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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 123

§123. The Representation of Plural Ideas by Means of Collectives, and by the Repetition of Words.

Besides the plural endings treated in §87a–i, the language employs other means to express a plurality of living beings or things:

(a) Certain words employed exclusively in a collective sense, while the individual members of the class are denoted by special words (nomina unitatis, but not in the same sense as in §122t). Thus בָּקָר‎ cattle, oxen[1] (even joined with numerals, e.g. Exodus 21:37 חֲמִשָּׁה בָקָר‎ five head of cattle), but שׁוֹר‎ an ox; צֹאן‎ small cattle, i.e. sheep and goats (μῆλα), cf. Job 1:3 שִׁבְעַת אַלְפֵי־צֹאן‎ seven thousand sheep; but שֶׂה‎ a single head of small cattle (a sheep or a goat). Other more or less common collectives are: זִיז‎ (prop. that which prowls or roams) wild beasts, טַף‎ (perhaps prop. tripping) a number of little children; דֶּ֫שֶׁא‎ fresh green herb, i.e. young plants, יֶ֫רֶק‎ green, i.e. vegetation in general; עוֹף‎ birds, fowl; רֶ֫כֶב‎ chariots or cavalcade, רִמָּה‎ worms, רֶ֫מֶשׂ‎ creeping things (of small creatures), שֶׁ֫רֶץ‎ swarming things.

(b) The collective use of substantives which at the same time serve as nomina unitatis; thus, אָדָם‎ (never in plur.) means both man (homo) and men (homines); אִישׁ‎ a man (vir) and men (viri); אִשָּׁה‎ woman and women (Judges 21:16, 1 Samuel 21:6); אַרְבֶּה‎ a locust, but usually a swarm of locusts; נֶ֫פֶשׁ‎ soul and souls (persons); מַקֵּל‎ staff and staves (Genesis 30:37); עַ֫יִט‎ a bird of prey and birds of prey; עָלֶה‎ a leaf and foliage; עֵ֫שֶׂב‎ a plant and plants, herbs; עֵץ‎ a tree and trees (as it were foliage); פְּרִי‎ fruit and fruits; שִׂיחַ‎ a shrub and shrubs; in isolated instances also nouns like עֶ֫בֶד‎ man-servant, שִׁפְחָה‎ maid-servant, חֲמוֹר‎ ass, שׁוֹר‎ ox (cf. Genesis 32:6).—On the singular (especially of gentilic names) with the article (which may, however, be omitted in poetry, cf. e.g. Psalms 12:2 חָסִיד‎, Proverbs 11:14 יוֹעֵץ‎) to include all individuals of the same species, cf. §126l. On the special meaning of the plurals formed from certain collectives, see §124l.

(c) The feminine ending; see §122s.

(d) The repetition of single words, and even of whole groups of words, especially to express entirety, or in a distributive sense. The following cases are more particularly to be noticed:

1. The repetition of one or more words to express the idea of every, all, as יוֹם יוֹם‎ Genesis 39:10, &c., day by day, every day; שָׁנָה שָׁנָה‎ year by year, Deuteronomy 14:22; אִישׁ אִישׁ‎ every man, Exodus 36:4; with בְּ‎ before each, as בַּבֹּ֫קֶר בַּבֹּ֫קֶר‎ Exodus 16:21 every morning (and similarly before a group of words, Leviticus 24:8), for which the distributive לְ‎ is also used, לַבֹּ֫קֶר לַבֹּ֫קֶר‎ 1 Chronicles 9:27, and with one plural לַבְּקָרִים‎ Psalms 73:14, לִבְקָרִים‎ Job 7:18 parallel with לִרְגָעִים‎ every moment. Somewhat different are the instances with בְּ‎ before the second word only, e.g. יוֹם בְּיוֹם‎ day by day, 1 Chronicles 12:22; שָׁנָה בְשָׁנָה‎ year by year, Deuteronomy 15:20, 1 Samuel 1:7 (but in verse 3 מִיָּמִים יָמִ֫ימָה‎), כְּפַ֫עַם בְּפַ֫עַם‎ Numbers 24:1, Judges 16:20, Judges 20:30 f., 1 Samuel 3:10 as at other times. Also With the two words united by means of wāw copulative, אִישׁ וְאִישׁ‎ Psalms 87:5, or אִישׁ וָאִישׁ‎ Esther 1:8; דּוֹר וָדוֹר‎ all generations, Deuteronomy 32:7; יוֹם וָיוֹם‎ Esther 3:4; cf. Esther 8:9, Ezra 10:14, 1 Chronicles 26:13 and often (cf. Cheyne, Bampton Lectures, 1889, p. 479, according to whom the use of the ו‎ copulative with the second word is especially common in Ch and Est, and therefore belongs to the later language; Driver, Introd.6, p. 538, No. 35); sometimes (but with the exception of Psalms 45:18 only in very late passages) with a pleonastic כָּל־‎ preceding, Psalms 145:13, Esther 2:11, Esther 9:28, 2 Chronicles 11:12, &c.

2. Repetition of words in an expressly distributive sense[2] (which may to some extent be noticed in the examples under c) equivalent to one each, &c., e.g. Numbers 14:34 forty days יוֹם לַשָּׁנָה יוֹם לַשָּׁנָה‎ counting for every day a year; cf. Ezekiel 24:6, Exodus 28:34 (three words repeated); also with the addition of לְבַד‎ apart, עֵדֶר עֵדֶר לְבַדּוֹ‎ every drove by itself, Genesis 32:17; cf. Zechariah 12:12. Most frequently with the addition of a numeral (for the simple repetition of numerals for the same purpose, cf. §134q), and with the words not only in groups of two (Leviticus 24:8, Numbers 13:2, Numbers 31:4) or three (Numbers 7:11, Numbers 17:21), but even of six (Exodus 26:3) or seven (Exodus 25:33, Exodus 26:19, 21, 25); in Exodus 25:35 five words even three times repeated.[3]

3. Repetition to express an exceptional or at least superfine quality; e.g. 2 Kings 25:15 which were of gold, gold, of silver, silver, i.e. made of pure gold and pure silver; Deuteronomy 2:27 בַּדֶּ֫רֶךְ בַּדֶּ֫רֶךְ‎ only along by the high way; cf. Numbers 3:8, Numbers 8:16 they are given, given to him, i.e. given exclusively for his service, for his very own. Also with a certain hyperbole in such examples as 2 Kings 3:16 גֵּבִים גֵּבִים‎ nothing but trenches; Genesis 14:10 בֶּֽאֱרֹת בֶּֽאֱרֹת חֵמָר‎ all asphalt-pits.—Repetition serves to intensify the expression to the highest degree in Judges 5:22 by reason of the violent pransings of his string ones, Exodus 8:10 (countless heaps), and Joel 4:14 (countless multitudes); cf. also מְעַט מְעַט‎ Exodus 23:30 by little and little, very gradually; cf. §133k.

4. Repetition with the copula to express of more than one kind; thus Deuteronomy 25:13 (Proverbs 20:10) אֶ֫בֶן וָאֶ֫בֶן‎ a weight and a weight, i.e. two kinds of weight (hence the addition great and small); Psalms 12:3 בְּלֵב וָלֵב‎ with two kinds of heart, i.e. with a double-dealing heart; cf. the opposite בְּלֹא לֵב וָלֵב‎ 1 Chronicles 12:33.

  1. The plural form בְּקָרִים‎ from בָּקָר‎ is found only in very late Hebrew, Nehemiah 10:37 (where according to the Mantua edition, Ginsburg, &c., even צֹאנֵ֫ינוּ‎ our sheep, is also to be read; Baer, however, has צֹאנֵ֫נוּ‎), and 2 Chronicles 4:3. In Amos 6:12 read, with Hitzig, בַּבָּקָר יָם‎.
  2. Cf. in the New Testament Mark 6:39 f. συμπόσια συμπόσια, πρασιαὶ πρασιαί (Weizsäcker, tischweise, beetweise).
  3. These repetitions of larger groups of words belong entirely to the Priestly Code in the Pentateuch, and are unquestionably indications of a late period of the language. Of quite a different kind are such examples as Ezekiel 16:6, where the repetition of four words serves to give greater solemnity to the promise, unless here, as certainly in 1:20, it is a mere dittography; the LXX omit the repetition, in both passages.
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