Beginnings (5): Genesis 1

“Peru U’revu”   

As promised, in this post we will have the answer regarding the sixth day. Before we do that however, we will contemplate a famous blessing that God gave to the first couple: “Peru U’revu”  – “be fruitful and multiply”.  We read in Genesis 1:28: God blessed them and God said to them, “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.”[1]

It is customary to call “be fruitful and multiply” a commandment and to see in these words the first commandment (mitzvah) in the Torah. However, I believe that we hear a blessing, not a commandment, in this verse. Yes, already here in Genesis 1, God blesses the first couple—the man and the woman He had just created—and ever since then, you and I, men and women, have been longing for His blessing. Why did He bless them? Maybe right here, in the very first chapter of the Hebrew Scriptures, we find a hidden secret as to how to obtain God’s blessing?

VaYivarech otam Elohim”… “God blessed them”. The Hebrew word for “blessing”, braha  (ברכה), has an interesting etymology: the traditional explanation derives it from the root berech (ברך), “knee”. At first glance, this connection seems very strange. Does one have to kneel in order to receive a blessing? But this is exactly the point—yes, one needs to humble oneself, to recognize and admit that we are not self-sufficient, that we need God’s help, that we need His blessing. Undoubtedly, this was the case with the first couple: before the Fall they knew perfectly well that they were not self-sufficient, that they depended completely on God—and that’s why He was ready to bless them. I believe this message is still relevant for us today: once we know that we are not self-sufficient – that we depend on Him completely – He is ready to bless us also!

 

Yom Ha-Shishi

And now, without further ado, let us address our question regarding the sixth day.

Some of you may already have found the difference in Hebrew, and I salute those who did – Great Job! Today, I will explain this to those who don’t know Hebrew enough in order to see it without my help.

We already know many things about Yom Ha-Shishi – things that are seen in translation as well, not only in Hebrew. We know, first of all, that this day is very special because a very special creature was created on this day. We know that according to Jewish understanding, Creation only became meaningful on this day, when man was created and God was proclaimed King (that’s why the day we celebrate as Rosh HaShanah – Jewish New Year – is considered the anniversary of the sixth day). In every Bible, only on the sixth day does God look over his entire creation and declare that it is not simply good – טוֹב  (tov) “good”, butטוֹב מְאֹד  (tov meod) “very good”. So, what is it that we can see only in Hebrew?

Well, when this chapter is read in Hebrew, an amazing detail is seen, that is completely lost in translation: this is the only day among all the days of Chapter1,   that has the definite article – Yom Ha-Shishi.  So the evening and the morning were THE sixth day…. Why? Of course, everything we have said before makes this day very special, but there is something more that I would like to add. You probably know that there is a correspondence between the Hebrew letters and the numbers. Number six – the sixth day – corresponds to the letter “vav”. “Vav” is shaped like a hook holding two things together (ו) in a sentence, and “Vav” is translated as “and”. This property of vav is referred to as the “vav  of connection”, and if we realize that the Sixth Day—Yom Ha-Shishi—is also Yom Vav (even in modern Hebrew), we would understand that as such, it connects and holds together the spiritual and physical realms, heaven and earth, six days of Creation and Shabbat. Anyone who has experienced Shabbat in Israel would know what I am talking about. Friday, Yom Shishi, is a really special day here, since it is a harbinger and beginning of Shabbat: it connects and holds together the six days of the week and the most important day of the Jewish week. Every Friday, we hold a festive meal and sing the song that welcomes “the Bride (Shabbat)”. Of course this day should be different from all the previous days and should have this special mark—the article: Yom Ha-Shishi.

 

Shabbat (The Seventh Day)

We are done with Genesis 1, but as you probably know, the first three verses of chapter 2 still belong to the first creation account. And here, Shabbat – the Seventh Day of Creation – is introduced. For a long time, historians have been trying to understand when and how the seventh day became the Holy day of Israel (mostly, they link it to a Babylonian division of the lunar month into four seven-day periods). Today we take this for granted but the idea that humans should organize and track their time around periods of seven days was not always universally accepted. Six and ten-day weeks existed in different ancient cultures. So, how and when did the seventh day became the Holy day of Israel? Maybe it can be explained by the Babylonian division of the lunar month into four seven-day periods?  Or do we need to seek a different explanation?

If we believe the Scriptures, we definitely don’t need to look elsewhere. In Genesis 2, the seventh day clearly becomes the divine seal of creation, a sanctified day of rest – God’s holy day. However, in Genesis 2, the seventh day clearly becomes the divine seal of creation, a sanctified day of rest—God’s holy day. In the ages to come, Israel has to make it the center of its existence, the mark of its covenant with God, “a memorial of the work of creation”.

Moreover, the songs and Psalms sung in every Jewish home on Friday evenings often refer, not only to Shabbat as a weekly day of rest, but also to that glorious Messianic Shabbat when, under Messiah, the whole creation shall find Rest – an allusion to the Jewish tradition of dividing time into a week of millennium. According to this tradition, just as six days culminate in the sanctified seventh day of rest (Shabbat), so too will six millennia of history culminate in the sanctified seventh millennium  of rest – Shabbat of the  Messianic Age (Hebrew years 6000–7000).The current (2019/2020) Hebrew year is 5780, according to classical Jewish sources, the ‘deadline’ by which the Messiah must appear is 6,000 years from creation, it means – in  220 years.

 

[1] Gen.1:28

 

 If these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, or studying  in depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insightsI would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for new students) regarding  eTeacher courses [1]  (juliab@eteachergroup.com) .

If you like the  articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you  can get  them  from  my page:   https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/  . My last book “Unlocking the Scriptures”, with the Hebrew insights into the Torah and  Jewish Background insights   into NT,  is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=unlocking+the+scriptures+by+julia+blum&crid=2IHYED6W7ZVYI&sprefix=julia+blum+%2Caps%2C689&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_4_11

 

[1] At this point, we offer WTP course only in English, while DHB course exists both in Spanish and Portuguese.

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

You might also be interested in:

Beginnings (8): Genesis 2

By Julia Blum

Beginnings (7): Genesis 2

By Julia Blum

Join the conversation (5 comments)

Leave a Reply

  1. Nick

    We have all of this academic, scientific, and intellectual analysis of what we read in Genesis, and yet it is mystical and beyond our logical minds – right out of a sci-fi novel. The idea that we are souls that have a body, and not bodies that have a soul, seems to fit. Shabbat asks us to recognize this, perhaps.
    Thanks Julia!
    Nick

  2. Elizabeth

    Julia
    What is the “right” way to save Shabbat? Following all the prohibitions mentioned in the oral law?

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi ELisabeth, I am sorry for not replying earlier, I’ve been trying to find the correct answer all this time. I am still not sure how to answer, though. First of all, I think there is a huge difference between Jews and Gentiles regarding this topic: Jews are commanded to keep Shabbat, Gentiles are not. Second, there is a big difference between just a few lines describing how to keep Shabbat in the Scripture, and tons of regulations in modern Judaism. I think, it’s a question of where you stand and what you believe in, more than anything else. There is no single answer to this question.

      1. Brian Parker

        Greetings Julia,
        I was intrigued by Elizabeth’s Question about observing Shabbat (January 30th) and your response. I agree that Gentiles are not commanded to ‘keep’ / observe Shabbat, however – I believe that as a Messianic Believer, we should try to mark the Shabbat as different from the other 6 days. I offer the following as something (hopefully) helpful to Elizabeth and others who may be wondering. (Admittedly, since moving to our present home, we are not able to do all of these things today) Back a while, however, on Shabbat, my wife and I would attend a Torah study class at a local Synagogue and participate in the discussion as permitted. We would then either a) attend the service at that synagogue and stay for Oneg and often very deep[ dialogue with others or B) go to a friend’s (and fellow Messianic) to hold a Shabbat service of our own, followed by lunch and a lively discussion of the Parsha passages or C) travel to a local Messianic Synagogue for the service and for Lunch and then spend the rest of the day at home, resting quietly and avoiding any form of normal ‘work’ around the house. We found all of this very helpful and fulfilling as we felt “in the closer vicinity” of HaShem. Blessings.

        1. Julia Blum

          Thank you Brian, this is definitely a great way to spend Shabbat – but it also confirms my statement, that it all depends on what you believe in, more than anything else. There is no single answer to this question, and different groups in Judaism (including Messianic Judaism) observe it in different ways. Of course, the main point is the same for everyone: Shabbat is the holy day – however, “to do” and “not to do” lists differ from one group to another.