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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.

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    You may want to read about the illegitimate totality transfer fallacy.
    – Susan
    Nov 2, 2016 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. Nov 2, 2016 at 22:16
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    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, 2016 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'? Nov 2, 2016 at 22:22
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    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, 2016 at 22:43

4 Answers 4

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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.

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    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. Nov 3, 2016 at 17:18
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    @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. Nov 3, 2016 at 18:07
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    @ghostmachine For בקר, the Even-Shoshan dictionary gives, in order: 1 inspect or account for (Ezek 34:12), 2. Morning (Gen 1:5), 3. A general term for large ruminant animals (Gen 12:16). Where did you get the idea that בקר is splitting or cleaving?
    – user17080
    Nov 3, 2016 at 22:31
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    @ghostmachine Using this reasoning allows you to read any message you want into the text. There is no scholarship to support this theory. You are on your own.
    – user17080
    Nov 3, 2016 at 23:13
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    I have no knowledge of Hebrew so sadly I’m unable to engage fully here, but I must say, on a conceptual / thematic level, I do find this idea very intriguing. God, in perfect unison, split into salvation, reunified again; A rib split from Adam to create Eve, then the two are unified; people split from God but then reunified again; the sheep and the goats split from each other; the splitting of the covenant animal; the rock which Moses cleft, splitting of the Red Sea, breaking of the bread,…
    – user36337
    Nov 6, 2021 at 19:53
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Found this on the internet Erev and Boker

Erev is dark, obscure randomness; it is maximum entropy. As darkness envelopes our horizon, we lose the ability to discern order or patterns. The darkness is "without form and void."

From this term we derive the current sememe for "evening," when the encroaching darkness begins to deny us the ability to discern forms,shapes, and identities.

Boker is the advent of light, where things begin to become discernible and visible; order begins to appear.

This relief of obscurity, and the attendant ability to begin to discern forms, shapes, and identities has become associated with dawn or "morning," as the early twilight begins to reveal order and design. Evening and mornings constituted the principal stages of creation. Six "evenings" and "mornings" became the "days" constituting the creation "week." However, what we know about the physical universe is only from observing the universe after the upheavals of Genesis 3.

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    Nov 6, 2021 at 12:57
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    Welcome to the site, Hugo! Not a bad start. When you find something on the internet, be sure to provide the link and distinguish between your thoughts and the quotes from the source. Onward and upward! Nov 8, 2021 at 8:15
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Chuck Missler of Koinonia House explains a possible Hebrew understanding in antiquity of ereb and boqer as referencing in creation each of 6 days going from ereb (chaos or disorder) to boqer order and day seven all in in order so no longer stated for day 7 bust God rested.

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    Sep 8, 2022 at 14:29
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Yes, you are correctly citing what is an acceptable interpretation of Genesis 1 according to rabbinical exegetical tradition as exemplified by the commentary of Nachmanides (Ramban). Here, the root, for boker, according to TDOT1:

According to Palache and Seeligmann,16 the original meaning is to be perceived in Arab. baqara, “to split, open.” The use of bqr as a technical term for inspecting a sacrifice could be connected with this meaning; cf. the Middle Hebrew, Jewish Aramaic, “to examine (the intestines of sacrificial animals)”; Mowinckel on bqr in the piel in 2 K. 16:15; Ps. 27:4;17 and the Nabatean mbqrʾ (a priestly title; cf. also mbqr, the overseer of the community, in 1QS and CD).18 In any case, this helps explain the oft recurring meaning, “to examine, investigate,” cf. the Biblical Aramaic, Syriac, “to bore through, search after”; Mandean, “to split, test”; Ethiop. baqala, “to examine, punish”; and Heb. baqar in the piel, “to examine” (Lev. 13:36); “care for (RSV search, seek)” (Ezk. 34:11f.); “to consider, reflect” (Prov. 20:25; Sir. 11:7). The Akk. b/paqāru, “to claim, demand,” stands somewhat by itself; cf. Bab. b/paqrū, “(claim of) vindication,” which might help explain the difficult biqqoreth in Lev. 19:20.19 Both the common Semitic → בקר bāqār, “cattle,” and presumably also boqer, “morning,” which occurs only in Hebrew, are derivatives of bqr, although the semantic relationship is obscure in both cases.

  1. Derivation. a. The meaning of boqer might be explained by establishing a connection between the idea of “splitting,” “opening,” or “boring through,” and “breaking through, piercing” (sc. of light), i.e., “daybreak” = “morning.”20

Similarly, a case can be made that "evening" is a pun on "mixing"2:

1685 ערב (ʿrb) I. Assumed root of the following.

1685a עֵרֶב (ʿēreb) I, mixture, mixed company (e.g. Ex 12:38; Neh 13:3).

However in so doing, even though you are following traditional rabbinical interpretations, you are associating secondary or hidden meanings to words based on etymology, for the case of boker, and based on puns (same consonants but different pointing) in the case of 'erev.

You will have adherents of the historical-grammatical method howl in protest at this type of interpretation, as it goes against the basic tenets of that approach, which is now dominant in academic hermeneutics.

Appendix on Traditional versus Historical-Grammatical interpretations

The historical-grammatical method was not the dominant method used by new testament authors in their exegesis of the Old Testament, nor was it the dominant method used by early Church fathers and patristics, or by most jewish commentators, which is why Gerald Schroeder cites Nachmanides' interpretation of Genesis in a very standard way, using accepted rabbinical hermeneutics, but in a way that historical-grammatical supremacists would instantly reject.

Traditional forms of exegesis do include things such as:

  • Wordplay - Looking at the root and making connections with the root to derive alternate senses of a word to aid in interpretation. This includes breaking a word up into sub-words with their own interpretation and even notarikon -- e.g. re-interpreting a word in terms of the meaning of its constituents -- as well as relying on etymology to find hidden meanings for words.

  • Orthography -- e.g. the presence of mater lectionis or not, alternate spellings, and even the shapes of letters

  • textual matching - Use of identical verbal constructions elsewhere to make connections between passages and ideas that are present at the level of literal wording, elevating them to relationships at the level of meaning.

  • Hyper-literalism -- putting an extreme emphasis on idioms, conjugations, etc. If a text is sacred, then everything has meaning, and nothing is "just an idiom".

  • Allegory - A heavy reliance on symbolism and allegory, especially repeated patterns of symbolism and allegory.

  • Gematria (numerology) schemes to aid in interpretation

Let's give some examples:

  1. in Matthew 2.15:

Matthew 2:15 (KJV 1900)

15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

The passage in Hosea states:

Hosea 11:1 (KJV 1900)

  When Israel was a child, then I loved him,
  And called my son out of Egypt.

כִּ֛י נַ֥עַר יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וָאֹהֲבֵ֑הוּ וּמִמִּצְרַ֖יִם קָרָ֥אתִי לִבְנִֽי

Matthew is focusing on the calling of the "son" out of Egypt, when, according to Hosea, it was Israel that was called out of Egypt, and "my son" is just an expression. So the historical-grammatical approach would classify this is a misinterpretation of Hosea, whereas Matthew is focusing on the fact that Israel was called a "son" being brought out of Egypt, and moreover Israel, if you decompose the letters, is יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל, which if you strip away the niqqud and apply meaning to individual constituents and make associations of resh with the root for sees, becomes ישׂראל or ישׂ-ר-אל or "man who sees God". Thus the man who sees God and was called by God as his son is called out of Egypt. Thus it is a prophecy of Christ. This is how Matthew interpreted the old testament. He did not use the historical-grammatical approach. Neither did Paul. Or Peter. Neither did most people before the 18th Century.

Let's see whether Jesus used the historical-grammatical approach:

  1. Mark 12:26–27 (KJV 1900)

26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

Would someone who follows the historical-grammatical approach agree that this is a proper interpretation of Exodus 3.6? No, Jesus is hyperfocused on the literal meaning of the verb "am", I am the God of Abraham.. and this hyper-literalism is then used to justify that the resurrection of Abraham, making an association, or wordplay between the "I am" the father of Abraham and YHWH.

Or we can take a look at how the author of Hebrews interprets Genesis 14:18-20 in Hebrew 7:3

  1. Hebrews 7:3 (KJV 1900)

3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

Here, the author of Hebrews is pointing out that because no lineage or death was mentioned for Melchizedek, that he has no beginning or end! Just imagine people flipping through their copy of Exegetical Fallacies, sputtering.

  1. We can also look at Paul's use of Hebrew wordplay or Matthew's double meaning in Matthew 2:23: (KJV 1900)

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

In which he quotes Judges 13:5-7, which is a prophecy of Samuel: "for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb", but because Matthew also interprets Samuel as a type for Christ, he literally interprets this as a prophecy of Christ, using the related word "Nazarite" as a pun on the "Nazareth"! He would certainly be chided by the historical-grammatical supremacists of incorrectly interpreting the book of Judges - Oh noes, whither authorial intent and fidelity to the language!

  1. Here is Paul in 1 Cor 15:27:

27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

And he is citing Psalm 8:6, which has a plain reading of man.

Psalm 8:4–6 (KJV 1900)

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, And hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet:

But Paul is taking "son of man" as Christ, and then interpreting this whole passage as something the Father did for Christ after his resurrection. Just imagine the historical-grammatical supremacists complaining!

Specifically, when talking about etymologies, the most notable proponent is Jerome3:

One final element of Jerome’s spiritual exegesis that requires explanation is his exposition of etymologies of proper names. **It was a common belief among learned readers in the Greek tradition that the etymologies of proper names conveyed essential information about the things named. This thinking stemmed from theories of Plato and the Stoics regarding the connection between words and things.**63 By the time of the New Testament, pagan Greek scholars regularly practiced symbolic exegesis of proper name etymologies when reading Homer.64 In due time, Hellenized Jews, such as Philo, applied this practice to the Bible.65 From there, it became part of the tradition of Christian spiritual exegesis.66 In the early centuries of the Christian era, various name lists (Onomastica) circulated in Greek, which listed proper names in the Bible together with their supposed etymological meanings. Jerome’s Book of Hebrew Names was a translation and mild revision of an earlier Greek list that Jerome ascribed to Philo (on the authority of Origen) but which may have gone back earlier than Philo.67 Such name lists represented one of the only avenues prior to Jerome through which information about the Hebrew language made its way into the Christian world. Although Jerome generally broke new ground in the realm of Christian Hebrew scholarship, he did inherit a long tradition going back to Philo and Origen of using Hebrew etymologies as part of allegorical exegesis. Whereas the rest of Jerome’s Hebrew philology focused on the literal sense, Jerome continued to employ the traditional Hebrew etymologies in the traditional way, that is, allegorically.

Traditional hermeneutics denies that text has only a single meaning, and believe that scripture can and does have multiple layers of meanings.

Many smug treatises have been written about this, criticizing the above techniques as "exegetical fallacies" because they violate the historical-grammatical approach. It is telling that in the examples cited, they routinely turn to other languages and non-scriptural texts, because for the historical-grammatical approach, there is no difference in how you interpret an English menu in a Boise diner and the Hebrew book of Genesis. For them, there is no methodological difference between exegesis of Biblical Hebrew and a French TV Guide, no difference between the meaning of spelling variations in Hebrew and spelling variations in English. But it is those who believe that the text is inspired - including the orthography (every jot and tittle is inspired) and even the development of the Biblical Hebrew language - that assume purpose and intent in things which the grammatical-historical approach denies.

This means that advocates of historical-grammatical supremacy must insist that Paul, Matthew, Peter, John, Ambrose, Athanasius, Augustine, Rabbi Akiva, Maimonides, and Nachmanides did not know how to correctly interpret the Old Testament, and only the modernist approach, developed in the 18th Century, can properly interpret the Old Testament. Prior to the 18th century - everyone was in error. But now, with modernism, we can finally read the Bible properly - that is, as we would a restaurant menu in Boise.

And it's true that the use of such a broad tool of techniques requires discipline, training, and inspiration. Therefore in order to use these alternate approaches, you have to

  1. Believe that the development of Hebrew was guided by divine purpose in order to reveal the Bible, and therefore there are legitimate spiritual connections in things like Hebrew etymology and related roots which are not present in other languages, and that these connections can be discovered to reveal hidden meanings of scripture as a process of disciplined study and exegesis.

  2. Believe that the orthography and exact wording of the text also reflects the divine purpose.

  3. Believe that you have sufficient knowledge and training to apply these techniques correctly - at which point you can laugh at everyone who waves a copy of Exegetical Fallacies at you, or if you are more gracious, patiently explain that you are using a different hermeneutic technique and that you deny the supremacy of the historical-grammatical approach when it comes to interpreting the Hebrew Bible, but you will gladly refer to Exegetical Fallacies when you are reading a restaurant menu.


  1. Bergman, Jan, Helmer Ringgren, and Ch. Barth. “בֹּקֶר.” Edited by G. Johannes Botterweck. Translated by John T. Willis. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977.

  2. Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.

  3. Jerome. Commentary on Jeremiah. Edited by Christopher A. Hall, Thomas C. Oden, and Gerald L. Bray. Translated by Michael Graves. Ancient Christian Texts. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2011.

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