The Twelfth Month

New Moon Bible Study

John Plunkett 
March 9, 2016

There are eight appearances of the phrase “twelfth month” in the scriptures.

Let’s go through them – as we usually do – in time order (as well as we understand it).


For our first “twelfth month” verse, let’s start with David’s royal guard, which we’ve looked at in a few of our previous New Moon Day Bible studies:

I Chronicles 27:15:
The twelfth captain for the twelfth month was Heldai the Netophathite, of Othniel: and in his course were twenty and four thousand.

Let’s look first at this man named Heldai.  In this particular scripture his name is recorded as Strong’s 2469.  He was the captain of this 24,000-man guard for the twelfth month of the year. 

As I was thinking about this, I noticed that there is no mention of the intercalary month, so I wondered what happened in the years that did have an intercalary month, as to who took over David's royal guard.

As we're not told, let us move on and ask, What do we know about this man named Heldai? 

Not very much really
.  Other than the fact that – seemingly just to confuse us – he seems to have had multiple names… all with different meanings!

His name in Hebrew is Chelday which, we are told, means "Worldly."  Not a very flattering appellation; at least not on first reading.  But let’s not prejudge this man!

The name Heldai only appears twice in this particular form.  Once here in I Chronicles, and another time in Zechariah: 

Zechariah 6:10:
Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah;

We just read before that our first Heldai was "Heldai the Netophathite of Othniel"; but here we have "Heldai of Tobijah and of Jedaiah."  This Heldai mentioned by Zechariah must refer to a different man, because he was one of the returned exiles in the time of Zechariah, which was around 520 BC, about 450 years after the time of David’s royal guard.

We are told that the name Heldai is derived from another name – Heled or Cheled (Strong’s 2466 and 2465) and those words mean Transient.  Once again, not really very flattering! 

But these words can also mean age, world, time, duration of life or (and I like this one) to glide swiftly.  These are a lot more positive than Worldly and Transient.

In its 2466 form, we find Heled or Cheled in I Chronicles 11:26 – likely referring to the same high-ranking soldier of David’s army:

I Chronicles 11:
26:  Also the valiant men of the armies were, Asahel the brother of Joab, Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem….
etc., etc….
30:  Maharai the Netophathite, Heled
{Strong’s 2466} the son of Baanah the Netophathite,

I have no idea why the Chronicles authors – or as is perhaps more likely, its translators – would use two different spellings for the name of the same man.

But we see that Heldai was the son of a man by the name of Baanah, of whom we know even less.

We find this name Heled or Cheled in its Strong’s 2465 form in these scriptures.  So, if somebody is named Heled or Cheled, these scriptures give a more positive view of those that they refer to.  Others scriptures using these words are in praise of God and show mankind’s relative insignificance compared with Him. 

The first two are translated as“the world”:

Psalms 49:1:
Hear this, all you people; give ear, all you inhabitants of the world
{Strong’s 2465: Heled or Cheled}.

Psalms 17:14:
From men which are your hand, O LORD, from men of the world
{Strong’s 2465}, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly you fill with your hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.

This last one indicates the likelihood of us receiving blessings and success, if we put ourselves in God’s hands.

The next three heled/cheled scriptures refer to old age, which can be a blessing if we are in pretty good health:

Job 11:17:
And your age
{Strong’s 2465} shall be clearer than the noonday; you shall shine forth; you shall be as the morning.

This was from Zophar, one of Job’s "comforters" who was, in some respects, critical of Job.  He he was basically telling poor Job to repent, and was therefore being somewhat judgmental.  He was implying that obvious blessings would fall on Job if he were to repent.

Psalms 39:5:
Behold, you have made my days as an handbreadth; and my age
{Strong’s 2465} is as nothing before you: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.  Selah.

Again, this refers to man in comparison with the Eternal God.

Psalms 89:47:
Remember how short my time
{Strong’s 2465} is.  Why have you made all men in vain? 

Again, as it says in Chapter 39, man, "at his best state is altogether vanity" compared with the Eternal.

Just to keep us on our toes, we find that there is yet another spelling of Heled, or Cheled.  It is elsewhere spelled Heleb or Cheleb (Strong’s 2460 and 2459). 

Still referring to David’s high-ranking soldier, in its Strong’s 2460 form, and perhaps very surprisingly, believe it or not, it means Milk! 

II Samuel 23:
24:  Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty
{i.e. the thirty valiant ones, as mentioned in its parallel scripture in II Chronicles 11}; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem...
29:  Heleb
{Strong’s 2460} the son of Baanah, a Netophathite, Ittai the son of Ribai out of Gibeah of the children of Benjamin.

So we know that this is the same man as in our first key scripture of I Chronicles 27:15.

The names here are interesting.  The root verb of the Strong’s 2459 form means ‘to be fat.’  The word appears frequently in the Old Testament as fat, fatness, grease and marrow. 

Once again, to our modern ears, this does not sound so very complimentary.  But back then, far from meaning Worldly or Transient, this word had a connotation of wealth, riches and well-being.  It meant the best, the finest, the choicest part and abundance.

Now, just a word on all the different names here.  We look at all of this and wonder why would we have all of these different names, Heldai, Heled, Heleb, etc.  I was thinking about this, and I thought that, if any of us were to research our names – whether given names or surnames – we would probably find that there are probably lots of different versions of them.  I know that there certainly is with my name, Plunkett; so I'm sure there probably is with many of your names, as well.  So then, even in our modern day, this is not such an unusual thing. 

Also, there is the possibility of different translators coming up with different English versions of the original Hebrew ones.  If we take the time to dig into the Hebrew or the Greek, we can often find out what the names' meanings are.

What is strange with this particular one, though, is that when we look at all of the different versions of this man's name, the Hebrew comes up with different ideas of what his name means.

Now, this Heldai – or whatever his name was – was a Netophathite – as was Maharai who was the general of David’s tenth month guard and who, you might remember, we studied two months ago.

This means that, as mentioned in our tenth month study, both men likely hailed from the town of Netophah, which was located in the tribal territory of Judah – possibly close to the well-known town of Bethlehem – as implied by them being linked in both of these two scriptures:

Nehemiah 7:26:
The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, an hundred fourscore and eight.

I Chronicles 2:54:
The sons of Salma; Bethlehem, and the Netophathites, Ataroth, the house of Joab, and half of the Manahethites, the Zorites.

Also as mentioned in our tenth month study, ancient Netophah has been identified with the ruins of a place called Um Toba or its modern form, Umm Tuba, which is a suburb situated half way between Bethlehem and Jerusalem – about 4 miles from each. 

Back in our original scripture – I Chronicles 27:15 – we are told that this General Heldai was a Netophathite of Othniel.  I find it interesting that Heldai was a Netophathite of Othniel whereas Maharai – the star general of the tenth month – was a Netophathite of the Zarhites – of the line of Judah’s son Zerah (or Zarah).  This would imply that all Netophathites were not necessarily of the same lineage.

So what did the writer of these Royal Guard scriptures mean when he wrote “of Othniel”?  Who was Othniel, and where was his family from?

Without looking up all of the relevant scriptures, we are told that Othniel was the son of a man by the name of Kenaz who was the younger brother of the well known Caleb. 

But that Kenaz, who lived somewhere around 1440 BC, must have been a different one than the Kenaz mentioned in Genesis 36 – and who lived 450 years earlier in approximately 1890 BC – and who was not an Israelite; but was one of the grandsons of Esau – and thus an Edomite.

If Othniel was, in fact, of the line of the earlier, Edomite Kenaz, then perhaps his brother Caleb and their father Jephunneh were too!  That would raise eyebrows, especially amongst the Jews, I would think.  The idea that Caleb – one of the greatest heroes of ancient Israel and Judah – was not an Israelite at all – but was a Kenezite, an Edomite, and a Gentile – might come as quite a shock; and I’m sure most Jews would reject the idea.  It is, however, a real possibility.  Although a lot of Bible commentators do raise this as a possibility, most of them are are not absolutely sure of it.

Nevertheless, whatever their origin, just like Caleb before him and Heldai after him, Othniel was a military hero who later became one of the Judges of Israel.  We read about his reign in Judges 3:8-11.

All of this means that Heldai came from a pretty respectable family line.

Ezekiel and Jehoiakin

We’ll now say a fond farewell to our first hero, Heldai, and we'll jump forward nearly four hundred years, from the last days of King David, who was the first Jewish king (Saul was of the house of Benjamin, not Judah) to the twelfth month of one of the early years of the Babylonian captivity of their last Jewish king – Jehoiakin. 

First of all, in the writings of the prophet Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 32:1:
And it came to pass in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 

Now, before we find out what the LORD said to Ezekiel, let’s just find out what he meant by “the twelfth year”.

And in order to do this and to get our bearings, we need to go back to the beginning of Book of Ezekiel, and to take a quick scan through each mention of the years he refers to in this way, when he is talking about this year, and that year.  It is interesting that, throughout the Old Testament, it will talk about a certain year, and we may have to drill backwards to find out what the reference is.  We will see that here, where we have two different time scales:

Ezekiel 1:
1:  Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
2:  In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity,

Scholars differ as to what "year one" of the period that this "thirtieth year" refers to.  Some think it was the year of Ezekiel’s birth.  Some say that it was the year of the last Jubilee.  Others say that it was the year that the book of the law was found by Hilkiah the priest.  Yet others believe that it was the year of the accession of King Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar.

Whichever is actually correct, just for tonight, for simplicity and for our purposes, let us just call it “the Jubilee Scale” – even if that turns out not to be correct.

But which time scale was Ezekiel referring to in chapter 32?  Was it the Jubilee Scale?  Or the one starting with Jehoiakin’s captivity as he mentioned in Ezekiel 1:2?

I believe that it was the latter.  Why?  Because of subsequent verses in subsequent chapters (after Ezekiel 1:1-2), giving the time settings in years and months. 

For example, the very next time setting shown by Ezekiel is – not as the 31st year of the Jubilee Scale; but as the 6th year – probably – almost definitely – of the Jehoiakin Captivity scale:

Ezekiel 8:1:
And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell there upon me.

Continuing in the same sequence:

Ezekiel 20:1:
And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the LORD, and sat before me.

Ezekiel 24:1:
Again in the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Ezekiel 26:1:
And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Ezekiel 29:1:
In the tenth year, in the tenth month, in the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Ezekiel 30:20:
And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first month, in the seventh day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Ezekiel 31:1:
And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Until we arrive at the twelfth year in chapter 32.  Let’s repeat our verse – verse 1:

Ezekiel 32:1:
And it came to pass in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 

So, if the first year of Jehoiakin’s captivity was, as most scholars believe, 596 BC, then counting inclusively, the twelfth year would have been 585 BC.

Not that the accuracy of the dates makes a lot of difference to us in this regard; but it at least gives us an approximation of the time-frame being referred to.

By the way, as Jehoiakin was only eighteen years old when he was first sent into slavery, he would now have been thirty years old and still a young man.

Now then, what did the LORD say to Ezekiel on the first day of the twelfth month of that twelfth year?

Here’s what He said:

Verse 2:  Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him, “You are like a young lion of the nations, and you are as a whale in the seas: and you came forth with your rivers, and troubled the waters with your feet, and fouled their rivers….

This is the beginning of a dire prophetic warning to the leaders – not of Judah – but of Egypt.  And this was not the first prophetic warning given to Egypt by God through the pen of Ezekiel either.  Chapters 29, 30 and 31 are taken up with more prophetic warnings against Pharaoh.

We don’t have time this evening to go into all the details of this particular warning; but, if you’re so inclined, you can read them for yourselves in verses 3 to 16.  In a nutshell, though, there's lots of bad news for Egypt!

But even at the end of this warning, the LORD hadn’t finished with them yet!  It gets worse!  Fourteen more days – two more weeks – of the twelfth month go by and the Word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel again – on the same tack: 

Verse 17a:  It came to pass also in the twelfth year, in the fifteenth day of the month…

Exactly which month is not actually mentioned here; but the twelfth month is assumed, as no other month has been mentioned since verse 1 

17b: … that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

And again, what did He say?  And once again, the bottom line is that it doesn’t get any better for the Egyptians.

18:  Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit….

Yes.  More bad news – advance bad news – for the Egyptians!  But again, we won’t go into all the details tonight.  You can read it all for yourselves in verses 19 to 32.  The LORD gave Ezekiel multiple, huge prophecies of the defeat and destruction of the Egyptians.

Did this prophecy reach the Egyptians from Ezekiel who was in captivity in Babylon?  If so, by what means?  I have no information on this.  Also, if it did reach them, did they do anything about it?  Were there any fruits of repentance?  I would assume – obviously not, even though I’m sure that they must have been aware of the results of their forefathers ignoring the LORD’s warnings – unless their history had been changed through ancient Egypt’s version of  George Orwell's "Ministry of Misinformation."

Also, were these dire prophecies fulfilled?  Yes, they were.  In a few rounds of invasion and war, including the famous Battle of Carchemish.

Finally, for this section, I’m not sure why the LORD would have these chapters – these ones that are dedicated to the multiple prophetic  warnings to the Egyptians – included in His Word.  

Unless, perhaps, they were not meant primarily for the Egyptians!  Perhaps they were never even sent to the Egyptians!  Maybe the LORD gave them to the Jews – perhaps also to the Babylonians (in whose captivity Ezekiel was at the time) – and perhaps also to His people today – to hammer home the point that He is totally able to bring to pass huge historic events, to have them prophesied in advance – in great detail – even if the prophet through which He gives them is located over 1,200 miles away – in captivity – and without Internet access!  :-)

Jehoiakin: 560 BC

For our next “Twelfth Month” scripture, let’s move on – about 25 years on – from the twelfth year of Jehoiakin’s captivity in about 585 BC to the 37th year of his captivity – about 560 BC.

And here we learn about an event that appears to be something of a positive one:

II Kings 25:
27:  And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth
{37th} year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah {560 BC?}, in the twelfth month, on the seven and twentieth {27th} day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison; 
28: And he spoke kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon;
29: And changed his prison garments: and he did eat bread continually before him all the days of his life.
30: And his allowance was a continual allowance
{Hebrew: tamiyd-aruchah} given him of the king, a daily rate {Hebrew: yowm-yowm-dabar} for every day, all the days of his life. 

This is repeated, almost verbatim, in Jeremiah 52 – which would indicate the possibility that Jeremiah wrote at least this section of II Kings. Maybe all of it.  Maybe I Kings too.

Jeremiah 52:
31: And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth
{37th} year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, in the five and twentieth {25th} day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the first year of his reign lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and brought him forth out of prison, 
32: And spoke kindly unto him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon,
33: And changed his prison garments: and he did continually eat bread before him all the days of his life.
34: And for his diet, there was a continual diet
{Hebrew: tamiyd-aruchah} given him of the king of Babylon, every day a portion {Hebrew: yowm-yowm-dabar} until the day of his death, all the days of his life.

The only real differences between the two versions are these:

1. The date in the II Kings version is the 27th day of the twelfth month, whereas the Jeremiah version gives it as the 25th day of the twelfth month.

2. Both the Hebrew and the English translation of verse 34 of Jeremiah 52 compared with verse 30 of II Kings 25 are almost identical, although the Jeremiah 52 version adds the phrases “of Babylon” and “until the day of his death.”

The scriptures pretty well speak for themselves – even closing off the two books of Kings in a positive light.  But there are a few interesting points worth noting.

One is that, as Jehoiakin was only 18 years old at the time of his captivity, at this point in the narrative, he was now 55 years old.  We don’t know what year he died; but we do know that he did not live to see or enjoy Judah’s release from its 70-year exile in Babylon.

There are various opinions as to who this Babylonian King Evil-Merodach was and how he was related to the late, great Nebuchadnezzar. But we won’t go into those disputes this evening.

It has also been asked why Evil-Merodach was so good to the incarcerated Jehoiakin – the last king of Judah.  There is a legend that says that the two had been imprisoned together for some time after Nebuchadnezzar’s return from his “mad” period; and that, after Nebuchadnezzar died, Evil-Merodach took pity on Jehoiachin, released him and did what he could to try to make up for Nebuchadnezzar’s excesses.

Ezra: 515 BC

The next "twelfth month" scripture doesn’t actually mention the words “twelfth month”; but does mention the month name, Adar, a name which, it seems, the Jews must have picked up from the Babylonians during their time there.  There is no name for the twelfth month that we know of prior to the exile.

The context mentions the completion of the rebuilding of the temple:

Ezra 6:
14:  And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo.  And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.
15:  And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
16:  And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy,
17:  And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.
18:  And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses. 

Again, these verses pretty-well speak for themselves.  The Jews kept a special and joyful time of the rededication of the temple.  Joyful for the people, of course – although the populations of the bullocks, rams, lambs and goats weren’t too happy that the sacrificial system was back in service!

Esther: 482 BC

Still moving along in time order, for our final twelfth month scriptures, we return to the book of Esther: 

Esther 3:
7:  In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar…

Most scholars agree that what was happening here was that the newly-promoted and superstitious Haman, in his hatred for the Jews – and especially for Mordecai – had his cronies cast lots every day of the year to see which would be the “luckiest” day of the year for him to spring his devious plan of tricking King Ahasuerus into agreeing to the destruction of the Jews of his kingdom. 

“And the winning day for the dirty deed to be done was"… the 13th day of the twelfth month:

13:  And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.

Now, I’m sure that you all know the rest of the story, how it all backfired on the wicked Haman, who ended up suffering “the drop” instead of Mordecai.  

Although the King’s decree was legally unchangeable, an addendum was made enabling the Jews to defend themselves against anyone who still chose to attack them on that day:

Esther 8: 
11:  Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey,
12:  Upon one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar.
13:  The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.

And so, it all worked out fine:

Esther 9:
1:  Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;) 
2:  The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people.

And once all that nastiness and bloodshed was done with:

Verse 17:  On the thirteenth day of the month Adar; and on the fourteenth day of the same rested they, and made it a day of feasting and gladness.
18:  But the Jews that were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the fifteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness.
19:  Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another.
20:  And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews
{N.B.} that were in all the provinces of the King Ahasuerus, both nigh and far,
21:  To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly,
22:  As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor…
Verse 26a:  Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur… 

So, all was well that ended well.

There are some Church of God members who feel that we should still be keeping the Feast of Purim; but it is not a commanded Feast for non-Jews.

So that’s it for our Twelfth Month New Moon Day Bible study… the final New Moon Day of this “sacred year.”