Book Review: Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible

Cover: Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible Author: Jeff A. Benner
 Publisher: Virtualbookworm.com Publishing
 Total Pages: 616
 Copyright: 2005
 ISBN: 1589397762

Many people are looking to learn how to study the Bible effectively. One of the most common reference books that people use when studying the Scriptures is a Bible concordance, of which the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible is the most popular. However, one major problem with the Strong's Concordance is that the definitions are written from a Western perspective. But because the Hebrew Bible (known in Hebrew as the Tanakh but incorrectly called the old testament) was written in biblical Hebrew, from a Hebraic mindset, this prevents the reader from understanding the original intent of the passages. In order to correctly understand the Scriptures, the Hebrew words must be understood within their original cultural setting.

Quoting from an excellent article by Jeff A. Benner:

Greek thought views the world through the mind (abstract thought). Ancient Hebrew thought views the world through the senses (concrete thought).

Concrete thought is the expression of concepts and ideas in ways that can be seen, touched, smelled, tasted and/or heard. All five of the senses are used when speaking and hearing and writing and reading the Hebrew language. An example of this can be found in Psalms 1:3; "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither". In this passage we have concrete words expressing abstract thoughts, such as a tree (one who is upright, righteous), streams of water (grace), fruit (good character) and a unwithered leaf (prosperity).

Abstract thought is the expression of concepts and ideas in ways that can not be seen, touched, smelled, tasted or heard. Hebrew never uses abstract thought as English does. Examples of Abstract thought can be found in Psalms 103:8; "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger, abounding in love". As you noticed I said that Hebrew uses concrete and not abstract thoughts, but here we have such abstract concepts as compassionate, gracious, anger, and love in a Hebrew passage. Actually these are abstract English words translating the original Hebrew concrete words. The translators often translate this way because the original Hebrew makes no sense when literally translated into English.

Let us take one of the abstract words above to demonstrate how this works. Anger, an abstract word, is actually the Hebrew word (awph) which literally means "nose", a concrete word. When one is very angry, he begins to breath hard and the nostrils begin to flare. A Hebrew sees anger as "the flaring of the nose (nostrils)". If the translator literally translated the above passage "slow to nose", it would make no sense to the English reader, so " ", a nose, is translated to "anger" in this passage.

The example above shows the richness and depth of the actual Hebrew words. This type of understanding can be accomplished by using the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, written by Jeff A. Benner.

Benner is the founder of the Ancient Hebrew Research Center. This excellent Web site provides a wealth of material for studying the ancient Hebrew language, its thought pattern, and within its cultural setting. This allows the student to correctly understand the original intent and meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Benner's Hebrew lexicon does just that: defines the Hebrew letters, words and roots within their ancient cultural context. And you don't need to be an expert in the Hebrew language to use this book. In fact, you don't even need to know the Hebrew alphabet. Benner has created an excellent study and research tool for all types of users. (However, if you're interested, Benner does have a program for learning the Hebrew language on his Web site.)

(For additional information of Hebraic thought vs. Greek [Western] thought, see "Abstract vs. Concrete: How Hebraic Thought Differs from Greek" and "Hebrew Thought".)

Using the Lexicon

The following is a short tutorial written by Benner showing how easy it is to use the Lexicon:

Let's use the word "beginning" from Genesis 1.1 as an example of how to use the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible ("Lexicon"). Using Strong's Concordance we will find that it is given the number 7225.

Next, turn to the Lexicon and go to the Strong's Number index, which begins on page 555. Now look up the Strong's number 7225. (You will find it on page 572.) To the right of this is the ancient Hebrew number 1458-D (N4). The number 1458 is the parent root number, the D is the child root letter and the N4 identifies the word as a noun. (For more on the numbering system, see page 45 in the Lexicon.)

Now we need to find this word in the Lexicon. Go to page 267 and in the right column near the bottom is number 1458. This is the parent root. Follow down the text looking for the child root D which you will find on page 268, left column near the bottom.

Continue down the text looking for the word N4, which will be found on the same page but in the right column near the top. Note that here it is written as Nf4 but the "f," meaning it is a feminine word, is not identified in the index nor is the "m," which is used in other words, meaning it is a masculine word. After N4 is the definition of our word.

Another method that could be used, in place of using the Strong's Concordance, is the use of the The Interlinear Bible, Hebrew-Greek-English by Jay P Green Sr.

In this way, the reader can see the word in its context and learn what the actual Hebrew (and Greek) is, thereby providing an additional study aid.

The image below shows one of the pages from the lexicon. Don't be frightened by all the numbers and strange letters. Using the method described above, you will be able to find the information quite easily.

Actual Page from the Lexicon
Actual Page from the Lexicon

A General Overview

The book also includes an interesting study on the evolution of the ancient Hebrew alphabet and the reconstructed alphabet. For those who want to go further, there is a detailed explanation of the Hebrew root system and the Hebrew language.

For those who just want to understand the Scriptures better, you can skip all the "intellectual stuff" and head for the words themselves. Once you have spent a study session with this lexicon, you will begin to gain a better understanding of the Scriptures and have a new appreciation for the Hebrew language and its thought process.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible for anyone involved in the study of the Scriptures, whether it's someone who is just beginning to learn how to study the Bible effectively, or someone who has been studying for many years and is looking to go even further in their knowledge and comprehension.

May Yahweh bless you in all that you do and may all that you do glorify Yahweh.

» Written by Lee Underwood