Thanks for chipping in! I'll try to explain it as good as I'm able. The way I see it, the main problem is this:
"1. The formation of the cardinal numbers from 3 to 10 (on 1 and 2 see below) has this peculiarity, that numerals connected with a masculine substantive take the feminine form, and those with a feminine substantive take the masculine form.
The common explanation of this strange phenomenon used to be that the primary form of the numeral was an abstract noun in the feminine (cf. § 122 p). This was originally attached in the constr. st. to the word qualified, then came to be also used in apposition to it, and finally was placed after it like an adjective. The consequence of the appositional, and finally adjectival, construction was, that for numerals connected with feminine nouns a special shorter form came to be used, whilst the original forms, with the abstract feminine ending, were used in connexion with masculine nouns, after as well as before them.
A different and much more intelligible explanation of the striking disagreement between the gender of the numeral and that of the word numbered has recently been given by Reckendorf, Die syntaktischen Verhältnisse des Arabischen, pt. ii, Leiden, 1898, p. 265 ff. He also considers that the earliest forms were abstract numerals which were placed in the constr. st. before the noun numbered, the latter depending on them in the genitive. The original form, however, of the abstract numerals from 3 to 9 is not the feminine, but the masculine, used for both genders, as it still is in the tens, 20, 30, &c. The feminine abstract numeral was first distinguished by a special form in the numbers from 13 to 19 (see further, below) when connected with masculines, and this distinction was afterwards extended to the numbers from 3 to 10. This explanation does not affect the view stated above that the appositional and adjectival use of the abstract numerals was only adopted later in addition to their use in the genitive construction."
"The differentiation of the numerals (originally of common gender) into masculine and feminine forms in the second decade, was occasioned, according to Reckendorf, by the use of the abstract feminine עֶשְׂרֵה in compounds. So long as it was felt that עשְׂרֵה, שְׁלשׁ simply meant the three of the decade, the gender of the noun numbered made no diffference. When, however, the consciousness of this meaning became weakened and the combination of units and tens came to be felt as a copulative rather than a genitive relation, it seemed suitable to connect only feminine nouns with the feminine form עֶשְׂרֵה. New forms were therefore invented, both of the units and the tens, for use with masculine nouns. The former, however, no longer had the form of the constr. but of the absolute state, clearly showing that the consciousness of the original syntactical relation in עשְׂרֵה, שְׁלשׁ, &c., was lost. On the other hand, after the extension of these new formations to the first decade, the new feminine forms readily came to be used also in the genitive construction (and therefore in the constr. st.) on the analogy of the earlier masculine forms."
This basically means that Reckendorf as well as Gesenius rejects the notion that there originally was any gender polarity between the noun and number - chiastic concord, as I call it - but rather a later convention/invention. Muraoka and others do not follow this interpretation, but merely state that the morphological genders of noun and number are polarised.
"A most remarkable peculiarity of the numerals 3-10, which goes back to Common Semitic, is that the feminine collective is used with masculine nouns and the masculine collective with feminine nouns4."
This is the main reason why I don't buy into Gesenius/Reckendorf's theory: The morphological gender polarity is the same for all Semitic languages. This hasn't changed one bit since Akkadian, the oldest Semitic language attested, as some sort of later development. For instance:
erbet isušu - four fingers. "Four" is in the feminine singular absolute state (masc. abs sg.: erbe), while "isušu" is in the masculine nominative plural. (Note that Akkadian absolute state does not equal the Hebrew absolute state which merely is the basic state of the noun. The absolute state in Akkadian is a special case-less form with no ending for masculine and -at for feminine. The form occurs in god names, certain fixed expressions, distributives and numerals, the latter which stand in apposition to the noun. While the numbers in the absolute state semantically work the same way and also look like the construct state, there is no dependent genitive, meaning that the following noun should've been in the genitive case if it were an actual construct state. This lack of genitive is unlike Hebrew numbers where the number may be in the construct state, or apposition. At any rate, the gender polarity is the same.)
Walte & O'Connor
"The cardinal substantives ‘three-ten’ do not simply agree with the noun enumerated but, following a rule of opposition, have the morphological gender contrary to that noun."
"This patterning has aroused a great deal of commentary, most of it useless. The general idea that the Semitic languages rely on certain patterns of polarity has been rejected by E. A. Speiser, who essays his own explanation for the cardinal number and gender problem; see “The Pitfalls of Polarity,” Language 14 (1938) 187–202, reprinted in his Oriental and Biblical Studies, ed. J. J. Finkelstein and Moshe Greenberg (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1967) 433–54. For a recent explanation using polarity, see Robert Hetzron, “Agaw Numerals and In congruence in Semitic,” Journal of Semitic Studies 12 (1967) 169–97; he alleges that the plural of a masculine noun was feminine and vice versa."
"But whereas numbers 1 and 2 show agreement in gender between the number and the noun, numbers 3 through 10 do not. Rather, feminine forms modify masculine nouns, and masculine forms modify feminine nouns."
"With numbers three through ten, there is no change in spelling, except to indicate gender and state. Like number two, these numbers are classified as nouns but they do not agree in gender with the other nouns to which they are related. In other words, masculine numbers can be used with feminine nouns and feminine numbers can be used with masculine nouns. Note also that while the numbers are singular in form, the nouns are plural."
As for comparative Semitic grammars as well as the specialized ones for other Semitic languages, I have not found Gesenius'/Reckendorf's explanation anywhere. They all treat the cardinals and nouns as morphological gender opposites. Nevertheless, Muraoka does mention that one may choose to look at the more complex cardinal constructions as one compound, meaning that the gender in one sense is the same, at least semantically - but not morphologically, mind you:
" One can say that the total number, e.g. 13, is masc. or fem., depending on whether the second component is masc. עָשָׂר or fem. עֶשְׂרֵה."
I believe this was what Anon wanted to point out as well as for the numbers 3 through 10, depending on the gender of the noun in question - And I don't disagree that one may look at it that way semantically, but my original agenda with this thread was of a morphological nature, especially seeing that the Biblical text is morphologically tagged. Still, my flaw in this was that I completely ignored the morphological theory of Reckendorf/Gesenius due to the conformity of the other grammars on this subject. (And there are others who also reject chiastic concord, as mentioned in the note by Walte & O'Connor.) While this is a no-brainer to me due to the morphological uniformity of cardinals for all Semitic languages, it is still true there is a strong element of interpretation to these things, and as such, one, several or all the scholars mentioned above may be completely wrong about this.
Edited by Pchris, Today, 06:53 AM.