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A Study on the Translation/Interpretation of Genesis 2:5-6 and Its Function

Lee Choong Ryeol 1 KyeSang Ha 1

1삼육대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Korean Bible versions, foreign language Bible versions, and Old Testament scholars do not agree on the translation/interpretation of Genesis 2:5-6, and their translations/interpretations are even contradictory. Thus, this paper first aims to translate/interpret Genesis 2:5-6 more correctly through a terminological study on ś○aḥ haśśāḏeh (hd,F'h; x;yfi) and 'ēśeḇ haśśāḏeh (hd,F'h; bf,[e) in verse 5 and 'ēḏ (dae) in verse 6, a close study on the text of Genesis 2:5-6 itself, and an inter-textual interpretation of the text done in association with other related texts. Further, most studies have provided little or no help in understanding the function of Genesis 2:5-6. Therefore, the second goal of this study is to perceive the function that Genesis 2:5-6 has in the broader context, as well as in its immediate context. Keeping these two goals in mind, we proceeded with this research from a synchronic/ literary perspective, paying close attention to the Hebrew text in the BHS (Biblia hebraica stuttgartensia). Taking Genesis 21:15 and Job 30:4, 7, where ś○aḥ (x;yfi) occurs, into account, even though ś○aḥ haśśāḏeh (hd,F'h; x;yfi) in Genesis 2:5 is used only once in the Old Testament, we identified the meaning of ś○aḥ haśśāḏeh (hd,F'h; x;yfi) through the parallelisms in Genesis 2:5a and 3:18, and in Genesis 3:17bα-bβ, 18a, and 19aα. We identified the meaning of 'ēśeḇ haśśāḏeh (hd,F'h; bf,[e) in Genesis 2:5 in relation to Psalm 104:14, first taking into account its usage in Genesis 3:18, Exodus 9:22, 25[2x], and 10:15. Attention was then paid to the significant expression la'abōd 'et-hā'adāmāh (hm'd'a]h'-ta, dbo[]l;), where the Hebrew verb 'ābaḏ (db;[', "till") is first used (in Gen 2:5). It appears once more, in 3:23, these two verses being its only occurrences in the Old Testament. In addtion, we took notice of the parallelism which Genesis 3:18, where 'ēśeḇ haśśāḏeh (hd,F'h; bf,[e) occurs right after 2:5, forms with 3:17b, 19aα. The term 'ēḏ (dae) in Genesis 2:6 occurs once more (in Job 36:27) in the Old Testament, but its translation/interpretation there is nothing but a deduction from its context. Thus, the information for the exact translation/interpretation of 'ēḏ (dae) in Genesis 2:6 seemed to have to be obtained from the predicate which corresponds to 'ēḏ (dae), the subject ofGenesis2:6,andfromcomparativelinguistics. However,theexisting views, based on comparative linguistics, were proven to be unconvincing by Gerhard F. Hasel and Michael G. Hasel, and even the view that they newly highlighted and reinforced is not clearly persuasive. The reason is that they neither meticulously read Genesis 2:6 itself, nor carefully did inter-textual interpretation of it in association with other related texts. The Hebrew verb 'ālāh (hl'[', "go up"), which is one of the two Hebrew verbs in the predicate of Genesis 2:6, is used for the going up of a well in Numbers 21:17, and the other Hebrew verb レāqāh (hq'v' Hiphil: "cause to drink water, give to drink") is also used for the water supply of a spring in Joel 4:18[H 3:18]. A much more decisive fact is that, in the context corresponding to the third day of the Creation week in the so-called "Creation epic" (Ps 104), God's activity separating the dry land from the waters and the situation in which the separation is completely done is vividly portrayed in verses 9-10 (ESV): "You [God] set a boundary that they [the waters] may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth. You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills." In regard to the text of Genesis 2:5-6 itself, verse 5a is differentiated by the conjunction k○ (yKi) from verses 5b-6, but verse 6 is a clause which is dominated by the conjunction just as verse 5b is. And it is logically proper to regard the clause of Genesis 2:5b, which starts with the conjunction k○ (yKi), not as a causal clause but as a temporal clause for verse 5a, since ś○aḥ haśśāḏeh (hd,F'h; x;yfi), that is, "thorns and thistles" can grow and propagate on the earth which is watered from below without rain. Besides, Genesis 2:6, which, as for its meaning, has a disjunctive relation with 2:5, must be seen to be in line with the k○ (yKi) clause. As for the function of Genesis 2:5-6, we paid attention to the change of the situation from verse 5aβ (no man) to verse 7 (man's coming into being), to the transition from the pre-Fall situation in Genesis 2 to the post-Fall situation in Genesis 3, and to the fact that, especially compared with Genesis 7:4a ("I [Yahweh God] will rain on the earth"), Genesis 2:5bα ("Yahweh God did not rain on the earth") is clearly related to the Flood by the same Hebrew verb māṭar (rjm Hiphil) and the apparent similarity of the syntax. Through this study, we have come to the following conclusion in regard to the translation/interpretation of Genesis 2:5-6, as well as its function. First, ś○aḥ haśśāḏeh (hd,F'h; x;yfi) and 'ēśeḇ haśśāḏeh (hd,F'h; bf,[e) in Genesis 2:5 should be translated/interpreted as "thorns and thistles" and "grain/cereals" respectively. Second, 'ēḏ (dae) in Genesis 2:6 should be translated/interpreted as "fountain." Third, it is logically proper to regard the clause in Genesis 2:5b, which starts with the conjunction k○ (yKi), not as a causal clause but as a temporal clause, and Genesis 2:6, which, as for meaning, has a disjunctive relation with 2:5, to be in line with the k○ (yKi) clause.
Fourth, Genesis 2:5-6 should be translated/interpreted: "When Yahweh God did not rain on the earth and there was not a man to till the ground but a fountain went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground, none of thorns and thistles were yet in the earth and no grains yet sprouted up." Fifth, Genesis 2:5-6, following the order of the Hebrew text, can be schematized as follows. A noneofthornsandthistleswasyetintheearth(2:5aα) A' and no grain yet sprouted up (2:5aβ) B when Yahweh God did not rain on the earth (2:5bα) A'' and there was not a man to till the ground (2:5bβ) B' but a fountain went up from the earth
and watered the whole face of the ground (2:6) Sixth and last, in Genesis 2:5b-6 which makes a chiasm, its chiastic center 2:5bβ (the motif of tilling) corresponds to 2:5a ("thorns and thistles" and "grain") and is linked by the term 'ādām (~d'a', "man") to 2:7, which is the story of man's creation, whereas the 'motif of tilling' in 2:5bβ, along with "thorns and thistles" and "grain" in 2:5a, is ultimately connected with the story of man's fall in Genesis 3 (see vss. 17a-19aα, 23). The 'situation in which God did not rain' and the going up of a "fountain" which are the outer wings in the chiasm of Genesis 2:5b-6 is connected with the story of the Flood in Genesis 7 which is related to the 'situation in which God rained' and the explosive gushing of "all the fountains of the great deep." Genesis 2:5-6, therefore, functions in its immediate context as the introduction to the story of man's Creation in Genesis 2:7, and in its wider context as an advance hint of the story of man's Fall in Genesis 3, and further of the story of the Flood.

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