CHAPTER VII

THE BABYLONIAN "EVIL DAYS" AND THE SHABATTUM

it is time to return to Babylonia. We have seen that here the cult of seven as a symbolic number was long anterior to the recognition of the seven planets; and, furthermore, that the planetary week, instead of being an early creation of Babylonian astrology, arose during the Hellenistic Age from the union of Greek and Oriental speculations. But for many centuries previously a seven-day week, in which the days were numbered, not named, had existed as a Jewish institution in western Asia; and we have still to determine whether this Jewish form of the week was derived remotely from Babylonia, and according to what conceptions the assumed Babylonian original was itself developed.

In the year 1869 the late George Smith, well known as a pioneer student of Assyriology, discovered among the cuneiform tablets in the British Museum "a curious religious calendar of the Assyrians, in which every month is divided into four weeks, and the seventh days, or 'Sabbaths,' are marked out as days on which no work should be undertaken." * Six years afterward Sir Henry Rawlinson published this calendar in the fourth volume of his standard collection of cuneiform inscriptions. It appears to be a transcript of a much more ancient Babylonian original, possibly belonging to the age of Hammurabi, which had been made by order of Asshurbanipal and placed in his royal library at Nineveh. The calendar, which is

1G. Smith, Assyrian Discov- pare idem, The Assyrian Eponym tries,1 London, 1883, p. 12; com- Canon, London, 1875, pp. 19 sq.

223

324 REST DAYS

complete for the thirteenth or intercalary month, called Elul II, and for Markheshwan, the eighth month of the Babylonian year, takes up the thirty days in succession and indicates the deity to which each day is sacred and what sacrifices or precautionary measures are necessary for each day. All the days are styled "favourable," an expression which must indicate a pious hope, not a fact, since the words ud-khul-gal or umu limnu ("the evil day") are particularly applied to the seventh, fourteenth,' nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days. The second Elul, being an intercalated month, might be thought to have enjoyed a special significance, as intercalary months have had elsewhere;* but such a hypothesis will not ex-plain the inclusion of the month of Markheshwan in the calendar.2 Hence it is highly probable that at one time the other months were similarly marked, though as yet there is no inscriptional evidence for the observ-ance of the five "evil days" in all the months of the Babylonian year.3

With regard to the reasons which dictated the choice of the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days, two views have been entertained. It has been held, in the first place, that the " evil days " were selected as corresponding to the moon's successive changes; hence that the seventh day marks the close of the earliest form of the seven-day week, a week bound up with the lunar phases. According to an-other opinion the setting apart of every seventh day

1 Above, p. 17^7 .2 been solved to the satisfaction of

1 The first edition (1875) of the most Assyriologists by the sugges-

fourth volume of Rawlinson's C- tion that the nineteenth day was

neiform Inscriptions of Western Asia regarded as seven times the seventh

contained only a calendar for the day (i.e., the forty-ninth from the

month of Elul II, but in the second first of the preceding month),

edition (1891) of this volume there This, of course, would -not be

was added, from a number of frag- strictly true, when the preceding

merits, a calendar for the month month had only twenty-nine days,

of Markheshwan. but it seems that the early Baby-

3 The difficulty which arises in Ionian month was conventionally

respect to the nineteenth day has taken at thirty days' duration.

THE BABYLONIAN "EVIL DAYS" 225

was due to the importance ascribed to seven; hence that the seven-day cycles were not regarded as quarters of the lunation but rather as periods containing the symbolic number of seven days, which happened to coincide, roughly, with a fourth part of the lunar month. The second view would be merely an ampli-fication of the first, if we assume, with perhaps the majority of Assyriologists, that the role of seven as a symbolic number is ultimately connected w,ith the moon changing her phases at intervals of approxi-mately seven days.

It must be admitted, however, that in the present state of our knowledge we cannot obtain any satisfac-tory explanation of the origin of a symbolic number. As far as seven is concerned, the American evidence, previously referred to,1 indicates that cosmical specula-tions may sometimes account for its significance; while in the Semitic area, again, one root of the cult of seven may lie in the observation of the Pleiades and the early use of Pleiades calendars by the agriculturist.2 That the Pleiades number seven stars has been noted even by savage peoples, who have also observed that each one of three other prominent constellations, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Orion, contains seven prin-cipal stars. Such unexplained coincidences may have served to confirm the impression of the significance of seven in the minds of Babylonian astrologers, even though the mystic quality of that number was based originally on a different set of ideas. But it is unneces-sary to discuss further what popular superstitions and priestly speculations gave rise to the symbolism of seven in ancient Babylonia.

1 Above, pp. 210 sq. fest und der Plejadenkult, Pader-

2 Compare H. Zimmern, in E. born, 1907), who discerns in the
Schrader, Die Keilinschriften und duration of the Hebrew Pentecost,
das Alte Testament? Berlin, 1903, or Feast of Weeks, as well as in the
pp. 620 sq. The possible influence rites which marked that agricul-
of Pleiades cults has been worked tural festival, the predominance of
out with much ingenuity by H. a septenary division based on the
Grimme (Das israelitische Pfingst- observation of these seven stars.

Q

226 REST DAYS

The month in Babylonia was a lunar month, and the year was a lunisolar year. Unlike the Egyptians, who passed from moon- to sun-reckonings before the dawn of history, the Babylonians always retained the primitive lunar calendar, harmonized with the solar year by the crude method of intercalating an extra month at the necessary intervals. As in all lunar calendars the month began with the visible new moon. So important was this for the determination of the month that arxu, the Babylonian expression for "month," meant, properly, the beginning of the month; while Nannar (nannaru), one of the names of the moon-god, was originally applied to the new moon.1 The length of the month was reckoned at thirty days as an approximate average of the duration of the moon's course, a calculation familiar enough to many half-civilized peoples.2 The ideogram for arxu is the number "thirty" enclosed in the ideogram for "day"; and the ideogram for Sin, the moon-deity, is made up of that for "god" and of that for "thirty," which number was sacred to him. When in late mythological syncretism the goddess Ishtar was represented as the daughter of Sin, her sacred number became fifteen, and this, with the determinative of goddess prefixed to it, was often used to express her name.3

Though the calendar assigned to each month thirty full days, the actual month must have often included only twenty-nine days, since the reckoning employed was purely lunar. We may assume, in the absence of definite statements as to the way of fixing the length of the month, that the Babylonians at first followed the rough-and-ready method of modern Arabs: on the twenty-ninth of the month, after the sun has gone

1W. Muss-Arnolt, "The Names 2 Above, p. 178.

of the Assyro-Babylonian Months 3 W. Muss-Arnolt, in Journal of

and their Regents," Journal of Biblical Literature, 1892, xi, 72 J??.,

Biblical Literature, 1892, xi, 73; 82 sqq., 90; E. Meyer, "Astarte,"

E. Combe, Histoire du culte de in Roscher's Ausfuhrliches Lexikon

Sin en Babylonie et en Assyrie, der griechischen und romischen.

Paris, 1908, pp. 8, 13. Mythologie, i, col. 649.

THE BABYLONIAN "EVIL DAYS" 227

down, they look in the western sky for the faint sickle of the moon; if this is seen, the new month begins forthwith; if it cannot be seen, the following day is also included in the old month, which then contains thirty days. By the middle of the seventh century b.c., and perhaps at an even earlier date, a more exact means of calculating the length of the month had come into use. The royal astrologers,, who sent regular reports to the king as to the appearance or non-appearance of the moon at the expected time, appear to have carefully observed the day of the opposition of the sun and moon in the middle of the month; when the full-moon day was known, it became an easy matter to determine how many more days should be counted to the end of the month.1 It was not until the third or second century b.c., when exact astronomical method? had supplanted purely empirical study of the heavens, that the Babylonians were able to calculate the appearance of the true new moon. By this time, too, the progress of astronomical knowledge allowed them to adopt the more accurate calendarizhig of the lunation into months of twenty-nine and thirty days, five of the former, and seven of the latter, length.2

These details concerning the Babylonian calendar, in all but its latest form, are enough to indicate that it presents no striking divergence from the general type of lunar reckonings. The Babylonians, like all other peoples of the ancient East, based their calculations of time on the moon. It follows, therefore, that the seven-day periods described in the Rawlinson calendar were also reckoned from the visible new moon ; indeed,

1R. C. Thompson, The Reports Die babylonische Mondrechnung,

of the Magicians and Astrologers of Freiburg-i.-B., 1900, pp. 49, 2OI_;

Nineveh and Babylon, London, F. H. Weissbach, " Zutn; babyloni-

1900, ii, pp. xviii sqq.t xxvi. schen Kalender," in Assyriologische

2 Epping and Strassmeier, Astro- und archaologische Studien Hermann

nomisches aus Babylon, Freiburg- v. Hilprecht gewidmet, Leipzig, 1909,

i.-B., 1889, p. 179; F. X. Kugler, p. 281.

228 REST DAYS

this fact is clearly indicated by the description applied in that calendar to the first day of the month.1 We may reasonably assume that the last day of the month (when the latter actually included only twenty-nine days) or the last two days of a thirty-day month were regarded as forming an epagomenal period, interrupting the regular succession of seven-day cycles. Possibly the Babylonians may have employed some such device as that found among the negroes of west Africa, in order that four of their lunar periods should correspond exactly to the length of the lunation.2

We may next inquire whether additional evidence exists to indicate that the seven-day periods of the Rawlinson calendar were definitely associated with successive phases of the moon. It has already been noticed that very early in the Assyro-Babylonian cultural area there was in at least occasional use a five-day cycle, called khamushtu.3 Whether it preceded the hebdomadal cycle or afterwards supplanted it (perhaps as forming a closer divisor of the lunation), or whether the two periods may not have existed more or less contemporaneously, are matters concerning which the cuneiform records tell us nothing. They do tell us, however, that a five-day period, possibly to be identified with the khamushtu, was closely associated with the successive appearances of the moon, as in a text where the first five days of the month are spoken of as those of the crescent moon, the next five, as those of the half-moon ("kidney"), and the five following days as those of the full or nearly full moon.4 A similar association with the moon's course is set forth in the case of a seven-day period in a text which specifically indicates the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days as those of Sin,

1 Rawlinson, op. cit., iv,2 pi. 32, 4 Rawlinson, op. cit., iii, 55,

col. i, 11.1-2; W. Lotz, Queestiones no. 3, 11. 17-26; P. Jensen, "Die

de historia Sabbati, Leipzig, 1883, siebentagige Woche in Babylon

p. 39. und Nineveh," Ztitschrift fur

* Above, pp. 187 sq. deutsche Wortforschung, 1901, i,

3 Above, p. 195. 150.

THE BABYLONIAN "EVIL DAYS" 229

the moon-god.1 Another text connects several days of the month with the moon's course in the following order: first day, new moon; seventh day, moon as "kidney" (half-moon); fifteenth day, full moon.* Finally, in the fifth tablet of the Babylonian Epic of Creation, a work which in its original form is traced to the close of the third millennium b.c., it is told how the god Marduk, having created and set in order the heavenly bodies, then placed the moon in the sky to make known the days and divide the month with her phases. Although this interesting production, in its present mutilated state, mentions only the seventh and fourteenth days, we are entitled to believe that the original text also referred to the twenty-first and twenty-eighth days of the month.8

The cuneiform evidence thus makes it reasonably certain that the cycles of seven days' duration found in the Rawlinson calendar were regarded as divisions of the lunar month. This conclusion does not require us to hold that these cycles originated in the quartering of the lunation. Their choice may conceivably have been dictated in the first instance by the desire to apply the prevailing symbolism of seven to periods

1 Rawlinson, op. cit., iii, 64,18 b; Every month without ceasing with

Jensen, in Zeitschrift fur deutsche the crown he covered (?) him,

Wortforschung, 1901, i, 152; Zim- (saying):

mern, in Schrader, Keilinschriften,' 'At the beginning of the month,

p. 621 .6 when thou shinest upon the

! Cuneiform Texts from Baby- land,

lonianTablets in the British Museum, Thou commandest the horns to

pt. xxv, pi. 50 (K. 170); F. Horn- determine six days

mel, "Calendar (Babylonian)," And on the seventh day to [di-

Hastings's Encyclopaedia of Religion vide] the crown

and Ethics, iii, 76. On the fourteenth day thou shalt

3 Enumaelish,v,l\, 12-18 (transl. stand opposite, the half

L. W. King, The Seven Tablets of [. . .].'"

Creation, London, 1902, i, 78, 81): _ . . . ' T

r or other translations see r. Jensen,

"The Moon-god he caused to shine Die Kosmologie der Babylonier,

forth, the night he entrusted Strassburg, 1890, .pp. 288 sqq.;

to him. W. Muss-Arnolt, in R. F. Harper,

He appointed him, a being of the Assyrian and Babylonian Literature,

night, to determine the days; New York, 1901, p. 296.

230 REST DAYS

of time; while only later, and as a secondary development, were they brought into connection with the phases of the moon. In either case the seven-day periods can be only loosely and inaccurately described as "weeks." Nothing in the cuneiform records indicates that the Babylonians ever employed them for civil purposes. These periods seem to have had solely a religious significance, as was true also of the four divisions of the month, similarly connected with the lunar phases, in the sacred calendars of both Buddhism and Zoroas-trianism.1 What we have disclosed in Babylonia is, not the week itself, but the material out of which such an institution might be formed.

Each septenary period in the calendar for Elul II arid Markheshwan closed with an unnamed " evil day." The symbolism of seven cannot in itself account for the unlucky quality attaching to this seventh day. Seven to the Babylonians bore no unlucky character. It stood, rather, for the notion of completeness or totality, appearing in prayers, incantations, and exorcisms to indicate the sum total of the gods or spirits recognized by &ie worshipper; sometimes marking the length of tEe period during which such important actions as the dedication of a temple or the mourning for a death must be performed; and often, again, assuming a mythological role, as in the seven gates of the underworld, the seven names of the goddess Ishtar, and the periods of seven days' duration found in the Babylonian Deluge narrative.2 In these and many other instances seven—appears as a symbolic, but not as a portentous, number. Assuming, however, that the seven-day periods of the Rawlinson calendar were associated with successive phases of the moon — whether originally or secondarily does not matter — it is clear that the seventh day, marking the critical or transition point in each phase,, would possess a special importance. In fact, the negative or prohibitive regulations enforced among the Babylonians on

1 Above, pp. 157, 165 sq. 2 Above, p. 212.

THE BABYLONIAN "EVIL DAYS" 231

the " evil days " bear a close resemblance to the taboos which many other peoples have observed at the changes of the moon.

Recent students of Semitic magic have shown that the Sumerians and their successors, the Babylonians and Assyrians, were familiar with the idea of taboo; .the term mamit, which appears frequently in magical texts, is exactly equivalent to tabu, since it refers to that state of ritual impurity or ceremonial uncleanness attending certain circumstances or actions.1 A great part of the so-called Shurpu series 2 deals with the methods of removing the condition of mamit into which a man may have wittingly or unwittingly fallen. The murderer, the adulterer, or the thief became mamit in consequence of his breach of ordinary social morality, but equally cursed was the unlucky person who ran up against another who was under a taboo, slept on his bed, ate out of his plate, or drank from his cup. A man might be contaminated by putting his foot in some unclean water, by treading in some libation that had been poured forth, by touching a bewitched woman, and even by seeing one of unwashen hands. The third tablet of the Shurpu series enumerates no less than one hundred and sixty-three taboos, including "those which come from the family, old or young, friend or neighbour, rich or poor; oven, bellows, pots and cups, bed or couch, chariot or weapons. To drink out of an unclean vessel, to sit in the sun, to root up plants in the desert, to cut reeds in a thicket, to slay the young of beasts, to pray with unclean hands, and a host of other common actions, might under certain conditions bring a tapu on the man." Such tabooed acts placed the man under an interdiction; if he fell sick, he knew that his sufferings were due to the hostility of some supernatural power; and a professional exorcist would be called in to drive away by magical words, prayers, and rites the divine curse

1 C. Fossey, La magie assyrienne, * See H. Zimmern, Die Beschwo'

Paris, 1902, pp. 52, 58. rungstafeln surpu, Leipzig, 1896.

232 REST DAYS

clinging to his person.1 It seems to be clear, then, that the taboos observed on the "evil days" represented to the Babylonians only a particular application of an ancient and generally accepted superstition.

The calendar for Elul II contains specific directions for the observance of the five " evil days," in each case the same except for differences in the names of the deities.2 The regulations for the seventh day read as follows:

"An evil day. The shepherd of great peoples shall not eat flesh cooked upon the coals, or bread of the oven.3 The garment of his body he shall not change, he shall not put on clean [garments]. He shall not bring an offering. The king shall not ride in his chariot. He shall not speak as a ruler (?). The priest shall not give a decision in the secret place. The physician shall not lay his hand on a patient. To issue a malediction it [theiday] is not suitable.4 At night the king shall bring his gift before Marduk and Ishtar, he shall offer a sacrifice. The lifting up of his hands will then be pleasing to god."

It is clear that the rules for the seventh day pre-

1 R. C. Thompson, The Devils and to be particularly tabooed, for then

Evil Spirits of Babylonia, London, the "shepherd of great peoples" is

1904, ii, pp. xxxix sqq. forbidden to eat anything which

1 H. C. Rawlinson, The Cunei- the fire has touched.
form Inscriptions of Western Asia, * Most Assyriologists (Jeremias,

London, 1891, iv,2 pi. 32-33. The Delitzsch, Lagrange, Pinches, Clay)

complete text was first translated make this sentence read: "The

by A. H. Sayce ("A Babylonian day is unsuitable for any business,"

Saints' Calendar," Records of the a translation which, if correct, con-

Past, London, 1876, vii, 157-170) verts the seventh day into a veri-

and shortly thereafter by W. Lotz table Sabbath. To this translation

(Qucestiones de historia Sabbati, Professor Morris Jastrow now adds

Leipzig, 1883, pp. 39-49). The the great weight of his authority,

passage relating to the seventh pointing out that we must read

day has been many times rendered ana epasch la na-tu, "'fur Arbeit

by_ Assyriologists, not without vari- (oder Ausfiihrung) nicht geignet'

ations in the result. I have used . . . und nicht, wie man friiher

the version in the scholarly work annahm, epesch arrati, ' zum Flu-

of R. W. Rogers, Cuneiform Par- chen,' was ja ein eigentiimliches

dllels to the Old Testament, New Verbot ware" (Die Religion Baby-

York, 1912, p. 189. loniens und Assyriens, Giessen,

8 The nineteenth day would seem 1905-1912, ii, 533 n.1).

THE BABYLONIAN "EVIL DAYS" 233

scribe a season of abstinence affecting many royal activities. The "shepherd of great peoples" must not eat any food which has been cooked with fire; he must not change his clothes; and he must not offer a sacrifice until the end of the day. The king is not to speak in public; and he is even forbidden to travel. The Babylonian monarch who observed all these taboos five times a month would have been as strictly secluded as was the Hawaiian ruler, who, likewise, during the four monthly tabu periods retired to the inner precincts of his temple.1

The Babylonian regulations have been interpreted as survivals from ancient times, when priest-kings were accredited with a divine or supernatural nature, and hence were subjected to numberless restrictions designed to prevent any impairment of their sanctity and magical power.2 A consideration of the evidence yielded by primitive societies suggests, however, that the Babylonian regulations may have been connected originally with taboos imposed on the entire community. In Hawaii, where the lunar phases were observed as tabu periods, the prohibitions affecting the king represented only an intensification of the communal taboos, to be explained by the extreme sanctity attached to the Hawaiian ruler. In Assam, where the genna institution enjoys a vigorous life, we find that, besides the prohibitions communally observed at critical times, the khullakpa, or priest-chief, is surrounded by many elaborate taboos. Their purpose is "to protect the man who acts on behalf of the whole subdivision or village on the occasions of general genna, from any accident which might impair his power." He is subject to various food restrictions, must content himself with only one wife, and must even separate himself from her on the eve of a general genna. In one group

1 Above, p. 15. Sir J. G. Frazer, Taboo and the

2 For much evidence as to the Perils of the Soul, London, 1911,
sacredness of chiefs and kings and pp. 1-17; idem, Psyche's Task,*
as to the accompanying taboos, see London, 1913, pp. 6-19.

234 REST DAYS

/

the headman may not eat in a strange village, nor, whatever the provocation, may he utter a word of abuse. The violation of any one of these taboos is thought to bring misfortune on the entire village.1 It is not wholly speculative to suggest that, were the natives of Assam to discard their communal taboos as burdensome, the special regulations affecting the khul-lakpa might survive," in deference to old tradition, and might even be increased in severity, if that individual should grow in authority and holiness. The situation would then furnish a very close analogy to what existed in ancient Babylonia. The regulations concerning the "evil days," it may be noted, did not pertain to the king alone. We may reasonably assume that "the shepherd of great peoples " and the king mentioned further on in the calendar are one and the same; but the record also describes certain rules imposed on the priest and on the physician, both important functionaries among the Babylonians. It seems also evident that the day was regarded as unsuitable for any one to lay a curse or ban; according to another, and possibly more accurate, rendering, unsuitable for all business. These considerations increase the probability that at one time some taboos on the seventh day were observed by the entire community.2

It is questionable, however, whether in late historic times there was any general abstention from work and other activities on the "evil days." The Babylonians were a highly organized commercial and manufacturing people who would have found such regulations burdensome to the highest degree. Taboos once generally

1T. C. Hodson, in Journal of Siebenzahl und Sabbat bei den

the Anthropological Institute, 1906, Babyloniern und im Alten Testa-

xxxvi, 98; idem, in Folk-lore, 1910, ment, Leipzig, 1907, pp. 106-109;

xxi, 298; idem, Ndga Tribes of J. Meinhold, Sabbat und Woche im

Manipur, pp. 102, 141 sq. Alten Testament, Gottingen, 1905,

3 For further discussions of the pp. 15 sqq.; F. Bohn, Der Sabbat

"evil days" see M. J. Lagrange, im Alten Testament, Giitersloh,

Etudes sur les religions semitiques? 1903, pp. 39-43.
Paris, 1905, pp. 291 sqq.; J. Hehn,

THE BABYLONIAN "EVIL DAYS'

 

235

observed may have been gradually relaxed and at last abandoned, just as modern Jews are now neglecting the observance of the Sabbath. The practice might have been kept up, however, by the king and the priests as the special guardians of conservative institutions.1

The cuneiform records contain a term shabattum, which has been generally accepted as the phonetic equivalent of the Hebrew shabbdthon, perhaps an intensive form of shabbdth or Sabbath, referring to a Sabbath of particular solemnity.2 Shabattum, a word

1 Some painstaking efforts have been made to discover whether during historic times there was any general observance in Babylonia of the "evil days." W. Lotz (op. cit., p. 66), from an examination of 540 dated contract tablets belonging to different months, found that the average of the number of transactions on the 7th, I4th, 2ist, and 28th days was 18, which would be also the average for each day of the month. The igth day, however, had only one contract to its credit. Schiaparelli (op. cit., p. 132 ft.1) examined about 400 dated documents from the archives of the Babylonian business firm, Egibi and Sons, and showed that there was a real abstention from business only on the igth day, when no contracts were concluded. The same investigator (op. cit., pp. 175 sqq.) also classified according to the day of the month 2764 dates on contract tablets belonging to the period 604-449 b.c. and found again that, while the transactions for the 7th, I4th, and 2ist days were considerably above the average (94) and those for the 28th day only slightly below it, the 19th day registered but 12 transactions. It is true that these statistics deal with a late period of Babylonian history and include the reigns of several Persian kings. By this time the general observ-

 

ance of the custom may have been in decay. The figures, moreover, do not distinguish the sort of business done on the "evil days." Many of the documents are temple records, having to do with offerings, receipts of salaries by priests, etc., and such business may not have been regarded as a violation of the prohibitions in question (C. H. W. Johns, "The Babylonian Sabbath, Expository Times, 1906, xvii, 566 /}.). For Assyria, during the period 72<>-6o6 b.c., 365 dated documents indicate no marked cessation of business on the 7th, 14th, 2ist, and 28th days. "They were not kept with puritan respect for the Sabbath, if Sabbaths they really were." Only 2 contracts, however, were made on the igth, and for one of these the date is doubtful (idem, Assyrian Deeds and Documents, London, 1901, ii, 40 sq.). Finally, out of 356 dated documents of the Hammurabi era, only 2 were dated on the igth and only 26 on the four other "evil days" (idem, in Expository Times, 1906, xvii, s66/j.). It would seem, accordingly, that at this earlier period (about 2000 b.c.) there was a sabbatic observance of all five days, and especially of the igth day.

1 Shabbdthon occurs all together ten times in the Old Testament, where it is applied to New Year's Day, the Day of Atonement (above,

236 REST DAYS

which has been found as yet only five or six times in Assyro-Babylonian documents, occurs in a lexicographical tablet containing the equation shabbattu(m) = urn nukh libbi.1 The accepted translation of the latter expression is "day of rest of (or for) the heart" (s.c., "of the angered gods"). Various scholars in England and Germany, intent on discovering Babylonian parallels for all Hebrew institutions, have therefore explained shabattum and its equivalent phrase by the five "evil days" found in the calendar already noticed. This identification was based on the observation that these seemed also to be penitential days, when by special observances the gods must be appeased and their anger averted. The Hebrew Sabbath would therefore represent an institution directly derived from the Babylonian regulations for the "evil days." 2

Until recently, however, Assyriology has sounded no certain note concerning the etymology and significance of the term shabattum. Thus, Delitzsch holds

pp. 82 sq.), the first and eighth Boscawen; see A. H. Sayce, in
days of the Feast of Tabernacles, Academy, 1875, viii, 555. Sha-
and also to the Sabbatical Year (Le- battu(m) here and elsewhere can
viticus, xxv, 4) and to the Sabbath be read shapattu(m), without, how-
Day proper (Exodus, xyi, 23, xxxi, ever, affecting the sense (P. Jensen,
15, xxxv, 2; Leviticus, xxiii, 3). Pro- in Zeitschri.fi fur Assyriologie, 1900,
fessor Morris Jastrow thinks that xiv, 182; H. Zimmern, in Schrader,
shabbdthon is mistranslated as "sol- Keilinschriften,* p. 592 n.6).
emn rest" and that in fact it is 2 A. H. Sayce, The Higher Criti-
merely an adjectival formation citm and the Verdict of the Monu-
meaning "sabbatical" or "Sab- merits, London, 1895, p. 74; idem,
bath-like." The word " belongs The Religions of Ancient Egypt and
to a period prior to the develop- Babylonia, Edinburgh, 1902, p. 476;
ment of a Sabbath institution, F. Delitzsch, Babel and Bible,
celebrated every seventh day with- London, 1903, p. 41. The purely
out any reference to the phases of conjectural character of this pro-
the moon" (American Journal of cedure was long ago pointed out
Semitic Languages and Literatures, by Francis Brown in his article,
1914, xxx, 97 .7). "The Sabbath in the Cuneiform
1 Rawlinson, op. cit., ii, pi. 32, Records," Presbyterian Review,
no. i, 16 a-b (Cuneiform Texts, 1882, iii, 693. Compare also A. T.
pt. xviii, pi. 23, 17 [K. 4397]). Clay, Amurru, Philadelphia, 1909,
The discovery of this important pp. 55 sqq.
equation was made by W. H.

THE BABYLONIAN "EVIL DAYS" 237

that "the only meaning that may be justifiably assumed is "'ending (of work), cessation, keeping holiday from work.'" * As the result of linguistic analysis Hirschfeld concludes, on the contrary, that "the idea of resting for religious reasons after a certain spell of working days is far too complicated to be the original meaning of a primitive root." 2 Jastrow, again, points out that um nukh libbi, with which shabattum has been equated, was a standing expression for the pacification of a deity's anger. It occurs frequently in Babylonian religious literature, where it is more particularly used •in hymns addressed by penitentials to some god who has shown his ill-will toward them. Shabattum implies, therefore, a day of propitiation, and the idea of rest involved refers to gods and not to men — a refraining from or cessation of divine anger.3 Zimmern suggests that shabattum may be derived from the verb shabdtu, with the sense of "discontinue" or "desist," applied to the anger of the gods.4 Pinches, on the contrary, believes that the word conies from the Sume-rian shabat, which probably had no connection with the Semitic verb shabdtu.5 Nielsen goes still further afield for a satisfactory explanation, and considers shabat a term taken over from the Arabic thabat, from a root meaning "rest," applied to the lunar phases.6 As the outcome of extensive philological study Hehn argues that shabattum meant originally "fulness," "completeness," the notion of rest being

1 Babel and Bible, p. 99. form list (Rawlinson, op. cit., v, pi.

2H. Hirschfeld, Remarks on 28,1. e-f) theWerb shabdtu is equated

the Etymology of Sabbath," with gama.ru, which is thought to

Journal of the Royal Asiatic So- mean "be complete," "be full,"

defy, 1896, n.s., xxviii, 357. "cease," though in some other

3M. Jastrow, "The Original syllabaries it apparently has the

Character of the Hebrew Sabbath," sense of "pacify." In the light

American Journal of Theology, of the meaning now assigned to

1.898, ii, 316 sq., 351; compare shabattum both translations appear

idem, Hebrew and Babylonian Tra- to be intelligible and harmonious.
ditions, New York, 1914, pp. 134, 6 T. G. Pinches, The Old Testa-

149. i ment, London, 1902, p. 327.

4 H. Zimmern, in Schrader, Keil- * D. Nielsen, Die altarabische

inschriften? p. 593. In one cunei- Mondreligion, pp. 87 sq.

238 REST DAYS

later and entirely secondary.1 Still another interpretation makes shabattum equivalent to "day of lament." z Finally, in a brief, though highly suggestive study, Professor Toy holds that the root idea in the Babylonian expression was that of abstinence, though shabattum might also have been regarded as a day of propitiation because of the restrictions attached to it.s These conflicting interpretations scarcely made for confidence in the results of a purely philological analysis. Recent discoveries, however, have thrown new light on the problem. A lexicographical tablet from the library of the Assyrian king Asshurbanipal gives the names attached to several days of the Babylonian month; and among these is the designation shabattum, applied to the fifteenth day.4 Still more recently a similar use of shabattum has been found in a text which contains an account of the moon's course during the month. Reference is here made to the first appearance of the new moon, its ash-grey light until about the seventh day thereafter, its opposition with the sun on the fourteenth day, its aspects on the twenty-first, twenty-eighth, and twenty-ninth days, and finally its disappearance on the thirtieth day, being the time of

1J. Hehn, Siebenzahl und Sabbat, were subsequently identified by

p. 98. Dr. Pinches, to whom, accordingly,

1 S. Langdon, "The Derivation full credit for this important dis-

of Sabattu and Other Notes," covery should b^e ascribed. See

Zeitschrift der deutschen morgen- T. G. Pinches, "Sapattu, the Baby-

landischen Gesellschaft, 1908, Ixii, Ionian Sabbath," Proceedings of the

30. Society of Biblical Archeology, 1904,

*C. H. Toy, "The Earliest xxvi, 51-56. H. Zimmern, how-
Form of the Hebrew Sabbath," ever, had previously pointed out
Journal of Biblical Literature, 1899, that, according to the Rawlinson
xviii, 190 sqq.; compare idem, text, the fifteenth day of a thirty-
Introduction to the History of Reli- day month might have borne the
gions, Boston, 1913, p. 251. designation shabattum (Zimmern, in

4 The text (K. 6012 + K. 10,684) Schrader, Keilinschriften,s p. 593

forms a part of the British Museum .3); compare his comments on

collection of cuneiform tablets. A Pinches's discoveries (Zeitschrift der

portion of the text was published deutschen morgenlandischen Gesell-

by Rawlinson (op. cit., iii, pi. 56, schaft, 1904, Iviii, 199-202, 458-

no. 4) and additions to it, as well 460).
as duplicate Babylonian fragments,

THE BABYLONIAN "EVIL DAYS" 239

conjunction with the sun. In this description, which for minuteness recalls the Polynesian naming of the nights from successive aspects of the moon,1 the fifteenth day again appears as shabattum.2

It is clear that the Babylonians recognized, with many other peoples, the two most prominent stages of the lunation, new moon and full moon, and described them by particular names, nannaru and shabattum. Evidence exists, moreover, showing that these two days from very early times were observed as festivals, particularly in the cities of Ur and Harran. Here were the chief seats of the cult of Sin, the moon-god, always one of the most important members of the Babylonian pantheon and anciently enjoying precedence over Shamash, the sun-god.8 Certain cuneiform tablets, all written down during the time of the Fourth Dynasty of Ur and dating, therefore, from the third millennium b.c., distinctly refer to sacrifices which were made to the divine kings of Ur on the new-moon day and on the fifteenth of the month.4 At Harran, where

1 Above, p. 181 n.7 4H. Radau, Early Babylonian
'The text (K. 2164+2195+ History, New York, 1900, pp.
3510) has been edited with a 314 sq. The text on the statue
translation and commentary by . of Gudea, a chief, or pate si, of
Weidener, "Zur babylonischen Lagash (c. 2350 B.C.), bears record
Astronomic," Babyloniaca, 1911, vi, of a rest day which has been inter-
8 sqq. It should be observed that preted as a full-moon day, therefore
it belongs to the same series as the as a shabattum: "No one was
text (K. 170) in which the fifteenth struck with the whip, the mother
day is expressly described as the corrected not her child, the house-
day of full moon (above, p. 229)- holder, the overseer, the labourer
Professor A. H. Sayce has published . . . the work of their hands
a table of lunar longitudes (K. 490) ceased. In the graves of the
which shows how many degrees the city ... no corpse was buried,
moon advances during the first The Kalu played no psalm, uttered
fifteen days of the month and how no dirge, the wailing women let no
many degrees it retrogrades dur- dirge be heard. In the realm of
ing the second half of the month Lagash no man who had a lawsuit
(Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie, 1887, went to the hall of justice." See
ii, 337-340). A. Jeremias, The Old Testament in
3
Combe, Histoire du culte de the Light of the Ancient East,
Sin,
pp. 46 sqq., 86 sq.; Jastrow, London, 1911, i, 203; compare
Religion Babyloniens und Assyriens, H.Wmck.ler,Religionsgeschichthcher
i, 66 sq., 72 sqq. und geschichtlicher Orient^ Leipzig,

340 REST DAYS

the cult of Sin continued to flourish under the Roman Empire and into the early Middle Ages, four sacrificial days were observed every month, and of these at least two were determined by the conjunction and opposition of the moon.1 Outside the Babylonian cultural area, but within the general field of Semitic religion, there is also the interesting evidence yielded by the inscription of Narnaka, which indicates that as late as the time of the Ptolemies new moon and full moon were the chief periods of sacrifice observed by the Phoenicians.2

The choice of the fifteenth day as the shabbatum was obviously determined by the length of the Babylonian month, which in the earlier period was regularly taken at thirty days' duration. We have seen, however, that, where lunar reckonings are employed and the month begins at sunset with the visible new moon, the fourteenth day more commonly coincides with the full of the moon.3 Shabattum being the technical expression for the fifteenth day as the time of full moon, it is only reasonable to conclude that, if not the name, at any rate the observances belonging to this

1906, p. 61. Professor Morris name of the Moon, which same

Jastrow holds, however, that this custom prevails among them to the

passage from the inscription of present day" (Sir William Muir,

Gudea has no reference to the full The Apology of Al Kindy? London,

moon {American Journal of Semitic 1887, p. 17).
Languages and Literatures, 1914, 5W. F. von Landau, Beiirage

jocx,o8.J). zur Altertumskunde des Orients,

1D. Chwolsohn, Die Ssabier Leipzig, 1899, ii, 46 sq.; compare

und der Ssabismus, St. Petersburg, idem, Die phonizischen Inschriften,

1856, ii, 8, 94 sqq., translating the Leipzig, 1907, p. 22 (Der alte

Fihrist (ix, i, 5) of Ibn al-Nadim. Orient, viii, 3).
On the Harranians see in general * Above, p. 182 nJ There are

D. S. Margoliouth, in Hastings's numerous reports by Babylonian

Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, astrologers according to which

vi, 519 -f?- It is curious to find a any one of five days, from the

Moslem tradition, current about twelfth to the sixteenth of the

83OA.D., that "Abraham lived with month, might be taken as the

his people four-score years and exact time when the moon became

ten in the land of Harran, worship- full, depending, of course, upon how

ping none other than Al Ozza, an early or how late was the visible

idol famous in that land and adored new moon (Kugler, Sternkunde und

by the men of Harran, under the Sterndienst in Babel, ii, 14 sq.).

THE BABYLONIAN "EVIL DAYS" 241

day would be often transferred to the fourteenth of the month, or to any other day on which the moon became full. No other hypothesis will explain the outstanding fact that shabattum was equated with um nukh libbi as a day for appeasing the anger of the deity. And if for practical purposes the fourteenth day might be a shabattum, it is not difficult to assume that this was also the case with the days (seventh, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth, perhaps, also, the nineteenth), which marked other characteristic stages of the lunation. In the developed Babylonian cult all these were "evil days," when the gods must be propitiated and conciliated. In the primitive faith of Semitic peoples they were occasions observed with superstitious concern as times of fasting, cessation of activity, and other forms of abstinence.1

1 The Rev. C. H. C. Johns has root and originally denoted much

pointed out that in Babylonian the same thing — a pause, absten-

calendars many days are indicated tion, from whatever cause or for

as nubattu, a term signifying rest, ceremonial purposes" (Encyclo-

pause, and especially a god's ptedia Britannica,11 xxiii, 961 sg.).

connubial rest with his consort A calendar of the intercalary

goddess. "The observance of such month of Elul cites the 3d, 7th,

days was a bar to attending even and 16th days as the nubattu of

to important diplomatic business or Marduk and his consort Sarpanit

setting out on a journey. ..." (Lagrange, op. cit., p. 284 n.6;

It is quite possible that shabattum Schrader, Keilinschriften,* p. 371).
and nubattum are from the same