This is a long and sometimes rambling account of my investigation into the creation account, specifically with regard to the word "Boker" or morning. It is one of the most fascinating concepts I have ever discovered with regard to the Torah and the Hebrew language. The question is, do the ideas contained within hold up to scrutiny?

I happened upon this thought whilst researching the creation account. I don't know if it's original or has been discussed before, but if anyone is familiar with this idea, can you point me towards an analysis (if such a thing exists)?

After researching their etymology, the words Erev and Boker (or Voker) seem to have dual meanings, and thus could be used to gain further insight into the text. The commonly accepted literal translation of the phrase "Vayehi erev vayehi voker yom echad" reads "And it was evening and it was morning, one day".

I was initially interested in the word "boker" and why it has the same root as "bakar" or cattle. This led to me discovering that "boker" fundamentally means "splitting" or "cleaving".

I was excited but not surprised to find that upon researching the word "Erev" that it held the opposite connotations, ideas of mixture or gathering.

Leaving aside discussion over the word "Yom", literally meaning day for the moment (I have other theories about that), it is highly interesting to then read the verses in this new light (if you'll pardon the pun).

"And it was unified, and it was split, day one" obviously makes perfect sense with regard to day one and holds interesting implications for the subsequent days.

The idea that the creation can be reconciled scientifically by a series of "splitting of states" is highly fascinating for me. This also resonates with the idea (as stated in the Shema) of God being "One" - perhaps this reality is just the result of the splitting of that "one" into smaller discrete parts?

Edit: I have recently found an independent version of a similar theory in the book "The Science of God" by Dr. Gerald Schroeder. He describes the same ideas (which he attributes to Nachmanides), but instead relates 'erev' to mixture as in disorder or chaos. And to 'boker' he ascribes the idea of order (from bikoret-orderly, able to be observed). However he still seems to have missed the fundamental idea of 'splitting' which in my opinion is the key to unlocking the whole thing.

So to clarify the question: Has anyone written an analysis of Genesis 1 through the lens of these alternate meanings of 'erev' and 'boker'? Is mine a plausible theory? Why or why not?

Edit 2: I just thought of another key argument which (again very simply but elegantly) supports my claims. In conversation with AbuMunirIbnIbrahim he challenged me on the meaning of בָּקָר, saying there is no evidence of linkage with the idea of splitting or division. I answered him thusly:

"In the case of בָּקַע and בָּקָר, however there is a clear linkage, which is discernible from one key translation of the root word:"בְּקַר: to plough, to break forth, to inspect. The Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon translated by Friedrich Wilhelm states that the word בָּקָר is named for its purpose: of ploughing. This shows an undeniable link. Additionally there is also a second link which is that of the cloven hoof, which is one of the fundamental aspects of Kashrut."

Coincidentally the other defining feature of a Kosher animal is that it is ruminant, ie. It has a divided or split stomach relative to other mammals. So both aspects of Kashrut involve the idea of splitting or division.

However, his reference to Ezekiel 34:12 really got me thinking...

As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are separated, so will I seek out My sheep; and I will deliver them out of all places whither they have been scattered in the day of clouds and thick darkness.

Look at this verse closely. "his sheep that are separated". It hit me that this a fundamental characteristic of "בָּקָר" or cattle:- to flock or herd. A single animal from a flock represents the division of a whole into smaller discrete parts. Again this consistent use of language resonates perfectly and works with everything in its context. Sheep separating from the flock. The flock separating from the shepherd. Man separating from God. This verse (intentionally or not) uses the three letter root בקר twice and is directly concerned with the idea of unification (the flock) and divison (the scattering) and the subsequent reunification.

Edit 3: After some more research I am convinced that the two letter root "בק" literally means divide or split. Further, I am starting to think that the two letter root forms a fundamental part of the 3 letter root (which I have now subsequently learned is also a major part of Kabalistic thought). http://www.2letterlookup.com/ is a very useful tool in efficiently searching for patterns in the letter combinations and in the brief time I've been using it, I've seen some remarkable results.

In addition to the words listed above, I started looking for 3 letter root words with בק at the end (letters 2 and 3). Again I found multiple references to the idea of splitting, but one in particular stood out:

-Abaq (אָבַק or אָבָק) according to Gesenius means "fine dust" or "light particles" His conjecture as to the etymology reads:

"אָבַק a root not used in Kal, which I suppose to have had the force of to pound, to make small, from the onomatopoetic syllable בק, בך, פג, פק, which, as well as דך, דק (see דָּקַק, דָּכַךְ ), had the force of pounding; comp. בָּכָה to drop, to distil;"

The feminine form of the word also means powder. Clearly the idea of dust or powder as small particles removed from a larger whole again demonstrate exactly the same concept.

But this isn't where it ends- it gets far more interesting. Genesis Chap. 32 recounts the story of Yaakov wrestling with the angel. The story often seems to be making cryptic allusions. First, Yaakov and his family crossed the ford of Yabok (יבק) - a name which appears to be highly symbolic. Then they wrestled (וַיֵּאָבֵק) the etymology again goes back to dust.

However, Rashi has a different interpretation attributing the word to an Aramaic expression found in the Talmud: דָּאִבִיקוּ. This is derivative of the 3 letter root דבק, meaning adhere, glue or impinge. Again the word references the concept of unification and division, since glue binds two discrete objects together.

I realise that this is moving away somewhat from a hermeneutic question, but I think it needs to be discussed. Either way I have realised that the Hebrew language is so much more complex and ingenious than I ever realised.

  • 3
    You may want to read about the illegitimate totality transfer fallacy. – Susan Nov 2 '16 at 22:13
  • So you're saying you don't think it holds water? For me, the reason why I am convinced it does, is precisely because it relates so elegantly to the rest of the verse. Indeed the whole creation process is replete with references to unification and separation. – ghostmachine Nov 2 '16 at 22:16
  • 1
    Didn't actually intend to draw any conclusions. It seems unlikely to me, but that doesn't mean it's not worth asking. Just something to keep in mind. Linked from the post above: The relevance of the etymology of a word for the interpretation of a specific text can never be assumed. It must be demonstrated. Whether a semantic connection between word x and word y, or between senses x and y of the same word... is "in play" in a specific passage, is a legitimate and very interesting question. But: the connection cannot be assumed. It must be demonstrated. – Susan Nov 2 '16 at 22:19
  • Thank you for your feedback. Pardon my ignorance, but in a case such as this how would one go about 'demonstrating it'? – ghostmachine Nov 2 '16 at 22:22
  • 1
    I think it would need to be demonstrated from context that the author intended such a meaning (e.g. because he develops the idea, refers back to it, etc., using clearer language). In this case it remains to be seen whether those words ever carry those senses in Biblical Hebrew (regardless of the etymology), so that would have to be addressed first. – Susan Nov 2 '16 at 22:43

עֶרֶב (noun masculine, "evening") and עֵרֵב (verb, "mix") and עֳרָב (proper name "Arabia") are homographs when written without diacritics, or homonomics (as this term is used in Hebrew linguistics), but not polysemes. That is, there is no known semantic or etymological connection between them. The same is true for בֹּקֶר and בַּקָּר and בִּקֵּר , "morning", "cattle", "criticize or tested".

בקר has no meaning of splitting or cleaving in Hebrew.

ערב has no meaning of mixing in the OT. The meaning of mixing comes from post OT Aramaic.

This is a matriculation exam type of question in Israel. That is, something that high-schoolers who intend to go to college are expected to know. Hebrew has many roots with multiple, unrelated meanings. You need to be aware of this when interpreting the OT.

  • 1
    In this case many of the early Rabbinic commentaries, including those focused on textual analysis, do ascribe an etymological connection between עֶרֶב and עֵרֵב and between בֹּקֶר and בִּקּוּר. See Ibn Ezra & Radak on Genesis 1:5. I can't speak for what is taught in Israeli high-schools or modern Hebrew grammar, but such analysis is common throughout early rabbinic OT interpretation. – conceptualinertia Nov 3 '16 at 17:18
  • Considering that Genesis 1 might be a type of hymn or highly stylized prose with poetic qualities, this does not preclude the fact that the author of Genesis might have meant it as a double-entendre simply because they are homonyms. Double-entendres are quite common in that literary style and a homophone is a great way to make a double-entendre. – James Shewey Nov 3 '16 at 17:26
  • @conceptualinertia Yes, it certainly is common, but there isn't much linguistic merit in most of them. They are mostly used to support one opinion or another. In the text itself there is a large class of מדרשי שם such as the story of how Moses got his name or how the oasis of Mara got it's name. We can only understand these as stories that come to teach us something other than etymology. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Nov 3 '16 at 17:32
  • @JamesShewey So the text can be read, "And it was evening and one bull, one day"? This discussion is metaphysical, not hermeneutic. There isn't any room for double entendre in the language of the creation story in the masoretic text of Genesis. If there were, someone would have made a spectacle of it long before us. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Nov 3 '16 at 17:40
  • 1
    @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim I think you miss the point of what I'm trying to say. In this case all the words are related to the fundamental concept of splitting. The bull is so named because of its role in ploughing the earth- in fact all derivative words coming from that root quite clearly link back to the idea of splitting, dividing or dissolving.You are deliberately choosing one variant of the word rather than the fundamental root meaning.I would argue that it isnt a coincidence that in English, morning is known as day-BREAK. In my opinion, as an academic you are not seeing the wood for the trees. – ghostmachine Nov 3 '16 at 18:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.