The above Scriptural passage in Hebrew is the opening of the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Torah or the Law of Moses, and describes the First Day of God's Creation of the heavens and the earth. The English translation of Genesis 1:1-5 follows, as well as a comparative Key of Hebrew and English. This page also includes a brief description of Hebrew Accents and Numbers.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep,
and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.
5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night."
And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day.
|In the beginning||בְּרֵאשִׁית|
|and He said||וַיֹּאמֶר|
|let there be||יְהִי|
|and He saw||וַיַּרְא|
The Tiberian Masoretes, in addition to the vowel points for Biblical Hebrew, developed accents or cantillation marks for the Biblical text. The accents perform three functions. Their primary function was to indicate the music for singing or reciting Hebrew Scripture during worship. A second function of the accents is to present the interrelationships of the words in the text. The third function is to mark the position of stress in the word. Accents fall into two groups, either disjunctive or conjunctive. Disjunctive accents mark a pause or break in the reading of a verse, as may occur in the completion of a thought. Conjunctive accents connect two words that go together, as two nouns in a construct relationship.
Hebrew accents are a complex subject in themselves. There are 27 prose accents for the 21 prose books, and 21 poetic accents for Psalms, Job, and Proverbs, 12 of which are specific for poetry only. The three important accents, which are consistently found in all 24 books of Hebrew Scripture, are displayed here.
Genesis 1:1 above has three accents or cantillation marks that are red in color. Reading from right to left, the first one is munah, a conjunctive connecting בָּרָא with אֱלֹהִים. The second is atnah, a disjunctive that indicates both a pause in the verse and the stress in the word. The third accent is silluq, a disjunctive that indicates the last word of the verse, as well as the stress in the word. Please note that silluq is the same symbol as metheg, which, when accompanying a vowel, indicates that the reader is to briefly pause to allow full pronunciation of that vowel. Silluq is followed by the punctuation mark sof pasiq, which indicates the end of the verse, similar to our period.
Numbers one through ten have two forms - masculine and feminine, depending on the noun to which they refer. Number one אֶחָד may mean one or first, as in Genesis 1:5 above, the First Day of God's Creation. Sometime during the Maccabean period (the second century BC), the letters of the alphabet began to represent numbers, such as the first ten letters of the Hebrew alphabet began to signify numbers one through ten, as seen in the presentation of the Ten Commandments of God. Note one of the unique features of the Semitic languages - numbers 3 through 10 with the feminine ending ה are used for masculine nouns! Here are the masculine (left) and feminine (right) forms of the numbers one through ten: