Genesis 1:1

In the beginning בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית
created בָּרָ֣א

God אֱלֹהִ֑ים
(unknown word) אֵ֥ת

the heavens הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם
(unknown word) וְאֵ֥ת

the earth הָאָֽרֶץ׃

I would like some information on these two words that don't have an English translation. I have noticed them throughout the old testament and am quite curious about them. What are they? What are they telling us? Also, I have noticed that sometimes there is a "dash" or "negative sign" before these words. I am wondering what the significance of this is as well.

Genesis 1:4

saw God (unknown word with dash before it) אֶת־ the light that was good...

Thank you so much for any light you can shed on this for me please.


7 Answers 7


OP's source that describes these particles as "unknown word(s)" is highly misleading. אֶת־ = ʾet is a Hebrew particle used to mark the definite direct object of a transitive verb; וְאֵ֥ת = wəʾet is the conjunction waw "and" (a.k.a. vav) followed by אֶת. Their usage in Genesis 1:1 is typical of the thousands of ocurrences found in the Hebrew Bible.

According to Brown Driver Briggs:

את, with makk. את־; the mark of the accusative, prefixed as a rule only to nouns that are definite.

This describes the normal usage; there are exceptions to the "rule", especially in poetry where use of such grammatical particles tends to be reduced in comparison with prose. It might help to think of it on analogy to "of" (a preposition) in the phrase "kind of blue" (or "think of it", for that matter!). What does /of/ "mean" here? Well, really nothing. It simply is English's way of structuring a relationship between "kind" and "blue".

In Genesis 1:1, ʾet explicitly indicates that both "the heavens" and "the earth" are the direct objects of the verb "create", but it remains untranslatable. There is no further or mystical meaning associated with it.

For a full discussion of the use and syntax of this well-known grammatical particle, see Gesenius's Hebrew Grammar, §117a-m.

As for the "'dash' or 'negative sign'" used in these phrases, that is called a maqqēph, and does the same job that a hyphen sometimes does in English: it indicates two (or more) closely joined words. In biblical Hebrew, this leads to them being thought of as a single accentual unit as well. For further explanation, see GKC §16a-b.

  • 2
    Simple, correct, and informative. +1
    – user2910
    May 21, 2015 at 12:15
  • 2
    The answer fails on several principles of hermeneutics. First, the principle of first use. It is the use in Genesis 1:1-2 which serves as the beginning for meaning. Second, the test of actual use in the text. If the function is strictly grammatical or limited to surrounding words, what is the reason for failing to use it? The-earth is written repeatedly without the mark. Third is context within the larger purpose of text. Authorial intent is made clear in Genesis 2:4 where it is omitted from both the-heaven and the-earth. An explanation based on grammar alone is clearly insufficient. May 31, 2015 at 20:13
  • 2
    From Genesis 2:4 it is clear the writer of the text has a purpose in mind that goes beyond the limitations of normal grammar. This is not about looking for hidden meaning. This is about objectively looking at what is written. A common approach is to count words and see if there is any pattern to either the number or their placement. There are 22 uses from Genesis 1:1 to the end of the seventh day. This is both intentional and significant. When the word count and use are found in patterns in Genesis 2 and 3, it is clear this is purposeful on the part of the author not a grammatical device. May 31, 2015 at 20:16

If Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created," then את (eth) would denote the implied thought, "created what???" (to which the answer is the following noun(s), "the heavens and the earth"). Concepts like this are alien to non-Hebrew speaking people, but so also are things like the perfuse use of the ו (wa)—also known as the word 'and,' 'but,' 'yet,' 'also,' 'even,' and an infinitude of other meanings (including denotation of the past tense, in some instances). The technical term for this word את is the 'object marker,' or the marker which shows the object of the sentence (the object is the thing spoken about in a sentence—here, 'what was created: the heavens and the earth'). In English we don't have an object marker, but Hebrew uses it as the normative means of showing what the object of the sentence is.

For example, Genesis 1:4 reads:

וירא אלהים את האור

And God saw the light,

Here, the word את 'points to' the word אור (light) as the answer to the (implied) question, "God saw what?"

You might ask why this is necessary (since in English, for example, it is not). English is reliant on word order to denote the role of a word in the sentence more often than not. However, in many (most) languages, this is not so. Many languages use prefixes or suffices to denote on a word its role in a sentence, and so can place many nouns in an order showing the importance or emphasis on the word, and still have you know what role they play in the sentence (here, e.g., the seer and the thing saw as distinct from each other). The reason English uses word order to denote the subject or object of a sentence is that it has (largely) dropped declension (changing the form of a word to denote its role in the sentence), and so very much requires it. Hebrew uses the object marker for a similar reason (i.e. nouns aren't changed to denote the subject or object of the sentence).


As a numerical epigrapher I use את and ואת as mathematical functions that indicate calculation; primarily addition (+). They are not the only words that indicate calculation or addition but they are the most common ones found in the Torah. Therefore with gematria 1 in Genesis 1:1 we encounter the mathematical sum:

אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ

Elohim (86) ath (+) The Heavens (98) vath (and +) The Earth (296) = 480 1

את is used in proto-consonantal alphabetic inscriptions which predate paleo-hebrew. The word for 'sign' (letter) is אתת which is mostly likely related to את because the signs are added together to make words, however an alternative theory exists that suggests that the 22 signs of the alphabet distinguished themselves as prime candidates to receive phonetic values because they were already a discrete number set being used for mathematical calculations. Therefore the word אתת may have came about in reference to the mathematical use of the signs.

According to Brian Colless there were as many as 66 signs in the Proto-Consonantal alphabet. Yet Douglas Petrovich rejects the notion that the Proto-Consonantal alphabet ever had more than 22 letters even at its earliest stage, the earliest evidence for which he dates to 1842 BC with the Sinai 115 inscription.

There are only 22 letters in the abecedary at the bottom of the Izbet Sartah ostracon (12-10th century BCE) but they may have been put there because they ‎were already commonly used as a number set distinct from the other 44 signs and the scribe was writing out the numbers at the ‎bottom of the ostracon as a mnemonic device for calculations he was making above.

  1. Using the following gematria key:

    א 1 ב 2 ג 3 ש 3 ד 4 ת 4 ה 5 ו 6 ז 7 ח 8 ט 9 י 10 כ 20 ל 30 מ 40 נ 50 ס 60 ע 70 פ 80 צ 90 ק 100 ר 200

    Which is sourced from the Wheel of the Merkabah (a.k.a. the Seven Palaces):

    enter image description here

Some of the earliest references to the Seven Palaces are found in the texts of the Baal cycle:

"Anath stamped with her foot, and she rose from the ground. Then she set her face towards El at the source of the rivers, in the midst of the channels of the two deeps, she arrived at the domain of El, and came to the abode of the king, Father of the Years. She broke in, and entered the domain, the bases of the pavilions quake. Bull El, her father, lifted up his voice, and hid himself in seven chambers, inside eight enclosures." - The Epic of Baal - (Bronze Age texts found at Ugarit).

El אל has the gematria value of 31 and his palaces total to 7 x 31 (217). This is also the sum total of the letters of the first Heh of the name YHVH on the diagram, and in multiple gates. But the clincher as far as identification and providence goes is the presence of the name of the son of El on the 3 lower palaces. The Ba'al cycle relates that Hadad הדד lived in the Seven Palaces of his Father El. Therefore this diagram is much older than any of the texts of the Hebrew bible, though it was carefully concealed by Moses de Leon in the Zohar and even extrapolated into the famous Kabbalistic diagram of the Tree of life.

  • Since the section at the bottom of your posts is about "Sources", then the linked source should come first, with an explanation following.
    – enegue
    Sep 24, 2017 at 23:25
  • Oh dear. Enegue - you've made the two references into one, and attributed the gematria key to David Miano, whereas David uses the chronology of DH to show 480 years was likely 'an era'. Thanks for trying to simplify things, but in this particular instance your edit would work to mislead the reader. Sep 24, 2017 at 23:49
  • Okay, I can roll it back.
    – enegue
    Sep 24, 2017 at 23:51
  • It's Ok - I already did! Sep 24, 2017 at 23:52
  • Sure. You can use numbered points to itemise your sources, i.e. a period immediately following a number, e.g. 1. 2. etc. You have clearly developed much expertise at this stuff, and I think minor things, like formatting of sources, should not detract from it. If you want to push a paragraph across to align with the numbered points, use two spaces at the beginning.
    – enegue
    Sep 25, 2017 at 0:02

For those interested in "other" interpretations of את (beyond merely the direct object marker), I'll add the following:

First, in defense of the lexeme as the direct object marker. From the Babylonian Talmud, Mishna Pesachim 22b,

This Sage does not interpret the word et [את] as a means to derive new halakhot ([laws/rules]). He considers the word et to be an ordinary part of the sentence structure and not a source for exegetical exposition.

This likely is meant as a response to quell esoteric interpretations at the time and to reinforce this particle as only indicating the direct object. In fact, that is stated as the point in the sentences before.

In Mishna Chagigah 12a we have

Rabbi Yishmael asked Rabbi Akiva a question when they were walking along the way. He said to him: You who served Naḥum of Gam Zu for twenty-two years, who would expound and learn that every appearance of the word et in the Torah is meant to teach something, what would he expound from the phrase: “The heaven and the earth” [et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz] (Genesis 1:1)? He said to him: These words should be expounded as follows: Had it stated: In the beginning God created hashamayim veha’aretz, i.e., the heaven and the earth, without the word et, I would have said: Shamayim is the name of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and the same goes for aretz, and the verse would sound as if it meant that God, whose name is Shamayim and Aretz, created the world. Since it states “et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz,” it is clear that these are created objects and that shamayim means the actual heaven and aretz is the actual earth. It is for this reason that the word et is necessary.

Akiva and his teacher Nachum of Gimzo are first and second century Rabbis from the tannaianic period (earliest rabbinic period contemporary to Christianity's origins). I pointed out here that Nachum would interpret every instance of את (in the first century) new teachings. It is NOT beyond the realm of possibilities that, for example, the author of John was also expounding in this way in the Logos hymn (John 1:1-18). Akiva and Nachum of Gimzo are contemporaries of the fourth Gospel. But also, the Mishna here has Akiva interpret Genesis 1:1 as saying that את acts to distinguish the the object of the verb from the subject of the verb.

It should be noted that there is a major difference between making academic claims about what the original authors of Genesis 1 intended, and how it has been interpreted over time. We likely can never know what the original authors intended. And that's just fine. It doesn't invalidate current interpretations of content (e.g. as in "alpha-omega"), or the history of interpretation.

For example, the very non-christian 13th century medieval jewish Torah Commentary, the Zohar has the following:

Zohar 1:29b

את (et) above, the lower power comprising twenty-two letters generated by God for heaven, as is written: the crown with which his mother crowned him on his wedding day (Song of Songs 3:11).

Here, there is quite clearly a direct (non christian) interpretation of the accusative particle in terms of the same "alpha-omega" understanding mentioned variously above. This is a received tradition that is utterly independent of the content of the Book of Revelations. Here, the את particle is associated with the rabbinic image of the feminine face of God, the Shekinah. This is like pointing out that humans share genes with strawberries. This is a fact due to common ancestry.

This certainly could be related to John 1 and a first century common ancestral interpretation of the את particle in Genesis 1. John 1:14 uses the greek verb ἐσκήνωσεν which is a semitic loan word from the same root שכן (shakan) as we find in shekinah. It is also possible (according to John 18), that the author of John was part of or at least well known to the sanhedrin (of which Akiva, Hillel, etc was ultimately a major player). The two terms (the word "tenting among us" in john and the jewish kabbalistic term shekinah) have almost identical mythological functions as the lower realm indwelling aspects of the divine linking the community in relationship to the divine above.

It's exciting midrash to interpret את beyond a mere object marker. Certainly it plays this grammatical role. But consider the following. It is the most common lexeme in the entire Hebrew Bible. It is used twice as frequently (some 11k times in the Tanakh) as the next most common word which is the four letter name of God. The word itself is also unique in the role it plays in the language. Without it, as Akiva mentions, the text would have no grammatical meaning. We'd make absurd determinations about subjects and objects in sentences.

In this way, grammatically, it acts as a unique and ubiquitous physical element in the text that provides logical structure to the language. This is EXACTLY the dictionary meaning of the word Logos. That is, one definition is "word" and another is "rational structure" (e.g. where we get the term "logic" from). The את particle is literally the word that gives the text rational structure. It cannot be denied that this is a prime candidate for anthropomorphization as a mythic character within the text itself nor can it be denied that this is exactly what the Zohar does.

Additionally, if we read John 1:1 literally... for example "the word was with God." We see that this is LITERALLY true in Genesis 1:1. The hebrew text says "...אלהים את..." (elohim et). That's the third and fourth word in the sentence. If את is "the word," then it is literally "with" ("next to") the word for God. It is with God.

The idea that this could be a valid first century interpretation of the hebrew text is not something to be discarded. Nor is it invalid to understand this metaphorical את as the original intention of the authors of the creation story. There are many open questions such as the presence of the first person plural in Genesis 1:26. It could be that this refers to both God (elohim) and an anthropomorphization of the rational structural tool within the text itself working together to bring about creation, and the first person plural is support for this hypothesis.

It is a classic Jewish interpretive technique to allow the text to have simultaneous meanings at many different levels (see pardes method). This is in no way an anachronistic Christian read of the text, though that is also possible.

Merely discarding historical interpretations of את as invalid because the only allowed "academic" take is that it is ONLY the direct object marker, ignores the entire history of interpretation that would have shared back to the original authors of the text. Nor is this interpretation some sort of anachronistic trinitarian take. While Christians have a three element image of the godhead, Kabbalistic judaism has a 10 dimensional image of the monotheistic Godhead putting the simplicity of the trinity "to shame." There are parallels here around the את particle that many are unwilling or unable to appreciate.

If anything, the idea that את is "only" the direct object marker and an otherwise boring element of the text... well, that is ACTUALLY the anachronistic take. This is a modern rationalist scientific means of interpreting the text applied anachronistically.

We have mathematical theories of "let there be light" today in terms of impersonal equation sets such as Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism. This was NOT the case in the past. The functions of physics and psychology were captured anthropomorphic packages in the past. Treating the text as an impersonal collection of letters is a modern anachronistic interpretation clouded by our approach to things.

And note, that is not a criticism of the academic method. It is a criticism of mapping the same objectifying perspective onto first century minds who saw cosmology in terms of subjects, not objects. And that difference in perspective is an academically understood fact of the enlightenment and modern period we are currently in.


This is explained in John 1 in a remarkable play on word. All things were made by the word, which is what the word את signifies: that nothing happens except by the word of his power. But the darkness does not comprehend et, hence leaves it untranslated.

But eth is all over the King James, and these things are spiritually discerned. For those that can hear, it is explained in Matthew 8:9. And also there's a relation to Genesis 3.

Yes it does have a grammatical role, which is one ordained by Almighty God to instruct and demonstrate his power. Where the word of a king is, there is power.


@Kate I agree to "the signs (Hebrew letters) are added together to make words" shared by @Bathsheba Ashe because of what I have learned from Hebrew Pictograms So what are the pictograms of et? e for aleph which means ox and t for tav means mark. Inspired by the view that it is a composite picture of an ox plowing the field toward a mark Ancient Hebrew Research, I think that the word can function either as an adjective or an adverb depending on the context and therefore it possibly means "purposeful" or "purposefully".

In Genesis 1:1, from my study I conclude that Elohim Et is a two-words name and vet means "and purposefully". So my rough translation of Genesis 1:1 is "In the beginning Elohim Et created the Heavens and purposefully the Earth." For more details of my magnified version of the translation of Genesis 1:1, please visit my website Magnified Bible Project

  • What is your source for את functioning as an adjective/adverb meaning "purposeful"? Even your linked source says it's a direct object marker.
    – CarenRose
    Oct 26, 2019 at 16:30

According to modern Hebrew scholarship the words (et) and (v-et) in Genesis 1:1 lack meaning on their own:

In Genesis 1:1, ʾet explicitly indicates that both "the heavens" and "the earth" are the direct objects of the verb "create", but it remains untranslatable. There is no further or mystical meaning associated with it.

According to Gesenius and then Brown Driver Briggs these words function only in conjunction to connect direct objects to verbs, having neither stand-alone use or meaning. The application of this definition into the English language causes them to disappear and they are not found in any translation. Despite scholars like Ivan Panin who showed there are over 30 different combinations of the number 7 in Genesis 1:1, modern scholarship attaches no significance to the use of (et) and (v-et) beyond the limited function described. Modern scholarship rejects numerical meaning as an acceptable use of language failing to see how the Author of Genesis 1:1 draws attention to the number 7 as He does more overtly in Revelation and throughout Scripture.

In addition to this, the inadequacy of the Gesenius/Brown-Driver-Briggs explanation of the use within the Hebrew text is self-evident:

In the beginning God created (et) the heavens and (v-et) the earth (Genesis 1:1)

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens (Genesis 2:4) (no et/v-et)

For in six days made the LORD (et) heaven (v-et) earth, (et) the sea, (v-et) all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore blessed the LORD (et) day the Sabbath, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:11)

If the function is to emphasize what God created (Genesis 1:1) then the function is to emphasize what the LORD made (Exodus 20:11). When the LORD God created and made there is no emphasis on the LORD God, the earth, or the heavens. If modern scholars have successfully identified these words as lacking stand-alone meaning whose only function is to operate on a limited basis of linking verbs to direct objects, then it has also demonstrated that the LORD God of Genesis 2:4 is not the creator of Genesis 1:1 or Exodus 20:11.

Much of modern scholarship rationalizes differences in Scripture by presenting them in the light of language theory and textual criticism. For example, differences between the creation records found in Genesis 1 and 2-3, are a result of different sources. According to modern scholarship, the text read today is a redaction of the “E” source (for Elohim) in Genesis 1 and the “J” source (for YHVH) in Genesis 2-3. Therefore contemporary scholarship can rationalize and dismiss the variant uses of (et) and (v-et) in the two records as another instance of the different sources of the first 3 chapters of Genesis. Degrading the text from the Word of God to a work of men in such ways is a common technique of modern man.

However, the use of (et) and (v-et) can be shown to demonstrate there is a single author for Genesis 1-3 exposing the fallacy of multiple source redacted text.

Begin by examining the use of (et):

enter image description here

The word is used 14 times (2 x 7). The last seven are six uses on the sixth day followed by a single use on the seventh (6+1), following the pattern of what will become the command to remember the Sabbath. The first seven uses also follow that pattern except it is reversed (1+6). The first use comes before the first day and the next six occur during the period of six days. The Sabbath demands a continuous and unbroken period of seven days in which six are alike and one has been set apart. Remembering the Sabbath is a continuing act which requires looking back in time (the previous six days) and looking forward in time (the next six days). The Author has used (et) in a way that demonstrates the Sabbath pattern within the seven days of creation, making an intimate connecting with the actual events which will serve as the basis for the future command.

A teaching that (et) is limited to connect God to making the heaven and the earth in a single verse (Genesis 1:1) fails to recognize the word has been used to connect God to creating everything from Genesis 1:1 to the seventh day being blessed. The Author has used the language to affirm the continuity of what was done with what has been written. Since the word has been distributed from the beginning to end, at a minimum, a more proper understanding of (et) is to recognize the Author’s use precludes any gap in time from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3. While there is no gap in time, there is no use on the third day, drawing attention to that day.

Next examine the use of (v-et):

enter image description here

During the six days of creation, there are seven uses. The seventh falls on the sixth day. So (v-et) connects the work of creation to six days. Uses 2 through 7 are connecting to specific works of creation that move. The first and last are set apart by the lack of motion. The core group of six alike has a physical nature (motion) which is reversible and can point to the beginning of creation where there was no motion or to trees which do not move. The Author of the text has used (v-et) to demonstrate unity in the work of creation being completed in six days. He has done so in such a way that also points to trees (which play a significant role in Genesis 2 and 3) as an important aspect to finishing His work on the sixth day. As with (et) there is no use on the third day.

The words have been purposely placed to demonstrate unity in the written word, the actual events, and future events. Moreover, the words have been used in a way which is consistent with the command to observe the Sabbath. Attempting to restrict the meaning to emphasis within a single verse ignores the Author has organized their use to demonstrate an internal continuity and unity which is both following the actual events and pointing to the future command. At the same time, this unity has an apparent discontinuity not in time but in written use as both words are absent from the third day.

Next consider the combined use from Genesis 1:1 to 3:24:

enter image description here The total number of uses from Genesis 1:1 to the end of the seventh day is 22, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The letters which make up the word are את the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Again the Author is purposeful to use the words, language, and simple math in a way that points to the unity and a completed nature of creation and what is written. Modern scholarship offers language theory as the correct means of understanding the Scripture. However the letters את are the first and the last letters of the 22 letter alphabet and the Author has purposely used the word 22 times. Complete scholarship should point out that the Author has purposely started the Bible using the language itself as a self-affirming witness to the unity and completed nature of both the work and the written record describing the work.

After the seventh day to the end of chapter 3 there are 20 uses. If Genesis 1:1 is considered as an introduction coming before Genesis 2:4, there would also be 22 uses. This is an indication there is a single author who understands that if every event in Genesis 1 is omitted, Genesis 1:1 still remains as the opening before Genesis 2:4. By omitting any use in Genesis 2:4 the number of uses from the first day of creation to the end of Genesis 3 is 40 (the number of judgment). This is evidence there is one source. Adding (et) or (v-et) to Genesis 2:4 where it clearly belongs, would make 22 uses in Genesis 2-3 (as in the seven days) but alters the 40 uses from the beginning of creation through the fall of man: the correct number of uses based on the actual events.

The first use of the pair (Genesis 1:1) and the last use (Genesis 3:24) are such so that:

  • (et) which is first is also last
  • In combination (v-et) which was last (et)/(v-et) is first (v-et)/(et)
  • In combination (et) which was first (et)/(v-et) is last (v-et)/(et)

The Author has ensured the uses within Genesis 1-3 conform to what will be written later:

Who has performed and done it, Calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the Lord, am the first; And with the last I am He.’” (Isaiah 41:4 NKJV)

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.’” (Isaiah 44:6 NKJV)

“Listen to Me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.” (Isaiah 48:12 NKJV)

In the Genesis 1 record there is no use on the third day; they are found in the Genesis 2 record. This reflects the work of a single Author who purposely omits something in the first record which can be found in the second. Moreover, the use in the second account is purposeful to connect the text to the first account:

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he seas: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:9-10 KJV)

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till (et) the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered (et) the whole face of the ground. (Genesis 2:4-6 KJV)

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day. (Genesis 1:11-13 KJV)

The third day in the first record has been written with the second record in mind: there is a single Author of both. While the first record is specific to identify each day in succession, the second record has events which can only be placed on either the third day or sixth day. A single Author has ensured the two records act in unison to point to the significance of the third day, and to a period of three days (from the third to the sixth day).

The total number of uses in Genesis 2 is 12, a significant number in God’s plan to redeem mankind. The total number of uses in Genesis 3 is 8, also a significant number in that plan. The number of times the words are used corresponds to the manner in which God will bring forth salvation. Therefore, just as the use in during the seven days of creation was purposeful to point unity and the completed nature of creation, the uses in Genesis 2-3 are purposeful to point to both the need for redemption and the means it will be brought about. This also ties together the 40 uses from the beginning of creation to the expulsion from the garden. In particular, this unity has been established in the written word. It is a purposeful recording of history in a way that by selectively using and not using (et) and (v-et), the number of uses and their placement within the record are meaningful (in the light of all of Scripture). The second record which details the events bringing about the need for redemption also places attention on two specific days: the third and the sixth day. Thus (et) and (v-et) point to a significance of the third day and to a period of time of 3-days in God’s plan of redemption.

The number of times the words are used is not the only significant aspect. The 20 uses of (et) and (v-et) after Genesis 1:1 through the seventh day have been arranged into an antimetabole pattern starting with 1 and advancing in increments +1 to 4 then reversing:

enter image description here The bi-directional or reversible nature of the pattern is the same as that seen in Sabbath patterns of (et) and (v-et) separately. The words have been arranged in combination that continues to demonstrate unity and purpose throughout of the entire text. In other words, (et) and (v-et) are not merely connecting God to the creation of the heaven and the earth in Genesis 1:1, they are connecting everything written about His work of creation.

The antimetabole is a chiasmus. These structures are found elsewhere in Scripture and have been recognized as intentional devices to give emphasis of meaning. The Author is not only using (et) and (v-et) as direct object markers in the limited capacity of words before and after, He has also arranged them in a chiasmus to mark and give emphasis to specific passages. While lacking a true center, the chiasmus points to the events at the end of the fifth day and the beginning of the sixth day. At the end of fifth day God blesses all of the living things created on that day; the beginning of the sixth day describes the creation of every living thing that moves on the ground.

All of the units are identical pairs except for the third. This serves to focus on those specific passages of Scripture. Genesis 1:16 speaks to the rule over Day and Night, which if understood in the context of the completed work of creation recalls the beginning where Day and Night were defined:

God call the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. (Genesis 1:5 NKJV)

Again the emphasis is on the key element of time in creation; how it is measured; who governs it. All of which are essential to the command to observe the Sabbath. Here the specific uses are uniting related aspects to measuring time which the actual work has placed on different days.

The corresponding asymmetric pair focuses on Genesis 1:28-29, which describes God blessing the man and woman and giving them dominion over the earth and all animal life. God blessing the seventh day is how the work of creation ends. So the two asymmetric pairs reinforce the significance of measuring time and God blessing, the finishing work of creation.

The structure from the creation record can be applied to the uses following the seven days of creation: enter image description here

The chiasmus in the first record finds its center in the second record pointing to Genesis 2:19-24, the creation of the first woman which begins with the LORD God bringing all the animals to the man and ends with:

Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wide, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

A single Author has used the chiasmus to connect the complete record of the creation of the first man and woman in both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.

The center of the chiasmus is surrounded on both sides with exclusive use of (et), with the exception of the ending which the Author has done to preserve the beginning and ending of first and last.

The two segments of the asymmetric pairs in the chiasmus point to Genesis 2:8-11 and Genesis 3:18-24. The first records the location of the Garden of Eden and placing the first man there; the second records the LORD God speaking to the man and telling him he will leave the garden, return to the earth from which he was taken. Thus, the secondary structures within the chiasmus are used to reinforce the work of creation to place the man in the Garden of Eden and remove him after he ate from the tree.

(et) and (v-et) have been arranged in a sophisticated structure that unifies everything from Genesis 1:1 to 3:24 in a way that also places emphasis and unites every key point within the events. Modern scholarship which seeks to limit the use to only connecting words immediately before or after fails to recognize the words have been used to demonstrate the written records are from a single Author. This Author is not limited by rules of grammar humans seek to impose on Him. (et) and (v-et) prove there is a single source and that the text has not been redacted. Modern scholarship sees the individual uses as a limited function of the words failing to recognize this understanding is a natural consequence of the greater and higher use of the word. It is like examining a small section of a painting to determine technique and demanding that local use is the definition without stepping back to see it is the entire work that defines the technique and establishes meaning which is found everywhere (including each small section).

A more reasoned definition is that (et) is being used in a way which indicates the writer places a great significance on the word, its use and specific placement within the first three chapters of Genesis. This use also follows the primary pattern God will use to bring about salvation and has been placed within the descriptions of the events which will necessitate salvation. The use points forward to the command to observe the Sabbath. The use highlights the significance of the third day, trees and a period of time of three days in God’s plan of redemption. The meaning of the word should be seen as highly significant. If את is an untranslatable word (as it is treated in all translations) and if the text is divinely inspired, then את should be considered as the word of God for that is how the Author uses it in Genesis 1-3.

Throughout the days of creation, “God said…” and it is common to summarize creation by stating that God spoke the world into existence. That picture is accurate and incomplete as Isaiah explains:

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV)

The word of God goes forth and returns. When God spoke to create, there was a word sent forth, accomplished its purpose, and returned. When God spoke again, the process was repeated. If the Scripture is taken literally, את can be seen as the word of God which went forth and returned and has been written to reflect that truth.

  • 4
    @Kate: I would encourage you to look at the other answer given. That answer gives a correct understanding of the Hebrew text. Unfortunately, this answer shows some serious ignorance of (1) how the Hebrew language works, especially with word order, (2) the real significance of "et" as the direct object marker, and (3) comes to a false conclusion that it is "the untranslatable name of God."
    – ScottS
    May 21, 2015 at 19:07
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    But your pattern of seven breaks down from the start, because Gen 1:1 has two et's in it, for the "second word" (וְאֵ֥ת) is also the word et, only with the waw conjunction ("and") prefixed to it (which is how Hebrew grammar works with that conjunction). So your count is already objectively off in your analysis, starting at v.1 (and I have not bothered to analyze if you missed any others in your count).
    – ScottS
    May 22, 2015 at 12:17
  • 3
    Additionally, the word preceding the et is not as significant as what follows, for Hebrew does not order sentences like English, and the et is often going to relate to the first word in the clause, because the first word is often the verb, and so et, being the direct object marker, relates to the verb more than the subject of the clause. The structure of Hebrew clauses are often (not always) VERB SUBJECT et DIRECT OBJECT. So you place too much weight on the word preceding et because you ignore the objective rules of grammar for the Hebrew language.
    – ScottS
    May 22, 2015 at 12:20
  • 4
    The issues with this answer cannot be counted in one comment. A few: (1) "The very next use of “the-earth” lacks either (et) or (v-et)," yes, because "earth" is the subject, not the direct object, which is what et marks. (2) You missed five et's in your first grouping and Genesis 2 counting alone: 1:17, 22, 27, 28, 2:3 (1st four have 3rd plural pronominal suffixes on them; אֹתָ֛ם; last 3rd singular, אֹת֑וֹ), which throws your counts off. (3) Your numerology imposed upon the text (22, 12) is not given significance in Gen 1-3 itself, which is contradictory to your premise of context. Etc.
    – ScottS
    Jun 1, 2015 at 1:48
  • 2
    @RevelationLad The system allows for >1 answer from a given user to a given question. In this case, however, they should be genuinely different answers which both add value to the Q&A. Here, you're elaborating the same answer in multiple iterations. That isn't helpful, as Caleb pointed out. See the Help on answers for more guidance, and see in particular the one on "answer bans" for mention of multiple answers ("do not just post the same answer again"). Hope this helps.
    – Dɑvïd
    Jun 2, 2015 at 6:43

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