The Idea in Brief
The Paseq serves various purposes in the Hebrew Bible. In the first chapter of Genesis, the purpose of the Paseq served as the logical dichotomy between the divine name and what followed. That is, the Paseq occurs in verse 5 and also in verse 10, but was not necessary on the basis of the Masoretic accent principles. Its function was to provide not the grammatical pause, but the logical pause to draw attention to what "God called" (and why). The Masoretes point to their suggestions in their margin notes and footnotes.
In other words, the Masoretes provided us the system of grammatical vowel accents and cantillation not only to sing (and memorize) Scripture, but also to understand Scripture. In this latter regard, the Masoretes enable us to follow the flow of thought through their own references, or to what we would call side-notes/marginalia and footnotes & endnotes (or what scholars call the Masorah Parva and Masorah Magna, respectively).
To this end, in both verse 5 and in verse 10, the Masoretic editors provided commentary in the margins to help expound on what "God called" (and what "God saw"). That is, the Masoretic editors make us look at what "God called" by drawing our attention to other parallel passages in the Torah, which provide negative contrasts to what "God called." Over the seven day period of the creation story, what "God saw" was good because of His work each day, until the last day when His work was completed, at which time that which "God saw" was then very good (Gen 1:31).
So the narrative arc in Genesis Chapter 1 (according to the suggestions from the Masoretic notes) points the reader toward the idea that what God was calling, and what God was seeing, was only made better after his direct and personal intervention. This approach suggests that something may not have been good in Gen 1:2, after which the seven day process had begun.
According to the principles developed by Weekes (1887) on the accentuation of the Hebrew Bible, the accents found in Gen 1:5 and Gen 1:10 did not require the introduction of the Paseq on the basis of the order and arrangement of the accents, because the words following the divine name contained two or more syllables and was therefore sufficient as written. In other words, had the Paseq been absent, the accentuation would have stood correct. Please click here to review the discussion and analysis. The Paseq therefore provided not the grammatical dichotomy --there was no change and alteration of accentuation-- but the logical dichotomy, which then forces the reader to look at the Masoretic notes in the margin and/or foot (or endnotes) of the Codex, if present.
In regards to this verse, the Masoretic commentary in the margin, which is the Masorah Parva, provides references containing unfavorable information in the Masorah Magna. That is, the Masoretes indicate why they seprated the divine name from the remainder of the verse. Please click here and please note the yellow, light green, and pink highlights in the margin (the Masorah Parva) and at the footer (the Masorah Magna), which correspond to the respective words. The first (highlighted in yellow) tells us that there are seven instances of the phrase in the Masoretic Text that correspond to the exact phrase לָאֹור. That is the word אֹור (light) occurs with the preposition לְ seven times in the Hebrew Bible. We see the following information from Masorah 3105 of the Masorah Magna, which the editors of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia placed at the footer of the page. According to Weil (2001), these seven verses are as follows:
לָאוֹר ז̇ וסימנהון׃ (seven instances of לָאוֹר)
Gn. 1:5 ויקרא
Jes. 42:16 אשים
Jes. 59:9 נקוה
Mi. 7:9 יוציאני
Zeph. 3:5 בבקר
Hio. 12:22 צלמות
Hio. 24:14 יקום
While there are 123 instances of the Hebrew word אוֹר in the Masoretic Text, only seven occur with the preposition לְ (see citations above), and in each instance the light appears in contrast with the darkness in a negative sense. The Masoretic editors therefore may be leading the reader to make the conclusion that the seven appearances of the phrase לָאוֹר with darkness in the Hebrew Bible are all negative. That is, six appearances have clear negative connotations, and therefore the seventh instance (Gen 1:5) too may have the same negative contrasts, which would make all seven occurrences in the Hebrew Bible of the phrase לָאוֹר to carry negative allusions. The Masoretic editors appears to make similar contrasts with the next two instances as well.
The next word under consideration is חֹשֶׁךְ ("darkness"), which is highlighted in light green here. This word occurs 80 times in the Masoretic Text. In regards to this word, the editors of the Masoretic Text point us to Job 28:3, where men are descending and working to mine precious metals inside the ground. That is, in Job 28:3 there is work involved in dispelling the darkness, which is the same meaning in the current verse of Gen 1:5, where the Lord is working (and will later declare Sabbath Rest after completion of His work). The Masoretes did not point us to Is 5:20 or to Joel 2:31, which have the same Hebrew spelling of the word, because in those passages darkness occurs with different nuances. In other words, the word חֹשֶׁךְ occurs four times in the Hebrew Bible with the preposition לְ, but in only two of those cases do we find light dispelling darkness as a result of working (Gen 1:5 and Job 28:3).
Finally in this verse the Masoretic editors point our attention to יֹום אֶחָד ("first day"), which is highlighted in red here. The Masorah Parva indicates 10 instances of this phrase in the Masoretic Text, which we can find using Bible Study tools. Using Weil (2001) again, when we reference the Masorah Magna, we see the following two verses.
ליוֹם אֶחָד ב̇ סוף פסוק [בתורה]. (Occurs twice at the end of the verse [within the Torah])
Gn. 1:5 ויהי ערב
Gn. 27:45 למה אשכל גם
This reference is VERY IMPORTANT. The Masoretic editors did not point us to the four occurrences of this exact phrase in Torah, but to the two phrases in which the phrase ended the verse. Please click here. By not referencing Gen 33:13 and Num 11:19 (circled in blue), where the exact phrase occurs, and instead focusing on where the phrase ended the verse, the Masoretic editors are focusing our attention on something NEGATIVE. The Masoretic editors are VERY nuanced in their choice of cross-references. Otherwise why did they not mention Isaiah 9:14, where the exact same phrase occurs at the end of the verse? By limiting their commentary to those instances in the Torah where this phrase יֹום אֶחָד occurs at the end of the verse, they are forcing us to examine Gen 27:45, which was the watershed moment ("one day") when Cain killed Abel.
Also, we see another Paseq in Gen 1:10 with the SAME overtures. Please click here, and note the yellow colored highlighting. The Masoretes are making us look at Ps 66:6 according to the "footnotes."
Psalm 66:6 (NASB)
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
They passed through the river on foot;
There let us rejoice in Him!
The context was the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, and God opened the Red Sea, and provided the Israelites "dry land" by which to escape the slavery of Egypt. Again, the image is salvation - God is intervening and saving - and thus, like the Genesis narrative, God declares His Sabbath Rest at Sinai. The idea here is that the Sabbath of Genesis and the Sabbath of Exodus both involved God's work, which resulted in rest.
In review, the Masoretic editors appear to be juxtaposing (and separating with the Paseq) the divine name in Gen 1:5 and Gen 1:10 with what follows. That is, these appearances of Paseq in Genesis Chapter 1 are what what Wickes (1887) terms the Paseq dichotomicum and the Paseq distinctivum. In order to conserve space, please click here to view his comments and my analysis. Finally, although not mentioned by Wickes in the context of Genesis Chapter 1, the Paseq Euphemisticum may also be relevant here as well. This particular Paseq appears in the Poetry Books (Psalms, Proverbs, and Job).
Various reasons led to the introduction of Paseq.
I. Most frequent in the three Books, is the use of what we may call Paseq euphemisticum, which occurs before or after the Divine Name, to prevent its being joined, in the reading, to a word, which—in the opinion of the accentuators—it was not seemly, משום כבוד השם, to bring into contact with it, e. g. נִאֵ֖ץ רָשָׁ֥ע ׀ אֱלֹהִ֑ים (10:13); מְשַׂנְֿאֶ֖יךָ יְהֹוָ֥ה ׀ אֶשְׂנָ֑א (139:21).
Thus it was counted unbecoming to speak of ‘the heathen’ (18:50; 57:10; 66:8; 67:4, 6; 108:4; 113:4); of ‘the wicked’ (94:3; 139:19; Job 27:13); of ‘God’s enemies’ (Ps. 89:52) or ‘the Psalmist’s enemies’ (59:2; 143:9), who were one and the same; of ‘other gods’ (86:8), or ‘a plurality,’ רַבִּים (119:156),—in the same breath with the Divine Name. (In one instance, 5:5, the personal pronoun takes the place of the Divine Name.) So also verbs signifying ‘to abominate’ (5:7), ‘to despise’ (10:3), ‘to destroy, overthrow’ (58:7, Prov. 15:25), ‘to abuse’ (Ps. 74:18), ‘to reject’ (77:8),—even when the Divine Being Himself is the subject,—are separated by a pause from the Divine Name following. The verb ‘to sleep’ (44:24) and the adj. ‘sleeping’ (78:65),—as conveying a strongly anthropomorphic idea,—are treated in the same way. For the fanciful reasons that commended themselves to the punctators for the employment of Paseq in 89:9, 50, 119:52, I must refer to Norzi’s notes.
While Wickes did not state that the Paseq Euphemisticum ever occurred in the non-Poetic books of the Hebrew Bible, the reading of Genesis Chapter 1 (in light of the notes provided by the Masoretic editors) suggests the separation of the divine name from what follows (unfavorable information and contrasts), and thus appears parallel to the Paseq Euphemisticum found in the Poetic Books.
Context always helps to understand verses under consideration. In other to help us understand several verses in Genesis Chapter 1, the Masoretic editors provided that context in the marginalia and footnotes/endnotes of the Masoretic Text. When viewing these notes in light of the passages under consideration, the two Paseqs (found in Gen 1:5 and Gen 1:10, respectively) appear to provide not grammatical pause, but logical pause in contradistinction to what follows. In this regard, the Masoretic notes help. Thus in both Gen 1:5 and Gen 1:10 the Paseqs appear to be the Paseq dichotomicum, Paseq distinctivum, and by logical extension, the Paseq euphemisticum.
To recap, in Gen 1:5 the light and darkness are contrasted by the Masoretic notes, but through allusions to verses within the Hebrew Bible with negative and unfavorable connotations; second, sandwiched in this verse, we see that "work" is involved in dispelling darkness through light -- the picture us that God is working to make creation good, after which he will declare creation very good and rest. Finally, at the end of the verse, the Masoretic editors force us to read the "first day" in the context of the day Abel killed Cain -- that is, they could have cited all instances of the occurrence of this phrase, or all instances when this phrase ended verses; but by limiting us to the scope of Torah, the Masoretic editors are pointing readers to the killing of Abel by his brother Cain (which is something not good). Thus after the appearance of the divine name in Gen 1:5, the Paseq provides the logical break with the remainder of the verse, because God is making something not good into something good. Finally, the same Paseq occurs with the divine name in Gen 1:10. In that verse the Masoretic editors pointed the readers to Psalm 66:6, where dry land was part of the saving process that resulted in the Covenant at Sinai, where God declared the same Sabbath Rest as found in Genesis Chapter 2.
In summary, in Gen 1:5 and Gen 1:10 the Paseq provides no grammatical function other than to point readers to the Masoretic notes, and so the function of the Paseq is logical. The logic is that the seven days of creation were work, which paralleled the work of saving Israel from Egypt. Thus this work was restorative: God was taking what was not good (the "formless and void" in Gen 1:2) and was in the process (which occurred over seven days) of making what was not good into something that was very good, at which time God rested from His work.
Finally, the Christian New Testament makes explicit allusion to Genesis Chapter 1 in the context of the regeneration of personal salvation (calling light from the darkness) in 2 Cor 4:6. This restorative regeneration is "work" of God leads the believer into the "Sabbath Rest of God" (Heb 4:1-11).
Weil, G. E. (2001). Massorah Gedolah: Manuscrit B. 19a de Léningrad. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 344.
Wickes, William (1887). Two Treatises on the Accentuation of the Old Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press, passim.