[b-hebrew] Recommend Dictionary and a Question

George Athas George.Athas at moore.edu.au
Tue Dec 9 18:53:52 EST 2008

Hi Mary!

To answer your lexicon question: It depends what level of Hebrew you are currently at and which level you're aiming to be at.

For beginners, I'd recommend the lexicon by Holladay. It's user-friendly, not overloaded with technicalities, but gives good information.

BDB had been the industry standard for a long time, but it is now 100 years old. As such, it does not incorporate the latest updates we have gained from such things as the Dead Sea Scrolls and Ugaritic. However, it is usually quite affordable.

The new industry standard lexicon is HALOT (Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament) by Köhler and Baumgartner. This is actually an English edition of the original, which is in German. This is a very good lexicon that is big enough to give technical information, but is still reasonably user-friendly. It is the lexicon I use day-to-day. Holladay's smaller lexicon is, if I remember rightly, an abridged version of HALOT.

With regards to the 'dash' you mentioned: It's called a maqqef. It's role is very similar to the hyphen in English -- it draws two words together into a close association. Most often this is to express a genitive relationship (X "of" Y), but not always. And, in fact, the genitive relationship often occurs without the maqqef at all. As such, it's not always a reliable indicator of a genitive relationship.

Technically, the maqqef simply draws two (or more) words together and effectively removes any primary stress from all words, except the final one (after which there is no maqqef). In other words, Hebrew treats the words in such a 'run on' chain as though they were really just one big long word. This is usually for the purpose of chanting the text in a liturgical setting -- that's what all the non-vowel dots and squiggles are around the consonants (the 'cantillation' marks).

I hope this helps.

Moore Theological College (Sydney)
Ph: 9577 9774. Mob: 0449 758 100

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