Seven-day Week - Origins - Ancient Near East

Ancient Near East

See also: Babylonian calendar and Shabbat

Counting from the new moon, the Babylonians celebrated the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th as "holy-days", also called "evil days" (meaning "unsuitable" for prohibited activities). On these days officials were prohibited from various activities and common men were forbidden to "make a wish", and at least the 28th was known as a "rest-day". On each of them, offerings were made to a different god and goddess. Tablets from the 6th-century BC reigns of Cyrus the Great and Cambyses indicate these dates were sometimes approximate. The lunation of 29 or 30 days basically contained three seven-day weeks, and a final week of eight or nine days inclusive, breaking the continuous seven-day cycle. The Babylonians additionally celebrated the 19th as a special "evil day", the "day of anger", because it was roughly the 49th day of the (preceding) month, completing a "week of weeks", also with sacrifices and prohibitions. Difficulties with Friedrich Delitzsch's origin theory connecting Hebrew Shabbat with the Babylonian lunar cycle include reconciling the differences between an unbroken week and a lunar week, and explaining the absence of texts naming the lunar week as Shabbat in any language. Reconstruction of a broken tablet seems to define the rarely attested Babylonian Akkadian word Sapattum or Sabattum as the full moon: this word is cognate or merged with Hebrew Shabbat, but is monthly rather than weekly. It is regarded as a form of Sumerian sa-bat ("mid-rest"), attested in Akkadian as um nuh libbi ("day of mid-repose"). This conclusion is a contextual restoration of the damaged Enûma Eliš creation account, which is read as: "bbath shalt thou then encounter, midly".

The seven-day week is uniquely identified with Judaism: it appears in the Creation mythos in the Book of Genesis, in the Hebrew Bible, where Elohim (God) creates the heavens and the earth in six days and rests on the seventh (Genesis 1:1-2:3). In the Book of Exodus, the fourth of the Ten Commandments is to rest on the seventh day (Shabbat), which can be seen as implying a socially instituted seven-day week. Most who observe Biblical Sabbath affirm it as having been instituted as a perpetual covenant for the people of Israel (Exodus 31:13-17), a sign respecting two events: the day during which God rested after having completed the Creation in six days (Exodus 20:8-11), and God's deliverance from the Egyptian seven-day workweek (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). By synecdoche (naming a part for the whole), in Jewish sources by the time of the Septuagint, the term "Sabbath" (Greek Sabbaton) also came to mean an entire "se'nnight" or seven-day week, the interval between two weekly Sabbaths. Jesus's parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:12) describes the Pharisee as fasting "twice in the week" (Greek dis tou sabbatou).

Read more about this topic:  Seven-day Week, Origins

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