Language issues
Main home page   Amazon UK Store Amazon COM Store  
Translations Languages Language issues Writing Chronology Patriarchs Exodus Judges Google+1 Site access Mobile apps Resources Site map

Verse study - Genesis 1:28

This study considers Genesis 1:28 with a view to exploring the various words and phrases used.

The Hebrew passage

TranslationTransliteration
Elohim blessed them,
and Elohim said to them
Be fruitful and become abundant.
Fulfil the earth and bring it into shape.
Prevail among the fish of the sea,
the birds of the skies,
and all living things that move about on the land.”
vayebârekh ’ôthâm ’elôhîym
vayyô’mer lâhem ’elôhîym
pe ûre
ûmile’û ’eth-hâ’ârets vekibeshuhâ
ûre bidegath hayyâm
ûbe‘ôph hashshâmayim
ûbekol-chayyâh hârômeseth ‘al-hâ’ârets

Summary

The second phrase in Elohim's blessing does more than simply repeat the first one - fill means more than simply top up numerically, but rather has the idea of bringing to completion, an idea reinforced by the subsequent verb suggesting a directed, purposeful shaping of the world.

The vocabulary is in most cases very standard phrasing, but in two cases uses turns of phrase that are largely restricted to the Pentateuch.

The key phrases

Be fruitful, pe

This is the Qal plural imperative form of the verb pârâh, bear fruit/be fruitful. It is related to the noun perîy, fruit, and both words are used in both literal and figurative senses. Both the verb and noun are used quite extensively throughout the different portions of the Old Testament.

However, the combination here, perû ûrebû, is a characteristically Pentateuchal phrase, occurring just once outside these books. See the separate page "A comparison of the vocabulary in the Noahic and Abrahamic covenants" for more details.

Return to the Hebrew passage

Become abundant, re

This is the Qal plural imperative form of the verb râbab, meaning be/become many/much, or become great. Related words include the verbs spread out or expand, nouns chief, great one, multitude, and related adjectives such as abundant. They are all used quite extensively throughout the different portions of the Old Testament.

However, the combination here, perû ûrebû, is a characteristically Pentateuchal phrase, occurring just once outside these books. See the separate page "A comparison of the vocabulary in the Noahic and Abrahamic covenants" for more details.

Return to the Hebrew passage

Fulfil the earth, mile’û ’eth-hâ’ârets

This is the Qal plural imperative form of the verb mâlê’. It frequently has the sense of simply filling something (whether literally or figuratively). However, it also has the connotation of filling something up, accomplishing or completing it (hence fulfil in this rendering). Similarly, it can include the sense of confirming or satisfying a situation. Finally, it can suggest being consecrated for a task, ie being made fully ready and officially installed for it. Related nouns include fulness, full produce (of a piece of land), entire contents, the setting of a jewel, or the installation of a priest. A similar word is used in an architectual sense of filled earthworks (eg the Millo at Jerusalem). These words are all used quite extensively throughout the different portions of the Old Testament.

Return to the Hebrew passage

Bring it into shape, kibeshuhâ

This is the Qal plural imperative form of the verb kâbash, with the additional feminine pronoun ending to refer the verb back to ’erets. It has an increasingly overtly aggressive meaning with later writings, moving from the idea of tread down or subdue in early books, through to dominate or bring into bondage sometimes in the prophetic writings, through to assault in Esther. Related verbs suggest the idea of kneading, massaging, or making a path as well as forcing. The less aggressive and more creative sense of bring into shape has been chosen here.

The noun for a pottery or lime kiln is related, probably through the idea of forcibly reducing the ingredients. The verb form is not common, but is scattered through all parts of the Old Testament. The noun is only found in Genesis and Exodus, with other words used to indicate a furnace or crucible of various kinds in other books.

Return to the Hebrew passage

Prevail, re

This is the Qal plural imperative form of the verb râdâh, have dominion, rule or dominate. It is related to verbs meaning tread down, prevail or descend on, and a noun meaning dominion. It is found scattered throughout all Old Testament books, but is unrelated to words relating to kingly rule or reign, viz. mâlakh or mâshal.

Return to the Hebrew passage

Fish of the sea, degath hayyâm

The word for fish can be found in both masculine and feminine forms, dâg and dâgâh. The phrase here, fish of the sea, is found in numerous places through the Old Testament, again in both masculine (degêy hayyâm) and feminine (degath hayyâm, as here) forms.

Return to the Hebrew passage

Birds of the skies, ‘ôph hashshâmayim

This is again a widely used phrase found throughout the Old Testament.

Return to the Hebrew passage

All living things that move about on the land, kol-chayyâh hârômeseth ‘al-hâ’ârets

The word used here to signify land animals, hârômeseth, is the plural participle Qal form of the verb râmas, creep, move lightly, or move about. Its use is largely confined to the Pentateuch - ten times in Genesis, three in Leviticus and once in Deuteronomy - with only one use in each of Psalm 69, Psalm 104, and Ezekiel outside of these books. A related collective noun, remes, creeping/moving things is also largely found in Genesis - ten times here with only six in all the remaining books. This noun typically refers specifically to creeping things in distinction from other kinds of life, only in Genesis 9 being used as a generic term for all animals.

There are other phrases used elsewhere to indicate animal life - for example kol-habbehêmâh ûkôl chayyath hassâdeh, all domesticated animals and all creatures of the open country.

Return to the Hebrew passage

Language issues