Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bit at a time Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 1:23

Genesis 1:23
כג וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם חֲמִישִׁי:
Transliteration: Va-y’hi erev va-y’hi voqer yom chamishi.
Translation:     There was evening and there was morning a fifth day.
Vocabulary in this lesson:
I just realized I missed a culture capsule so I’ll put it here.
On the Jewish calendar, a new day starts at dark.  Whether this is an old Semitic characteristic or comes from Genesis, I don’t know.  Certainly it was well established by the time of Mishnah, the laws based on Torah but not contained in it.  One law says if A buys peas, and thinks he has been charged too much, he can check it out with “the elders at the gates” who know how many pounds of peas came in from the fields that day and therefore what the price should be.  But he only has until the end of the day, which is at dark.  If he doesn’t do it until the next day, he has to live with his bargain.
There’s a practical aspect to this.  The gates of the city states of ancient times opened in the morning and people with fields outside of the city would bring in their produce for sale or barter.  They then left for home before dark. There were no streetlights at the time; you could only travel by night from the waxing half moon to the waning half moon.  People went home before night so they could get supper ready and unhitch their oxen and feed them without striking a light.  Lights were expensive.  People went to bed at dark and rose at dawn.
Anyway, if A didn’t check prices before the farmers all left for home, and tried to do it the next day, prices might have changed because a different amount of peas might be brought into town the next day.  Maybe none.  Maybe A bought his peas from the very last batch harvested.  The elders wouldn’t set prices for peas if none came into the town.  Even if farmer B did bring in the last of his harvest, how could A prove that he didn’t buy those peas from farmer B instead of from a different farmer the day before?
So in the interests of fairness, A has to check prices the same day he buys the peas, and if he were smart, he would check BEFORE he made the purchase. 
But if A checked prices on time, and found out that he was charged 1/6 more than the going rate for that day, he could collect the difference back from the seller.  Likewise if the seller realized he had charged 1/6 less than the going rate, he could collect the difference from A.  Also the seller could have A’s coins weighed.  There was a practice called “shaving.”  Coins in those days were made of precious metal, more or less, and a cheater could use a harder metal to shave off some of the coins, keep that, and still use the coins in the market.  If the seller found out that A’s coins weighed 1/6 less than they should, he could claim the difference in value from A.
If you look at a dime edge on, those little ribs you see there are designed to catch shaving.  Dimes once were real silver and it mattered.  Pennies and nickels don’t have this ribbing – although with the value of copper nowadays, maybe pennies should.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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