Hebrew Language/waw


QUESTION: I've read where the waw consecutive precedes a verb and a waw circumstantial precedes a noun like in Genesis 1:2.  I've also read Genesis 3:1 is a waw consecutive even though it precedes a noun.  Why is Genesis 3:1 a waw consecutive but Genesis 1:2 is a waw circumstantial?  They both precede the word "the" and then a noun (i.e. earth and serpent).  Thanks

ANSWER: Waw consecutive can only precede a verb, because what it does is change the tense of the verb from future to past or vice verse. Nouns have no tenses, so they cannot be changed by Waw consecutive.

In Genesis 3:1 there are two Vavs (or Waws) -

וְהַנָּחָשׁ, הָיָה עָרוּם, מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה, אַף כִּי-אָמַר אֱלֹהִים, לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן.

The first one - וְהַנָּחָשׁ - is the waw circumstantial. It means "now, the serpent was..."
The second one - וַיֹּאמֶר - is the waw consecutive. It means "he told [the woman]". The role the Vav plays here is to change the meaning of the future verb יאמר (he will tell) to the past form.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the feedback.  I read where the waw circumstantial precedes a noun and describes further the noun in the preceding verse.  For example in Genesis 1:2 the was circumstantial before "erets" is referring back to the "erets" in Genesis 1:1 and provides more information of "erets".  I this case it provides the status of the earth after it was created.

If this is correct, it doesn't seem to follow the same rules in Genesis 3:1.

If this is not correct, then are you saying it only affects verb tense?  If so how does the was in Genesis 3:1 get translated to "Now" when it doesn't precede a verb?

Thanks again. Scott

ANSWER: Waw consecutive only affects verb tense. Waw circumstantial precedes nouns. It doesn't really describe the noun. It is a literature tool to make the text sound more poetic.
The "was" is not translated to now. It's still "was". The Vav is translated to "now".
I think the simplest way would be to analyze Genesis 3:1 word by word:

literally - and the serpent/snake
actual meaning is closer to "now, the serpent...


literally - crafty
actual meaning - craftier than

מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה,
literally - all field animal
actual meaning - all other animals [that infest farmers' fields]

אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים;
that Yehovah the God had made/created.

literally - and he will say/tell
actual meaning - and he told

the woman,

אַף כִּי-אָמַר אֱלֹהִים,
Even though God said,

לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן.
Literally - You will not eat from any tree in the garden
Actual meaning - You must not eat from any tree in the garden

Now, as for Genesis 1:1 and 1:2:
א בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.  ב וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם.

The Waws are: וְאֵת -
את is a word that doesn't exist in English. All of it simply means "and".

וְהָאָרֶץ -
Again, it literally means "and the Earth" or "and the land", but a closer translation is
"now, the Earth..."

וָבֹהוּ - part of the phrase תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ - meaning chaos. וָבֹהוּ has no meaning in itself.

וְחֹשֶׁךְ - and darkness - the Waw means "and".

וְרוּחַ - and the spirit of.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much again.  I think this is my last question.
If the vav consequential is a literature tool to make the text sound more poetic, why is the word "now" used?  Is there any connection to placing the reader in the present, like "Fred built his house from the foundation up.  Now the house was ready to paint."

If not, why the use of the word "now"?

Thanks again, Scott

You are welcome to ask as much questions as you like :)

The "now" is a translator's choice of style. It is not mandatory from the original text and it is not intended to place the reader in the present.

See this definition of "now" from the Oxford dictionary:

"Used, especially in conversation, to draw attention to a particular statement or point in a narrative:
now, my first impulse was to run away
I don’t like Scotch. Now, if it had been Irish Whiskey you’d offered me"

The same applies for any Biblical Vav/Waw preceding a noun at the beginning of a sentence.

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