On the noun אִישׁ in Judges 8:22

וַיֹּאמְר֤וּ אִֽישׁ־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶל־גִּדְע֔וֹן מְשָׁל־בָּ֙נוּ֙ גַּם־אַתָּ֔ה גַּם־בִּנְךָ֖ גַּ֣ם בֶּן־בְּנֶ֑ךָ כִּ֥י הוֹשַׁעְתָּ֖נוּ מִיַּ֥ד מִדְיָֽן׃

Then those [who fought] on Israel’s side said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son, and your grandson as well; for you have saved us from the Midianites.”

(The above rendering comes from the RJPS translation—an adaptation of the NJPS translation—showing a slight modification projected for October 2023. Before accounting for this rendering, I will analyze the plain sense of the אִישׁ term, by employing a situation-oriented construal as outlined in “Notes on Gender in Translation,” pp. 11–16.)

When a referring expression includes אִישׁ in construct with a group name, such as אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל֙, our noun marks its referent’s defining participation in the depicted situation. Here, it labels the assembled militia (see vv. 24–25 for the presupposition that Gideon’s interlocutor fought in the battle) in terms of their participation in the recent battle. The militia’s members are construed as a unit—hence the singular noun. This usage regards them as one of the two sides in the battle.

The “collective” usage of אִישׁ is evident from the mismatch in grammatical number (plural governing verb) in this clause. On the meaning and extent of this conventional usage in the context of hostilities, see further my comment at Josh 10:24.

As for rendering into English, the NJPS ‘the men of Israel’ misses the situational nuance. On properly rendering the collective usage of אִישׁ into idiomatic English, see my comment at Josh 10:24. Meanwhile, the fact that women are not in view is self-evident from the military context.