Category Archives: Hebrew

Genesis 1:1-5

Genesis 1:1-5 Translation

Basic Translation

Note: Hebrew is written right-to-left, but all translation to English will be left-to-right. Each slash (/) represents a new Hebrew word, which can represent multiple words in English.

Verse 1: In the beginning / to create / God / Definite Direct Object Marker (DDOM) / the heavens / and DDOM / the earth.

Verse 2: And the earth / to be / emptiness, wasteland, formlessness / and void, uninhabited area / and darkness / on, upon / the face of / primeval ocean, deep, depth / and the spirit of / God / to hover / on, upon / face of / the waters.

Verse 3: And to say / God / to be / light / and to be / light.

Verse 4: And to see / God / DDOM / the Light / so, thus / Good / and to divide, separate, set apart, make a distinction / God / between / the light / and between / the darkness.

Verse 5: And to be / evening / and to be / morning / day / one

 Translation with Commentary

Verse 1: In (the) beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

The first verse of the bible starts with an inseperable preposition, the Hebrew letter “Bet”. This preposition has a wide semantic range, but the usual meaning “in” is used here. It is prefixed to the Hebrew word “Re’shith” meaning, beginning. The definite article “the” does not actually appear in this first word, but is supplied as demanded by the context.

The Hebrew verb “Bara” is parsed as “Qal Perfect, 3rd Person Masculine Singular”. Its subject follows, the Hebrew word “Elohim” which simply means “God”. Interestingly, this word is in the plural form, and possibly represents the Triune God!

Two definite direct objects then follow (marked by the definite direct object marker, “eth”, which is not translated), the heavens and the earth.

Verse 2: Now the earth was empty and void, and darkness was on the face of the priveval ocean, but the face spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

The Hebrew conjunction “Vav” has a really wide lexical range. It’s basic meaning is “And”, but can also be translated as “now, but, also”, etc, depending on the context. In this case, I chose the word “Now” to prevent its overuse ass it occurs multiple times in the follow clauses.

The word “Tohu” also has several meanings: “emptiness, wasteland, formlessness”. I chose “emptiness” to provide a closer synonym for the following word “Bohu” w hich could mean “void” or “uninhabited area”.

Another conjunction  “Vav” occurs before the following clause. This time I chose to translate it as “and” to signify its addition to the description of the earth in the earlier clause. What follows is the first of two uses of the “Al-Pney” construction. The word “Al” meaning “on, upon, over, against, by” prefixed on to the word “Panim”: “on the face”. “Panim” is in the construct state “Pney”, with the word “thom” meaning “primeval ocean, deep, depth” in the absolute state. This construct chain is the way Hebrew represents the “of” relationship. “on the face of the primeval ocean”.

In the next phrase, I chose to translate the “Vav” as “But” to contrast with the previous clause. “Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was on the face of the primeval ocean; but, the spirit of God was hovering on the face of the water”. The words “Ruakh” (spirit) and “Elohim” (God) is in construct, as is the second occurrence of the Al-Pney phrase and the word “Mayim” (water). The parsing for the word “Mrakhepheth” is “Qal Participle Feminine Singular, from the root ‘Rakhaph’ (to hover).” In the absence of a transitive verb, the verb “to be” was supplied.  “The spirit of God was hovering”.

Verse 3: Then God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light.

This verse starts with the Wayiqtol/Preterite/Past Narrative form of the verb “‘amar” (to say). This is the normal “narrative” verb form – used for telling story. This indicates that the previous 2 verses can be seen as a preamble, or introductory statements to this, the start of the narrative. So, I chose to translate the “Vav” prefixed to the verb as “Then”. I just think it makes for better story telling. “God” is obviously the subject of the verb. He’s the one speaking.

The parsing for the word “Yhiy” is “Qal Jussive 3rd Person Masculine Singular”. “Jussive” is the 3rd Person volitional mood, and shares the same form as the Imperfect 3rd Person. However, we know it’s volitional because it is the first word in the clause. “Wayhi” is parsed “Qal Preterite 3rd Person Masculine Singular” and simply means “And there was”. The noun “Light” is the obvious subject.

Verse 4: God saw that the light was good. Then God made a distinction between the light and the darkness.

The parsing for the word “Wayar” is “Qal Preterite 3rd Person Masculine Singular” from the root “Ra’ah” (to see). God is the obvious subject, though the object is a little more difficult to discern. Van Pelt and Pratico explain that the words “Ci-Tov” constitute a “dependent verbless clause with an explicit subject”. Who am I to argue with them? So I translated it as “that was good”, giving the translation for the clause “God saw the light that was good”, which I changed to “God saw that the light was good” to clean up the grammar.

“Wayivdel” is a “Qal Preterite 3rd person singular” and with the subject, God, I translated as “Then God made a distinction”. This follows the typical construct “between the light and between the darkness”, which I simplified to “between the light and the darkness”.

Verse 4: God named the light, “Day”, and the darkness, “Night”. Then there was evening, And there was morning. The first day.

“Wayiqra” is parsed “Qal preterite 3rd Person Masculine Singular” with God, again, as the subject. When the verb “Qara” is coupled with the inseparable prepositon “Lamed”, it takes on the meaning “name”. So this is what I used here. Literally it is “God called to the light”. The second clause is a similar construction except the “Qara” turns into a Perfect. In this case, the perfect just takes on the nuance of the previous verb form, so I maintained the narrative flow. Literally “God called the light, ‘day’ and the darkness, he called ‘night’.” But I simplified this, as well to make it more grammatically correct. Finally, two simple statements, with the verb “Wayhi” – which has already been parsed above as “Qal Preterite 3rd Perosn Mascualine Singular” of the verb “to be” occurs. With the two nouns “Evening” and “Morning”. The closing statement, “Yom Ekhad” literally means “Day One”, which could have been kept as a cool idiomatic way to express the Hebrew into English. But I decided to stick with the traditional “The first day”.

Final Translation

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was empty and void, and darkness was on the face of the priveval ocean, but the face spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light.

God saw that the light was good.

Then God made a distinction between the light and the darkness. And God named the light, “Day”, and the darkness, “Night”.

Then there was evening, And there was morning. The first day.