[b-hebrew] Plural Verbs/Adjectives Modifying Elohim

Kevin Riley klriley at alphalink.com.au
Tue Dec 4 21:54:56 EST 2007


It is normal to use a plural verb and adjective in relation to a plural noun
  That isn't a case of attraction, as I understand it.  There is
grammatically no alternative.  It is different to when you have a number of
subjects and the verb is in the singular because of the "pull" of a singular
subject.  Wages in English sometimes has a singular verb because it is
thought of as a collective noun.  Using a singular verb/ adjective in Hebrew
to refer to a noun that is morphologically plural but thought of as singular
is more what I see with 'Elohim.  I doubt David thought of 'Elohim as plural
in concept when applied to God, but grammatically it should have a plural
verb.  It would be interesting to see if the use of a plural with 'Elohim
increases or decreases over time.  It would also be interesting to know why
it is plural in the first place.
 
Kevin Riley
 
-------Original Message------- 
 
From: Yosef Shalom 
Date: 5/12/2007 12:36:37 PM 
 
Kevin, 
 
Could you explain the rationale behind this statement... 
 
" I would also hesitate to call using a plural verb or adjective in
reference to a plural noun a case of attraction". 
 
2Samual 7:23 provides an interesting example because it appears in two
versions in the Hebrew Bible (also in 1 Chronicles 17:21) 
 
In Samuel, the text reads... 
 
"And who is like Your (sg) people (che‘amcha כְע&#1463
מְּךָ) Israel, even one nation in the earth,
whom Elohim (they) went (halchu הָלְכ&#1493
ּ) to redeem for Himself (lo לוֹ) as a people" 
 
Where halchu (went) is plural. 
 
Note though that the word for "your" in that verse is singular, so David
refers in that same verse to Elohim in the singular. 
 
When the Chronicler repeats David's prayer, the text reads... 
 
"And who is like Your people Israel, even one nation in the earth, whom
Elohim (he) went (halach הָלַךְ) to
redeem for Himself a people" 
 
The verb is now recorded as singular. 
 
>From this, it's clear that David does not betray an understanding of plural
divine persons. 
 
But why is a plural verb employed in the Samuel passage? 
 
Attraction makes a lot of sense. The plural form of elohim attracted the
verb to it, which happens all the time in English. 
 
An obvious example would be the English translation ... 
 
"The wages of sin is death." 
 
Clearly, the plural "wages" would demand a plural "are." But because
preceding the verb is a singular noun "sin", it attracts the verb to it in a
singular form. 
 
Please explain the rationale for your statement I quoted above. 
 
Thanks, 
Joe 
 
Kevin Riley <klriley at alphalink.com.au> wrote: I think the conclusion of
there being or not being a Trinity from the Hebrew 
Linguistic evidence is not possible solely on linguistic grounds. To 
Acknowledge that attraction occurs in all languages is not the same as 
Proving it occurs in any particular instance. I would also hesitate to call 
Using a plural verb or adjective in reference to a plural noun a case of 
Attraction". What is a linguistic question is whether the ancient Hebrew 
Writers did or did not consider 'Elohim to be a plural form. Assuming they 
Did [and the evidence is not clear], it still would not prove anything in 
Regards to the Trinity. 
 
Part of explaining the English examples may be to see that there is/can be a

Repetition of "there is/are" when two singular subjects are joined by "and",

And this second "there is" is subsequently deleted. In that case, no rule 
Is broken. 
 
You will find most theological arguments appear "cheezy" when you personally

Accept a different conclusion. Saying so on a list containing different 
Varieties of more than one faith is a sure way of offending people and 
Approaches closely to bad manners. 
 
Kevin Riley 
 
-------Original Message------- 
 
From: Yosef Shalom 
Date: 5/12/2007 8:17:00 AM 
 
I don't really want to get into an evaluation of the merits of The American 
Heritage Book of English Usage per se, but here is the full context of what 
Gordon quoted from... 
 
"“There once was a man from 
” “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe 

” Lovers of limericks and nursery rhymes are familiar with the anticipatory

There that functions as a “dummy subject,” delaying the real subject until 
The end of the clause. In this use there is usually classified as a pronoun 
And is distinguished from its use as an adverb indicating location, as in 
There’s the glove I’ve been looking for. 5 
According to the standard rule, when the pronoun there precedes a verb such 
As be, seem, or appear, the verb agrees in number with the following 
Grammatical subject: There is a great Italian deli across the street. There 
Are fabulous wildflowers in the hills. There seems to be a blueberry pie 
Cooking in the kitchen. There seem to be a few trees between the green and 
Me. But people often disregard this rule and use a singular verb with a 
Plural subject, especially when speaking or when using the contraction 
there’s. The Usage Panel dislikes this construction, however. Seventy-nine 
Percent reject the sentence There’s only three things you need to know about

This book. But when there’s is followed by a compound subject whose first 
Element is singular, the panel feels differently. Fifty-six percent of the 
Usage Panel accepts the sentence In each of us there’s a dreamer and a 
realist, and 32 percent more accept it in informal usage. The panel is even 
more accepting of the 
Sentence When you get to the stop light, there’s a gas station on the left 
and a grocery store on the right; 58 percent accept it in formal usage, 
while 37 percent more accept it in informal usage. Although this usage would

seem to violate the rules of subject and verb agreement, the attraction of 
the verb to the singular noun phrase following it is so strong that it is 
hard to avoid the construction entirely." 
 
My question is whether this can serve as a good rational hypothesis of how 
sometimes in speech the ancient Hebrew when speaking of Elohim might have 
not resisted the temptation to modify it with a plural adjective, especially

when that was the normal way to speak of the "elohim" in the surrounding 
paganisms that they interacted with on a daily basis. 
 
If this is a rational and convincing possibility, the attempts to derive 
some Trinitarian significance from the appearance of the plurals is a bit 
cheezy." imho 
 
 
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