Genesis 1:7

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GarlandJones
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Genesis 1:7

Post by GarlandJones »

Hello all. First time post. I have a question regarding Genesis 1:7 and the subject of the pronoun of ןיבדל. I am self learning Hebrew and noticed in the NJPS they translate it "It" contrasted to "He". Both elohim/haraqia being absent by ellipsis. I've consulted several grammars and syntax textbooks for help. I've also consulted every major commentary on Genesis and only found reference to it through Victor P. Hamilton and he chose Elohim but his reasoning is far from acceptable.

I'm leaning towards Elohim now where Initially I did not. I wll save my observances unless asked for. I'd like to hear others opinions. I also viewed English translations of targums, lxx, samaritan and syriac and found 2/3 that were rendered "it" but I'm not sure if it's definitive in the other language or if it was translator bias as is English. I've chewed on this foe two weeks. All input is considered valuable.
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Jason Hare
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Re: Genesis 1:7

Post by Jason Hare »

First, notice that ן is found on the i key, and it is nun sofit. The first letter should have been ו (that is, ויבדל rather than ןיבדל), which is found on the u key. Vav doesn’t hang down below the base line on which other letters are placed. It’s important to distinguish between י yod, ו vav, and ן nun sofit in their length. It’s great that you’re working on typing Hebrew, though. Keep at it!

When you ask a question like this, it’s a great idea to post the verse so that we can be sure that you’re referring to a specific verse and haven’t made a mistake in the citation. In this case:

Genesis 1:7 (BHS)
וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִים֮ אֶת־הָרָקִיעַ֒ וַיַּבְדֵּ֗ל בֵּ֤ין הַמַּ֨יִם֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לָרָקִ֔יעַ וּבֵ֣ין הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר מֵעַ֣ל לָרָקִ֑יעַ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃


If all we had were this verse, it would be clear that אֱלֹהִים was the subject, since the subject of the one verb (וַיַּ֫עַשׂ) would naturally continue to the next verb (“God made... and he separated...”). The ambiguity is introduced from the verse before this one, which reads:

Genesis 1:6 (BHS)
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יְהִ֥י רָקִ֖יעַ בְּתֹ֣וךְ הַמָּ֑יִם וִיהִ֣י מַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין מַ֖יִם לָמָֽיִם׃


In this case, we see that the declaration was that the רָקִיעַ itself was to cause the separation between the waters. Thus, it could be that God made the firmament, and that the firmament separated between the waters.

Based on Genesis 1:7 alone, I would read it that God separated between the waters, but paired with Genesis 1:6, I could read it otherwise. The text itself is ambiguous.
Jason Hare
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יוֹדֵ֣עַ צַ֭דִּיק נֶ֣פֶשׁ בְּהֶמְתּ֑וֹ וְֽרַחֲמֵ֥י רְ֝שָׁעִ֗ים אַכְזָרִֽי׃
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GarlandJones
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Re: Genesis 1:7

Post by GarlandJones »

Thanks for the response, Jason! I am using Hebrew from my Android phone and the vav and nun are directly beside one another. Complete accident. I'm going to see if there us a way for me to include vowels as my keyboard on my phone doesn't contain them.

Regarding the verse(s) in view this would be the only place in the first 6 days where the subject of the verb is not written.

Verse 28 reads thus

וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֹתָם֮ אֱלֹהִים֒ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר לָהֶ֜ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים פְּר֥וּ וּרְב֛וּ וּמִלְא֥וּ אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ
וְכִבְשֻׁ֑הָ וּרְד֞וּ בִּדְגַ֤ת הַיָּם֙ וּבְעֹ֣וף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּבְכָל־חַיָּ֖ה הָֽרֹמֶ֥שֶׂת עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

אלהים is listed as subject explicitly with both verb. Comparing back to verse 7, i would expect to see ויעש אלהים את הרקיע ויבדל אלהים בין המים based on verse 28. Or see in verse 28 ויברך אתם אלהים ויאמר להם פרו ורבו. I understand these may not be identical constructions.

I've looked at this handfuls of times in the last couple of weeks and just noticed something. If I disregard the verses and look at what appear to be clauses, could "Then Elohim blessed them" be an independent clause followed by "Then Elohim said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply..." a separate independent clause similar to the other "Then Elohim said"(s) in the chapter? Could the omission of subject in verse 7 imply that the he/it separated could/would not be an independent clause but a continuation of "Then Elohim made the expanse"? This to me may imply the separation clause to belong to the firmament.

Overall (and I had taken verse 6 into account prior) it's beginning to look more and more like the הרקיע is the subject by ellipsis and not אלהים. What is bothering me with this view is the same clause in verse 7 says the waters from above and from below were separated לרקיע twice. And I'm understanding this is "for, in regards to, or concerning" הרקיע.
I'm not experienced enough to know if this is acceptable grammar or not in biblical hebrew. I know in English it would sure be redundant and tacky. I'm at a loss for apt description here. Hopefully it's clear enough how it would read. That the expanse would separate for the sake of the expanse(itself) x2.
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Jason Hare
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Re: Genesis 1:7

Post by Jason Hare »

As I said, it’s more natural to read it as having the same continued subject from the previous verb. That’s how it generally happens.

Genesis 2:2–3 (WLC)
וַיְכַ֤ל אֱלֹהִים֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה׃ וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑וֹ כִּ֣י ב֤וֹ שָׁבַת֙ מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֥א אֱלֹהִ֖ים לַֽעֲשֽׂוֹת׃


The two verbs in red above have no overt subject, but it is continued from the verbs that precede them. This is really the normal way to read them, and I would read your verse that way too. The only thing that introduces ambiguity is the preceding verse, but we shouldn’t be such sticklers to grammar that we force the reading. Hebrew often changes subjects without warning (from singular to plural, from third to first person, etc.).

Take Psalm 91 as an example. It starts in the third person singular, then shifts to the first-person singular as the author of the psalm. Suddenly, it goes into the second person, speaking to the listener as if he were the one referred to in verse 1. The last three verses go back to speaking in the voice of God in the first person and of the listener in the third person. We shouldn’t make a lot of this. It happens.
Jason Hare
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יוֹדֵ֣עַ צַ֭דִּיק נֶ֣פֶשׁ בְּהֶמְתּ֑וֹ וְֽרַחֲמֵ֥י רְ֝שָׁעִ֗ים אַכְזָרִֽי׃
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GarlandJones
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Re: Genesis 1:7

Post by GarlandJones »

Thanks for your answer. I was also aware of Genesis 2:2-3 as I was careful to mention six days in an earlier post, not even. Elohim is the natural subject on the seventh I've assumed. Off of 2:2-3 and what I'd learned prior to this incedent I thought the subject was Elohim.

It may have helped had I mentioned I was wanting to translate this into writing. Honestly, to me it makes no difference on a daily impact the implication of it being one or the other. I thought there may be some value in learning a grammar/syntax observance I was not previously aware of as Benno Jacob's son in his English abridgement of Genesis used "it" in verse 7 to indicate a different subject, as did Ephraim A. Speiser in the Anchor Bible, and Robert Alter in his translation of Genesis and probably several others I've missed. I also consulted H. M. Orlinsky's notes to the NJPS translation and explaining this change from the old to the new JPS was skipped over entirely.

Every issue I've encountered like this, whether grammatical or regarding definition has been well explained by commentators except this one. Now this statement is limited to Genesis 1 and 2 so that may not be as shocking as it seems to be at the moment. I may find that quite the norm in later chapters and/or other books.

Once again, thanks for your help. It seems best to read it as Elohim grammatically. Expanse contextually.

Lastly, do you have any input on לרקיע in verse 7?
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Jason Hare
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Re: Genesis 1:7

Post by Jason Hare »

GarlandJones wrote: Thu Dec 01, 2022 12:12 pmLastly, do you have any input on לרקיע in verse 7?
What exactly is the issue there?
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יוֹדֵ֣עַ צַ֭דִּיק נֶ֣פֶשׁ בְּהֶמְתּ֑וֹ וְֽרַחֲמֵ֥י רְ֝שָׁעִ֗ים אַכְזָרִֽי׃
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GarlandJones
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Re: Genesis 1:7

Post by GarlandJones »

No issue. וַיַּבְדֵּ֗ל בֵּ֤ין הַמַּ֙יִם֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לָרָקִ֔יעַ וּבֵ֣ין הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר מֵעַ֣ל לָרָקִ֑יעַ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃

I was wondering if the two uses of לרקיע in this clause would omit הרקיע from being the subject or lean favor in the direction of אלהים.

This will be my last question on this verse.
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