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Does Genesis 7:11 say:

A) the floodwaters burst open in the 17th day, the second month of the 600th year of Noah's life,
or
B) the floodwaters burst open in the 17th day, the second month in the 600th year of Noah's life

In other words does this passage give any indication as to whether the day and month given are of the calendar year or the year of Noah's life?

The difference would be analogous to: Was it on February 17 or was it 2 months and 17 days after Noah's birthday

I am endeavoring to discern if this plays into the difficulty in the time table surrounding the dates given for the flood and the genealogies given for Noah, Shem and Arphaxad. I want to explore all the possible ambiguities with integrity.

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2 Answers 2

The way the date is given is perfectly in keeping with how dates are cited in Biblical Hebrew: first the year (described in relation to a significant figure), then the month and day.

So for example, Haggai 1:1, "In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month." It is clearly not the sixth month/first day of Darius' second year (of reigning), but the first day of the sixth month of the year, this year being the second year of his reign. See the discussions here or here.

Thus here the floodwaters broke open on the 17th day of the second month (which would likely be Iyyar, not February), in Noah's 600th year.

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בִּשְׁנַת שֵׁשׁ־מֵאֹות שָׁנָה לְחַיֵּי־נֹחַ בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בְּשִׁבְעָה־עָשָׂר יֹום לַחֹדֶשׁ Literally: In year 600 of the years (belonging) to the life of Noah, in month two, in (the) 17(th) day (belonging) to the month.

"Year 600 of the years (belonging) to the life of Noah", means the year ending with his 600th birthday, i.e., the year when he was 599.


By the way: the regnal years of the Achaemenid kings were counted from the Babylonian New Year (1st of Nisannu) following their accession. So the “second year of Darius, in the sixth month”, means either “in the sixth calendar month (Ululu)” or “in the sixth month (Ululu) of Darius’ second regnal year”: both amount to the same thing. See: R.A. Parker, W.H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C.-A.D.75. Providence: Brown University Press, 1956

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@Sarah I agree with the way Cohen stated the difference and how fdb replied. Combining the two you might say that the amount of time gone by, since the day of Noah's birth, has been 599 years, 1 month and 16 days. Now Noah is on to the 17th day. –  John Martin Mar 20 at 11:26
    
Cross reference. While I admire the close attention our "chronologists" are giving to the text, I have to wonder if it is demanding a level of precision that the ancient authors were unwilling or unable to give, and distracts from the other concerns those ancient authors had. FWIW. –  Davïd Mar 22 at 9:02
    
Barr's paper is indeed very interesting. The question here is not whether the flood story is true. (Does anyone believe it is true?). The question is whether it is coherent, as a story. –  fdb Mar 23 at 1:10

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