Genesis 1:23 (BHS/WIVU)
וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם חֲמִישִֽׁי׃ פ
“This was evening and this was morning – the fifth day.”
(This post on Genesis 1:19 explains my translation best.)
Déjà vu. Maybe I’m the only person bothered by this, but have you noticed that the phrase repeated here in 1:23 gets its own verse number on the 3rd, 4th and 5th days (Genesis 1:13, 19 & 23) but not on the 1st, 2nd and 6th days (Genesis 1:5, 8 & 31)?
What does it mean?
Probably nothing. Here’s a video on the (very cool) digital Dead Sea Scrolls project. The Hebrew text shown in the video was written in the 1st or 2nd century B.C. Notice the absence of verse numbers or even sof pasuq‘s (the cantillation/punctuation mark that looks like a colon at the end – far left – of the Hebrew above).
Sometimes the punctuation/cantillation marks, verse numbers, chapter numbers and other textual division techniques give us crucial insight into how people closer to the origin of the text understood it.
Other times these textual aids can obscure the original structure of the text. This in turn can cause us to miss cues as to how the text would have been understood by its original readers. (We’ll come back to this idea when we get to Genesis 2:4).
And sometimes the textual divisions are just…divisions.
The moral is that it’s best to read textual divisions as, at most, a commentary on the text rather than part of the text itself.
Extra credit: Here’s the link to the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls project.