Archived Blog Post: June 6, 2003
The Confusion of Hebrew Numbers - "In the modern Hebrew Bible all numbers are written out in full, but for a long time the text was written without vowels [which] made it possible to confuse two words which are crucial to this problem: 'eleph and 'alluph. Without vowel points these words look identical: 'lp. 'Eleph' is the ordinary word for 'thousand', but it can also be used in a variety of other senses: e.g. 'family' (Judges 6:15, Revised Version.) or 'clan' (Zechariah 9:7; 12:5,6, RSV) or perhaps a military unit. 'Alluph' is used for the 'chieftains' of Edom (Genesis 36:15-43); probably for a commander of a military 'thousand'; and almost certainly for the professional, fully-armed soldier."