ירחו עצד פשת
ירחו קצר שערם
ירח קצר וכל
Its (two) months of harvest.
Its (two) months of sowing.
Its (two) months of late growth.
Its month of cutting flax
Its month of barley harvest.
Its month of harvest and measuring.
Its (two) months of pruning.
Its month of summer (fruit).
What kind of a text is this? An agricultural calendar? A school text? Is it poetry? I like to think of it as poetry because of the assonance and terse lines, but it's one odd poem if that's the case. There are two main issues with this inscription besides figuring out what it actually means.
First, the waw on ירחו is unusual. It likely reflects a 3ms suffix on a dual noun (Albright 1943). It can't be singular because the waw has to be consonantal at this stage of Hebrew. Other explanations have been offered such as waw as a case ending (Tropper 1993). Vocalization is uncertain. In Tiberian, I would vocalize it as יַרְחָיו.
The other primary uncertainty with this inscription is the phrase עצד פשת. Most likely it says “cutting flax” but עצד is a rare root in Hebrew. The main problem is that if the activities are in sequence, then the flax harvest would be out of place. Attempts to find another meaning for פשת, however, have been less than convincing (Dobbs-Allsopp 2005, 161).
This is an important inscription for the development of Hebrew as a written language. Oh, and one more thing, the last line is usually read as a personal name, perhaps the scribe or poet or whatever (in case you were wondering).
References & Resources
Albright, W. F. 1943. “The Gezer Calendar.” BASOR 92: 16-26.
Ahituv, Shmuel. 2008. Echoes from the Past: Hebrew and Cognate Inscriptions from the Biblical Period. Carta.
Cross, Frank Moore, Jr. and David Noel Freedman. 1952. Early Hebrew Orthography: A Study of the Epigraphic Evidence. New Haven: American Oriental Society.
Cross, Frank Moore. 1980. “Newly Found Inscriptions in Old Canaanite and Early Phoenician Scripts.” BASOR 238: 1-20.
Dobbs-Allsopp, F. W., et. al. 2005. Hebrew Inscriptions: Texts from the Biblical Period of the Monarchy with Concordance. Yale University Press.
Gibson, John C. L. 1971. Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions. Vol. 1: Hebrew and Moabite Inscriptions. Oxford: Clarendon.
Lidzbarski, Mark, et. al. 1909. “An Old Hebrew Calendar-Inscription from Gezer.” PEFQ.
Tropper, Josef. 1993. “Nominativ Dual *yarihau im Gezer-Kalendar.” ZAH 6/2: 228-231.
Yardeni, Ada. 1997. The Book of Hebrew Script. Jerusalem: Carta.