What is the conceptual root of אחד in Genesis 1:9?

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Saro Fedele
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What is the conceptual root of אחד in Genesis 1:9?

Postby Saro Fedele » Sun Jun 09, 2019 11:05 am

In the account of creation, Genesis 1:9 describes the formation of dry land.
And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered in one [אחד] place so that the dry land will appear’, and so it was.” (Robert Alter)

The vast majority of Hebrew term's classes are derived from conceptual roots. Now, admittedly, one of the most difficult aspect of ‘Biblical’ Hebrew to understand is to fix the correct link between derivatives terms and conceptual roots (“The ascertaining of the root and its meaning, although in many ways very difficult and hazardous, is of great lexicographical importance [...].”, F. H. Wilhelm Gesenius, Hebrew Grammar, § 30i).
In the matter on the discussion, it be quite simple to make to derive אחד from the same conceptual roots of the numeral ‘one’, and maybe, with the term אח (‘brother’, ‘relative’, ‘kinsman’, et cetera). In the same manner, also the allographic root יחד can be related with the same concept (see, please its usage in Gen 49:6).
All these terms have in common an idea of ‘to be cohesive, unified’ (see the idiom למען יהיו כלם אחד – only for a comparison purpose - in John 17:21, The New Testament in Hebrew and English, Cambridge University Press.

So, is it all ok?
Don’t these facts confirm the commoner translation ‘the waters […] be gathered in one [אחד] place’?

Not quite, because the trouble is the context.

From the Genesis’ passages (1:2, 6) we learn that Earth was (in the epoch pointed by these verses) a planet fully covered by the waters. So, also in that time the waters were in one place, don’t they?
Why, so, the supposed 'one place' seems to appear only on the second ‘day’?

Happily, the phraseology of the verse 9 can help us to understand that only after the waters’ setting apart the dry land was able to appear. In the spectacular poetry of Job 38:8-11 we just find the Bible link between waters (sea) and his 'setting apart'. In fact, we read in it (bold is mine):

Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it broke forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made a cloud its garment, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it, And broke up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed” (Webster)”

It shouldn’t be probable, then, that the term אחד, was derived not from a root with a ‘to unify’ (et cetera) concept, but from a root related with the idea of ‘to set apart’, ‘to back‘, to corner’, ‘to close (in a limited space)’, and so on?

A conceptual root that has these necessary requirements exists.

We find it – transformed in a verbal form - in Eze 21:19 (in other numerous passages we find this root transformed in a noun as ‘an enclosed place’):
הגדול החדרת להם

that is, “[…] the great [sword], which corner them.”


So, if we conclude that the term אחד in Gen 1:9 was derived from the root חדר, we can discover a fresher and – more importantly – suitable meaning of the verse at issue, without triggering any clash with the logical context of the passage:

"God was saying: ‘Let the waters be stored up in a place sets apart [...]."


Saro Fedele

Isaac Fried
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Re: What is the conceptual root of אחד in Genesis 1:9?

Postby Isaac Fried » Sun Jun 09, 2019 10:18 pm

Seems to me that אחד, 'one', is but a variant of אחז, 'hold, hold together', (also אגד and עקד, 'bind, fasten'.)
The two conditions for terrestrial life are:
1. Unevenness in the face of the earth.
2. Gravity to hold us down upon the surface of the earth, and to pull the free water down into the deepest depressions to be held there together.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Jemoh66
Posts: 251
Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:03 pm

Re: What is the conceptual root of אחד in Genesis 1:9?

Postby Jemoh66 » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:59 am

Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is backed up into a cornery. WE are the creators. We have reinvented Echad and bound Him to maqom Echad.
Jonathan E Mohler
Studying for a MA in Intercultural Studies
Baptist Bible Theological Seminary

Isaac Fried
Posts: 1281
Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:32 pm

Re: What is the conceptual root of אחד in Genesis 1:9?

Postby Isaac Fried » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:04 am

Another related root, called for, and actually widely used now in spoken Hebrew is אהד, 'supported, accepted, liked, felt sympathy for, felt kinship with, was a fan of (say the local soccer team.)

In the HB it is found only in the names אֹהַד (Gen. 46:10), and אֵהוּדֶ (Jud. 3:15.)

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Isaac Fried
Posts: 1281
Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:32 pm

Re: What is the conceptual root of אחד in Genesis 1:9?

Postby Isaac Fried » Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:16 pm

The root אגד is interesting in its relationship to עקד, אחד, אחז, 'held together, held to be a single unified entity'.
In 2Sam. 2:25
וַיִּתְקַבְּצוּ בְנֵי-בִנְיָמִן אַחֲרֵי אַבְנֵר וַיִּהְיוּ לַאֲגֻדָּה אֶחָת וַיַּעַמְדוּ עַל רֹאשׁ גִּבְעָה אֶחָת
NIV: "Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill"
KJV: And the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together after Abner, and became one troop, and stood on the top of an hill"
אֲגֻדָּה AGUDAH is 'group, one troop, cluster, whole, union, association' (notice how "group" is related to "grip", and "cluster" to "clutch".)

In Ex. 12:22
וּלְקַחְתֶּם אֲגֻדַּת אֵזוֹב
KJV: "And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop"
אֲגֻדָּה is evidently עקוּדה, or אחוּזה, 'held together', or אחוּדה, 'unified', into a cluster, clutched together to be one whole bunch.
Otherwise, אֵזוֹב = עֵשוֹב, 'grass'.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Isaac Fried
Posts: 1281
Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:32 pm

Re: What is the conceptual root of אחד in Genesis 1:9?

Postby Isaac Fried » Mon Jun 10, 2019 4:45 pm

Mention of the declamation אדוני אחד, 'God Is One', led me recall the Hebrew liturgical poem יגדל אלוהים חי YIGDAL, attributed to Maimonides הרמב"ם 1135-1204, and being found now in almost every Hebrew סדוּר SIDDUR, prayer book, see:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yigdal
and in particular the second line:
אֶחָד וְאֵין יָחִיד כְּיִחוּדוֹ נֶעְלָם וְגַם אֵין סוֹף לְאַחְדּוּתוֹ
"He is One – and there is no unity like His Oneness – Inscrutable and infinite is His Oneness (Unity)"

Isaac Fried, Boston University


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