[b-hebrew] Genesis 1:2 - And the earth was without form, and void

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Thu Apr 13 17:15:11 EDT 2006

Dear Herman and Schmuel:

To give a different reading on the verses:

Genesis 1:1 is a simple sentence, with a subject 
)LHYM verb BR) object, in this case two H$MYM and 
H)RC, with a time indicator at the beginning.

Genesis 1:2 is another sentence, or three, again 
with different subjects than the first verse, 
different verbs and objects.

The third verse again has )LHYM as the subject, 
new sentence.

The Waw tacked on the beginning of the second 
and following sentences indicate continuation 
of narration. This is not a complex sentence with 
verse one as a subordinate clause. If you insist 
that these make up one sentence, then what we have 
is a typical run-on sentence connected by "and"s.

As a lexicographer, I find the readings of Rashi, 
ibn Ezra, Stone Chumash etc. as Herman quoted 
below, have no basis in Hebrew language. These are 
not obscure words (with the exception of THW WBHW 
and the verb MRXPT which are not being directly 
discusses here), rather they are well known.

As for the B- prefix on R)$YT, it does not take the 
meaning of "when". As far as I remember, the B- 
prefix can be translated as "when" only when 
appended onto a verbal participle, and R)$YT is a 
noun which in this construct makes an adverbial 

The way I translate these verses:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the 
earth. And the earth came into being (here 
indicating that HYTH means more than just "was", 
showing what the original state of the earth was 
when God created it) lifeless and still (there is 
controversy concerning these meanings, some on one 
side, some on the other), and darkness was upon the 
face of the deep, and God's Spirit coming to rest 
upon the face of the waters. And God said, "Light 
become" and light became (or "came into being")." 
And yes, I do include some Hebraisms in my 
translation, such as the "and"s which proper 
English should eliminate.

I think grammarians all too often make mountains 
out of molehills.

Karl W. Randolph.

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Herman Meester" <crazymulgogi at gmail.com>
> Hello Schmuel,
> A completely different viewpoint, but imho a very legitimate one
> (there's been a nice controversy about this on this forum before) is
> to reanalyse the syntax of Gen 1,1-3.
> I don't think we should go over the entire discussion, but I'll just
> give here a translation that represents the syntactic viewpoint of
> Rashi, Ibn Ezra, the Stone Chumash, quite a few scholars I know in
> Leiden, Alter's translation, etc.
> "In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and the earth - when
> the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of
> the deep, and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the
> waters - God said,  "Let there be light," and there was light.
> As far as Hebrew syntax is concerned, this is, I think, the most
> plausible analysis.
> The result is that the first actual verb (as a predicate, not in a
> circumstantial clause) is "[God] said". As we know, in Jewish
> "theology" the simple act of God "speaking" is what creates, this is
> the nicest analysis of this passage. The words "[b-reshit] bara" can't
> really be the first predicate of the Tora, because it's a perfect (in
> smichut), not an "imperfect consecutive"- form. The idea that "light",
> rather than "heaven(s) and earth" was created first
> is of course very symbolic, and a great image. It is actually a
> scientific fact, too (for those who like to reconcile the biblical
> account with the science of astronomy).
> regards,
> Herman
> Rotterdam, NL, EU

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