David Rice
Post Exhilic Sabbath Years
Sun Feb 17, 2008 00:09
64.12.116.145 (XFF: 81.106.124.212)

Hello, all --

a different subject just for a moment. There are different views about the dates on which Sabbath years were kept after the exile. Some conclude that a Sabbath commenced in 38 bc, others that a Sabbath commenced in 37 bc. The results would be a Sabbath beginning in year 68 ad, or one beginning in year 69 ad. In neither case would this be synchronous with a Sabbath year commencing in 445 bc, the year of Nehemiah's return. After Nehemiah's rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, that year he also had the Law read in the ears of the people -- which the Law says should be done on Sabbath years. But if a Sabbath began in 38 bc, then synchronous with this one should have begun in 444 bc, and if 37 bc then 443 bc -- neither hits the year of Nehemiah's return, namely 445 bc.

But there is a possible solution. When the Israelites returned in the first year of Cyrus, 538 bc, they started sacrifices upon a new altar that Tishri, and the next year after that they began work on the Temple, which was however delayed by objections from their enemies. The work did not resume until the second year of Darius Hystaspes, and was completed according to Ezra 6:15 in the spring of the year 515 bc (the year ending the sixth year of Darius). Perhaps upon completing that temple, with the Israelites spurred by Zechariah, Haggai, Joshua, and Zerubbabel to think of spiritual things again, that Tishri they observed a Sabbath year, thus re-initiating the series.

In that case a Sabbath commenced Tishri 515 bc, and another would be due with Tishri of 459 bc. It was during that year that Ezra returned with his commission -- perhaps he was stimulated to return in that year because of the occasion of a Sabbath year. And another Sabbath would be due with Tishri of 445 bc -- in accord with Nehemiah having the Law read publicly in that Tishri.

If this is correct -- that the Sabbath cycles were resumed following the dedication of the rebuilt temple -- then how do we explain the later Sabbaths following the days of the Maccabees, which are not synchronous with these? Perhaps the cycles were disrupted by the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes, who forcibly put an end to the public keeping of the Law -- presumably the Sabbath year as well. The Israelites rededicated the temple in December of 164 bc, and the next Tishri to approach would be 163 bc -- an opportunity to declare a Sabbath and resume a count -- just as the former dedication of the temple was followed by a resumption of a Sabbath year.

In this case a Sabbath would begin with Tishri of 163 bc -- which is synchronous with a Sabbath commencing in 69 ad. As far as I know, all Sabbath notices in post-exhilic records would be consistent with this approach. -- David Rice

  • Astronomical DatingDavid Rice, Sat Feb 16 01:54
    > Marianne (or others) -- do you have a convenient list of these at hand? -- David Rice
    • Post Exhilic Sabbath Years — David Rice, Sun Feb 17 00:09
      • Post-Exilic Sabbath YearsTory, Sun Feb 17 10:27
        Hi David, We need to know for certain the dates of Ezra's and Nehemiah's activity and which Persian kings they served. There is no explicit statement linking the public reading of the Torah by Ezra,... more
        • Re: Post-Exilic Sabbath YearsTory, Sat Feb 23 19:25
          Hi David, Or -- if we take 573 BCE to be the year of a Yovel (Jubilee), the 25th year of the captivity as reported in Ezekiel 40:1, then the fall of 515 BCE would be the start of the first year of a... more
      • Post-Exilic Sabbath YearsTory, Sun Feb 17 10:25
        Hi David, We need to know for certain the dates of Ezra's and Nehemiah's activity and which Persian kings they served. There is no explicit statement linking the public reading of the Torah by Ezra,... more
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