Friday, March 18, 2022

The Hebrew noun שנה (shānāh, pronounced sha-NAH) is the word for "year." It is derived from the verb of the same spelling, שנה (shānāh), meaning "to change, repeat." In the Hebrew Bible, שנה (shānāh) is used to both measure and divide time. Some well-known uses of שנה (shānāh) are Genesis 41:53: "The seven years (שני) of plenty that prevailed in the land of Egypt came to an end," and Exodus 16:35: "The Israelites ate manna forty years (שנה), until they came to a habitable land." The noun שנה (shānāh) can also be used to indicate age, as in 2 Kings 22:1: "Josiah was eight years old (שנה) when he began to reign," or to measure the length of someone's life, as in Genesis 5:27: "Thus all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty-nine years (שנה)."

As a means of dividing time, שנה (shānāh) plays an important role in the ritual calendar of ancient Israel, as can be seen in Exodus 23:14–17: "Three times in the yearשנה) you shall hold a festival for me…You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the yearשנה), when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Three times in the yearשנה) all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD." Perhaps the most visible use of the word שנה (shānāh) is in the Jewish holiday Rosh HaShanah (ראשׁ השׁנה), or "Head/Start of the Year"—the Jewish New Year's Day.