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In Deuteronomy 10:17, it is written,

כִּי יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הוּא אֱלֹהֵי הָאֱלֹהִים וַאֲדֹנֵי הָאֲדֹנִים הָאֵל הַגָּדֹל הַגִּבֹּר וְהַנּוֹרָא אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשָּׂא פָנִים וְלֹא יִקַּח שֹׁחַד

Are both אֱלֹהֵי and אֲדֹנֵי plural or singular? If plural, how come they do not have ם at the end?

Edit: Based on the answers provided to my question, would Deuteronomy 10:17 be translated “god of gods and lord of lords” or “gods of gods and lords of lords”?

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    This site is for hermeneutical questions. Answers typically involve engagement with the source text. However, this site is not for questions about basic grammar. It is also a rather inefficient way to learn a language - find a textbook and study that, it will teach you more and faster. – user2672 Nov 28 '18 at 18:18
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    @Keelan—Unless I am mistaken, grammar questions are on-topic here as long as they pertain to a specific biblical verse. Hence, there is a grammar tag which states, “Understanding the grammar of the source texts; this tag should be accompanied by the appropriate language tag.” – Der Übermensch Nov 28 '18 at 18:40
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    @DerÜbermensch the meaning of the text should be central. – user2672 Nov 28 '18 at 19:22
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    I agree with Keelan. For this question to be on-topic the OP needs to explain how number creates a problem in regard to the meaning of the text. – enegue Nov 29 '18 at 20:20
  • Thank you all! I ask this question because if they were plural, the translations would "Gods of Gods" and "Lords of Lords"; if they were singular, the translations would be "God of Gods" and "Lord of Lords". It was confusing to me when I was reading commentaries about these two words. Thank you for your suggestions! – Chin-Lee Chan Dec 2 '18 at 13:06
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To answer your question, you must understand the Hebrew genitive construction and the construct state of a noun.

According to Wikipedia on the word סְמִיכוּת,

סמיכות היא צירוף של שני שמות עצם שיש ביניהם קשר הדוק. השם הראשון בצירוף נקרא נִסְמָךְ והשני נקרא סוֹמֵךְ.

A smikhut (סְמִיכוּת) is a combination of two nouns which have a close connection between them. The first noun in the combination is called nismakh (נִסְמָךְ), and the second [noun] is called somekh (סוֹמֵךְ).

Each of the phrases in your question is a smikhut, or “genitive construction”:

  • אלהי האלהים
  • אדני האדנים

In a smikhut, the spelling of אֱלֹהִים as the נִסְמָךְ (head/first noun) will change to אֱלֹהֵי.

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The spelling of the סוֹמֵךְ or second noun in the smikhut remains the same.

In Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar, Pratico and Van Pelt write,1

Pratico, Gary D.; Van Pelt, Miles V. Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar: Second Edition, p. 101

To answer the question you presented in the comments:

I gather that elohei is a plural construct noun "Gods of" However, I cannot make sense out of how it was in used in its context like "Gods of Gods"? How you understand it?

In Hebrew, the grammatically plural word אֱלֹהִים can be translated into English as the singular “god” or the plural “gods.” This would also apply to its construct form אֱלֹהֵי, except that you would add “of” after it (i.e., “[the] god of” or “[the] gods of”). The context typically assists the translator in determining which. Now, suppose you were inclined to translate it as the plural “gods of” rather than the singular “god of.” If you read further in the verse, you would encounter the phrase הָאֵל הַגָּדֹל הַגִּבֹּר וְהַנּוֹרָא (ha-el ha-hadol ha-gibbor veha-nora). Since these words are declined in the singular number, and they, like אֱלֹהֵי הָאֱלֹהִים וַאֲדֹנֵי הָאֲדֹנִים, all refer to the same subject that occurs earlier in the verse, i.e., יהוה, you could be assured that אֱלֹהֵי should be translated as the singular “the god of.” Also, there’s the pronoun הוּא (hu) which precedes the phrase in question; that pronoun is declined in the 3rd person, singular number: “he.”


Footnotes

1 p. 101

References

Pratico, Gary D.; Van Pelt, Miles V. Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar: Second Edition. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

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  • Thank you Der Ubermensch and b a for your help! I will check out the Grammar book which could be easier than the one that I have. I gather that elohei is a plural construct noun "Gods of" However, I cannot make sense out of how it was in used in its context like "Gods of Gods"? How you understand it? – Chin-Lee Chan Dec 2 '18 at 13:21
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    @Chin-LeeChan—I edited my answer to answer your question. – Der Übermensch Dec 2 '18 at 13:57
  • Ubermensch Thank you for all your help by demonstrating how you make sure of the context!! So it is sure that "elohei" is plural construct. However the context has so many indication that "elohei" is a single entity. For a common reader, can "elohei" understood as a personal proper name construct and the translation be "Elohim of" where "Elohim" is the personal proper name of a single entity "Elohim of Israel" ? – Chin-Lee Chan Dec 2 '18 at 14:31

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