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Understanding the Hebrew Bible: ‘season’ and ‘pi’

This week’s feedback addresses questions of the proper understanding and defence of the Old Testament. CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds.

Rodney H. from New Zealand writes:

I want to thank you first for the 8 DVD sent to me. One was Arguments Creationists should NOT use. by Jonathan Sarfati. In one comment he used the Scripture from Genesis 1:14 to prove that the earth was originally on a tilted axis. He showed this by using the word ‘seasons’ to indicate the four seasons of Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. But I checked its meaning on e-sword and found it is more related to the phases of the moon than the four seasons. This then does prove that the earth was on an axis prior to the flood. No problem after the flood as God mentions summer and winter straight after the flood. But there is no mention of summer and winter prior the flood. Here is my research on this…


Gen 1:14 And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to divide between the day and the night. And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.
Gen 8:22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

SEASONS IN GEN 1:14 = H4150 MOED.-appointment, fixed time, season; like a festival.

Gen 17:21 But I will establish My covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time in the next year.
Exo 13:10 You shall therefore keep this law in its season from year to year.
Psa 104:19 He appointed the moon for seasons; the sun knows its going down.
Isa 1:14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me; I am weary to bear them.
Jer 8:7 Yea, the stork in the heavens knows her seasons; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow watch the time of their coming; but my people do not know the judgment of Jehovah.
Dan 8:19 And he said, Behold, I will make you know what shall happen in the last end of the indignation. For it is for the time appointed for the end.
Hos 2:9 So I will return and take away My grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.

The word season in Genesis indicates the cycle of the phases of the moon to help people know appointed times, like festivals and harvest etc. This does not indicate the four seasons, summer, autumn, winter, spring.


SUMMER is Translated: summer fruits-2 sam 16:1,

Summer Ps 32:4, Ps 74:17 ‘thou has made summer and winter.
Prov 6:8, 26:1 ‘as snow in summer, rain in harvest…’
Amos 3:15 ‘i will smite the winter house with the summer house…’
Zech 14:8 ‘…in summer and winter shall it be.’

WINTER is translated: winter, cold winter, winterhouse,

Prov 20:4. ‘the sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold winter, therefore shall he beg in harvest and have nothing.’

By the Scriptures that have these two Hebrew words the meaning is quiet clear that they are related with the actual seasons of summer and winter.

Thanks for your time

Rodney H.

CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati replies:

Dear Mr H.

It would be a mistake to commit what Dr Don Carson calls in his book Exegetical Fallacies, ‘Unwarranted restriction of the semantic field’, in limiting the meaning of the word for ‘seasons’ in 1:14.

Thank you for taking the time to research and write about my DVD.

All the same, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I maintain what I said, as I’ll explain:

Genesis 1:14 was a brief comment about the role of the luminaries, while Genesis 8:22 spelt it out rather more. It would be a mistake to commit what Dr Don Carson calls in his book Exegetical Fallacies, “Unwarranted restriction of the semantic field”, in limiting the meaning of the word for “seasons” in 1:14.

This is supported by the great commentary by Keil and Delitzsch, which says of this passage:

“(b) for seasons, or for fixed, definite times (מועדים, from יעד to fix, establish),-not for festal seasons merely, but “to regulate definite points and periods of time, by virtue of their periodical influence upon agriculture, navigation, and other human occupations, as well as upon the course of human, animal, and vegetable life (e.g., the breeding time of animals, and the migrations of birds, Jeremiah 8:7, etc.)”.

Another conservative commentator, H.C. Leupold, writes:

“Besides, the luminaries are ‘for seasons.’ A certain brevity of expression obtains here. We could supply the implied term quite readily, for ‘fixing seasons, days and years.’ But without this added term the expression is not unclear. But ‘seasons’ are called mô’adhim, from the root ya’adh, ‘to appoint’; therefore, ‘appointed time.’ The luminaries do serve as ‘indicators’ (Meek) of such fixed, appointed times, whether these now be secular or sacred. To attempt to exclude what we are specifically wont to call seasons is unwarranted and grows out of the assumption that the hypothetical author P has a special interest in things ritual. Therefore, ‘seasons’ or times in the widest sense are to be thought of: agricultural seasons (Ho 2:9, 11; 9:5), seasons for seafaring men, seasons for beasts and birds (Jer 8:7), as long as they are times that are fixed and come with stated regularity.”

There are a lot of parallels between Adam and Noah (an interesting topic in itself): both were the progenitors of the human race to fill up (not “re-fill”) the Earth; God gave Noah a food command that connected back to the food command of Genesis 1:29 ; both food commands had a definite prohibition; the first recorded sin by both involved consumption of plants; and the seasons parallel shows that the earth’s climate largely recovered from the devastating Flood.

It seems that many who want a vertical axis before the Flood (I’m not saying that you’re necessarily one of them) are driven not by the demands of the text, but a particular scientific model involving an impact. I discuss the scientific problems in Slipshod logic in Creation for Kids?


Jonathan Sarfati

Rodney responded:

Many thanks Jonathan. From your answer to my thoughts about the ‘seasons’ relating to lunar cycles, I understand now that the word ‘seasons’ has a broader meaning. This would incorporate natural migrations of animals because of weather change due to the ‘four seasons’. So then the ‘seasons’ also represents the ‘four seasons’ in a sense because it relates to natural migration and ‘seasons’ of agriculture. So then the earth in its origins was designed with a tilted axis. God is awesome.

Thank you for helping me understand

God bless you and CMI

Rodney H.

David B. from the United States asked:

Could you explain the “baths” in 2 Chronicles and Kings? Since the dimensions in the bible refer to cubits how large was the cubit to accommodate 3,000 baths? Is that volume possible?

Can you send me a computation?

Thank you so much.

Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds:

Dear Mr B.

Thank you for entrusting CMI with the ability to answer general questions about the Bible.

The normal cubit is about 18 inches or about 0.5 metres. As we document in Does the Bible say pi equals 3.0?, the “sea” was 10 cubits across or 5 cubits in radius, so 2.5 m, and the height was 5 cubits as well.

The volume is given by πr²h

= π × (2.5 m)² × 2.5 m

= which makes about 50 cubic metres = 50,000 litres.

According to the notes under 1 Kings 7, the volume of 2,000 baths was about 44,000 litres, so well within the carrying capacity of such a huge “sea”.

According to the erudite Keil and Delitzsch commentary, the chronicles figure of 3,000 is the result of a copyist error stemming from the confusion of the Hebrew letters used for numbers, not a mistake in the God-breathed originals.

Hope this helps.

Jonathan Sarfati

Published: 19 November 2011