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One More Look at Timing in Tanach


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Tevet 21 5781
We have been dealing with p’sukim that are unclear about the timing of certain events in Tanach. The example of the Ibn Ezra with which we will deal now is the opening prophecy of Yechezkel during "the 30th year" (Yechezkel 1:1), with the question again being: 30th year from what? The next p’sukim continue with the opening of a prophecy "in the fifth year from the exile of King Yehoyachin, in the Land of the Kasdim on the River Kvar." Rashi explains that these p’sukim are not part of the prophecy but were added to the book with ruach hakodesh. There are other examples of counting from the time of the exile of Yehoyachin elsewhere – in Melachim II, 25:27 and Yirmiyahu 52:31 – in the 37th year since his exile, Yehoyachin was removed from prison.

In Seder Olam Rabba (ch. 26), our opening of Yechezkel’s prophecy is explained to be 30 years from the finding of the sefer Torah in the Beit Hamikdash, and this is the way Targum Yonatan translates this pasuk. The finding of the sefer Torah was a traumatic event, described in Melachim II, 22. The officers of the righteous King Yoshiyahu found it, and this helped arouse the king and his officers to repent, with the help of the prophetess Chulda. This took place during the eighteenth year of Yoshiyahu’s reign, which also was yovel (the jubilee year). Mahari Kra, a disciple of Rashi, makes the calculation, based on the dating we know of the various kings, that the fifth year of Yehoyachin’s exile was 30 years since the event of finding the sefer Torah. Rashi also finds a hint of the connection between the timing of Yechezkel’s prophecies and the timing of the yovel in the pasuk: "It was in the 25th year of our exile, on Rosh Hashana on the tenth of the month" (Yechezkel 40:1). Rashi cites the Rabbis as saying that only during the yovel year do we have a beginning of the year that takes place on the tenth of the month (see Vayikra 25:9).

Let us now turn to the general question – why does Tanach employ dating that at times does not clarify the timing but confuses it and does not always maintain chronological consistency? It is possible that all of these unusual phenomena hint to us that Tanach is a work in which time is not the determining factor. Tanach is a written in a lofty manner, whose source is divine, and deals with truths that are connected to lofty spiritual worlds, which are above the physical world. Time is part of the material world, whereas prophecy is above it. When we are discussing how Hashem runs the world, there is no difference between the past, the present, and the future. Prophecies that are dealing with events from the distant past are prophecies that are dealing with lessons that impact us for future generations and transcend the rules of time.

In this material world, we will continue to thank Hashem for the miracles that happened to our fathers and to us in those days at these times.
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