GENESIS 1:1-5 IN THE BEGINNING
|In the beginning
|and He said
|let there be
|and He saw
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. 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:
The Book of Genesis
Genesis - God's Creation of Humanity
Genesis 3:15 - The First Gospel
The Alphabet of Biblical Hebrew