LESSON 2: Ruth 1:5-7

Some things you might want to know about Elimelekh (was he a sinner?) and Ephrathites (who were they?). Go to “Ruth 1:5-7, Ephrathites, Elimelekh.”

Practicing reading your Hebrew? Here is a reading tutor for vs. 5. Later I will add an audio file of me reading vss. 5-7.

There are only three verses to translate in this section. Here is some help with that:
VERSE 5: vah-ya-moo-too is the same as verse 3’s vah-ya-mat except it is plural (“and they died”). shnay-hem is “two” with the suffix meaning “them” (so “two of them” or “both of them”). The phrase vah-teesh-ah-ayr ha-eeshah mee-shnay ye-la-deyha is complicated. The subject is ha-eeshah (“the woman”) and the verb again is the Niphal meaning “was left.” In other words she was left alone “from” (the mee in mee-shnay means “from”) shnay ye-la-deyha (“her two sons” or “her two children”). oo-may-eeshah is “and from her husband.”

VERSE 6: vah-ta-kam is something new, a Vav-conversive in feminine form. One advantage of translating Ruth is that it is rare in the Bible for having feminine forms. The root is qof-vav-mem which means “rise” and it is past tense 3rd feminine singular. The Bible often uses “rise” to mean someone starts out in taking an action. ka-lo-teyha is the suffix for “her” added on to the plural from of the word kallah (kaf-lamed-heh). vah-ta-shav is from the root shin-vav-bet. sham-’ah is a Perfect form 3rd feminine singular from shin-mem-ayin. am-mo is the suffix “his” on the noun ayin-mem. la-tayt is the Infinitive from nun-tav-nun with lamed (“to”) prefixed. la-hem is “to them.” Why is the last word la-khem instead of the more common form lekhem? It is because the word occurs as the last one in the sentence and is said to be “in pause”. This is a complicated issue you will learn more about later.

VERSE 7: vah-tay-tzay is a Vav-conversive 3rd feminine singular from yod-tzadeh-alef. hai-y-tah is the Perfect 3rd feminine singular verb “to be” and used with shamah (the heh on the end of sham means something like “toward,” so this is something like “toward there”) it means not just “were there” but “lived there.” oo-shtay is the feminine variation of oo-shnay which we have already seen. vah-tay-lakh-nah is Vav-conversive 3rd feminine plural from heh-lamed-kaf.

Ruth 1:1-7 is a great text to introduce the idea of numbers in Hebrew. This passage has both kinds of numbers, which scholars call cardinal (counting numbers: one, two, three, etc.) and ordinal (sequence numbers: first, second, third, etc.).

But first, a little controversy. Can there be controversy in Hebrew grammar? Well, I will create one. And my intent in bringing this up is for students who might be confused by the overly meticulous explanations of some grammar textbooks about numbers in Hebrew. So far, I know for sure that Seow and Pratico-Van Pelt both make what I feel is a bad decision about how to teach numbers. The issue concerns the numbers 3-10 (forget about 1 and 2 for the moment, as they have their own peculiarities). Many grammars insist that the feminine forms of 3-10 are used with masculine nouns. I’m not even sure that’s technically correct. (They should learn a lesson from modern Hebrew.) The form may look feminine, but if it is used with masculine, guess what? It is a masculine (no one says the plural word for “father” is feminine)! BOTTOM LINE: I doubt that Seow and similar textbooks are even technically correct about the gender of numbers 3-10. But either way, the better way for students to learn numbers is to regard numbers that modify masculine nouns as masculine and vice-versa. A textbook which avoids confusing and unnecessary complications: The First Hebrew Primer by EKS Publishing.

Now that I have said that: numbers in Hebrew are not difficult. Let’s start with examples from Ruth. Let’s start with examples from Ruth 1:1-7. First I will list all the phrases with numbers in them and then explain how numbers work.

וּשְׁנֵי בָנָו
and his two sons
וְשֵׁם שְׁנֵי–בָנָו
and the name of his two sons
וּשְׁנֵי בָנֶיהָ
and her two sons
שֵׁם הָאַחַת עָרְפָּה וְשֵׁם הַשֵּׁנִית רוּת
the name of the first was Orpah and the name of the second was Ruth
כְּעֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים
for ten years
even the two of them
מִשְּׁנֵי יְלָדֶיהָ
from her two children
וּשְׁתֵּי כַלֹּתֶיהָ
and her two daughters-in-law

The nice thing about Ruth 1:1-7 as an example of numbers in the Hebrew Bible is that it contains some examples of ordinal (sequence) numbers and cardinal (counting). It also has both masculine and feminine numbers.

Feminine, one to ten, right to left:
אַחַת שְׁתַּיִם שָׁלֹשׁ אַרְבַּע חָמֵשׁ שֵׁשׁ שֶׁבַע שְׁמֹנֶה תֵּשַׁע עֶשֶׂר
Left to right transliteration: akhat, sh’taiyeem, shah-loash, ar-bah, khah-meish, sheish, she-vah, sh’monei, teishah, esser.
Masculine, one to ten, right to left:
אֶחָד שְׁנַיִם שְׁלֹשָׁה אַרְבָּעָה חֲמִשָּׁה שִׁשָּׁה שִׁבְעָה שְׁמֹנָה תִּשְׁעָה עֲשָׂרָה
Left to right transliteration: ekhad, sh’naiyeem, sh’loashah, ar-bah=ah, khah-mee-shah, sheeshah, sheev-ah, sh’monah, teesh-ah, assarah.

Is often shortened (in a form called construct):
שְׁנֵי = שְׁנַיִם / שְׁתֵי = שְׁתַיִם

Feminine: first, second, third (right to left):
רִאשׁוֹנָה שֵׁנִית שְׁלִישִׁית
Masculine: first, second, third (right to left):
רִאשׁוֹן שֵׁנִי שְׁלִישִׁי

Can also simply be feminine הָאַחַת and masculine הָאֶחָד. These could also be translated “the one” instead of “the first.”

Listen to audio from a live class for Lesson 2 here. Ruth #2

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