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Friday, January 21, 2005

The Crop-food Relationship and Sabbatical Year Dating

The Crop-food Relationship and Sabbatical Year Dating

Don Blosser explains:

“During the seventh year, the people are to eat food which was stored from the sixth year crop. This stored food was to be supplemented by the volunteer grpwth from the fields. But it should be noted that this volunteer growth was no to be harvested or sold commercially. It was to be made available to the poor, the widow, the sojorner, etc.

The people were expressing what appears to be a very legitimate concern. If we have no crop during the seventh year, what do we eat? Thus Josephus (reflecting the common assumption) refers to the seventh year as the year of the hardship.[i] But during the seventh year, the people are eating food derived from the crop harvested in the sixth year; just as in every year this year’s food comes from last year’s harvest. The criticial food problems developed during the eighth year (or the first year of the new sabbath cycle) when there was no seventh year crop to be used for food. Thus it was during the eighth year and not the seventh year that the people experienced real hardship.

A proper application of the year of hardship to the eighth year and no to the sabbath year itself helps in clearing up much of the chronology problems of the period.”[ii]

Blosser’s careful study clarifies the confusion about the crop-food relationship. It also illustrates how Josephus has contributed to the problem.

[i] Blosser cites Ant. XIII.240; XIII.378; XIV.475; XV.7; and War V.420-442. Loeb Classical Library editions.
[ii] Don Blosser, The Sabbath Year Cycle in Josephus, Hebrew Union College Annual 52 (1981), 130-131.


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