The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Volume 2

Written by Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, Johann Jakob Stamm, eds Reviewed By Richard S. Hess

These volumes continue the publication of this most important of lexical tools for students of the Hebrew Bible. The second and third volume of the English translation continue the procedure of the first volume, with Richardson’s exemplary translation of the earlier third edition of the German work. The first volume of this translation was reviewed in Themelios 21.2. It was published in 1994 and provided access for English readers to words beginning with the first eight letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The two additional volumes cover the remainder of the Hebrew alphabet, except for the last two letters. It is unfortunate that the two final letters were not also included in the third volume, itself about one hundred pages shorter than the second volume. The result means that users of the translation will need to wait for a fourth volume before having the complete dictionary of the Hebrew language of the Bible.

Nevertheless, Koehler and Baumgartner’s lexicon represents the most advance complete dictionary of biblical Hebrew available. The older Brown, Driver and Briggs is probably the best single volume source for study. The work of Koehler and Baumgartner follows similar principles of lexicography with a survey of cognate terms in various Semitic languages, a listing of all or (in cases where the word has a high frequency of occurrence) most of the occurrences in the Bible, and discussion of the various nuances of usage and meaning. Koehler and Baumgartner are able to update the cognate section with the addition of much more information from the language chronologically and geographically closer than those at the disposal of Brown, Driver and Briggs; especially Akkadian and Ugaritic. The latter had not yet been discovered when the Brown, Drive and Briggs completed their work. It also seems that Koehler and Baumgartner are less inclined to use source critical distinctions in their discussion of terms. The major advantage for many student users will be that nouns, adjectives, and other non-verbs are not grouped together and listed under a single trilateral root, along with all the verb forms of that root. Instead, non-verbs are listed as separate entries in the lexicon, and thus are much easier to locate.

The final fascicle of the German edition of Koehler and Baumgartner’s lexicon appeared while the translation of the earlier fascicles were already underway. It includes all the Aramaic words found in the Aramiac sections of Ezra and Daniel. Like the earlier parts in this lexicon the cognate and lexical information provided it contemporary with the date of publication. The organisation and types of information are similar to that found in the Hebrew fascicles, with similar advantages as those already mentioned.

Although the prices of these volumes put them (unfortunately) beyond the reach of all but the most dedicated Hebrew students, it is hoped that they will find their way into theological college libraries and other reference collections where they can enjoy the maximum use and study that they deserve, and can provide encouragement and support for study of the Bible in the original languages.

Richard S. Hess

Denver Seminary, Denver