I recently came across someone writing on his own website on a wide variety of biblical subjects, and have found a great many of the ideas he writes on to be highly questionable. One of the ideas He puts forward is that God did not create ex nihilo or "out of nothing," but rather ex deo or "out of Himself."

He explains this as being God converting His "spiritual substance" (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) into the created universe, and while I see multiple problems with this idea on a number of grounds, my biggest problem is with what caused him to come to this conclusion. He derived this epiphany from reading a mechanical translation of scripture called the Concordant Hebrew English Sublinear (CHES) which is found in the interlinear on the website scripture4all.org.

This sublinear text uses the strategy of finding a single English word or phrase to represent every occurrence of a given Hebrew word in the OT, with no regard for context. So, for instance, the translation of Genesis 1:3 is given as:

"and He is saying Elohim, He shall become light, and He is becoming light."

A far cry from:

"and God said, 'let there be light,' and there was light."

I know this a problem of mishandling the sublinear text as if it were meant to be read verbatim as a viable literal translation into English. You can see how reading this rendering as if it were meant to be read this way in English, would lead to the confused idea of God creating from His own substance or "becoming His creation." Never mind that light is not matter at all, but a state of matter!

My question is, how could the Hebrew verb "hayah"/to be/exist in its jussive 3rd person singular masculine form i.e. "yehi" be the correct usage with what I understand to be a feminine noun "ohr"/light as its subject? I thought that gender needed to be in agreement between verb and subject. Is the jussive a special case where gender agreement is unnecessary?

The sublinear text of this mechanical translation seems to treat Elohim as the subject of the Hebrew verb "Yehi" as if Elohim is "becoming" light rather than light "becoming" existent.

  • 1
    Ug. That's worse than Young's Literal. If you are familiar with Hebrew vocab and grammar, YLT and CHES can be helpful. If not, it is more likely to lead astray. Hopefully, David or I can address the jussive and its use. But anyone else who work with the grammar is welcome to do so as well. Thank you, Yah is Good, for your patience.
    – Frank Luke
    Oct 23, 2017 at 14:12
  • Thank you, for returning the comments to their original point. I was becoming quite frustrated. Any help you can provide will be appreciated! Oct 23, 2017 at 14:48
  • @YahisGood, "mechanical" meaning?
    – Pacerier
    Apr 5, 2018 at 6:16

1 Answer 1


[OP/CHES] :and He is saying Elohim, He shall become light, and He is becoming light.
[ESV]: And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

The OP brings up one difference between the verb conjugations as understood in these translations; I will address two.

  1. He shall become [light] vs Let there be [light]

    a. This should be jussive ("let there...") rather than indicative "there is/will be": The jussive is the volitive mood of the third person. It is used to express a wish or desire of the speaker.1 This is a clear cut case where both the morphology and the word order require a volitive interpretation.

    • Morphology: The verb is היה (*hyh). It is prefixed with a י (y) to make it imperfect and the final ה is dropped to show that it is jussive.

    • Syntax: A verb-initial clause such as this should generally be translated as a volitive form.  

    b. The subject should be "light" rather than "he".

    While it is true that אור ("light") is a feminine noun, Hebrew noun-verb agreement is far from complete. I am fond of GKC's exposition of this phenomenon:

    Variations from [gender agreement] very frequently occur when the predicate precedes the subject.... The speaker or writer begins with the most simple form of the predicate, the uninflected 3rd singular masculine, and leaves us without indication as to which of the following subjects (and so which gender or number) is to define the predicate thus left temporarily indefinite. Thus inflexions are omitted in.... [t]he verb, with a following singular feminine [subject]

    A similar observation can be found in any of the more modern grammars as well. This is a pervasive pattern in the Hebrew Bible, and it is not surprising or confusing in Gen 1:3. See also this exact same construction:

    Gen 1:3: yᵉhi ʾôr "Let there be [masc sg] light [fem sg]
    Gen 1:6: yᵉhi rāqiaʿ "Let there be [masc sg] an expanse [masc sg]..."
    Gen 1:14: yᵉhi mᵉʾōrōṯ "Let there be [masc sg] lights [fem pl]..."

    As you can see, the masculine singular verb is used regardless of the inflection of the subject in this construction.

  2. and he is saying vs and he said

    This is the so-called wayyiqtol form. It occurs ~8000 times in the Hebrew Bible. While there is extensive controversy about its nuances there is no (as far as I'm aware) controversy that its basic translation value in English is generally a past narrative form: "and he said".

1. For the Greek and probably-some-other-language speakers out there, this corresponds to the third person imperative.

  • Many thanks for such a logical and well presented article.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 23, 2017 at 21:42
  • So does this rule out the idea that God was commanding that another (IE: Wisdom) do the making? IE: Does this mean that he made the world by himself and not in partnership with Wisdom?
    – Ruminator
    Oct 24, 2017 at 2:16
  • Ruminator, wisdom is personified in scripture in the feminine, but it is not in fact a person. Also, "Philo, a Hellenised Jew writing in Alexandria, attempted to harmonise Platonic philosophy and Jewish scripture. Also influenced by Stoic philosophical concepts, he used the Greek term logos, "word," for the role and function of Wisdom, a concept later adapted by the author of the Gospel of John in the opening verses and applied to Jesus Christ as the eternal Word (Logos) of God the Father.[en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_(personification)] Oct 24, 2017 at 4:17
  • Who went up to heaven, and cometh down? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound waters in a garment? Who established all ends of the earth? What is His name? and what His son's name? Surely thou knowest! (Proverbs 30:4) The obvious answer is The LORD. i.e. YHVH. And His Son is Jesus. Jesus was not present at the Genesis creation. “Thus says the Lord [Yahweh], your Redeemer...I am the Lord who made all things, who stretched out the heavens by myself...Who was with me?” (Isa. 44:24). The implied answer is nobody! Oct 24, 2017 at 4:36
  • Thank you Susan for answering my question so well! You have been very helpful! Oct 24, 2017 at 4:50

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