Ancient Calendar, Feast Days, & Daniel 12:11, Part 1 :: By Randy Nettles

Ancient Calendar 

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:1-5).

On the first day of creation, when God divided the light from the darkness, He also created time as we now know it. You might say the 24-hour clock started at that time. The evening came first and then the morning followed….all in a 24-hour time duration.

The 1st day of creation was followed by 5 more for a total of 6 days of creation/work; and the 7th day God rested from His work.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:1-2).

His Creation was full and complete, and good and perfect. Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it.

God commanded that his new creation, man, should ‘rest’ on the 7th day of Sabbath and do no work. Therefore, Adam and Eve and their offspring had to develop a 7-day calendar so they could keep up with the Sabbath day. These 7 days would become the first calendar known to man. This wasn’t a yearly calendar but a weekly one.

“Of time, it tells of the Sabbath, and marks off the week of seven day, which is universal and immemorial in its observance amongst all nations and in all times. It tells of that eternal Sabbath-keeping which remains for the people of God in all its everlasting perfection.” {1}

God reiterated this observance to the Hebrew people after the Exodus when he gave the 10 Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. This was the 4th commandment:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor, and do all your work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).

The yearly calendar was essentially started when God made the sun, moon, and stars on the 4th day of creation.

“Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night: and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth; and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the Earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day” (Genesis 1:14-19).

God created the heavenly lights before He even made man on the 6th day, but they were to be used by man to help him understand the concept of time and its relationship with nature (such as agriculture – when to plant and harvest crops). All peoples of the earth reckoned months by the course of the moon, and years by the return of winter and summer, spring and autumn.

The heavenly lights were also to be used as instruments of time to determine the length of a man’s life and the generations of human history. The first mention of years in the Bible is Genesis 5:3:

“And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.”

In those Antediluvian days of human history, large periods of time were kept only when measuring (counting) a man’s age and when his descendants were born. There was no significant event (such as Adam’s creation) that began the numbering of years. Only later, after the flood, was time measured by certain historical events such as when a king started his rule and for how long.

According to the Bible, in the time of the Antediluvian patriarchs, the duration of the original yearly calendar was for 360 days. The Bible doesn’t say so directly but rather indirectly by the following verses of Moses’ description of the great flood:

“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11).

And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days (Genesis 7:24).

“And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided; and the rain from heaven was restrained; and the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:1-4).

If the great flood started on the 17th day of the second month and the waters prevailed upon the earth for 150 days, and after the end of the 150 days the waters were abated on the 17th day of the 7th month; that means there were 30 days in a month. There are 12 months in a year, so 12 months times 30 days equals 360 days. Moses and family (and the animals) were on the ark for 370 days from when the flood started. They were on the ark for 7 days before the flood started (Genesis 7:10), so they were actually on the ark for 377 days.

Many things changed after the flood. Before the flood there was a water canopy that kept the ground moist:

“But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:6).

Before the flood, it had never rained before, so now the crops would have to depend on rain for their sustenance. The water canopy also kept out harmful radiation from the sun and gave the Antediluvian people long life spans. Since it was destroyed, people no longer had such long life spans. It is believed that before the flood men were vegetarians, but now they could eat meat.

“Every moving thing that lives shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (Genesis 9:3).

As mentioned before, the lunar-cycle calendar appears to have changed from 30 days to approximately 29.5 days, and the duration of the yearly calendar changed from 360 days to approximately 365.2422 days.

In regard to the theory of an Antediluvian yearly calendar of exactly 360 days, consider the advantages of such a calendar:

“The number 360 is a highly composite number and is divisible by the following numbers: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 8; 9; 10; 12; 15; 18; 20; 24; 30; 36; 40; 45; 60; 72; 90; 120; 180; and 360… making a total of 24 divisors. Some of these numbers are especially helpful for calendars and timekeeping. 1 year of 360 days is divisible by the 2 equinoxes, 2 solstices, 4 seasons, and 12 months. There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. The number 360 is also one of only 7 numbers such that no number has less than twice as much has more divisors; the others are 1; 2; 6; 12; 60; and 2,520. 360 is the smallest number divisible by every natural number from 1 to 10 except 7.” {2}

We now know there are approximately 29.5 days in a lunar cycle, and thus 354 days in a purely lunar calendar; but the important question remains… were there originally 30 days in a lunar cycle? If the answer is yes, then the original Antediluvian yearly calendar would have consisted of 30 days in a month and 12 months in a year for a total of 360 days. In this scenario, the lunar calendar and the solar calendar are in harmony. This calendar is known as the “360-Day Calendar” and/or the “Prophetic Calendar of the Bible.”

Apparently the 360-day prophetic calendar is also the one used by John in the book of Revelation during the last days before Jesus Christ’s 2nd Coming to the Earth. There are several verses in Revelation that say the last 42 months or 3.5 years (time, and times, and half a time) of the 7-year Tribulation will be for 1,260 days (a thousand two hundred and threescore days). Many scholars believe the ancient 360-day calendar to be the one that the prophet Daniel used in calculating his 70 “Weeks” prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27, even though the lunar/solar calendar was the one that was being used by the Babylonians and Jews at that time (approximately 539 B.C.).

The 360-day calendar might have been the calendar in use during Jacob’s stay in Haran, Mesopotamia, per Genesis 29. Jacob journeyed there because Isaac, his father, told him to go there and take a wife from one of the daughters of Laban, his mother’s father. Genesis 29:14 says that Jacob abode with Laban the space of a month.

“And Laban said unto Jacob, Because you are my brother should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be? And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve you 7 years for Rachel your younger daughter” (Genesis 29:16, 18).

After Laban had tricked Jacob and swapped the older daughter, Leah, for Rachel on their wedding night, he informed Jacob, “It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfill her week, and we will give you this also for the service which you shall serve with me yet seven other years. And Jacob did so and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah, his handmaid, to be her maid. And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years” (Genesis 29:26-30).

This is the only time in the Bible other than Daniel 9:24-27 that the term ‘week’ is used for describing a 7-year time period. Jacob was married in approximately 1720 B.C. Could the 360-day prophetic calendar have still been in use at that time in ancient Mesopotamia? Or if there was an intercalary month/days to be added to this calendar, maybe Laban waved it for his son in law because Jacob had already served him for a month. The 360-day prophetic calendar is 36 days shorter than our modern Gregorian solar calendar in a 7-year time frame.

In the Old Testament, the first major event mentioned after the flood was the story of the Tower of Babel in ancient Mesopotamia. The ancient city of Babel was built by Noah’s great grandson Nimrod in what today is southern Iraq. Noah and his three sons would have taught their offspring many things including how to determine time by the heavenly lights. One of the earliest known people groups, the Sumerians, occupied the region of Babel after the Tower of Babel incident mentioned in Genesis 11:1-9.

The ancient Sumerians were known to have originally used a 360-day calendar; however, later, an intercalary month of 30 days was added approximately every 6 years. It appears this was done because the seasons were slowly drifting out of sync, because the years were slightly longer than before the flood. The Sumerians also discovered the moon’s cycle was not always 30 days but sometimes only 29 days. Since the lunar calendar no longer matched the solar calendar, an intercalary month of 30 days was added approximately every 6 years to compensate for the deficiency; therefore, the length of the month would still remain at 30 days.

Before the Sumerian’s calendar got too far out of sync, the intercalary month was added, which brought it into near alignment with a solar calendar of 365 or 366 days. Every 6th, 12th, 18th, 24th, 30th, and 36th year, thirty days were added as an extra 13th month to the calendar to bring it back into sync with the seasons and the 365-day solar calendar. 30 days were also added to the 40th year. After 40 years, the cycle would repeat itself. This ancient calendar is sometimes called the “40-Year Calendar.”

Every 6 years, after the intercalary month was added, the 40-year calendar would come to near alignment with the solar calendar…within a few days to a week. The 7th time (in a 40-year span) the extra intercalary month was added brought their calendar into complete alignment with our modern Gregorian solar calendar. The 40-year calendar was efficient for keeping up with large epochs of time.

The earliest Egyptian calendar was based on the moon’s cycles, but the lunar calendar (354 days) failed to predict a critical event in their lives: the annual flooding of the Nile River. The Egyptians soon noticed that the first day the “Dog Star,” which we call Sirius, in Canis Major was visible right before sunrise was special. The Egyptians were probably the first to adopt a mainly solar calendar of 365 days. This so-called “heliacal rising” always preceded the flood by a few days.

Based on this knowledge, they devised a 365-day calendar in the ancient past. They eventually had a system of 36 stars to mark out the year and, in the end, had three different calendars working concurrently for over 2,000 years: a stellar calendar for agriculture, a solar year of 365 days (12 months x 30 days + 5 intercalary days) and a quasi-lunar calendar for festivals.

The ancient Egyptians originally employed a calendar based upon the moon, and like many peoples throughout the world, they regulated their lunar calendar by means of the guidance of a sidereal calendar. They used the seasonal appearance of the star Sirius; this corresponded closely to the true solar year, being only twelve minutes shorter. Certain difficulties arose, however, because of the inherent incompatibility of lunar and solar years.

To solve this problem, the Egyptians invented a schematized civil year of 365 days divided into three seasons, each of which consisted of four months of thirty days each. To complete the year, five intercalary days were added at its end so that the twelve months were equal to 360 days plus five extra days. This civil calendar was derived from the lunar calendar (using months) and the agricultural, or Nile River fluctuations (using seasons). It was, however, no longer directly connected to either, and thus was not controlled by them.

The civil calendar served government and administration, while the lunar calendar continued to regulate religious affairs and everyday life. Because of the discrepancy between these two calendars, the Egyptians established a second lunar calendar based upon the civil year and not as the older one had been upon the sighting of Sirius. It was schematic and artificial, and its purpose was to determine religious celebrations and duties.

In order to keep it in general agreement with the civil year, a month was intercalated every time the first day of the lunar year came before the first day of the civil year. Later, a 25-year cycle of intercalation was introduced. The original lunar calendar, however, was not abandoned but was retained primarily for agriculture because of its agreement with the seasons. Thus, the ancient Egyptians operated with three calendars, each for a different purpose.

The only unit of time that was larger than a year was the reign of a king. The usual custom of dating by reign was: “year 1, 2, 3…, etc., of a certain king, and with each new king the counting reverted back to year 1. King lists recorded consecutive rulers and the total years of their respective reigns. The civil year was divided into three seasons, commonly translated: Inundation, when the Nile overflowed the agricultural land; Going Forth, the time of planting when the Nile returned to its bed; and Deficiency, the time of low water and harvest.

The months of the civil calendar were numbered according to their respective seasons and were not listed by any particular name, such as third month of inundation; but, for religious purposes, the months had names. How early these names were employed in the later lunar calendar is obscure.

The days in the civil calendar were also indicated by number and listed according to their respective months. Thus, a full civil date would be: “Regnal year 1, fourth month of inundation, day 5, under the majesty of King _.”

In the lunar calendar, however, each day had a specific name, and from some of these names it can be seen that the four quarters or chief phases of the moon were recognized, although the Egyptians did not use these quarters to divide the month into smaller segments such as weeks. Unlike most people who used a lunar calendar, the Egyptians began their day with sunrise instead of sunset because they began their month, and consequently their day, by the disappearance of the old moon just before dawn” {3}


{1} “Number in Scripture” by E.W. Bullinger pg. 168