Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bit at a time Bible Hebrew -- Gender

Gender in Hebrew

earth, land, world
spirit, wind

 Hebrew is one of those languages which separates nouns into masculine and feminine genders.  Some languages like Russian also have a neuter gender; Hebrew doesn’t.

Hebrew is also one of those languages which uses certain clues to decide what gender most nouns are, but they are not hard and fast rules.

Most Hebrew nouns ending in a consonant are masculine, and most Hebrew nouns ending in heh with an a under it are feminine but not all.

Of the nouns above, arets and ruach are feminine.  I don’t know why.  Arets is an exception to the clues, but ruach falls into a group of nouns ending in –ach that are mostly feminine.  However, shaliach, the appointed messenger of a community, is masculine .  Another class of nouns that are usually feminine are those ending in –eret; when we get to an example I’ll point it out.

The noun shamaim above is a masculine plural noun; the –im ending is the clue to that.  The plural of arets is artsot, the –ot being the standard feminine plural ending.  So ruchot is the plural of ruach.  You notice some letters are missing from ruchot compared to ruach and from artsot compared to erets; you won’t see that in all feminine plurals but you do in these two and that’s why I pointed it out.

Now for a kicker.  Some languages, like Sanskrit, have a third classification of non-singular noun besides the plural.  It is called the dual.  It always refers to exactly two of whatever. 

Hebrew may have had dual forms for every noun at one point; we don’t know because we’ve never seen a Hebrew text that showed it.

The reason why it’s possible it once existed, is that Hebrew has a dual form for some nouns that almost always come in pairs.  Eynaim, eyes; raglaim, feet.  The –aim ending is for a dual number noun.  So shamaim above might not be a plural noun; it might be a dual noun.  That’s an important detail and it may go with the third verse. 

BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT Now that I have your attention: elohim is never a plural noun unless it refers to mortals.  When elohim means Gd, you will always find it with a singular adjective or verb.  In the first verse, bara was the masculine SINGULAR past tense of created.  Jewish culture absolutely rejects the idea that there is more than one deity.  More than one name for the same deity yes, but not more than one deity. 

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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