100d Numerals 3-10: The nouns for 3-10 are collective substantives. Each numeral has a double form, masculine and feminine, which one may compare with the French collectives, un sixain, une dizaine. 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.
4 French is said to copy the Semitic usage in expressions such as une dizaine d’hommes and un dizain de femmes. This peculiar usage has not yet been explained satisfactorily. The phenomenon seems to have something to do with linguistic psychology, and perhaps we should see here mainly an aesthetic tendency towards dissymmetry. This is in essence the reason suggested by Schultens long ago: “non injucunda connubia”! Another explanation of reflex kind is that the language may have wished thus to lay greater emphasis on the substantival character of these numerals (cf. Joüon 1913: 134ff.). The phenomenon is sometimes described in terms of polarity: see Ternes 2002 (contra Speiser 1938).
The rule in Hebrew is meticulously observed, so that from the masculine or feminine form of the numeral one can infer the feminine or masculine gender of the noun (cf. § 89 a)! Exceptions are rare (e.g. שְׁל֫שֶׁת נָשִׁים Gn 7.13; שְׁל֫שֶׁת כִּכְּרוֹת לֶחֶם 1Sm 10.3; שְׁל֫שֶׁת אַחְיֹתֵיהֶם Jb 1.4) and may be scribal errors. The principal form is the feminine form: it is this that is used, e.g. in Arabic—the reverse in Modern Hebrew—to express the number in an absolute fashion, e.g. in “3 is half of 6” (cf. § o); consequently the masculine form can be deduced from it. On the choice of the form in cases of the neuter, cf. § 152 g.
142d Numerals 3-10. For the nature of these numerals and the law of dissymmetry in their use, cf. § 100 d. They usually come before the noun, whether in the abs. state or in the cst. state; sometimes they come after [p. 493] it4. Thus the three types are: שְׁלשָׁה בָנִים three sons, שְׁל֫שֶׁת בָּנִים, properly speaking, a trio of sons, and בָּנִים שְׁלשָׁה sons three (in number). The cst. state is generally used when the noun has the article: Ex 34.28 עֲשֶׂ֫רֶת הַדְּבָרִים the ten commandments; 1Kg 11.35 עֲשֶׂ֫רֶת הַשְּׁבָטִים the ten tribes (but vs. 31 עֲשָׂרָה); likewise when the things counted are regarded as forming a group: 2Sm 24.13 שְׁל֫שֶׁת יָמִים [a group of] three days (cp. a triduum), but || שֶׁבַ֫ע שָׁנִים .. שְׁלשָׁה חֳדָשִׁים; hence, with the numerals for multiples of 100 and 1,000, the cst. state is always5 found: שְׁלשׁ מֵאוֹת 300; שְׁל֫שֶׁת אֲלָפִים 3,000. The noun which follows the numeral is almost always6 in the plural, especially in late books.