4

According to Bible Hub's Interlinear Bible, in

  • Songs 1:6, "do not look at me"
  • Songs 2:7 and 3:5, "that you do not wake and that you do not awaken love"
  • likewise Songs 8:4, "do not wake and do not awaken love"
  • Songs 5:8, "if you find my beloved"

the verb is masculine plural, even though the people being addressed are explicitly the יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם בְּנ֣וֹת ("daughters of Jerusalem", with "daughters" being a feminine plural noun).

Other points in Song of Songs where the accompanying people - who may or may not be the same "daughters of Jerusalem" - are treated grammatically as masculine plural are:

  • "Eat, friends; drink, and get drunk on, love" (Songs 5:1), where both the noun "friends" and all the verbs are masculine plural.
  • "How you would gaze upon the Shulammitess" (Songs 6:13), addressing those who had said "Return, return, O Shulammitess, return, return, that we may gaze upon you", who are presumably representatives of "her noble people" whom she had just mentioned; the verb "you would gaze" is masculine plural.

But despite the "daughters of Jerusalem" having a masculine plural verb, the "daughters of Zion" addressed in Songs 3:11 have a feminine plural verb! ("Go out and look, O daughters of Zion, upon King Solomon...", where both imperatives are feminine plural; the word "daughters" is the same word בְּנ֥וֹת as in "daughters of Jerusalem".) Incidentally, the previous sentence ends by mentioning the "daughters of Jerusalem".

Why are the "daughters of Jerusalem" treated as grammatically masculine? Are they all women, or not?

Would it be normal in ancient Hebrew for a crowd of women to be treated as grammatically masculine?

(And why is the situation different for the "daughters of Zion", who are treated as grammatically feminine?)


[I don't know whether the answer to this question might have some overlap with the answer to my question What are the banner-bearers in Songs 6:4 and 6:10, and why is the word feminine?, as that is also about a potentially surprising grammatical gender for a group of people (although in the other direction, namely an army being feminine plural).]

  • The Septuaigint's interpretation/translation of this might be helpful as well. LXX, Songs 1:6 – elika kohen Feb 13 at 3:47
  • @elika kohen Thank you. Yes, the LXX is often useful to consider. Did you envisage it providing some particular insight towards my question here? – Julian Newman Feb 13 at 10:39
1

Thanks so much for the question. I'd noticed the masc./fem. disparity in other places before, but it was the "daughters of Jerusalem" example that brought up useful hits.

  1. The Gender Challenge of Hebrew - Malka Muchnik - p. 52

  2. The Bible as a Human Witness to Divine Revelation: Hearing the Word of God - edited by Randall Heskett, Brian Irwin - p. 289

  3. The Deliberate Substitution of the Masculine for the Feminine Pronominal Suffixes in the Hebrew Bible - Mayer G. Slonim [from the Jewish Quarterly Review pp. 139-158]

The third source [and seeming treasure trove of examples] is a JSTOR article. It states on p. 158:

In conclusion, this survey of the evidence seems to indicate that the scribes deliberately changed the gender of pronominal suffixes to force the reader, through the shock of ungrammatical endings, to ponder some hidden meaning of the text....

He goes on to list other observations; however, the above statement fits best from my angle of study.

  1. Song of Songs - Which is Solomon's - Ron Wallace

Incidentally, she uses the 2nd masculine PLURAL form of the verb whenever she addresses the group designated as the daughters of Jerusalem. This normally means that the group addressed is all male or contains both male and female. In this case we do not see a "mixed" company of men and women unless the group contains several eunuchs. This possibility could explain the use of the masculine plural since the eunuchs would be "officially" identified with the daughters of Jerusalem, being ever present and attending them.

Personally, I think it's possible that the many 'curiosities' in the Tanach have to do with 'spiritual origins/parents'. Ron Wallace comments that the Shulamite woman appears to have only a mother. Certainly Esau, Benjamin and the 'beautiful, red' David have unique origins.

Ever grateful to those who supply the OT interlinear and vast commentary/studies to allow such as me to participate in this intriguing, marvelous jourey.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.