Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/123. The Representation of Plural Ideas by Means of Collectives, and by the Repetition of Words

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

123a 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. Ex 2137 חֲמִשָּׁה בָקָר five head of cattle), but שׁוֹר an ox; צֹאן small cattle, i.e. sheep and goats (μῆλα), cf. Jb 13 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.

123b (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 (Ju 2116, 1 S 216); אַרְבֶּה a locust, but usually a swarm of locusts; נֶ֫פֶשׁ soul and souls (persons); מַקֵּל staff and staves (Gn 3037); 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. Gn 326).—On the singular (especially of gentilic names) with the article (which may, however, be omitted in poetry, cf. e.g. ψ 122 חָסִיד, Pr 1114 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.

123c (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 Gn 3910, &c., day by day, every day; שָׁנָה שָׁנָה year by year, Dt 1422; אִישׁ אִישׁ every man, Ex 364; with בְּ before each, as בַּבֹּ֫קֶר בַּבֹּ֫קֶר Ex 1621 every morning (and similarly before a group of words, Lv 248), for which the distributive לְ is also used, לַבֹּ֫קֶר לַבֹּ֫קֶר 1 Ch 927, and with one plural לַבְּקָרִים ψ 7314, לִבְקָרִים Jb 718 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 Ch 1222; שָׁנָה בְשָׁנָה year by year, Dt 1520, 1 S 17 (but in verse 3 מִיָּמִים יָמִ֫ימָה), כְּפַ֫עַם בְּפַ֫עַם Nu 241, Ju 1620, 2030 f., 1 S 310 as at other times. Also With the two words united by means of wāw copulative, אִישׁ וְאִישׁ ψ 875, or אִישׁ וָאִישׁ Est 18; דּוֹר וָדוֹר all generations, Dt 327; יוֹם וָיוֹם Est 34; cf. Est 89, Ezr 1014, 1 Ch 2613 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 ψ 4518 only in very late passages) with a pleonastic כָּל־ preceding, ψ 14513, Est 211, 928, 2 Ch 1112, &c.

123d 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. Nu 1434 forty days יוֹם לַשָּׁנָה יוֹם לַשָּׁנָה counting for every day a year; cf. Ez 246, Ex 2834 (three words repeated); also with the addition of לְבַד apart, עֵדֶר עֵדֶר לְבַדּוֹ every drove by itself, Gn 3217; cf. Zc 1212. 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 (Lv 248, Nu 132, 314) or three (Nu 711, 1721), but even of six (Ex 263) or seven (Ex 2533, 2619, 21, 25); in Ex 2535 five words even three times repeated.[3]

123e 3. Repetition to express an exceptional or at least superfine quality; e.g. 2 K 2515 which were of gold, gold, of silver, silver, i.e. made of pure gold and pure silver; Dt 227 בַּדֶּ֫רֶךְ בַּדֶּ֫רֶךְ only along by the high way; cf. Nu 38, 816 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 K 316 גֵּבִים גֵּבִים nothing but trenches; Gn 1410 בֶּֽאֱרֹת בֶּֽאֱרֹת חֵמָר all asphalt-pits.—Repetition serves to intensify the expression to the highest degree in Ju 522 by reason of the violent pransings of his string ones, Ex 810 (countless heaps), and Jo 414 (countless multitudes); cf. also מְעַט מְעַט Ex 2330 by little and little, very gradually; cf. §133k.

123f 4. Repetition with the copula to express of more than one kind; thus Dt 2513 (Pr 2010) אֶ֫בֶן וָאֶ֫בֶן a weight and a weight, i.e. two kinds of weight (hence the addition great and small); ψ 123 בְּלֵב וָלֵב with two kinds of heart, i.e. with a double-dealing heart; cf. the opposite בְּלֹא לֵב וָלֵב 1 Ch 1233.

  1. The plural form בְּקָרִים from בָּקָר is found only in very late Hebrew, Neh 1037 (where according to the Mantua edition, Ginsburg, &c., even צֹאנֵ֫ינוּ our sheep, is also to be read; Baer, however, has צֹאנֵ֫נוּ), and 2 Ch 43. In Am 612 read, with Hitzig, בַּבָּקָר יָם.
  2. Cf. in the New Testament St. Mark 639 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 Ez 166, 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.