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Full Access The “Seven Eyes” of Zech 3:9 and the Meaning of the Dual Form*

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The “Seven Eyes” of Zech 3:9 and the Meaning of the Dual Form*

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AbstractThe so-called “dual” form, when it occurs with parts of the body naturally occurring in pairs such as hands and eyes, is not dual in meaning as commonly supposed, but rather plural. This explains why the phrase in Zech 3:9 means “seven eyes” and not, as occasionally suggested, “seven pairs of eyes.” This “dual-form plural” is only rarely used where terms for body parts are extended to other objects, making it unlikely that means either “facets” or “springs.”

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76. FN0 * )This article stems from my doctoral research on “The Removal of Sin in the Book of Zechariah.” I am grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Council ( for financial support through its doctoral awards scheme, and to Prof. Graham Davies, Prof. Geoffrey Khan, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of the article.
77. FN1 1)See, for example, Weingreen, p. 38; Lambdin, p. 100; Kelley, p. 40; Seow, p. 19; Ross, p. 71; Pratico and Van Pelt, p. 29; Futato, p. 20; Bergman, p. 33; Hackett, pp. 59-60.
78. FN2 2)GKC, §88e; Waltke and O’Connor, §7.3.b; Van der Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze, p. 186. Muraoka, similarly, takes רַגְלַ֫יִם to mean “both legs,” with the dual sometimes “doubling for” the plural (Joüon and Muraoka, §91ea).
79. FN3 3)Bauer and Leander, §63s; Joüon and Muraoka, §91ea; Weingreen, p. 38; Hostetter, pp. 41-42.
80. FN4 4)GKC, §88e.
81. FN5 5)GKC, §88f (italics mine).
82. FN6 6)Meyers and Meyers, p. 208.
83. FN7 7)Meyers and Meyers, p. 179.
84. FN8 8)Meyers and Meyers, pp. 209, 225, 254. They do, however, suggest in passing that the phrase might actually mean “seven pairs of eyes,” and hence “seven heads” (p. 225).
85. FN9 9)VanderKam, pp. 568-69.
86. FN10 10)VanderKam’s proposal is accepted by Tidiman (p. 120) and Klein (p. 150), and considered a possibility by Redditt (p. 65), Boda (p. 258 n. 32), and Petterson (pp. 96-97).
87. FN11 11)See Hanhart, p. 227; McComiskey, p. 1078; Sweeney, p. 603; Schaper, p. 181; Tiemeyer, p. 10; Willi-Plein, p. 89. Earlier statements of this conventional view may be found, for example, in GKC, §88f; Joüon and Muraoka, §91e; Waltke and O’Connor, §7.3b; Bauer and Leander, §63s; Brockelmann, §18a; Rignell, p. 129; Petitjean, p. 172 n. 3; Rudolph, p. 99.
88. FN12 12)McComiskey (p. 1078) and Schaper (p. 181) cite, respectively, Waltke and O’Connor, §7.3.b and GKC, §88f. However, both these grammars take the view that the dual form, when it occurs with parts of the body, can be either dual or plural, and they do not explain why שִׁבְעָה עֵינָ֑יִם cannot then mean “seven pairs of eyes.”
89. FN13 13)Rosén (p. 208) and Glinert (1989, pp. 450, 456) consider them plural forms in Modern Hebrew.
90. FN14 14)E.g. Steiner, p. 152. The term “pseudo-dual” is used in relation to Arabic dialects by Blanc (esp. pp. 45-47), who notes the parallel with Hebrew (p. 54). Blau prefers the designation “ex-dual,” reserving the term “pseudo-dual” for words such as צָהֳרַ֫יִם which do not derive from genuine duals (2010, pp. 270-71).
91. FN15 15)I am grateful to Dr. Philip Johnston for suggesting this latter term.
92. FN16 16)This fact, but not the explanation, is stated in Williams and Beckman, §4.
93. FN17 17)See generally Fontinoy, pp. 49-61; Joüon and Muraoka, §91.
94. FN18 18)Opinions are divided as to whether dual verbs and personal pronouns are also found in Biblical Hebrew, or whether these alleged dual forms are to be explained on the basis of a lack of grammatical concord, especially the use of masculine plural forms in place of feminine ones. The former position is taken by, for example, Rendsburg (1982 and 2001) and Tropper (1992), while the latter is argued by Blau (1988) and Bar-Asher.
95. FN19 19)Fontinoy, p. 200; Lipiński 1997, p. 236.
96. FN20 20)Soggin, p. 80.
97. FN21 21)Cross and Freedman describe the use of the dual in this verse as “archaic” (p. 19). Other exceptional cases such as דְּרָכַ֫יִם (Prov 28:6, 18) and עֲצַלְתַּ֫יִם (Eccl 10:18) are variously explained. It is possible that some are “false duals” (see below), for example כִּפְלַ֫יִם (Isa 40:2; Job 11:6), on which see Joüon and Muraoka, §100o.
98. FN22 22)E.g. Gen 4:19; 10:25; Lev 24:6; Num 7:17.
99. FN23 23) PaceRoss, p. 71; Pratico and Van Pelt, p. 28.
100. FN24 24)Compare, for example, שְׁנֵי כְּבָשִׂים (Lev 23:20) and שְׁנַיִם פָּרִים‎ (1 Kgs 18:23).
101. FN25 25)See GKC, §88c-d; Fontinoy, pp. 54-56 Joüon and Muraoka, §91f-h, §100o. These “false duals” should be distinguished from historically dual forms which no longer have a dual meaning, for which Blau prefers the term “ex-dual” (2010, pp. 270-71).
102. FN26 26)See Joüon and Muraoka, §91ea.
103. FN27 27)Fontinoy, p. 20.
104. FN28 28)In the case of שָׂפָה (lip), however, the plural form occurs seven times (Isa 59:3; Ps 45:3; 59:8[7]; Song 4:3, 11; 5:13; Eccl 10:12) with no obvious difference in meaning from the more usual dual form.
105. FN29 29)Occasionally the dual is used even in such cases (e.g., אַרְבַּע רַגְלָיו in Exod 25:26; שְׁלֹשׁ־הַשִּׁנַּ֫יִם in 1 Sam 2:13), perhaps because of a particularly close resemblance to the body part concerned, or because the extended meaning arose after the dual form became established as the usual form of the plural for the body part in question.
106. FN30 30)Sometimes, however, an extended meaning using the plural is itself a bodily one, for example, קַרְנוֹת שֵׁן (ivory tusks, Ezek 27:15). The plural form כַּפּוֹת occurs in the expressions כַּפּוֹת רַגְלַ֫יִם (soles of the feet, e.g. Josh 4:18; 1 Kgs 5:17) and כַּפּוֹת יָדַ֫יִם‎ (palms of the hands, 1 Sam 5:4; 2 Kgs 9:35; Dan 10:10), but where כַּף simply means “hand” the dual form is used for the plural.
107. FN31 31)For example, אֶרֶךְ אַפַּ֫יִם (Exod 34:6) and רַחֲבַת יָדַ֫יִם (Judg 18:10). Such examples show that it is not precise to say that the plural is preferred where the sense is “figurative” (Joüon and Muraoka, §91d) or “metaphorical” (Waltke and O’Connor, §7.3b).
108. FN32 32)In Dan 8 the forms קְרָנַ֫יִם (vv. 3, 6, 20) and קְרָנָיו (v. 7) occur, presumably following the analogy of the plural (see Joüon and Muraoka, §91b).
109. FN33 33)On קַרְנוֹת שֵׁן (Ezek 27:15) see note 30.
110. FN34 34) PaceVan Hoonacker (p. 612), who thinks that this form should be read in Zech 3:9.
111. FN35 35)This may also be true of the nouns in category (2), if the idea of duality in such cases is lexical rather than grammatical (as with English “scissors”).
112. FN36 36)GKC, §88f.
113. FN37 37)The same holds for שְׁתֵּי יָדָ֑י (Deut 9:15, 17), שְּׁתֵי עֵינַי (Judg 16:28), שְׁנֵי שָׁדַ֫יִךְ (Song 4:5; 7:4), and ‏שְׁתֵּי קְרָנָיו (Dan 8:7). These forms are presumably dual forms since the masculine plural of the nouns in question is unattested, but the numeral would be redundant either way. On קְרָנָיו see note 32.
114. FN38 38)This argument is a slight adaptation of one made by Glinert (1976, pp. 1-2) in relation to Modern Hebrew. Glinert sees the duality of, for example, רַגְלַ֫יִם as pragmatic rather than semantic (p. 2).
115. FN39 39)Barr, p. 69.
116. FN40 40)See Williams and Beckman, §4.
117. FN41 41) PaceFink, who claims that שֵׁשׁ כְּנָפַ֫יִם may be understood as “six pairsof wings” (p. 123).
118. FN42 42) PaceFink, p. 122.
119. FN43 43)Cf. Wenham, p. 175; Milgrom, p. 664.
120. FN44 44)As Péter-Contesse points out (p. 185), the Israelites can scarcely have been ignorant of this fact.
121. FN45 45)Wenham, 175. Cf. Milgrom, p. 664; Péter-Contesse, p. 185.
122. FN46 46)Fink, pp. 122-23.
123. FN47 47)See Blau’s comments on the same phenomenon in Christian Arabic (1966-67, §108).
124. FN48 48)See Lipiński 1997, p. 238.
125. FN49 49)See Blau 1966-67, §§106-11; Blau 1981, p. 89; Blanc.
126. FN50 50)See, for example, Joüon and Muraoka, §92f.
127. FN51 51)Nöldeke, p. 51; Bauer and Leander, §64f; Ginsberg, p. 549; Fontinoy, p. 26; Steiner, p. 153. The latter sees the borrowing as specifically “from the pseudo-dual” (p. 153).
128. FN52 52)I am grateful to Prof. Geoffrey Khan for this observation.
129. FN53 53)Even these are occasionally neglected in some later writings. E.g., שְׁתַּ֫יִם שָׁנִים in 2 Sam 2:10; 2 Kgs 21:19; 2 Chr 33:21; שְׁתַּ֫יִם אַמּוֹת in Ezek 40:9; 41:3, 22; 43:14.
130. FN54 54)Glinert notes their absence in the construct state in Modern Hebrew (1976, p. 3). The form ירחו in the Gezer Calendar (ca. 10th century BC), however, is widely interpreted as either a dual construct or a dual with a proleptic pronominal suffix, although opinions differ as to its precise explanation (see Tropper 1993; Renz, pp. 32-34; Sivan).
131. FN55 55)With the exception of כִּכָּר זָהָב טָהוֹר in Exod 25:39; 37:24, כִּכָּר is always in the construct state before the commodity it relates to (Exod 38:27; 2 Sam 12:30; 1 Kgs 9:14; 10:10, 14; 20:39; 2 Kgs 5:5, 22; 15:19; 18:14; 23:33; Zech 5:7; Esth 3:9; 1 Chr 19:6; 20:2; 29:4; 2 Chr 8:18; 9:9, 13; 25:6; 27:5; 36:3).
132. FN56 56)The view that this is “a lectio mixta” (Joüon and Muraoka, §91b) or “Kompromißform” (Bauer and Leander, §26p) between כִּכְּרֵי and כִּכָּרַ֫יִם is problematic because, as already noted, the ֵי- construct ending is not found with this type of dual.
133. FN57 57)Since עַ֫יִן is feminine, one would ordinarily expect the numeral to take the form שֶׁ֫בַע, but the longer form occurs with a feminine noun also in Gen. 7:13; 1 Sam 10:3; Job 1:4; Jer 36:23. Joüon and Muraoka suggest that such exceptions may be “scribal errors” (§100d n. 4), and see the unexpected gender in Zech 3:9 as signalling a “figurative meaning,” namely “ engraved eyes” (§134a n. 2). But the only other examples of this phenomenon they provide are Zech 4:10 and 1 Sam 14:4-5.
134. FN58 58)Exod 15:27; Num 33:9; Deut 8:7; 2 Chr 32:3; Prov 8:28. PaceLipiński, who argues that עֵינָ֫יִם in Zech 3:9 is an Aramaism (1970, p. 26). Lipiński claims that in Aramaic עַ֫יִן is usually masculine when it has the sense “spring,” citing the form עינין in Targum Onqelosat Deut 8:7 and in the Targum of Chroniclesat 2 Chr 32:3. But in the places cited the editions of Sperber (p. 305) and Le Déaut and Robert (p. 153) show the feminine plural form עֵינָוָן.
135. FN59 59) PaceWellhausen, p. 181; Mitchell, p. 157.
136. FN60 60)In the expression עֵין (כָּל־)הָאָרֶץ in Exod 10:5, 15; Num 22:5, 11, עַ֫יִן probably “meint . . . nicht »Oberfläche« im konkreten Sinne, sondern ungefähr »das, was man in Blickfeld hat«” (Rignell, p. 132 n. 1). This is the view taken by BDB (p. 744), HALOT(vol. 2, p. 818), and Gesenius, Meyer, and Donner (vol. 4, p. 956). None of these dictionaries include Zech 3:9 here, or indeed recognise the meaning “facet.” Nor is it convincing to argue that עַ֫יִן in Zech 3:9 means “gleam” and that “seven gleams” must come from seven facets ( paceMitchell, p. 157).
137. FN61 61)See, however, note 29. Waltke and O’Connor interpret שִׁבְעָה עֵינָ֑יִם as “carving facets” and take this as proof that “the metaphorical sense of a natural-pair term can be pluralized with a dual,” which begs the question.
138. FN62 62) PaceElliger, pp. 123-24; Petersen, p. 212. The occurrence of the divine name in the short form יהו in theophoric names and in texts from Elephantine (see Porten, pp. 105-6) and Kuntillet ʿAjrud (see Davies, pp. 80-81) is in any case scarcely evidence that this was also the form used on the high priest’s צִיץ. A number of other inscriptions once thought to contain the word יהו, including those on jar handles found on the eastern hill of Jerusalem, are now considered to have read יהד (Sukenik; Williamson, p. 65). I am grateful to Prof. Jan Joosten for drawing my attention to this fact.

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