[b-hebrew] Gen 1:24 - holem waw

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Oct 31 02:39:49 EDT 2007

On 10/29/07, Charles Grebe wrote:
> Hi,
> I have a quick question about the phrase WXYTWo-)RC in Genesis 1:24. I'm
> not sure what to do with the holem waw. It appears to be a pronominal
> suffix on the noun "chaya" which is part of a construct chain with
> "eretz." Can you have a pronominal suffix in the middle of a contruct
> chain like this? If so, or if not for that matter, how would you
> translate this?

This is most often considered to be an example of traces of case-endings.
Thus, Semitic languages had three case endings in the singular --
nominative (-u at the end of the word), genitive (-i at the end of the word),
and accusative (-a at the end of the word).  To say: the king of the
country built the temple of god, you might have said:

malku ?arDi banaya bayta ili
malku - nom sing of malk "king"
?arDi - gen sing of ?arD "land" (D became Sade in Hebrew)
banaya - verb, built
bayta - acc sing of bayt "house" (used here in the sense of Temple)
ili - gen sing of il "god"

If one takes this interpretation, then one notices that in Gen 1:24, at least,
the case vowel should have been -a, not -u.  What seems to have happened,
is that as case vowels were lost, case endings in construct words were
viewed as more archaic, and used to add poetical effect.  But this doesn't
mean they were used correctly.  Rather, a frozen word with a case ending
remained and was used in all forms, even if the case ending was incorrect
in the original context.  Such a development is most often the result of
analogy -- when an old form is displaced by analogy, the ancient form may
remain in restricted contexts, such as poetic or religious usage.  Compare
the word "brethren" in English (replaced by "brothers", on the analogy with
"stone" : "stones").

Gesenius deals with this in p. 170ff.  See here:

and specifically here:

Bauer and Lander (Grammatik der Historische Hebraeischen Sprache)
apparently deal with this on p .525.

Yitzhak Sapir

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