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In the following verse:

גּם־חֹשֶׁךְ֘ לֹֽא־יַחְשִׁ֪יךְ מִ֫מֶּ֥ךָ וְ֭לַיְלָה כַּיּ֣וֹם יָאִ֑יר כַּ֜חֲשֵׁיכָ֗ה כָּאוֹרָֽה׃

Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

(Psa 139:12 NAU)

Why are the words "darkness" and "light" in their feminine form ? (no feminine words in the verse) What does these forms refer to ?

My only idea would be to relate them to the word "night", but this relation would not be clear: even though the word לַיְלָה is masculine, its plural form looks like a feminine form : לֵילוֹת (a "plural indefinite form" according to Wiktionary ). Could that explains the feminine forms for the aforementioned words or is there something else?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The most obvious answer seems to be euphony. Write that clause in the masculine form - it doesn't ring smoothly as all, and sounds to my ear less balanced in its lacking of syllables. You're reading a verse from Psalms - it's a poem, euphony is a crucial element. These weren't verses studied in Bible school, they were songs sung by artists.

The word אור is essentially feminine (Strong H216 and Gesenius 122o), so seeing it in feminine form shouldn't be surprising if there's phonetic reason (the same reason it appears in its feminine form in Esther 8:16). חשיכה is a form that appears sufficiently often so precedent doesn't need to be established. I don't see any connection to the word לילה.

If you're looking for deeper meaning, I'm not sure there is one - euphony is more than enough to justify this construct. Although one could argue that the feminine form describes subservient things (see Gesenius 122), which would go to emphasise that these forces of nature are subservient to God.

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