Three (Thirty, Etc)
Three (Thirty, etc.)
(Shalosh, שָׁלוֹשׁ שָׁלשׁ etc.) frequently occurs as a cardinal number; thus, שָׁלשׁ שָׁנים, three years (Le 19:23); as an ordinal, בַּשׁנִתאּשָׁלשׁ, in the third year (2Ki 18:1); in combination with other numbers, as שָׁלשׁ עֶשׂרֵה, thirteen; and it is also used in the plural as an ordinal for thirty, שׁלשַׁים (1Ki 16:23). For other forms and uses of the words, see the Hebrew lexicons.
The nouns שָׁלַישׁ שָׁלשׁ, and: שָׁלוֹשׁ literally, according to one derivation, a third man, are used in the sense of a commander or general, sometimes as connected with war-chariots or cavalry. Thus (Ex 14:7), "Pharaoh took all the chariots of Egypt and captains (שָׁלַשַׁם, third men) over all this armament" (עַל כּלּוֹ), no, as in our translation, "over every one of them;" Sept. τρι στάτας ἐπὶ πάντων, tristatce over all; Vulg. duces totius exercitus. So it is said (Ex 15:4) that "the choice of all Pharaoh's captains" (שׁלשֵׁי), or third men, were drowned; Sept. ἀναβάτας τριστάτας; Vulg. principes. The Septuagint word seems chosen upon the assumed analogy of its etymology to the Hebrew, quasi τριτο στάτης, "one who stands third." According to Origen, tristates has this meaning, because there were three persons in each chariot, of whom the first fought, the second protected him with a shield, and the third guided the horses. Wilkinson, however, says, "There were seldom three persons in an Egyptian war-chariot, except in triumphal processions. In the field each one had his own car with a charioteer" (Ancient Egyptians, 1, 335). Jerome, on Ezekiel 23:says, "Tristatce, among the Greeks, is the name of the second rank after the royal dignity." But it is possible that the ideal meaning of the verb שׁלשׁ may be to rule or direct, as appears from its share in such words as שָלַשׁים, "excellent things," or rather "rules and directions" (Pr 22:20), and משׁל," a proverb," from משׁל, "to rule," hence an authoritative precept. According to this sense, our translation renders the word שָׁלַישׁ "lord:" "a lord on whose hand the king leaned" (2Ki 7:2; comp. 2Ki 5:17,19). If the latter derivation of the Hebrew word be admitted, it will cease to convey any allusion to the number three; of which allusion Gesenius speaks doubtingly of any instance, but which he decidedly pronounces to be unsuitable to the first passage, where the word evidently stands in connection with war- chariots (see Gesenius, s.v. שׁלישׁ). SEE CAPTAIN.
Three days and three nights. "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." The apparent difficulty in these words arises from the fact that our Lord continued in the grave only one day complete, together with a part of the day on which he was buried and of that on which he rose again. The Hebrews had no word expressly answering to the Greek word νυχθήμερον, or natural day of twenty-four hours, an idea which they expressed by the phrases a night and a day or a day and a night. Thus (Da 8:14), "Unto two thousand and three hundred evening mornings (i.e. days, as it is in our translation), then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." Thus, also, what is called "forty days and forty nights" in Ge 7:12, is simply "forty days" in ver. 17; wherefore, as it is common in general computations to ascribe a whole day to what takes up only a part of it, when this was done in the Jewish language it was necessary to mention both day and night; hence a part of three days was called by them three days and three nights. We have another example in 1Sa 30:12, where the Egyptian whom David's men found in the field is said to have eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights. Nevertheless, in giving an account of himself, the Egyptian told them that his master had left him "because three days ago I fell sick;" in the Hebrew it is I fell sick this third day, that is, this is the third day since I fell sick. Indeed, among the Hebrews, things were said to be done after three days, which were done on the third day (comp. 2Ch 10:5 with ver. 12; De 14:28 with 26:2). Agreeably to these forms of speech, the prophecy of our Lord's resurrection from the dead-is sometimes represented as taking place after three days, sometimes on the third day (see Whitby, Macknight, Wakefield, Clarke, ad loc.).
The phrase "three and four," so often repeated (Amos 1), means abundance, anything that goes on towards excess. It finds its parallel in Virgil's well-known words, O terque quaterque beati ("O three and four times happy," En. 1, 94; see also Odyss. 5, 306).
Three has also been considered, both by Jews and Christians, as a distinguished or mystical number, like "seven," Ainsworth, on Genesis 22:4, has collected many such instances, but they appear to be somewhat fanciful. A ternary or trial arrangement of subjects, however, is very prevalent in the Bible (see an anonymous monograph on The Triads of Scripture [Lynchburg, 1866]). SEE NUMBER.