Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/134. Syntax of the Numerals

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§134. Syntax of the Numerals.

Cf. the exhaustive statistics collected by Sven Herner, Syntax der Zahlwörter im A.T., Lund, 1893. E. König, ‘Zur Syntax der Zahlwörter im A.T.,’ AJSL. xviii, 129 ff.

a 1. The numerals from 2 to 10, as being originally abstract substantives,[1] may be connected with their substantives in three different ways. They may stand either—

(a) In the construct state before the substantive (the object numbered being consequently in the genitive), e.g. שְׁלשֶׁת יָמִים a triad of days, i.e. three days; שְׁנֵי הָֽאֲנָשִׁים the two men; or

b (b) In the absolute state before it (the object numbered being in apposition, §131d), e.g. שְׁלשָׁה בָנִים a triad, viz. sons, i.e. three sons; שְׁנַ֫יִם אֲנָשִׁים two men; or

c (c) In the absolute state (likewise in apposition) after the object numbered, e.g. בָּנוֹת שָׁלוֹשׁ. So especially in long lists, since in these the substantives naturally come first, e.g. Gn 3215. Nu 717, 2819. Apart from such cases, the frequency of this order in the later Books is due to the fact that the character of the numeral tended more and more to become adjectival rather than substantival.[2] d Rem. In Lv 2422 אֶחָד follows the construct state מִשְׁפַּט, but here as in Nu 1516 מִשְׁפָּט should be read. In Gn 4219 אֶחָד is in apposition to a substantive with a suffix (= one of you brethren; but verse 33 the one of you brethren). In Nu 3128 אֶחָד precedes the substantive in the Aramaic manner (= one each).—For מֵאָֽה־שָׁנָה (Gn 1717, &c.) we find regularly in the Priestly Code (except in Gn 1717, 231) מְאַת שָׁנָה (Gn 53, &c.) an hundred years. On the connexion of abstract numerals with suffixes, as שְׁנֵיהֶם their duality, i.e. they two, Gn 225, &c. (also with a strengthening separate pronoun, as שְׁנֵ֫ינוּ אֲנַ֫חְנוּ 1 S 2042), cf. §97i.

e 2. The numerals from 2 to 10 take the object numbered in the plural,[3] with very few exceptions, such as Ex 1622 (where שְׁנֵי הָעֹ֫מֶר = the double of an omer), 2 K 221, Ez 451, cf. 2 K 817 and 25:17 Keth. The numerals from 11 to 19 generally take the plural, but with certain substantives frequently used with numerals the singular is more common (see further, under f). The tens (from 20 to 90), when they precede, take the singular (in the accusative, cf. §131p) of certain nouns frequently used with numerals (אֶ֫לֶף a thousand, אִישׁ, יוֹם, כֹּר, נֶ֫פֶשׁ, שֶׁ֫קֶל—but only in Ezekiel and the Priestly Code), otherwise the plural, as בָּנִים, בָּנוֹת, עָרִים (but cf. also Ju 1133), &c.; on the other hand, the plural is necessary when they follow the object numbered in apposition (e.g. אַמּוֹת עֶשְׂרִים twenty cubits, 2 Ch 33 f.; with the exception of 2 S 2424, only in late Books). After טֵאָה and אֶ֫לֶף the substantive numbered may be used either in the singular or plural, see further under g.

f Rem. 1. After the numerals from 11 to 19 the singular is used, as a rule, with יוֹם day, שָׁנָה year, אִישׁ man, נֶ֫פֶשׁ soul (person), שֵׁ֫בֶט tribe, מַצֵּבָה pillar (Ex 244), sometimes with אַמָּה cubit, חֹ֫דֶשׁ month, עִיר city, שֶׁ֫קֶל shekel (compare our four-year-old, ten pound), e.g. Dt 12 אַחַד עָשָׂר יוֹם (cf., however, such exceptions as Dt 123, Jos 42, &c.).—Substantives other than these are used in the plural with the numerals from 11 to 19, and the numeral may even follow the substantive, especially in later passages, as Nu 787 f., 1 Ch 427, 255.

g 2. After מֵאָה (מְאַת [so almost exclusively in the Priestly Code, e.g. always מְאַת אֶ֫לֶף], מֵאוֹת, מָאתַ֫יִם) and אֶ֫לֶף (אֲלָפִים, אַלְפֵי, אַלְפַּ֫יִם) the substantives אִישׁ, אֶלֶ֫ף, אַמָּה (except in Ez 4027), יוֹם, רַגְלִי, צֶ֫מֶד are regularly used in the singular, generally also שָׁנָה, כִּכָּר, כֹּר, שֶׁ֫קֶל (with the exception of Jos 721, 2 S 1426, &c.); cf., moreover, Gn 3319, 2460 (אַלְפֵי רְבָבָה), Est 11, Ju 2112, Dt 79, 1 K 512, 2 Ch 915.—Examples of the plural after מֵאָה are Gn 2612, 1 S 1825, 2 S 161, 1 K 184; after מְאַת Ex 3827; after מֵאוֹת Ju 154, 2 S 84, 1 K 1017, Ez 4217; after מָאתַ֫יִם 1 S 2518, 1 K 720; after אֶ֫לֶף 1 S 252, 1 K 34, 56, 2 K 34, ψ 904; after אֲלָפִים 1 S 175, Jb 4212; after אַלְפֵי Mi 67; after אַלְפַּ֫יִם Is 368.— In Dn 1211 the plural יָמִים precedes the numeral twelve hundred.

h 3. Numerals compounded of tens and units (like 21, 62) take the object numbered either after them in the singular (in the accusative), e.g. Gn 520 שְׁתַּ֫יִם וְשִׁשִּׁים שָׁנָה two and sixty years (שָׁנָה in the singular, according to e, since it conforms to the ten immediately preceding; but also שְׁלשִׁים וּשְׁמֹנֶה שָׁנָה Dt 214), or before them in the plural, especially in the later Books, Dn 926, &c.; or the object is repeated (but only in 1 K 61, and the Priestly Code; sometimes even several times, e.g. Gn 231, 257, 17 thrice) in the plural with the units, and in the singular with the tens and hundreds, e.g. Gn 124 חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה seventy and five years; Gn 231 מֵאָה שֶׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁ֫בַע שָׁנִים an hundred and twenty and seven years. Cf. Gn 56 ff.

i Rem. 1. It may further be remarked with regard to the order, that the thousand or thousands always precede the hundreds, &c., and the hundreds almost always come before the smaller numbers (in Kings and Ezekiel sometimes, and in the Priestly Code usually, after the smaller numbers), the tens in the earlier Books (documents J and D of the Pentateuch, in Joshua 1–12, Judges, Samuel, Isaiah, and also in Ezra and Nehemiah) before the units, but in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Priestly Code, Joshua 13–24 after the units (see Herner, op. cit., p. 73). After the hundreds the smaller number is very frequently added without וְ, especially in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel.

On the syntax of the cardinals in general:—

k 2. The cardinals are determined by the article, when they refer back (without being connected with the object numbered; cf., however, Lv 2510 f., Nu 1635, Jos 44, 2 S 2313) to a number or list already mentioned, e.g. Gn 211 שֵׁם הָֽאֶחָד פִּישׁוֹן the name of the one (the first) is Pishon; Gn 149 four kings against the five (enumerated in verse 2); cf. 1 Ch 1120 f., and the determinate tens in Gn 1829, 31 f. A demonstrative with the article may also be added to a numeral determined in this way, e.g. Dt 199 (but cf. also Gn 919, 2223, where the numeral and demonstrative are practically determinate in themselves). In the case of the numerals from 11 to 19 the article may stand either before the unit (1 Ch 2519, 2715) or before עָשָׂר (Jos 44); it is used before all three members of a compound number (273) in Nu 346.

l In apposition with any determinate substantive the cardinal number is used without the article, not only when it precedes the substantive, as in Jos 1514 (אֶת־שְׁלוֹשָׁה בְנֵי הָֽעֲנָק, where שְׁלוֹשָׁה is equivalent to a substantive determinate in itself; cf. Gn 1828, Jos 68, 22 1 S 1714, 1 K 1131, and the passages discussed above in §126x, Gn 2129, &c.), but also when it follows the substantive, e.g. 1 K 727, 43 f. עֶשֶׂר and עֲשָׂרָה; the omission of the article may here, as in the eases noticed in §126z, be also due to the dislike of a hiatus, but cf. also שְׁנַ֫יִם 2 K 2516 after a determinate substantive. The fact that it is by nature determinate would also be a very simple explanation of אֶחָד Nu 284, 1 S 1317 f., Jer 242, Ez 109, instead of the more usual הָֽאֶחָד, and of אַחַת 1 S 12 for הָֽאַחַת. m Such cases as שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים Ju 1417 (which is determined by a following determinate genitive) are explained from §127b; 1 Ch 925 perhaps from §126q; in Is 3026 probably the light of all the seven days of the week is meant; on the other hand, in 1 S 920 and 25:38 the article is, with Wellhausen, to be omitted.

n 3. Certain specifications of measure, weight, or time, are commonly omitted after numerals, e.g. Gn 2016 אֶ֫לֶף כֶּ֫סֶף a thousand (shekels) of silver; so also before זָהָב Gn 2422, 1 K 1016, Is 723, cf. ψ 11972. Moreover, Ru 315 שֵׁשׁ שְׂעֹרִים six (ephahs) of barley; 1 S 104 שְׁתֵּי־לֶ֫חֶם two (sc. loaves, see verse 3) of bread, cf. 17:17 עֲשָׂרָה לֶ֫חֶם; 2 S 161, where before קַ֫יִץ a measure, or perhaps some term like cakes, is to be supplied.—The number of cubits is stated in the Priestly Code (Ex 262, &c.) and in 1 K 6 and 7 (otherwise only in Ez 405, 21, 47:3. Zc 52, 1 Ch 1123, 2 Ch 42 f.) by the addition of בָּֽאַמָּה prop. by the cubit. Also in Ex 2711 the Samaritan and LXX read בָּֽאַמָּה after אֹרֶךְ, and in 27:15 אַמָּה after עֶשְׂרֵה.

o 4. The ordinals above 10 have no special forms, but are expressed by the corresponding cardinals, which may then stand either before or after the object numbered, e.g. Gn 711 בְּשִׁבעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם on the seventeenth day; Dt 13 בְּאַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה in the fortieth year; cf. Gn 145, 2 K 2527, and, with repetition of שָׁנָה in a compound number, 1 K 61; such a cardinal occurs without בְּ (and therefore in the accus. temporis, according to §118k) in Gn 144 (the Samaritan, however, has ובשלש); with the article (but without a numbered object, see under k), 1 K 1919.[4]—On the position of the numeral as a genitive following its noun, cf. e.g. 1 K 1610 בִּשְׁנַת עֶשְׂרִים וָשֶׁבַע in the twenty and seventh year, and with a determinate numeral, Ex 1218, Nu 3338, Dt 159. In this case, however, שָׁנָה is very frequently repeated, e.g. Gn 711, 2 K 1310; after a determinate numeral, Lv 2510.[5]

p Rem. In numbering days of the month and years, the cardinals are very frequently used instead of the ordinals even for the numbers from 1 to 10, e.g. בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם 1 K 1525; בִּשְׁנַת שָׁלשׁ 2 K 181, &c., cf. Dt 159. The months themselves are always numbered by the ordinals (בָּרִאשׁוֹן, בַּשֵּׁנִי, &c., up to בָּֽעֲשִׂירִי), but not the days of the month, e.g. בְּאֶחָד לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ Gn 85, &c., בְּאַרְבָּעָה לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ Zc 71; בַּֽחֲמִשָּׁה לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ Ez 11, &c., בְּשִׁבְעָה לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ 2 K 258, בְּתִשְׁעָה לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ Lv 2332 (always, however, בֶּֽעָשׂר לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ on the tenth day of the month). On the omission of יוֹם in all these cases see under n; only in late passages is יוֹם added, e.g. 2 Ch 2917 בְּיוֹם שְׁמוֹנָה לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ; Ezr 36 מִיּוֹם אֶחָד לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ.—Finally, when the year is stated by בִּשְׁנַת governing a determinate ordinal, viz. 2 K 176 בִּשְׁנַת הַתְּשִׁיעִית in the ninth year; 2 K 251 (in Jer 524 בְּשָׁנָה), Jer 281 Keth., 32:1 Keth., 46:2, 51:59, Ezr 78; בִּשְׁנַת in such cases is again (see note 2 on o) to be explained according to §128k. This is supported by the fact that the Masora on Jer 281, 321 requires in the Qe בַּשָּׁנָה for בשנת.

q 5. Distributives are expressed either by repetition of the cardinal number, e.g. Gn 79, 15 שְׁנַ֫יִם שְׁנַ֫יִם two and two; 2 S 2120 שֵׁשׁ וָשֵׁשׁ six each; with the numbered object also repeated, e.g. Jos 312 אִישׁ אֶחָד אִישׁ אֶחָד לַשָּֽׁבֶט for every tribe a man; Nu 132, 3418 (אֶחָד מִן, as in Neh 111, one out of every ten); cf. §123d; or a periphrasis with אֶחָד לְ is used, Nu 1718, Dt 123, cf. Is 62 לְאֶחָד after six wings twice repeated; the simple distributive לְ is, however, sufficient (as in לַבְּקָרִים, §123c), e.g. לְמֵאוֹת וְלַֽאֲלָפִים by hundreds and by thousands.

r 6. The multiplicatives are expressed either (like the ordinals above 10, see under o) by the cardinals (in the feminine, probably owing to the omission of פַּ֫עַם, פְּעָמִים; so König, Lehrgeb., ii. 228), as שְׁתַּ֫יִם twice, Jb 405; שֶׁ֫בַע seven times, Lv 2621, 24, Pr 2416; cf. also אַחַת once, 2 K 610, Jb 405, for which in Jb 3314 בְּאַחַת[6] along with בִּשְׁתַּ֫יִם (the latter also in 1 S 1821); or by the dual of the numeral, thus שִׁבְעָתַ֫יִם Gn 415 (in verse 24 along with the cardinal 77 for 77 times); Is 3026, ψ 127, 7912; אַרְבַּעְתָּ֑יִם 2 S 126;[7] or periphrastically by פַּ֫עַם a time (prop. a step, with the article, הַפַּ֫עַם this time; cf. also בַּפַּ֫עַם הַזֹּאת, with בְּ, like בְּאַחַת above), as פַּ֫עַם אַחַת once (Neh 1320 פַּ֫עַם וּשְׁתַּ֫יִם once and twice), נַּֽעֲמַ֫יִם twice, שָׁלשׁ פְּעָמִים (for which in Ex 2314, Nu 2228, 32 שָׁלשׁ רְגָלִים) three times; cf. Ez 416 thirty-three times; 2 S 243 an hundred times; Dt 111 a thousand times; 1 K 2216 עַד־כַּמֶּה פְעָמִים until how many times, i.e. how often. Cf. also עֲשֶׂ֫רֶת מֹנִים ten times, Gn 3117, 14, and רַבּוֹת עִתִּים many times, Neh 928.—In Gn 4334, five times is expressed by חָמֵשׁ יָדוֹת (prop. five hands),[8] and in Ex 165 the double is expressed by מִשְׁנֶה עַל־ (prop. a repetition over and above that which, &c.).—Of the ordinals שֵׁנִית is used as a numeral adverb, Gn 2215, &c., a second time, cf. the Latin tertium consul; בַּשְּׁלִישִׁת the third time, 1 S 38; פַּ֫עַם חֲמִישִׁית a fifth time, Neh 65; בַּשְּׁבִעִית at the seventh (time), 1 K 1844, and בַּפַּ֫עַם הַשּׁ׳ Jos 616. s Rem. The collocation of a numeral with the next above it (either in the same or in different sentences) is a rhetorical device employed in numerical sayings to express a number, which need not, or cannot, be more exactly specified. It must be gathered from the context whether such formulae are intended to denote only an insignificant number (e.g. Is 176, two or at the most three), or a considerable number, e.g. Mi 54. Sometimes, however, this juxtaposition serves to express merely an indefinite total, without the collateral idea of intensifying the lower by means of the higher number. Thus one and two are connected by וְ, Dt 3230, Jer 314, Jb 3314, 405 (without וְ, ψ 6212); two and three, Is 176 (Sirac 2316, 2628, 5025), and without וְ, 2 K 932, Ho 62, Am 48; three and four, Jer 3623, Am 13–11, Pr 3018, 2129 (Sirac 265), and with out וְ, Pr 3015; four and five, without וְ, Is 176; six and seven, Jb 519, Pr 616; seven and eight, Mi 54, Ec 112; (nine and ten, Sirac 257).

  1. Cf. §97a, where it is shown that the masculine is the original form of the numerals (used for both genders), and that the feminine was afterwards differentiated and used with masc. nouns, primarily in the second decade and then in the first as well.
  2. From Herner’s tables (op. cit., pp. 55–66) it appears, according to p. 68, that in the documents J, E, D of the Pentateuch, and in Jos 1–12, Judges, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Minor Prophets, Psalms, Megilloth, and Job, the numeral never, or very rarely, stands after its noun; in Kings and Ezekiel it stands several times after; in the Priestly Code nearly always after; in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel, nearly as often after as before the noun. In Ex 2810 the Masora makes the numeral in the genitive follow the construct state of the substantive numbered; we should, however, read וְאֶת־שֵׁמוֹת הַשִּׁשָּׁה; for the omission of the article before שׁ׳, cf. §126w.
  3. On examples such as Gn 4627 (נֶָפֶשׁ שְׁנָ֑֫יִם two souls), cf. §132g (collectives joined with the plural of the adjective).
  4. Somewhat different from this is Ex 1915 be ready לִשְׁל֫שֶׁת יָמִים prop. after three days, i.e. on the third day (in verses 11 and 16 and in Ezr 108 the ordinal is used), also 1 S 3013 כִּי חָלִיתִי הַיּוֹם שְׁלשָׁה because three days agone I fell sick, prop. to-day three (days).
  5. All these expressions may indeed be explained by supposing that, e.g. in Lv 2510, the proper meaning is the year of the fifty years which it completed, i.e. the fiftieth year; but it is more correct to regard שְׁנַת or בִּשְׁנַת in such cases not as a real nomen regens, but simply as a connective form to be explained on the analogy of the cases mentioned in §128k.
  6. But בְּאַחַת Nu 104 is to be translated on one (trumpet).
  7. Probably also כִּפְלַ֫יִם Jb 116 (from כֶּ֫פֶל doubling) does not mean doubled but manifold.
  8. But אַרְבַּע הַיָּדוֹת Gn 4724 means the (other) four parts; cf. 2 K 117, Neh 111.