Is there a specific reason to have the seventh day separated and placed as first verses in Genesis 2? Is it a later addition to the original text?


1 Answer 1


The original Hebrew text did not have a division in chapters (see Chapters and verses of the Bible on Wikipedia). There is controversy as to whether the division into verses (with the sof passuq, a symbol resembling the colon) is of ancient origin; the Talmudic tradition says it is.

Further divisions stem from the Masoretic tradition of the Middle Ages, although some claim it goes back to oral traditions and reflects ancient readings. These divisions include petuchahs and setumahs. A petuchah is indicated with the letter פ peh in the running text; a setumah has the letter ס samekh in the margin and starts on an indented new line. Generally, a setumah consists of several petuchahs. However, in the case of the creation story, there is a petuchah break between 2:3 and 2:4 and a setumah break in the middle of 2:4. At the end of chapter 1, there is only a petuchah break.

Because of this and other textual issues there is disagreement among scholars where the two stories should be separated. In the latest relatively competent Dutch Bible translation, the NBV 2008, a section heading was placed in the middle of 2:4. However, I believe the translation team has decided to move it back to the end of 2:3.

Separating the stories at the end of 2:3 seems to be in favour at the moment, although as I said there is still disagreement. The main reasons for not separating 2:4 are:

  • The verse indications are the most original and therefore must be respected.
  • 2:4b is a subordinate clause ("on the day that YHWH God made earth and heaven") which cannot be a standalone sentence and cannot be prepended to 2:5. Therefore, it assumes the context of 2:4a.

The main reason for separating 2:4 is:

  • 2:4b repeats 2:4a, therefore it would be unnecessary if it came from the same source.

Ziony Zevit, in his 2013 What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? addresses the following questions (chapter 6):

(1) Why doesn't the story start at the beginning of a new chapter?
(2) Why is it introduced by a sentence that refers back to the cosmic creation that begins the book of Genesis in chapter 1?
(3) Why does the first verse of the actual story, verse 4b, repeat the introduction of verse 4a?

As for the first question (p. 76):

The (mis)division benefited those celebrating the Lord’s Day, sometimes called the Christian Sabbath, on Sunday, the first day of the week. Thus severed for Christian reading, Sabbath on Saturday became associated with the Garden story and the Fall. When read liturgically in the synagogue, the creation story from Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 2:3 is read straight through as a single unit. In the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath, from Friday sundown through Saturday sunset, is considered the culmination of creation.

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