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Genesis 1:29

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים הִנֵּה֩ נָתַ֨תִּי לָכֶ֜ם אֶת־כָּל־עֵ֣שֶׂב ׀ זֹרֵ֣עַ זֶ֗רַע אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י כָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְאֶת־כָּל־הָעֵ֛ץ אֲשֶׁר־בֹּ֥ו פְרִי־עֵ֖ץ זֹרֵ֣עַ זָ֑רַע לָכֶ֥ם יִֽהְיֶ֖ה לְאָכְלָֽה׃

(My translation) And God said behold I have given to you every herb producing seed which is upon the face of the whole earth and every tree which in itself [is?] fruit of a tree producing seed. To you it shall be for food.

I am having trouble understanding the bold part of the verse. I have slavishly translated it word-for-word to the best of my ability, but how would one translate it thought-for-thought? (I am still a beginner in Hebrew, so hopefully someone with more experience can help.)

It feels like a somewhat awkward phrase. Why is "tree" is mentioned twice? Here were some ideas that came to mind:

  1. Maybe the phrase "fruit of a tree" is meant to signify that the the type of fruit it bears corresponds to what type of tree it is? (i.e. apple trees will bear apples and orange trees will bear oranges)

  2. Maybe the first "tree" is the parent tree, which is going to bear seed, and the seed will grow into a new tree, and the second "tree" is the daughter tree?

  3. Maybe it is indeed redundant to have "tree" twice but the Hebrew repeats it for the sake of poetic beauty?

  4. Maybe there's a Hebrew idiom that I'm not aware of?

Also, where exactly does the relative clause introduced by אֲשֶׁר֙ end?

What does זֹרֵ֣עַ connect with? The first tree, the second tree, or the fruit?

3 Answers 3

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Here is my translation:

And God said: Behold, I have given you every seed-bearing herb on the earth, and every tree bearing seed in its fruit, to be food for you: and to every animal on the earth, and every fowl of the air, and everything that moves on the earth, and wherein there is life, I have given every green herb, for food. And it was so.

The Hebrew relative pronoun אשר doesn't function exactly as the English. Sometimes it can be mind-boggling to parse, but when you rethink how you are parsing (namely, re-arrange the logical order of some prepositions, and word order), it becomes 'kicking-yourself' obvious.

The relevant portion in question is:

אשר בו פרי עץ זרע זרע

inside the fruit of which tree seed is yielded

The language is verbose and overly-explicit because the narrative is that of the Creator explaning His freshly-created creation for the first time—before a "tree" or a "fruit" existed. Therefore, it's a combination of this explicitness and the difficult-to-parse nature of the relative pronoun אשר that gives rise to your question—one has to think 'overly inside the box' in order to understand what is being said.

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  • +1 I think your translation "every tree bearing seed in its fruit" makes a lot of sense. (The "its" refers to the tree, not to the seed, right?) I'm still having trouble though understanding the אשר בו פרי עץ part. Does the waw in בו stand for the fruit or for the tree? Mar 12, 2022 at 4:31
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This (Gen 1:29b) is quintessential Hebrew idiom that might be rendered into English (overly redundantly) something like:

trees that yield tree fruit with seed

Most versions smooth out the Hebrew idiom and produce something like:

  • NIV: and every tree that has fruit with seed in it
  • ESV: and every tree with seed in its fruit
  • BSB: and every tree whose fruit contains seed
  • NKJV: and every tree whose fruit yields seed;
  • NSAB: and every tree which has fruit yielding seed
  • CSB: and every tree whose fruit contains seed
  • HCSB: and every tree whose fruit contains seed

Note that in good English, the extra "tree" in the Hebrew become "that", "which", "whose", etc.

There are many examples of this in Hebrew. Here are a few more:

  • Gen 2:17 - "dying you shall die"
  • Job 3:1 - After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. See also Acts 10:34
  • Ex 12:10 - burn with fire. See also Ex 29:14, Lev 8:32, etc

The Word זֹרֵ֣עַ

This word is a qal partciple, maculine singular Its meaning is listed below from BDB.

I. זָרַע verb sow, scatter seed (Late Hebrew id.; Assyrian zirû TPPrism vi. 15; Arabic ; Aramaic , זְרַע; Ethiopic but in Sabean דֿרא DHMZMG 1883, 15 and in proper name, Id. in MV10, pp. 242, 983) —

Qal Perfect3masculine singular זָרַע Judges 6:3; 1singular וְזָרַעְתִּ֫י Jeremiah 31:27; suffix וּזְרַעְתִּיהָ consec Hosea 2:25; 3plural זָָֽרְעוּ Jeremiah 12:13; 2masculine plural זְרַעַתֶּם Haggai 1:6; וּזְרַעְתֶּם consecutive Genesis 47:23 2t.; Imperfect יִזְרָ֑ע Ecclesiastes 11:4; וַיִּזְרַע Genesis 26:12; suffix וַיִּזְרָעֶהָ Judges 9:45; 1 singular אֶזְדְעָה Judg 31:8; suffix וְאֶזְרָעֵם Zechariah 10:9, etc.; Imperative masculine singular זְרַע Ecclesiastes 11:6; masculine plural זִרְעוּ Hosea 10:12 2t.; Infinitive לִזְרֹעַ Isaiah 28:24; Participle active זֹרֵעַ Isaiah 55:10 3t.; זזֹרֵעַ Proverbs 22:8; Jeremiah 50:16, etc.; Passive participle זָרֻעַ Psalm 97:11 (but on text see below); feminine זְרוּעָה Jeremiah 2:2; —

1 literally sow:

a. absolute sow (seed), do one's sowing Judges 6:3; Genesis 26:12 (J), Isaiah 28:24 (after ploughing חרשׁ); זִרְעוּ וקצרו ונטעו כרמים Isaiah 37:30 = 2 Kings 19:29; "" קצר also Micah 6:15; Leviticus 25:11 (H), Ecclesiastes 11:4; "" אסף Leviticus 25:20 (H); opposed to אכל Job 31:8; זֹרְעֵי עלכֿלמֿים Isaiah 32:20 (on construct compare Ges§ 130, 1); with אתהֿשּׁנה הַשׁמינִת Leviticus 25:22; followed by הַרְבֵּה Haggai 1:6 (opposed to הָבֵא מְעָ֑ט).

b. with accusative of land אדמה Exodus 23:10 (J E; "" אסף), Genesis 47:23 (J); field (שׂדה) Leviticus 25:3 ("" אסף), compare Leviticus 25:4; Psalm 107:37; as passive participle אֶרֶץ לֹא זְרוּעָה Jeremiah 2:2 ("" מִדְבָּר).

c. with accusative of seed אֶתזַֿרְעֲךָ ׳ז Deuteronomy 11:10, compare Deuteronomy 22:9; Jeremiah 35:7; Leviticus 26:16 (H) Ecclesiastes 11:6; followed by חִטִּים Jeremiah 12:13 ("" קצר); compare also בִּכּוּרֵי מַעֲשֶׂיךָ אשׁר תזרע בַּשָּׂדֶה Exodus 23:16 (JE).

d. followed by 2 accusative לֹא תזרע כַּרְמְךָ כִּלְאַ֑יִם Deuteronomy 22:9; compare שָׂדְךָ לֹא תִזְרַע כִּלְאַיִם Leviticus 19:19 (H); זַרְעֲךָ אשׁרתֿזדע אתהֿאדמה Isaiah 30:23; also of destroyed city וַיִּזְרָעֶהָ מֶ֑לַח Judges 9:45.

e. participle active as substantive זוֺרֵעַ Jeremiah 50:16 ("" תֹּפֵשׂ מַגָּל בְּעֵת קָציר); לַֹזּרֵעַ Isaiah 55:10 ("" לָאֹכֵל).

2 of shrub and tree producing, yielding seed, with accusative of congnate meaning with verb Genesis 1:29 (twice in verse) (P), compare Hiph`il 3. figurative:

a. of Yahweh's sowing (planting) Israel in the land וזרעתיה לי בָארץ Hosea 2:25 (We וזרעתיהו, object being Jezreel); on the other hand וְאֶזְרָעֵם בָּעַמִּים Zechariah 10:9.

b. with 2 accusative, of Yahweh's fructifying Israel and Judah יהודה זֶרַע אדם וזרע ׳וזרעתי אתבֿית ישׂראל ואתבֿ בהמה Jeremiah 31:27.

c. of moral action, זִרְעוּ לָכֶם לִצְדָקָה Hosea 10:12 ("" קצר); צדקה׳ז Proverbs 11:18; אַלתִּֿזְרְעוּ אֶלקֹֿצִים Jeremiah 4:3 sow not in among thorns (said of a few righteous deeds amid much wickedness); especially of evil-doing רוּחַ יזרעו וְסוּפָתָה יִקְצֹ֑רוּ Hosea 8:7; זֹרְעֵי עָמָל Job 4:8 ("" קצר); זוֺרֵעַ עַוְלָה יקצוראָֿוֶן Proverbs 22:8.

d. of Israel's practising idolatry זְמֹרַת זָר תִּזְרָעֶ֑נּוּ Isaiah 17:10 (2 accusative)

e. הזרעים בדמעה בְּרִנָּה יִקְצֹ֑רוּ Psalm 126:5 metaphor of distress followed by joy.

f. אוֺר זָרֻעַ לַצַּדִּיק Psalm 97:11 read probably זָרַח, Vrss Ol Hu Bae Che and others

Niph`al be sown, fructified, Perfect3feminine singular וְנִזְרְעָה consecutive Numbers 5:28; 2masculine plural וְנִזְרַעְתֶּם consecutive Ezekiel 36:9; Imperfect3masculine singular יִזָּרַע Nahum 1:14; יִזָּרֵ֑עַ Deuteronomy 21:4; Leviticus 11:37; 3feminine singular תִּזָּרַע Deuteronomy 29:22; —

1 be sown:

a. subject אֶרֶץ, ולא תַּצְמִחַ ׳לֹא תִזּ Deuteronomy 29:22, compare (of נַחַל אֵיתָן) לא יֵעָבֵּד ׳בּוֺ ולא יִזּ Deuteronomy 21:4; in address to הָרֵי ישׂראל, וְנֶעֱבַּדְתֶּם וְנִזְרַעְתֶּם Ezekiel 36:9.

b. subject זֶרַע, זֶרַע זֵרוּעַ אשׁר יִזָּרֵעַ Leviticus 11:37 (P); figurative מִשִּׁמְךָ עוֺד ׳לֹא יִזּ Nahum 1:14 no more of thy name be sown, in judgment against Nineveh.

2 be fructified, made pregnant וְנִזְרְעָה זָרַ֑ע Numbers 5:28 (P; of woman).

Pu`al Perfect3plural זֹרָ֑עוּ Isaiah 40:24 of princes and judges under figure of trees ("" נִטָּ֑עוּ, שֹׁרֵשׁ בָּאָרֶץ גִּזְעָם).

Hiph`il Imperfect3feminine singular תַּזְרִיעַ Leviticus 12:2; Participle מַזְרִיעַ Genesis 1:11,12; —

1 produce seed, of herb, with accusative of congnate meaning with verb Genesis 1:11,12; apparently denominative from זֶרַע; compare Qal 2. 2. of a woman, = bear a child תַּזְרִיעַ וְיָיָָֽלְדָה זָכָר Leviticus 12:2.

זְרַע noun [masculine] seed (compare Biblical Hebrew I. זרע); — construct אֲנָשָׁא ׳ז Daniel 2:43 seed (offspring) of men.

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Better English for בֹּ֥ו here is "on it" if "fruit on it;" "fruit on the/a tree." However "in it" if "seed in the fruit." Thus, אֲשֶׁר־בֹּ֥ו = "on/in which" in proper English.

אֶת־... וְאֶת־ - indicates the compound direct object of נָתַ֨תִּי.

לָכֶ֜ם is the indirect object of the verb. Note it occurs both after the verb and beginning the last (indirect object) phrase of the verse. Thus, "to/for you" but further clarified "to/for you it is for food."

It's not the tree that you eat, but the fruit on the tree which contains the seed that reproduces the tree.

Thus, your phrase: "every tree on/in which the fruit of the tree bears seed..."

The translations do seem to prefer supplying "is" rather than using the verb in the relative clause as the main verb. In Hebrew "is" can often be understood but usually when no verb is present. Supplying "has" is equivalent.

The Translations of Genesis 1:29

God said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food. (JPS Tanakh)

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food: (ASV)

And God saith, ‘Lo, I have given to you every herb sowing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree sowing seed, to you it is for food; (YLT)

Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; (NASB)

And God said: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed—to you it shall be for food (JPS 1917)

God also said: “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; (NAB)

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