Continuing our lessons in Genesis, today we will look at the next verse. By way of review, up to this point we have seen in Genesis that we read the Hebrew Bible right to left, the words are divided into sylables (closed or open), and we have learned a little about verbs and prepositions. Remember, part of the key to learning is to read the Hebrew Scriptures out loud and often. Try to memorize part of them. Make vocabulary cards and work through them. It is important to immerse yourself as much as possible in the language itself. With that said, let’s move on to Genesis 1:2.
Try to read the Hebrew, carefully pronouncing each word. It can be helpful to transliterate the verse, especially when beginning to learn the language. Also, recognize and say each Hebrew letter so that you can continue to become familiar with them. I’ll transliterate Genesis 1:2 here for you, but be sure to practice transliterating on your own as well.
vehā’ārets hāyetāh tohu vāvohu vehosekh ‘al-penê tehom veruha ’ĕlohîm merahēfet ‘al-penê hammayim.
Let’s take a look at the first several word briefly for now, the next post will finish up the remaining words, and a third post will go into some more grammatical issues.
We’ve seen this word before. Do you recognize it? It has a conjunction as a prefix in this instance, but the base noun (and definite article) is in Genesis 1:1. The first letter followed by the shewa is the conjunction “and” or “but,” determined mainly by context. In this instance it is most likely translated as “and”. The next letter (hey) and vowel (qamets) is the definite article (just like in verse 1). Together they form a prefix attached to the noun ’erets that we saw in the previous verse which is the noun for “earth” or “land”. The prefix causes the first vowel of the noun change from an “e” to an “a”, but don’t worry too much about that at this point. This word is translated into English as “And the earth.”
This second word is one of two verbs in the sentence. It is the qal perfect 3rd person feminine form of the verb “to be.” The reason it is feminine is because of the shewa beneath the second letter and ah ending. It is thus translated as “was.”
Here is a noun that generally translated means “formless.”
If you’ve been following along so far, you should quickly notice the first letter of this word is a waw followed by a pathak. This denotes the conjunction “and.” This conjuction is attached to a noun that means “void.” So the translation is “and void.”
Once more we see the waw, this time followed by a shewa. What does this indicate? A conjunction, “and.” Following the conjunction is the noun for “darkness.” The translation is thus, “and darkness.”
Here is a preposition. Basically it means “on” or “upon.” When used directly following a noun, such as in this case, typically the “to be” verb is implied. Thus it would be translated “was upon.”
This is another noun. Interestingly, this noun is in construct (meaning that it is standing directly next to another noun), with the normal ending being ayim, a dual ending, yet it is translated singular. It means “face.” Often body parts are referred to in the dual form, this is no exception.
In the next post we will examine the remaining words, including the noun with which penê is in construct.