a forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool鈥 (Jer. 10.3). In the context, then, the sequence 注爪讚 驻砖转 should refer to the cutting of the flax (Ah蹋ituv 2008, 255). The precise vocalization of 注爪讚, however, is not clear. It could be the equivalent of 注植爪执讚, following Ah蹋ituv鈥檚 tendencies to pronounce most of these terms in the *qa峁璱藧l pattern. Alternatively, it could be an infinitive construct like */蕰峁d/, */蕰u峁d/, or something similar.

驻砖转

Note the lack of a final heh mater in the word 驻砖转讛 /pi蕛ta藧/ 鈥榝lax鈥, which is written with a final heh in the Hebrew Bible: e.g., 讜职讛址驻旨执砖讈职转旨指謻讛 鈥榓nd the flax鈥 (Exod. 9.31).

讜讻诇

The pronunciation of the form 讻诇 is uncertain. Presumably, it is a noun from the root 讻讜状诇 or 讻讬状诇, which can be used for 鈥榤easuring鈥 or 鈥榚nclosing鈥. As such, a vocalisation like /ki(藧)l/, /ka(藧)l/, /ko(藧)l/, or /ku(藧)l/ might be possible. We might opt for an 注状讜 or 注状讬 infinitive construct of /ki藧l/ or /ku藧l/. Ah蹋ituv suggests that it is a segholate noun from the root 讻讬状诇 with contraction of the diphthong (see below on 拽抓): i.e., */kajl/ 鈫 */ke藧l/ (Ah蹋ituv 2008, 256).

拽抓

The lack of a yod consonant in the orthography suggests the following development: */qaj峁/ 鈥榮ummer harvest鈥 鈫 */qe藧峁/. The contraction of diphthongs is a common feature of vernacular forms of Semitic languages. It has been argued that this is a particular feature of northern (or Israelite) Hebrew鈥攔ather than Judean鈥攂ut it is significant that it is attested here on the edge of the Shephelah as well, already at an early period. The author, however, may have been Israelite (Ah蹋ituv 2008, 256鈥257).

讗讘讬[讜

This is probably the name of either the owner or author of the tablet. If the name was pronounced as something like /蕯abi藧jaw/, it might mean 鈥榊HWH is (a) father鈥.

Bibliography:

A岣tuv, Shmuel. 2008. Echoes from the Past: Hebrew and Cognate Inscriptions from the Biblical Period. Jerusalem: Carta. Pages 252鈥257.

Albright, W. F. 1943. 鈥淭he Gezer Calendar.鈥 Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 92: 16鈥26.

Demsky, Aaron. 2002. 鈥淗ebrew Names in the Dual Form and the Toponym Yerushalayim.鈥 In These are the Names 鈥 Studies in Jewish Onomastics 3, edited by Aaron Demsky, 11鈥20. Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press.

Huehnergard, John. 2015. 鈥淏iblical Hebrew Nominal Patterns.鈥 In Epigraphy, Philology, and the Hebrew Bible: Methodological Perspectives on Philological and Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible in Honor of Jo Ann Hackett, edited by Jeremy M. Hutton, and Aaron D. Rubin, 25鈥64. Atlanta: SBL Press.

Lambdin, Thomas O., and John Huehnergard. 2000. The Historical Grammar of Classical Hebrew. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University.

Suchard, Benjamin D. 2020. The Development of the Biblical Hebrew vowels: Including a Concise Historical Morphology. Leiden: Brill.

I must also thank Jo Ann Hackett, who trained me in Northwest Semitic Epigraphy. Of course, any errors in the above are my own.

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