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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 97

§97. Numerals. (a) Cardinal Numbers.
Brockelmann, Sem. Sprachwiss., p. 116 ff.; Grundriss, i. 484 ff.

1. The formation of the cardinal numbers from 3 to 10 (on 1 and 2 see below) has this peculiarity, that numerals connected with a mascu- line substantive take the feminine form, and those with a feminine substantive take the masculine form. The common explanation of this strange phenomenon used to be that the primary form of the numeral was an abstract noun in the feminine (cf. §122p). This was originally attached in the constr. st. to the word qualified, then came to be also used in apposition to it, and finally was placed after it like an adjective. The consequence of the appositional, and finally adjectival, construction was, that for numerals connected with feminine nouns a special shorter form came to be used, whilst the original forms, with the abstract feminine ending, were used in connexion with masculine nouns, after as well as before them.

On this view the historical process would have been that originally the abstract numerals (like Latin trias, decas, Greek πεντάς, δεκάς, &c.) were placed in the constr. st. before masculines and feminines alike, e.g. שְׁל֫שֶׁת בָּנִים‎ trias filiorum, עֲשֶׂ֫רֶת נָשִׁים‎ decas mulierum. A trace of this earlier usage was seen in the examples mentioned under c, like שְׁל֫שֶׁת נָשִׁים‎.—Further, it was possible to say שְׁלשָׁה בָנִים‎ trias, sc. filii, as well as בָּנִים שְׁלשָׁה‎ filii, trias. From this second appositional construction it was only a step to the treatment of the abstract numeral as an adjective, filii tres. Similarly the subsequently shortened forms of the abstract numeral, which were used in connexion with feminines, might stand either in the constr. st. before, or in apposition before or after the word numbered, thus שְׁלשׁ בָּנוֹת‎ trias filiarum, or שָׁלשׁ בָּנוֹת‎ trias, sc. filiae, or בָּנוֹת שָׁלשׁ‎ filiae, trias, or adjectivally filiae tres.

A different and much more intelligible explanation of the striking disagreement between the gender of the numeral and that of the word numbered has recently been given by Reckendorf, Die syntaktischen Verhältnisse des Arabischen, pt. ii, Leiden, 1898, p. 265 ff. He also considers that the earliest forms were abstract numerals which were placed in the constr. st. before the noun numbered, the latter depending on them in the genitive. The original form, however, of the abstract numerals from 3 to 9 is not the feminine, but the masculine, used for both genders, as it still is in the tens, 20, 30, &c. The feminine abstract numeral was first distinguished by a special form in the numbers from 13 to 19 (see further, below) when connected with masculines, and this distinction was afterwards extended to the numbers from 3 to 10. This explanation does not affect the view stated above that the appositional and adjectival use of the abstract numerals was only adopted later in addition to their use in the genitive construction.

The differentiation of the numerals (originally of common gender) into masculine and feminine forms in the second decade, was occasioned, according to Reckendorf, by the use of the abstract feminine עֶשְׂרֵה‎ in compounds. So long as it was felt that שְׁלשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה‎ simply meant the three of the decade, the gender of the noun numbered made no difference. When, however, the consciousness of this meaning became weakened and the combination of units and tens came to be felt as a copulative rather than a genitive relation, it seemed suitable to connect only feminine nouns with the feminine form עֶשְׂרֵה‎. New forms were therefore invented, both of the units and the tens, for use with masculine nouns. The former, however, no longer had the form of the constr. but of the absolute state, clearly showing that the consciousness of the original syntactical relation in שְׁלשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה‎, &c., was lost. On the other hand, after the extension of these new formations to the first decade, the new feminine forms readily came to be used also in the genitive construction (and therefore in the constr. st.) on the analogy of the earlier masculine forms.

Of the first two numerals, אֶחָד‎, one, with its fem. אַחַת‎ (see § 96), may be recognized, from its form and use, as an adjective, although even so it admits of such combinations as אַחַד הֶֽהָרִים‎ unus e montibus. The numeral two, as would be expected, appears as an abstract in the dual, but, like the other numerals, can also stand in apposition to the noun numbered. In form it always agrees with the gender of its noun. Accordingly, the numerals from 1 to 10 are as follows:

With the Masculine. With the Feminine.
Absol. Constr. Absol. Constr.
1. אֶחָד‎ אַחַד‎ אַחַת‎ אַחַת‎
2. שְׁנַ֫יִם‎ שְׁנֵי‎ [1]שְׁתַּ֫יִם‎ שְׁתֵּי‎
3. שְׁלשָׁה‎ שְׁל֫שֶׁת‎ שָׁלשׁ‎ שְׁלשׁ‎
4. אַרְבָּעָה‎ אַרְבַּ֫עַת‎ אַרְבַּע‎ אַרְבַּע‎
5. [2]חֲמִשָּׁה‎ חֲמֵ֫שֶׁת‎ חָמֵשׁ‎ חֲמֵשׁ‎
6 שִׁשָּׁה‎ שֵׁ֫שֶׁת‎ שֵׁשׁ‎ שֵׁשׁ‎
7. שִׁבְעָה‎ שִׁבְעַת‎ שֶׁ֫בַע‎ [3][שְׁבַע]‎
8. שְׁמֹנָה‎ שְׁמֹנַת‎ שְׁמֹנֶה‎ שְׁמֹנֶה‎
9. תִּשְׁעָה‎ תִּשְׁעַת‎ תֵּ֫שַׁע‎ [3][תְּשַׁע]‎
10. עֲשָׂרָה‎ עֲשֶׂ֫רֶת‎ עֶ֫שֶׂר‎ עֶ֫שֶׂר‎
On the connective forms שְׁבַע‎, תְּשַׁע‎, cf. the analogous forms in §93h.

The other Semitic languages also exhibit the same peculiarity in the external differentiation of the numerals from 3 to 10 as regards gender. The fem. form of the numeral abstracts is only rarely found in connexion with feminine nouns,[4] e.g. שְׁל֫שֶׁת נָשִׁים‎ Genesis 7:13, 1 Samuel 10:3, Job 1:4, Ezekiel 7:2 Keth.; probably also Joshua 17:11, where we should read with Dillmann שׁ׳ הַגָּפּוֹת‎. In apposition, Zechariah 3:9, Zechariah 4:2, cf. Jeremiah 36:23. From what was said above, under a, it follows that these cases are not a return to original usage, but only an intrusion of the form used before masculines into the sphere of the feminine. Conversely in Genesis 38:24 שְׁלשׁ חֳדָשִׁים‎ (but in the Samaritan שְׁל֫שֶׁת‎).—For שִׁבְעָה‎ seven, there occurs in Job 42:13 the strange form שִׁבְעָ֫נָה‎, according to Ewald [Ausführl, Lehrb.8, §269b] an old feminine substantive (German ein Siebend, a set of seven), but more probably a scribal error.

2. The numerals from 11 to 19 are formed by placing the units, without the copula, before the number ten (in the form עָשָׂר‎ masc., עֶשְׂרֵה‎ fem.), but without the two words being joined into one. As was said above, under a, and as is proved by the use of אַחַד‎, אַחַת‎ in the numeral 11, the feminine numerals from 13 to 19 are to be regarded as construct forms in a genitive connexion. The connective forms of the masculine abstracts, like שְׁל֫שֶׁת‎, &c., are not admitted in combination with עָשָׂר‎, since they are merely in apposition, and not in a genitive relation (see the rare exceptions at the end of e). On the other hand שְׁנֵי‎ and שְׁתֵּי‎ in the numeral 12 are undoubtedly true constructs, like אַחַד‎ and the fem. numerals 13–19. But instead of שְׁנֵי‎ (Exodus 28:21, Joshua 3:12 and four other places) and שְׁתֵּי‎ (Joshua 4:8 and three times in Ezek.), we generally find שְׁנֵים‎ and שְׁתֵּים‎. Two explanations have been given of these forms: (1) that the Kethîbh really intends שְׁנַ֫יִם‎, שְׁתַּ֫יִם‎, in the absol. st., which was first introduced in the case of שְׁנַ֫יִם‎, on the analogy of עֲשָׂרָה‎, &c., and then extended to שְׁתַּ֫יִם‎; the Masora, however, required שְׁנֵי‎, שְׁתֵּי‎ (but see below), and therefore pointed שְׁנֵים‎, שׁתֵּים‎ as a Qerê perpetuum (see § 17).—(2) that the absolute forms שְׁנֵ֫יִם‎, שְׁתַּ֫יִם‎ (introduced on the analogy of שְׁלשָׁה‎, &c.) were contracted to שְׁנֵים‎, שְׁתֵּים‎ to facilitate the pronunciation of the duals when closely connected with עָשָׂר‎ and עֶשְׂרֵה‎, and that the contraction is founded on an early and correct tradition. The second explanation is supported by the large number of examples of שנים‎ (66) and שתים‎ (34). It would be strange if the Masora required the alteration of the far commoner forms on account of isolated instances of שְׁנֵי‎ and שְׁתֵּי‎. As a matter of fact even in regard to the latter forms the tradition often varies between שְׁנֵי‎ and שְׁנַ֫יִם‎, &c., cf. e.g. Ginsburg on Joshua 3:12. We cannot therefore assume a Qerê perpetuum.

Accordingly the numbers from 11 upwards are—

Masculine. Feminine.
11. אַחַד עָשָׂר‎ אַחַת עֶשְׂרֵה‎
עָשָׂר‎[5] עַשְׁתֵּי‎ עַשְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה‎
12. שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר‎ שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה‎
שְׁנֵי עָשָׂר‎ שְׁתֵּי עֶשְׂרֵה‎
13. שְׁלשָׁה עָשָׂר‎ שְׁלשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה‎

&c., on the analogy of the last. These numerals regularly have only the above form. In regard to their syntax, cf. §134f.

Very rarely the units appear in the masc. in the constr. st., as חֲמֵ֫שֶׁת עָשָׂר‎ fifteen, Judges 8:10, 2 Samuel 19:18; שְׁמנַת עָשָׂר‎ eighteen, Judges 20:25.—Connected by וְ‎ we find עֲשָׂרָה וַָֽחֲמִשָּׁה‎ in Exodus 45:12.

3. The tens from 30 to 90 are expressed by the plural forms of the units (so that the plural here always stands for ten times the unit), thus, שְׁלשִׁים‎ 30, אַרְבָּעִים‎ 40, חֲמִ֫שִּׁים‎ 50, שִׁשִּׁים‎ 60, שִׁנְעִים‎ 70, שְׁמֹנִים‎ 80, תּשְׁעִים‎ 90. But twenty is expressed by עֶשְׂרִים‎, plur. of עֶ֫שֶׂד‎ ten.[6] These numerals are all of common gender, and do not admit of the construct state.—In compound numerals, like 22, 23, 44, &c., the units may precede (two and twenty, as in Arabic and English), e.g. Numbers 3:39, Numbers 26:14. Very frequently, however, the reverse order is found (twenty and two, as in Syriac, cf. French and English twenty-two), e.g. 1 Chronicles 12:28, 1 Chronicles 18:5.[7] In all cases the units and tens are connected by the copula, ordinarily וְ‎, but וָ‎, before numerals with the tone on the penultima, וַ‎ before ־ֲ‎, וּ‎ before Še see §104d, e, g.

The remaining numerals are the substantives—

100 מֵאָה‎ fem., constr. מְאַת‎.
200 אָמתַ֫יִם‎ dual (contracted from מְאָתַ֫יִם‎; cf. §23c).
300 שְׁלשׁ מֵאוֹת‎ plur. (but in 2 Kings 11:491015, Keth. הַמְּאָיוֹת‎).
1000 אֶ֫לֶף‎ masc.
2000 אַלְפַּ֫יִם‎ dual.
3000 שְׁל֫שֶׁת אֲלָפִים‎ plur., and so on (except עֲשָׂרָה אֲלָפִים‎ in 2 Samuel 18:3, 2 Kings 24:14 Keth.; elsewhere always עֲשֶׂ֫רֶת אֲלָפִים‎).
10000 רְבָבָה‎, in the later books the aramaising[8] forms רִבּוֹ‎, רִבּוֹא‎, רִבּוֹת‎ (properly multitude, cf. μυριάς).
20000 רִבֹּתַ֫יִם‎ dual (see below, h); but שְׁתֵּי רִבּוֹת‎ Nehemiah 7:70 (also רִבּוֹא שְׁתֵּי‎ Nehemiah 7:71).
40000 אַרְבַּע רִבּוֹא‎ Nehemiah 7:66.
60000 שֵֽׁשׁ־רִבּאֹות‎ Ezra 2:69 (Baer and Ginsburg רִבֹּאוֹת‎, as in Daniel 11:12). אַלְפֵי רְבָבָה‎ thousands of myriads, Genesis 24:60.

Rem. 1. The dual form which occurs in some of the units has the meaning of our ending -fold, e.g. אַרְבַּעְתַּ֫יִם‎ fourfold, 2 Samuel 12:6; שִׁבְעָתַ֫יִם‎ sevenfold, Genesis 4:1524, Isaiah 30:26, Psalms 12:7, Psalms 79:12 (cf. §134r). The dual רִבֹּתַ֫יִם‎ Psalms 68:18 (explained by אַלְפֵי שִׁנְאָן‎ thousands of duplication) is not meant to be taken in the sense of two myriads or twice the number of myriads, but in a multiplicative sense.[9]—Besides the plural which denotes the tens, there are also the plurals אֲחָדִים‎ some, also iidem, and עֲשָׂרוֹת‎ decades (not decem) Exodus 18:2125.

2. The suffixes to numerals are, as with other nouns, properly genitives, although they are translated in English as nominatives, e.g. שְׁלָשְׁתְּכֶּם‎ your triad, i.e. you three, Numbers 12:4; חֲמִשָּׁיו‎ his fifty (i.e. the 50 belonging to him) 2 Kings 1:9821113, and חֲמִשֶּׁ֫יךָ‎ 2 Kings 1:1012.

  1. Shortened from שְׁנָתַ֫יִם‎, which would be the regular feminine form of שְׁנַ֫יִם‎. Nevertheless, the Dageš in שְׁתַּ֫יִם‎, &c. (even after מִן‎; מִֽשְׁתֵּים‎ Jonah 4:11; cf., however, מִשְּׁתֵי‎ Judges 16:28), can by no means be regarded as a Dageš forte arising from assimilation of the Nûn, for in that case the word could only be שִׁתַּ֫יִם‎ (cf. Arab. ṯintāni). This form does occur in the Codex Babylonicus of a.d. 916, but it is only a later correction for שְׁתַּ֫יִם‎, while in the Berlin MS. or. qu. 680 described by Kahle (Lpz. 1902) there is no trace of the Dageš. It is rather to be read štáyîm, štê (with Dageš lene), cf. אֶשְׁתַּ֫יִם‎, representing the later Palestinian pronunciation (Philippi, ZDMG. xlix, p. 206), and Arab. ʾiṯnătāni (with a kind of prosthetic א‎; cf. §19m), as a further feminine form of ʾiṯnāni, duo. According to Barth (Orient. Studien... Th. Nöldeke, ii. 792 f.) the irregularity of שְׁתַּ֫יִם‎ (he takes the Dageš as Dageš forte) is due to the complete assimilation of its vowels to those of the masc. שְׁנַ֫יִם‎ where the Šewâ mobile is normal.
  2. With Dageš probably on the analogy of שִׁשָּׁה‎, as שֵׁ֫שֶׁת‎ on the analogy of חֲמֵ֫שֶׁת‎. Cf. also J. K. Blake on חֲמִשָּׁה‎, חֲמִשִּׁים‎ in JAOS. 1905, p. 117 ff.
  3. שְׁבַע‎ and תְּשַּׁע‎ appear only as connective forms before עֶשְׂרֵה‎ and מֵאוֹת‎.
  4. In the vulgar dialects of Arabic, and in Ethiopic, the feminine form of the numeral is by far the more common. This form appears also in Hebrew, when the number is regarded in the abstract, as in the multiplicatives (see §97h).
  5. עַשְׁתֵּי‎, which remained for a long time unexplained, was recognized (first by J. Oppert) in the Assyro-Babylonian inscriptions in the form ištin or ištên; cf. Friedr. Delitzsch, Assyrische Grammatik, p. 203, and P. Haupt, in the American Journal of Philology, viii. 279. Accordingly, עַשְׁתֵּי עָשָׂר‎ is a compound, like the Sansk. êkâdaçan, ἕνδεκα, undecim (analogous to the combination of units and tens in the numerals from 12 to 19), and is used at the same time in the composition of the feminine numeral eleven. On the gradual substitution of עַשְׁתֵּי ע׳‎ for אַחַד ע׳‎ and אַחַת ׳‎ see Giesebrecht in ZAW. 1881, p. 226; עַשְׁתֵּי ע׳‎ occurs only in Jer., Ez., in the prologue to Deuteronomy (1:3), in the Priestly Code, and in passages undoubtedly post-exilic, so that it may very well be a loan-word from the Babylonian.
  6. For עֶשְׂרִים‎, שִׁבְעִים‎, תִּשְׁעִים‎ (from the segholates עֶ֫שֶׂר‎, שֶׁ֫בַע‎, תֵּ֫שַׁע‎), we should expect ʿasārîm, šebhāʿîm, tešāʿîm. Is this very unusual deviation from the common formation (see above, §93l, o, r) connected with the special meaning of these plurals, or are these survivals of an older form of the plural of segholates?
  7. According to the conclusions of König (De Criticae Sacrae Argumento, p. 61, and Lehrgeb., ii. p. 215 ff.), the smaller number more commonly precedes in Ezek. and the Priestly Code, but the larger always elsewhere. S. Herner (Syntax der Zahlwörter im A.T., Lund, 1893, p. 71 ff.) arrives at the same conclusion by a full examination of the statistics; cf. also his remarks on König in ZAW. 1896, p. 123, and König’s reply, ibid., p. 328 f.
  8. Cf. Kautzsch, Die Aramaismen im A.T. (Halle, 1902), p. 79 f.
  9. Cf. D. H. Müller, ‘Die numeralia multiplicativa in den Amarnatafeln u. im Hebr.,’ Semitica, i, Wien, 1906, p. 13 ff.
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