Year, the highest ordinary division of time. Two years were known to, and apparently used by, the Hebrews.
1. A year of 360 days appears to have been in use in Noah’s time. 2. The year used by the Hebrews from the time of the exodus may be said to have been then instituted, since a current month, Abib, on the 14th day of which the first Passover was kept, was then made the first month of the year. The essential characteristics of this year can be clearly determined, though we cannot fix those of any single year. It was essentially solar, for the offering of productions of the earth, first-fruits, harvest produce and ingathered fruits, was fixed to certain days of the year, two of which were in the periods of great feasts, the third itself a feast reckoned from one of the former days. But it is certain that the months were lunar, each commencing with a new moon. There must therefore have been some method of adjustment. The first point to be decided is how the commencement of each year was fixed. Probably the Hebrews determined their new year’s day of the observation of heliacal or other star-risings or settings known to mark the right time of the solar year. It follows, from the determination of the proper new moon of the first month, whether by observation of a stellar phenomenon or of the forwardness of the crops, that the method of intercalation can only have been that in use after the captivity—the addition of a thirteenth month whenever the twelfth ended too long before the equinox for the offering of the first-fruits to be made at the time fixed. The later Jews had two commencements of the year, whence it is commonly but inaccurately said that they had two years, the sacred year and the civil. We prefer to speak of the sacred and civil reckonings. The sacred reckoning was that instituted at the exodus, according to which the first month was Abib; by the civil reckoning the first month was the seventh. The interval between the two commencements was thus exactly half a year. It has been supposed that the institution at the time of the exodus was a change of commencement, not the introduction of a new year, and that thenceforward the year had two beginnings, respectively at about the vernal and the autumnal equinox. The year was divided into—
1. Seasons. Two seasons are mentioned in the Bible, “summer” and “winter.” The former properly means the time of cutting fruits, the latter that of gathering fruits; they are therefore originally rather summer and autumn than summer and winter. But that they signify ordinarily the two grand divisions of the year, the warm and cold seasons, is evident from their use for the whole year in the expression “summer and winter.” Ps. 74:17; Zech. 14:8. 2. Months. [Months.] 3. Weeks. [Weeks.]