[b-hebrew] What means, "beyn mayim lamayim"?

George F. Somsel gfsomsel at juno.com
Mon Jun 14 08:51:06 EDT 2004

On Mon, 14 Jun 2004 06:13:35 -0500 "Dora Smith" <villandra at austin.rr.com>
> In Genesis, 1:6, it says that "there was divided" "among/ between 
> waters
> to/for the waters (vayihiy or viyih mav'diyl, beyn mayi'm 
> lamayi'ym.)
> How does this translate?

and in a separate post

> In Genesis 1:7, why does it say "mitachat" for under the waters, and
> for "above the waters"?
> These words appear to contain a superfluous "from".   "From under" and
> upon" instead of under and upon.> Dora Smith

In both verses the verb BDL is used in the hiphil where it means "to
separate" -- in one case it is a participle, in the other a finite verb. 
BDL uses a preposition to express the relationship B."YN . . . W.B"YN,
L:-, B."YN . . . L:-. While the Hebrew uses the preposition B."YN twice,
it would be incorrect to suppose that one is therefore superfluous.  It
is only superfluous from the standpoint of English.  The two uses serve
to mark the two items being "separated."  When it states MiT.aXaT . . .
M"(aL, it designates the relative positions of the two items:  One is
above the RfQiYa( while the other is below.  

In translation it is not always necessary or even advisable to
mechanically follow the Hebrew.  There are provisions in English to
convey the distinction made without resort to following the exact
structure of the Hebrew which would sound strange in English.  I would
suggest something on the order of

Let there be a vault in the midst of the waters and let it be a
separation between the waters and the waters [The "and the waters" could
be eliminated]

And God made the vault, and it separated between the waters which are
under the vault from the waters which are above the vault.  And it was


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