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Exodus 1:10:

הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה לוֹ פֶּן יִרְבֶּה וְהָיָה כִּי תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם הוּא עַל שֹׂנְאֵינוּ וְנִלְחַם בָּנוּ וְעָלָה מִן הָאָרֶץ

The pharaoh was worried about what the growing Israelite nation might do when תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה. What does תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה mean? "תִקְרֶאנָה" is the future-tense, feminine, second- or third-person, plural form of either "קרה", "occur", or "קרא", "call out" or "read". There's no clear feminine plural subject referred to. Does it mean "when other nations will call out for war", with some implied feminine word meaning "nations" (like "אומות" perhaps)? Or what does it mean?

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Rav Hirsch says that תקראנה as a plural form and מלחמה as a singular form leads to

מלחמה is probably not the subject but the object, and תקראנה - happenings, as in Isaiah XLI, 22. (and the translation would read: When events are War, i.e. when occurrences bring war ... I.L)

Rav Hirsch says that Par'o was thinking that the Bnai Yisrael would act in the same way that the Egyptians would act if conditions were reversed.

Perhaps after all, there are two separate apprehensions. If anybody feels enmity towards someone, he usually attributes a similar feeling in that person to himself. Pharaoh might say: "The Jews are our enemies, and likely to be treacherous to us. If they become numerous and war breaks out, they will be on the side of our enemies; and in any case, if we let them become numerous, Goshen will no longer contain them, and we shall have them spreading ove the whole land."

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Chizkuni notes a few other times that "war/מלחמה" takes plural verbs, as if to say "wars will occur".

Chizkuni offers alternatively that it means "when the occurrences of war will occur", with the feminine plural noun elided. Similarly, S'forno says it means "when the evils and troubles of a war will occur", with the feminine plural nouns elided.

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Ralbag (there) explains that the plural refers to קורות מלחה; war events, and states that this is Ibn Ezra's opinion as well. (See the second version of Ibn Ezra here).

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  • This is the same as Chizkuni's second explanation; see my answer post. – msh210 Jan 7 '18 at 15:48
  • @msh210 Hizkuni is presumably channeling Ibn Ezra. – mevaqesh Jan 7 '18 at 16:00

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