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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 134

§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.

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) 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) 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. Genesis 32:15. Numbers 7:17, Numbers 28:19. 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] Rem. In Leviticus 24:22 אֶחָד‎ follows the construct state מִשְׁפַּט‎, but here as in Numbers 15:16 מִשְׁפָּט‎ should be read. In Genesis 42:19 אֶחָד‎ is in apposition to a substantive with a suffix (= one of you brethren; but verse 33 the one of you brethren). In Numbers 31:28 אֶחָד‎ precedes the substantive in the Aramaic manner (= one each).—For מֵאָֽה־שָׁנָה‎ (Genesis 17:17, &c.) we find regularly in the Priestly Code (except in Genesis 17:17, Genesis 23:1) מְאַת שָׁנָה‎ (Genesis 5:3, &c.) an hundred years. On the connexion of abstract numerals with suffixes, as שְׁנֵיהֶם‎ their duality, i.e. they two, Genesis 2:25, &c. (also with a strengthening separate pronoun, as שְׁנֵ֫ינוּ אֲנַ֫חְנוּ‎ 1 Samuel 20:42), cf. §97i.

2. The numerals from 2 to 10 take the object numbered in the plural,[3] with very few exceptions, such as Exodus 16:22 (where שְׁנֵי הָעֹ֫מֶר‎ = the double of an omer), 2 Kings 2:21, Ezekiel 45:1, cf. 2 Kings 8:17 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 Judges 11:33), &c.; on the other hand, the plural is necessary when they follow the object numbered in apposition (e.g. אַמּוֹת עֶשְׂרִים‎ twenty cubits, 2 Chronicles 3:3 f.; with the exception of 2 Samuel 24:24, only in late Books). After טֵאָה‎ and אֶ֫לֶף‎ the substantive numbered may be used either in the singular or plural, see further under g.

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 (Exodus 24:4), sometimes with אַמָּה‎ cubit, חֹ֫דֶשׁ‎ month, עִיר‎ city, שֶׁ֫קֶל‎ shekel (compare our four-year-old, ten pound), e.g. Deuteronomy 1:2 אַחַד עָשָׂר יוֹם‎ (cf., however, such exceptions as Deuteronomy 1:23, Joshua 4:2, &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 Numbers 7:87 f., 1 Chronicles 4:27, 1 Chronicles 25:5.

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 Ezekiel 40:27), יוֹם‎, רַגְלִי‎, צֶ֫מֶד‎ are regularly used in the singular, generally also שָׁנָה‎, כִּכָּר‎, כֹּר‎, שֶׁ֫קֶל‎ (with the exception of Joshua 7:21, 2 Samuel 14:26, &c.); cf., moreover, Genesis 33:19, Genesis 24:60 (אַלְפֵי רְבָבָה‎), Esther 1:1, Judges 21:12, Deuteronomy 7:9, 1 Kings 5:12, 2 Chronicles 9:15.—Examples of the plural after מֵאָה‎ are Genesis 26:12, 1 Samuel 18:25, 2 Samuel 16:1, 1 Kings 18:4; after מְאַת‎ Exodus 38:27; after מֵאוֹת‎ Judges 15:4, 2 Samuel 8:4, 1 Kings 10:17, Ezekiel 42:17; after מָאתַ֫יִם‎ 1 Samuel 25:18, 1 Kings 7:20; after אֶ֫לֶף‎ 1 Samuel 25:2, 1 Kings 3:4, 1 Kings 5:6, 2 Kings 3:4, Psalms 90:4; after אֲלָפִים‎ 1 Samuel 17:5, Job 42:12; after אַלְפֵי‎ Micah 6:7; after אַלְפַּ֫יִם‎ Isaiah 36:8.— In Daniel 12:11 the plural יָמִים‎ precedes the numeral twelve hundred.

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. Genesis 5:20 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 Deuteronomy 2:14), or before them in the plural, especially in the later Books, Daniel 9:26, &c.; or the object is repeated (but only in 1 Kings 6:1, and the Priestly Code; sometimes even several times, e.g. Genesis 23:1, Genesis 25:7, 17 thrice) in the plural with the units, and in the singular with the tens and hundreds, e.g. Genesis 12:4 חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה‎ seventy and five years; Genesis 23:1 מֵאָה שֶׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁ֫בַע שָׁנִים‎ an hundred and twenty and seven years. Cf. Genesis 5:6.

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:—

2. The cardinals are determined by the article, when they refer back (without being connected with the object numbered; cf., however, Leviticus 25:10 f., Numbers 16:35, Joshua 4:4, 2 Samuel 23:13) to a number or list already mentioned, e.g. Genesis 2:11 שֵׁם הָֽאֶחָד פִּישׁוֹן‎ the name of the one (the first) is Pishon; Genesis 14:9 four kings against the five (enumerated in verse 2); cf. 1 Chronicles 11:20 f., and the determinate tens in Genesis 18:29, 31 f. A demonstrative with the article may also be added to a numeral determined in this way, e.g. Deuteronomy 19:9 (but cf. also Genesis 9:19, Genesis 22:23, 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 Chronicles 25:19, 1 Chronicles 27:15) or before עָשָׂר‎ (Joshua 4:4); it is used before all three members of a compound number (273) in Numbers 3:46.

In apposition with any determinate substantive the cardinal number is used without the article, not only when it precedes the substantive, as in Joshua 15:14 (אֶת־שְׁלוֹשָׁה בְנֵי הָֽעֲנָק‎, where שְׁלוֹשָׁה‎ is equivalent to a substantive determinate in itself; cf. Genesis 18:28, Joshua 6:8, 22 1 Samuel 17:14, 1 Kings 11:31, and the passages discussed above in §126x, Genesis 21:29, &c.), but also when it follows the substantive, e.g. 1 Kings 7:27, 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 Kings 25:16 after a determinate substantive. The fact that it is by nature determinate would also be a very simple explanation of אֶחָד‎ Numbers 28:4, 1 Samuel 13:17 f., Jeremiah 24:2, Ezekiel 10:9, instead of the more usual הָֽאֶחָד‎, and of אַחַת‎ 1 Samuel 1:2 for הָֽאַחַת‎. Such cases as שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים‎ Judges 14:17 (which is determined by a following determinate genitive) are explained from §127b; 1 Chronicles 9:25 perhaps from §126q; in Isaiah 30:26 probably the light of all the seven days of the week is meant; on the other hand, in 1 Samuel 9:20 and 25:38 the article is, with Wellhausen, to be omitted.

3. Certain specifications of measure, weight, or time, are commonly omitted after numerals, e.g. Genesis 20:16 אֶ֫לֶף כֶּ֫סֶף‎ a thousand (shekels) of silver; so also before זָהָב‎ Genesis 24:22, 1 Kings 10:16, Isaiah 7:23, cf. Psalms 119:72. Moreover, Ruth 3:15 שֵׁשׁ שְׂעֹרִים‎ six (ephahs) of barley; 1 Samuel 10:4 שְׁתֵּי־לֶ֫חֶם‎ two (sc. loaves, see verse 3) of bread, cf. 17:17 עֲשָׂרָה לֶ֫חֶם‎; 2 Samuel 16:1, 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 (Exodus 26:2, &c.) and in 1 K 6 and 7 (otherwise only in Ezekiel 40:5, 21, 47:3. Zechariah 5:2, 1 Chronicles 11:23, 2 Chronicles 4:2 f.) by the addition of בָּֽאַמָּה‎ prop. by the cubit. Also in Exodus 27:11 the Samaritan and LXX read בָּֽאַמָּה‎ after אֹרֶךְ‎, and in 27:15 אַמָּה‎ after עֶשְׂרֵה‎.

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. Genesis 7:11 בְּשִׁבעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם‎ on the seventeenth day; Deuteronomy 1:3 בְּאַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה‎ in the fortieth year; cf. Genesis 14:5, 2 Kings 25:27, and, with repetition of שָׁנָה‎ in a compound number, 1 Kings 6:1; such a cardinal occurs without בְּ‎ (and therefore in the accus. temporis, according to §118k) in Genesis 14:4 (the Samaritan, however, has ובשלש‎); with the article (but without a numbered object, see under k), 1 Kings 19:19.[4]—On the position of the numeral as a genitive following its noun, cf. e.g. 1 Kings 16:10 בִּשְׁנַת עֶשְׂרִים וָשֶׁבַע‎ in the twenty and seventh year, and with a determinate numeral, Exodus 12:18, Numbers 33:38, Deuteronomy 15:9. In this case, however, שָׁנָה‎ is very frequently repeated, e.g. Genesis 7:11, 2 Kings 13:10; after a determinate numeral, Leviticus 25:10.[5]

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 Kings 15:25; בִּשְׁנַת שָׁלשׁ‎ 2 Kings 18:1, &c., cf. Deuteronomy 15:9. 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 Genesis 8:5, &c., בְּאַרְבָּעָה לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ‎ Zechariah 7:1; בַּֽחֲמִשָּׁה לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ‎ Ezekiel 1:1, &c., בְּשִׁבְעָה לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ‎ 2 Kings 25:8, בְּתִשְׁעָה לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ‎ Leviticus 23:32 (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 Chronicles 29:17 בְּיוֹם שְׁמוֹנָה לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ‎; Ezra 3:6 מִיּוֹם אֶחָד לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ‎.—Finally, when the year is stated by בִּשְׁנַת‎ governing a determinate ordinal, viz. 2 Kings 17:6 בִּשְׁנַת הַתְּשִׁיעִית‎ in the ninth year; 2 Kings 25:1 (in Jeremiah 52:4 בְּשָׁנָה‎), Jeremiah 28:1 Keth., 32:1 Keth., 46:2, 51:59, Ezra 7:8; 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 Jeremiah 28:1, Jeremiah 32:1 requires in the Qe בַּשָּׁנָה‎ for בשנת‎.

5. Distributives are expressed either by repetition of the cardinal number, e.g. Genesis 7:9, 15 שְׁנַ֫יִם שְׁנַ֫יִם‎ two and two; 2 Samuel 21:20 שֵׁשׁ וָשֵׁשׁ‎ six each; with the numbered object also repeated, e.g. Joshua 3:12 אִישׁ אֶחָד אִישׁ אֶחָד לַשָּֽׁבֶט‎ for every tribe a man; Numbers 13:2, Numbers 34:18 (אֶחָד מִן‎, as in Nehemiah 11:1, one out of every ten); cf. §123d; or a periphrasis with אֶחָד לְ‎ is used, Numbers 17:18, Deuteronomy 1:23, cf. Isaiah 6:2 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.

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, Job 40:5; שֶׁ֫בַע‎ seven times, Leviticus 26:21, 24, Proverbs 24:16; cf. also אַחַת‎ once, 2 Kings 6:10, Job 40:5, for which in Job 33:14 בְּאַחַת‎[6] along with בִּשְׁתַּ֫יִם‎ (the latter also in 1 Samuel 18:21); or by the dual of the numeral, thus שִׁבְעָתַ֫יִם‎ Genesis 4:15 (in verse 24 along with the cardinal 77 for 77 times); Isaiah 30:26, Psalms 12:7, Psalms 79:12; אַרְבַּעְתָּ֑יִם‎ 2 Samuel 12:6;[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 (Nehemiah 13:20 פַּ֫עַם וּשְׁתַּ֫יִם‎ once and twice), נַּֽעֲמַ֫יִם‎ twice, שָׁלשׁ פְּעָמִים‎ (for which in Exodus 23:14, Numbers 22:28, 32 שָׁלשׁ רְגָלִים‎) three times; cf. Ezekiel 41:6 thirty-three times; 2 Samuel 24:3 an hundred times; Deuteronomy 1:11 a thousand times; 1 Kings 22:16 עַד־כַּמֶּה פְעָמִים‎ until how many times, i.e. how often. Cf. also עֲשֶׂ֫רֶת מֹנִים‎ ten times, Genesis 31:17, 14, and רַבּוֹת עִתִּים‎ many times, Nehemiah 9:28.—In Genesis 43:34, five times is expressed by חָמֵשׁ יָדוֹת‎ (prop. five hands),[8] and in Exodus 16:5 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, Genesis 22:15, &c., a second time, cf. the Latin tertium consul; בַּשְּׁלִישִׁת‎ the third time, 1 Samuel 3:8; פַּ֫עַם חֲמִישִׁית‎ a fifth time, Nehemiah 6:5; בַּשְּׁבִעִית‎ at the seventh (time), 1 Kings 18:44, and בַּפַּ֫עַם הַשּׁ׳‎ Joshua 6:16. 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. Isaiah 17:6, two or at the most three), or a considerable number, e.g. Micah 5:4. 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, Deuteronomy 32:30, Jeremiah 3:14, Job 33:14, Job 40:5 (without וְ‎, Psalms 62:12); two and three, Isaiah 17:6 ( 23:16, 26:28, 50:25), and without וְ‎, 2 Kings 9:32, Hosea 6:2, Amos 4:8; three and four, Jeremiah 36:23, Amos 1:3–11, Proverbs 30:18, Proverbs 21:29 ( 26:5), and with out וְ‎, Proverbs 30:15; four and five, without וְ‎, Isaiah 17:6; six and seven, Job 5:19, Proverbs 6:16; seven and eight, Micah 5:4, Ecclesiastes 11:2; (nine and ten, 25:7).

  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 Exodus 28:10 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 Genesis 46:27 (נֶָפֶשׁ שְׁנָ֑֫יִם‎ two souls), cf. §132g (collectives joined with the plural of the adjective).
  4. Somewhat different from this is Exodus 19:15 be ready לִשְׁל֫שֶׁת יָמִים‎ prop. after three days, i.e. on the third day (in verses 11 and 16 and in Ezra 10:8 the ordinal is used), also 1 Samuel 30:13 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 Leviticus 25:10, 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 Numbers 10:4 is to be translated on one (trumpet).
  7. Probably also כִּפְלַ֫יִם‎ Job 11:6 (from כֶּ֫פֶל‎ doubling) does not mean doubled but manifold.
  8. But אַרְבַּע הַיָּדוֹת‎ Genesis 47:24 means the (other) four parts; cf. 2 Kings 11:7, Nehemiah 11:1.
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