The Gezer Almanac

Photo source: PBS (WGBH) "The Bible's Buried Secrets"
credit: Holyland Photos
Language: Hebrew
Medium: limestone
Size: 11.1 centimeters long
7.2 centimeters wide
Length: 7 lines of writing
+ margin signature
Genre: Student Exercise?
Approximate Date: 925 BCE
Place of Discovery: Tell el-Jazari
ancient Gezer

(30km NW of Jerusalem)
Excavation Director: R. A. S. Macalister
Date of Discovery: 1908
Current Location: Syria/Palestine Collection
Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Hebrew Text
(from Gibson 1973:2)
ירחו אסף ירחו ז
two months of harvest, two months of plant-
רע ירחו לקש
ing, two months of late planting
ירח עצד פשת
a month of hoeing flax
ירח קצר שערם
a month of barley harvest
ירח קצר וכל
a month of harvest and feasting
ירחו זמר
two months of (vine) pruning
ירח קץ
a month of summer fruit
scribe's name

Two months—this is a dual form (see Tropper 1993).
Late planting—this is a rare term; see Amos 7:1.
Flax was grown in the ancient Near East as early as Early Bronze IV. It has a variety of uses: its fibers can be spun to make linen (see Genesis 41:42; Leviticus 6:10; John 19:40), and the seeds can be cold-pressed to make linseed oil (used for both cooking and medicine).
Barley is a hearty grain that has a shorter growing season than wheat and is also better at surviving drought and strong heat. The grain was used in cooking (e.g., bread) and the stalks were used as fodder for animals. lt has been found in Israelite archaeological sites from both the Iron I and Iron II eras. See Exodus 9:31; Leviticus 27:16; Ruth 1:2; John 6:9; Revelation 6:6.
Summer fruit—see 2 Samuel 16:1; Jeremiah 40:10; Amos 8:1-2.
Abijah—in all liklihood, this is the name of the scribe. His name means “Yah is my father.” This name appears in the Bible for several different individuals, including a king of Judah (see 1 Kings 14:31).

1. What functions might this inscription have served?
2. What does this inscription tell us about the agricultural year in Palestine? See Borowski 1987, 1992; Talmon 1963.
3. What does this inscription tell us about peasant crops? What is the importance of crop diversity and crop rotation for peasant farming?
4. How did the major festivals of ancient Israel relate to this seasonal pattern? See Vanderkam 1992.
5. What is the average rainfall in Palestine? How does this relate to the crop cycle? See Frick 1990, 1992a, 1992b.

Albright, W. F. “The Gezer Calendar.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 82 (1943) 18-24.
Albright, W. F. “Palestinian Inscriptions.” In Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by James B. Pritchard, 320-22. 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969.
Borowski, Oded. “Agriculture.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 1.95-98. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Borowski, Oded. Agriculture in Iron Age Israel. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1987.
Cassuto, Umberto. “The Gezer Calendar and Its Historical-Religious Value.” In idem, Biblical and Oriental Studies. Vol. 2: Bible and Ancient Oriental Texts, 211-28. Trans. I. Abrahams. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1975.
Frick, Frank S. “Ecology, Agriculture and Patterns of Settlement.” In The World of Ancient Israel: Sociological, Anthropological and Political Perspectives, edited by R. E. Clements, 67-93. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989.
Frick, Frank S. “Palestine, Climate of.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 5:119-26. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Frick, Frank S. “Rain.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 5:612. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
de Geus, C. H. J. “The Importance of Agricultural Terraces, with an excursus on the Hebrew word gbî.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 107 (1975) 65-74.
Gibson, John C. L. Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions, vol. 1. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973.
Hopkins, David. “The Dynamics of Agriculture in Monarchical Israel.” In SBL Seminar Papers, 1983, 177-202. Chico, Calif.: Scholars, 1983.
Hopkins, David C. The Highlands of Canaan: Agricultural Life in the Early Iron Age. Social World of Biblical Antiquity 3. Sheffield: Almond, 1985.
Hopkins, David. “Life on the Land: The Subsistence Struggles of Early Israel.” Biblical Archaeologist 50 (1987) 178-91.
Jacob, Irene, and Walter Jacob. “Flora.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 2:803-17. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Macalister, R. A. S. The Excavation of Gezer, 1902–1905 and 1907–1909. 3 vols. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1911–12.
Rahtjen, B. D. “A Note Concerning the Form of the Gezer Tablet.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 93 (1961) 70-72.
Sivan, Daniel. “The Gezer Calendar and Northwest Semitic Linguistics.” Israel Exploration Journal 48 (1998) 101-5.
Smelik, Klaas A. D. Writings From Ancient Israel: A Handbook of Historical and Religious Documents. Translated by G. I. Davies. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991.
Stager, Lawrence E. “The First Fruits of Civilization." In Palestine in the Bronze and Iron Ages: Papers in Honour of Olga Tufnell, edited by J. N. Tubb, 172-88. London: Institute of Archaeology, 1985.
Talmon, Shemaryahu. “The Gezer Calendar and the Seasonal Cycle of Ancient Canaan.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 83 (1963) 177-87.
Tropper, J. “Nominativ Dual yarihau im Gezer-Kalender.” Zeitschrift für Althebräistik 6 (1993) 228-31.
Turkowski, L. “Peasant Agriculture in the Judean Hills.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 101 (1969) 101-12.
Vanderkam, James C. “Calendars, Ancient Israelite and Early Jewish.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 1:814-20. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Walsh, Carey Ellen. The Fruit of the Vine: Viticulture in Ancient Israel. Harvard Semitic Monographs 60. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2000.
Young, I. “The Style of the Gezer Calendar and Some ‘Archaic Biblical Hebrew’ Passages.” Vetus Testamentum 42 (1992) 362-75.

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Last Modified: 14 March 2011