Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Verby Pick-Up Duck: bara'


It's been quite a while since we've gone hunting for verbs and played verby pick-up duck. So I thought I'd give it a shot again. (Ah, yes, pun intended.)

This time, I thought to play it in Hebrew.

I don't claim to be a Hebrew expert... I'm just studying along at my leisure. But it feels good to put myself to the task. Very good.

Our verb lurks in the good book of Genesis, 1:1... Bara'. Created. Meaning to form or fashion, birth, transform, make fat.

Surely, it's a proper spring verb, with all the blooms bursting and the ground swelling, and the new birds emerging from blue eggs and white eggs and eggs with speckles.

Indeed, in Genesis, a brief moment after bara', God is rather springily pictured as a wind or a fluttering bird (I'll not go into the linguistic explanation here... we're only playing verby pick-up duck.)

In reading John Walton's commentary, I was surprised to discover that this verb is not so much about God creating matter from nothing (we get that from Hebrews 11:3), as it is about God designing, bringing order, assigning roles and destinies. In the bible, bara' is only used with God as its subject.

So, going out on a limb, here's my question... Can we humans, in any sense, apply this word to ourselves? Could it be said that you or I bara'? Or not...


Photo by Pauline Stickland. Mom to Martin, God bless 'er.

(P.S... I did not plan this, but I see that my dear editor is thinking on this very issue today. How could I not link to her entry? (See post called "Who is an Artist?")


Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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22 Comments:

Blogger kirsten said...

I think it's so intereting that in Genesis 1, it does not say that God created the earth out of nothing, but that the earth was "formless and empty" (v. 2) He formed what was formless.

I think as those who are made in the image of our Creator, we must have the ability "bara", but on a much smaller scale. We can design words to form a sentence (an a paragraph, an essay, etc), a carpenter can bring a shape out of wood, a sculptor fashion the marble into a beautiful statue. All these reflect the image of Creator in the created.

It's interesting to note that only God is used as the subject when used in the Bible though. I can't wait to hear others' thoughts ...

4:43 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

I don't claim to be a Hebrew expert... I'm just studying along at my leisure.

That's the first time I have seen "studying" (Hebrew) and "leisure" in the same sentence!

As to whether you or I could "bara," yes of course Dearie, if there's anything you need, just ask. ;-)

5:09 PM  
Blogger Linea said...

I guess none of us could "bara" in the same sense as God. Although, an artist creating pictures, thoughts, etc. must be acting in the same genre. Maybe the artist creates as an extension of who God created him to be so in reality the verb still belongs only to God.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

As a writer, I think the best bara, the most like God's, happens with words.

I read this next idea somewhere recently. Many acts of creation are also acts of destruction. To make books, I chop down trees. To build a marble countertop, I go to the marble quarry. Even this comment on your blog requires the energy that is powering my computer and the plastics and soldering and circuitry technology that sit next to me in my sleek little black tower.

But words can exist only in the mind. We can create words and use only the resources of our own bodies. I spend a breath to make a word. It seems like a good trade.

And in that sense, the thing I create almost comes from myself alone. I use the material of language to create something that did not exist before. And I do not destroy anything.

Nor does my use of words prevent you from using words of your own. We are not in competition--so long as we do not need to turn our words into money.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

good thoughts.
who was it that talked about being 2nd creators? tolkein, i think? and i'm getting his term wrong, but the idea is that we do carry creativity as being in the image of god, but all of our creating points back to his creating and comes from his creating.
okay, side note - i learned hebrew in seminary, and while working on my current bible study on abraham and sarah have realized how much i have forgotten. i am intent on relearning, but i need accountability. will you be my study partner?

6:09 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...

LL,

Craver expressed my exact sentiments as I read your post - "studying [Hebrew] at my leisure"? I'm starting to feel guilty about "studying" the Washington Post sports section for leisure.

As for whether we can "bara". I do believe in the definition you provided, "bara" also means "make fat"?!?!??

...in that case, we can indeed bara!

8:12 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I don't believe that we, as humans, bara'.

Heather alludes to Tolkien. Like him, I think we are sub-creators, artists made and making in the image of the ultimate Creator: God.

This is a high calling, a right and a responsibility if we are pursuing Christlikeness.

I used to be puzzled by the idea that God is characterized as "unchanging" and yet He is always at "work." To me work implied an exchange of energy that meant change.

I've resolved it in my own mind that God is, in fact, unchanging in the sense that He is always changing, working, creating. Also, that much (most?) of the work that He does is spiritual in nature, not physical.

If I, as a Believer, can fashion any thing or written word or action or spiritual thought or spoken word or music that is beautiful in the sense that it reflects Him in any way, I know I'm pleased and I believe that it pleases others and God.

Peace, Kim

8:23 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Kirsten... yes, and that is of great importance for the people of that time... they had a big emphasis on the whole issue of chaos. Myths of the time told stories of gods who tried to bridle it. But only Yahweh stands out as the true Sovereign, the way the Hebrews tell it.

Craver... gee, is there any other way to study such a difficult language? I bet many a seminary student, though, has studied it with too much leisure (and seen the results on the test!) Oh, and I'm so thankful you've finally revealed yourself. I just knew I had a fairy godmother (godfather? godbrother?)

Linea... well, that's very interesting... I guess that we as creations will always be working with grist God has provided!

Mark... I've often thought that about how we destroy to create. And I wonder... is that true in any sense when we create with words?

Heather... well, tell me, will I have to grade any exams? :) If not, let me know what it would look like to be a Hebrew accountability partner. Also, I wonder on the creating question... does this mean we offer nothing unique to the universe?

Every Square... I suppose there is probably some exegetical method that uses the Washington Post. Don't you worry. Now, on the "make fat" thing... isn't that truly great? How is the "making fat" of creation different from the "making fat" of neglect or indulgence or lack of nutritional knowledge?

Kim... if God is unchanging, does that mean he cannot engage in work that creates change? I wonder. And tell me more, if you may, about why you think we can not have bara'... I am curious about your thoughts.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Eve said...

The Bible says that we are made in the image of God. Parts of us reflect Him. Though we cannot create as God does, we mimic Him. He has given us creativity for a purpose.

Can we create something new? Solomon said that there was nothing new under the sun.

I think we simply modify something existing and put our own personality stamp on it.

Mark, music and singing (and prayer, encouragement?) would also be other things that do not need to destroy to be created.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I don't know, maybe just checking on my from time to time - have you learned 10 new vocab verbs? Did you relearn the function of Niphal verbs? Maybe i could create a self-imposed schedule and you could rap my hand with a ruler when I deviate.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

Good point, L.L. Sometimes we do use our words to destroy as we create. No one can tame the tongue. That sort of thing.

But even when we do that, we aren't using up words from a finite set of language resources. We are just using our words to hurt others.

4:42 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Eve... I like that idea of music and prayer not needing to destroy to create. And I guess I agree that there's nothing new under the sun. Yet, isn't it interesting that no one would ever write the books I will (or you will)... perhaps there really is an undeniable possibility for uniqueness in the universe.

Heather... so that could be fun. Maybe you could list your ten words on your blog and write something about one word from time to time. I promise I will only bring wind chimes... no rulers.

Mark... oh, I hadn't actually thought about the whole power-of-the-tongue-to-destroy aspect. Interesting line. And it is also intriguing to think that language is infinite, if I understand you correctly.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Charity Singleton said...

For Yahweh to bara, there must be something inherently pure and holy in the creation. Perhaps this is why the word bara was used only for God, even though humans were given the gifts of designing, bringing order, assigning roles, etc.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Charity Singleton said...

Mark's comment reminded me of a Dorothy Sayers quote I recently ran across in VH Wright's The Soul Tells a Story.

"The amount of matter in the universe is limited . . . . But no such limitation of numbers applies to the creation of works of art. The poet is not obliged, as it were, to destroy the material of a Hamlet in order to create a Falstaff, as a carpenter must destroy a tree-form to create a table-form. The components of the material world are fixed; those of the world of imagination increase by a continuous and irreversible process, without any destruction or rearrangement of what went before."

5:09 PM  
Blogger Motu said...

Hi L.L., I just wanted you to know that I've put a link to this post on my post:
http://www.monicatutak.com/?p=129

I don't know how to reach you any other way than to leave a comment. Let me know if there's an alternate way (via email perhaps)for future reference. Thanks!

5:26 PM  
Blogger Betsy Lin said...

I study hebrew as well....and learning to read and write it...in my free time...i have become addicted really.

"Bara"
Interesting. I am not sure we can use it nor apply in the exact same way it was used ....but maybe the idea can translate...
Kind of cool...maybe on purpose.

2:30 AM  
Blogger Green Earth said...

Enjoyed your post.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Sorry LL, I wasn't very clear was I? I guess I'm making efforts in my own mind to keep God holy, that is, to assign attributes that belong to Him alone. Bara' is one of those.

Yes, as others have said we do mimic Him and it's glorious when we do. But, as you described the word as used only in relation to Him, I'd like to leave it that way.

Peace, Kim

PS - I did respond to your post re: arrogance. Partner.

9:40 AM  
Blogger HALFMOM said...

yes, I would have wept too under those circumstances - and yes, I agree that when you're alone and in need of comfort, scripture really is like an arm thrown around your shoulder - lightly resting, reassuring you that things will be ok and that you don't have to walk through it alone!

10:49 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Maybe in a secondary sense. I tend to think that in Christ we do the works of God. But they're still his works. And yet they're ours as well. We're coworkers with God! (2 Corinthians, I believe). I think according to what God gives us in ability which then translates into a kind of calling as we go along, the works he has created in Christ Jesus for us to walk in them (Eph 2).

So yes, we're made in God's image, and being renewed in Christ to the image of God. So surely in a secondary, dependent sense, as well as interdependently together, we do participate in God's works, including something of or related to bara....

4:51 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Charity... I wonder if it is a holiness thing, or if it is a power thing? As I consider whether I can really create, in a "bara" sense, I realize that if it relates to power, then I never could apply the word to myself. Sort of along the lines of God's questions to Job... where were you when I hung the stars in space, have you tamed Leviathin? Funny how we humans, however, want to think we can control all.

Betsy... an addiction to language! I think that is mostly a good thing. You are learning modern-day Hebrew, yes? I am learning ancient Hebrew.

Green Earth... thank you!

Kim... that's okay... I like blogging because it helps us refine our thoughts... as we come back again and again looking deeper and differently each time. I suspect, yes, that "bara" has some "other" quality to it that lets us know his acts are beyond ours. And, on another note, I'm glad to be a "partner."

Halfmom... thanks for stopping by. Yes, scripture is a great gift to me.

Ted... welcome, big welcome, back. I hope we are a comfort to you in the days ahead. Interesting thought that we do the works of God through Christ. So, I guess, God deigns to share a little "bara" opportunity, though he is still ultimately the One who holds it all together by his power.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Martin Stickland said...

Nice duck photo LL?

My Mum will be proud!

I hope you are well.

7:42 PM  

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