My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew

“And Elohim Saw Ki Tov” (“that it was good”)” (Gen. 1) — A Different Viewpoint

This famous verse from the first chapter of Genesis, referring to parts of Creation, appears therein, with variations, six times. It appears a seventh time as the act of Creation is drawn to its conclusion:

“And God saw everything that He has made, and, behold, Tov Meod (“it was very good”)” (Genesis 1:31).

These translations from the original biblical Hebrew, and as the original verses have been universally interpreted over the generations, both within Judaism and outside, are probably incorrect on three counts:

  • They are inherently illogical and inconsistent;
  • They constitute desecration of the Divine and defamation of God’s name;
  • They are inconsistent with numerous other verses in the Hebrew Jewish Bible, where Ki Tov is interpreted differently, however with a unique and consistent meaning.

In this post, we first explain these three seemingly outrageous claims. Later we detail our own personal understanding of what these verses of Genesis 1 really mean. Finally, we address the astounding lesson that the Torah attempts to convey to us in its detailed tale of the Divine act of Creation, accompanied by “God has seen Ki Tov” or “God saw… and behold Tov Meod”.

We start with the first claim: Why are traditional interpretations of these verses illogical and inconsistent?

To understand this, we need to perform a formal analysis of what “Good” really means. First, note that Genesis “Good” is devoid of any moral judgment. “God saw the light that it was good” (Gen. 1:4) does not carry any moral perspective; Rather, “Good” here resembles, and is indeed compatible with, the definition of “Good” as used in quality engineering (which is my profession). To declare a produced item (or delivered service) “Good”, we require that two conditions/requirements be met:

  • That the item conforms to certain pre-conceived and precisely-articulated technical specifications;
  • That said specifications conform to all requirements that the product has been designed to fulfill.

When at least one of these conditions is violated— the item at hand cannot be denoted “Good” (though in traditional quality-control parlance it may be called “conforming” if it satisfies the first condition). With regard to both requirements, denoting “something” as “Good” is senseless, and inherently illogical and inconsistent, if there is no standard to compare it with.

Does God have a standard for “Good”, so that He can declare, regarding His creation— Ki Tov (“that it was good”)?

This is a preposterous suggestion. Our very concept of God implies that God is source for all “Goodness”. This is clearly validated, in an extreme fashion, in the Torah, as God responds to Moses request: “Show me your Kavod (“Show me thy glory”; Genesis 33:18). The Divine response:

“…I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of Jehovah before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show mercy on whom I will show mercy… (Exodus 33:19-20)

“God”, by definition, does not have a standard by which to judge whether “something” He has created, or has done, is good or otherwise; Especially so given that all that exists is, per Genesis, the result of Divine creation. Interpreting, indeed translating, from biblical Hebrew that “God saw that it was good” is therefore senseless and utter nonsense!!

This brings us to the second claim, tightly connected to the first: If our concept of God as source of all goodness holds true, then the idea of God judging the created as “Good” constitutes, by an inescapable logical conclusion, desecration of the Divine and defamation of God’s name.

We will address the third and last claim, articulated earlier, while working out what we believe is the correct interpretation of the current (wrongly translated) “Elohim saw that it was good”. To do that, we look for other verses in the Jewish Hebrew Bible that are carrying formal resemblance to the verses in Genesis, or use the exact same non-conventional combination of the Hebrew words— Ki Tov.

We start with analyzing what “God Saw” really means. We first note that interpreting “God saw” in Genesis as a standalone, linguistically separate from what follows (Ki Tov; Gen. 1: 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), this phenomenon is not at all rare in the Jewish Hebrew Bible. It appears in multiple other verses, where a certain human action is attributed to God without specifying the object of the action. Examples:

  • “…I will now go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry that has reached me, and if not, I will know” (Genesis 18:20-21); Know what?
  • “And God saw the children of Israel and God knew.” (Exodus 2:25); Knew what?

In these verses and others, human actions are attributed to the Divine without specifying what was the object of the Divine action. Therefore “God saw”, without qualifying words of what God saw, is consistent with other verses in the Bible.

Secondly, addressing the “humanized” Divine seeing, we recall at least four instances where “God saw”:

  • Va-Yar Jehovah (and Jehovah saw) that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that all the impulse of the thoughts of his heart was evil all day long” (Genesis 6:5);
  • “And Jehovah came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men were building” (Genesis 11:5);
  • “And Jehovah said, because the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is very grievous, I will now go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry that has reached me, and if not, I will know” (Genesis 18:20-21);
  • “And Jehovah said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry…” (Exodus 3:7);

In these particular verses, God is looking over the affairs of humankind, ultimately resulting in Jehovah’s intervention to correct that which had been twisted by human actions. These verses are obvious examples of Divine Providence, the Divine watching to see what transpire in His creation, and as needed intervenes.

Why should “God saw” in Genesis Creation be interpreted differently, even though this time Divine Providence applies not to human actions but to parts of Creation of Heaven and Earth and, finally, to Creation as a whole?

Thirdly, and most importantly, we search for other instances where the unique combination Ki Tov appears. The latter appears in the Bible (apart from Genesis 1) sixteen more times, all in a single idiom, with variations. Examples:

  • “O give thanks to Jehovah Ki Tov (“for He is good”); for His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalms 107:1; 136;1; Chronicles 1 16:34);
  • “And they sang responsively in praising and giving thanks to Jehovah Ki Tov (“for He is good”); for His steadfast love endures forever…” (Ezra 3:11);
  • “ ..and praised Jehovah, saying, Ki Tov (“for He is good”); for His steadfast love endures forever…” (Chronicles 2 5:13);
  • “ ..they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement.. and praised Jehovah, saying, Ki Tov (“for He is good”); for His steadfast love endures forever” (Chronicles 2 7:3);
  • Halleluiah (“Praise God”) Ki Tov (“for He is good”), sing praise to our God for it is pleasant…” (Psalms 147:1).

We realize that when the combination Ki Tov appears elsewhere in the Jewish Hebrew Bible, preceded by a mention of “God”, it invariably has one meaning: “For God is good”. Furthermore, in all these instances Ki Tov appears in a sentence having common structure, namely, a first part relating to God, a second part comprising only the two words— Ki Tov. And these qualifying words refer to the present goodness of God. Consistently.

Why should Ki Tov be interpreted differently in Genesis creation story?

The implication of the new interpretation is staggering. Let me explain why.

Jewish scholars have consistently and insistently preached, throughout centuries of Bible-based Jewish scholarship, that there are two sorts of leadership by which God leads His world:

* Via Law-of-Nature (Genesis 8:22; This leadership is denoted Elohim);

* Via Divine intervention (looking over what transpires in His world and occasionally intervenes in real-time, as the above four examples about Noah’s flood, Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorra and Exodus testify; This leadership is represented by Jehovah).

Furthermore, Jewish rabbis have continuously insisted that Divine leadership is ever-present in the created, and if Elohim-Jehovah stopped sustaining His world— all would return to “nothingness” in a blink of an eye. Put differently: God is sustaining creation every single moment, and if He ceased “seeing” His creation, the whole world would collapse at once into Tohu va-Vohu (“without form and void”). Wikipedia, in entry “Divine Providence”, asserts that rabbinic literature, and in particular classical Jewish philosophers, “maintain that divine providence means that God is directing (or even recreating) every minute detail of creation”. The new interpretation of Ki Tov in the first chapter of Genesis obviously is consistent with that credo and support it.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Jehovah is not mentioned explicitly anywhere in describing Genesis creation— God appears therein explicitly only as creator (Elohim). But Jehovah is always there, looking over his creation. With the new interpretation of Ki Tov in Genesis 1 (the only logical and self-consistent possible), a new insight is gained and a powerful lesson:

“God saw, Ki Tov” testifies to the ever presence of Jehovah-Elohim, looking over His creation from the beginning (Be-Reshit), and ever thereafter, because of His goodness (Ki Tov). And when creation is taken in its totality, “behold, Jehovah-Elohim is Tov Meod”.

My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew Shorties

Shorty*: “World is My Own and I have Made Myself”— A Tale of Two Cultures

Prophet Ezekiel is prophesying on doomsday destiny of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and on doomsday destiny of Egypt’s ego-centered culture, of which Pharaoh is top representative. Ezekiel quotes the life-philosophy of that culture:

Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great crocodile who couches within the midst of his streams, who has said “Yeor is my own and I have made myself” (Ezekiel 29:3).

What is the message conveyed by the prophet?

Yeor is biblical Hebrew for the Nile river, source of life that flows throughout Egypt and has enabled, throughout history, flourishing Egyptian civilization and human habitation, even though rain is rare in this geographical region. There is seemingly no need in this region for the grace of the Divine to live (have water). The constantly flowing Nile provides that commodity aplenty throughout the year and no prayer to the Divine for life-giving rain is required. The immediate consequence is this: “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).

Not surprisingly, the life-giving Yeor had been raised by ancient Egyptians to the level of Deity, as told to us by historians of ancient Egypt. Prophet Ezekiel succinctly summarizes the underlying philosophy of the supreme being of Egypt, King Pharaoh: Not only has he raised himself to the level of Deity (“I produced myself”) but he has also made the world in which he lived, the Nile river (“the world of the great crocodile”) his own (“Yeor is my own”). Contrast this with the prevailing Scripture principle: “How manifold are thy works, O Jehovah, in wisdom have you made them all” (Psalms 104:24).

The Land of Israel is diametrically at odds with the Land of Egypt. And the Torah finds it necessary to explicitly state the essential difference in the physical reality encountered by human beings living in the two regions:

For the land, into which thou go to possess it, is unlike the land of Egypt… where you sow thy seed and water it with thy foot, as in a garden of vegetables; The land, which you transit into to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, by rain of heaven would thou drink water” (Deuteronomy 11:10-12).

Two regions, naturally (but not necessarily) leading to two cultures: One culture expressing no faith in the Divine (“I have produced myself”) or in Divine intervention (“World is my own”); Another based on inherent faith in the Divine and in Divine intervention.

The story of Pharaoh is not singular in the Bible. In fact, its underlying theme resurfaces in three different variations (as will be expounded soon). The background “story” differs between variations. Yet, the underlying theme remains the same, and this same theme has re-surfaced as a major guiding principle in today’s prevailing culture, contrary to what a simple fact-finding exploration might have taught us.

After nearly five hundred years of modern science (starting with its initiators, like Copernicus (1473-1543), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727)), and accompanied by advances in technology that have immensely improved our well-being (and occasionally also our “bad-being”), humankind has not moved one iota closer to solving the fundamental mysteries of human existence on Earth, mysteries that confront us every single day of our lives:

* Why are we here?

* Where have we come from and where are we going to (if at all)?

* Why does the world exist?

* How has the universe come into being out of nothing?

* Is there God?

Yet, advances in science and technology (modern day “eating of the fruit of knowledge”) have blinded us to this grim reality and hid it from our vision. Consequently, we find ourselves today unknowingly in the same state-of-mind as were Adam and Eve, as were the builders of the Tower of Babel, as was Pharaoh, king of Egypt:

* Adam and Eve wished to eat of the fruit of knowledge to be Elohim-like (knowing law of nature, thereby controlling nature); Yet they ignored the true name of God, Jehovah-Elohim, which conveys the double-faceted leadership of the Divine in our world. The narrator of the story of the Forbidden Fruit repeats this double-name no less than eleven times, using no other name for the Divine; Yet Eve and the Serpent relate only to Elohim. For not desiring at all to be also Jehovah-like, Adam and Eve were doomed to be expelled from the Garden of Eden, with the Serpent, which can never advance in a straight-line, becoming their permanent escort;

* The people of the city of Babel, led by Nimrod (literally meaning “Let us rebel”; Genesis 10:9-10), have just developed new technologies to rule nature and have proven them viable: “And they said to one another, Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly; And they had brick for stone and slime had they for mortar” (Genesis 11:2). Once the people of Babel have become aware of their newly acquired technological capabilities, allowing control of nature, the immediate aftermath of this realization is not unlike modern day response to current-day scientific and technological advances: “Let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches Heaven” (Genesis 11:4);

* Pharaoh: “Yeor is my own and I have made myself” (Ezekiel 29:3).

Three biblical stories telling same story in three varieties. They all convey same human condition in which we find ourselves today (only to the extreme), resulting in an identical response:

“World is My Own and I have Made Myself”


*Shorty is a short post

My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew Shorties

Shorty*: Scripture on “Animals Killing Animals”

How does Scripture relate to killing scenarios (human beings, animals, within and in between) — “Human beings killing human beings”; “Animals killing animals”; “Human beings killing animals”.

What does the Bible declare about all these killing scenarios, at present and in future?? 


Human beings killing human beings. Is this natural?

The Bible is very definite: No!!! And there is cost to be paid!! Scripture provides verses aplenty to drive this home. Examples:

* “Whoso sheds man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed; For in the image of God has He made man” (Genesis 9:6)

* “Thou shalt not murder…”    (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:13)

* “ ..nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).


Animals killing animals. Is this natural?

The Bible is very definite: No!!!

At present, “animals killing animals” is natural, not an anomaly; However, this is so merely for a limited time, just for the time being!!

“Animals killing animals” is, per Scripture, a display of evil,  unacceptable and against Divine will. Therefore, in future, when “things” finally fall into their (correct) place, peace prevails and world order restored to its natural course, cruelty of predators (“animals killing animals”) would disappear and predators become plant-eating animals; Or, alternatively, predators themselves would be extinguished from the surface of Earth, leaving to survive only “non-evil” animals:

*  “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid…the lion shall eat straw like the ox; the sucking child shall play on the hole of the cobra and the young child put his hand on the viper’s nest; They shall neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the water covers the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9);

* “Wolf and lamb shall feed together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox and dust will be a serpent’s bread” (Isaiah 65:25);

* “And I will make with them a covenant of peace and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land… “ (Ezekiel 34:25);


Human beings killing animals. Is this natural?

* “And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed that is upon the face of the whole earth and every tree having fruit yielding seed to you it shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29);

* “..replenish the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28; refer also to Genesis 9:2);

* “…I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the impulse of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Genesis 8:21); And soon thereafter: “Every moving thing that is alive shall be for you to eat; Like the green plants am I giving you all” (Genesis 9:3).


*Shorty is a short post


General My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew

The Five Principles of the Ten Commandments

This post outlines the five general principles at the core of The Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments are a wakeup call unto the ego to acknowledge the existence of “the other” and develop appropriate (moral) relationships with “non-ego” others:

The Five Principles of the Ten Commandments_Nov 2016

Comment: Since this post first appeared, I was asked what “Non-ego other” means (see first principle). To understand the concept, it is perhaps best to define the opposite. An “Ego other” is a human being whom one considers an extension of his/her own ego. The epitome for an “Ego other” is a slave. However, “Ego other” may appear in more obscure forms, where the potential exists, like a personal assistant, a subordinate (at work), one’s own child or a spouse. All forms of “Ego other” are morally wrong.