Beginner Hebrew books for non-academics

Trevor Peterson 06PETERSON at
Wed Dec 18 10:13:16 EST 2002

>===== Original Message From "Christopher V. Kimball" <kimball at> 
>Let's hope someone has a better dictionary recommendation than the
>classic, but scary Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon.

There are more compact and user-friendly resources available. Halliday comes 
to mind, although it's now somewhat out of date. (I wonder if there's any plan 
to update it.) HALOT is fairly user-friendly, but it's still on the pricey 
side for someone who doesn't plan to learn the language or to do so at a 
rather low level only. It probably has more information than such a user would 
need or want, and even in two volumes it's not all that convenient to carry 
around. BDB probably isn't worth the effort for someone who doesn't really 
plan to learn the language, although I still think it's an important resource 
for those with a more serious interest. Given the price and availability, 
there's really no excuse for not having it. I suppose the question is, what 
does a person want to do with the resources? If the point is not to read 
actual texts, probably a word study like NIDOTTE or TDOT is more useful. 
Personally, I would advocate a good concordance, which would eliminate much of 
the need for a lexicon with more common words. (The user could learn a lot 
more by looking at other contexts personally.) For less common words, the 
definition in a lexicon often requires a good deal of qualification and 
intricate argumentation based on obscure texts or other Semitic languages, 
which would probably go over the head of a beginner anyway. The gloss in a 
translation or two would probably be about as good a resource as any for 
something to run with. Beyond that, a good commentary should help.

Trevor Peterson

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