Review: Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories

33098699Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories: A Student’s Guide to Nouns in the Old Testament by J. David Pleins and Jonathan Homrighausen organizes the Hebrew nouns used in the Old Testament by logical categories to aid memorization and comprehension. It is here that Pleins offers a unique resource for students of Biblical Hebrew among a plethora of other vocabulary-building resources. Pleins approach, as stated in the preface, “is crucial because the mind constructs its mental space for language by making connections between words . . . without these associations, vocabulary building is reduced to rote memorization that all to often becomes an exercise in futility” (p. 16).

Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories is well-researched and helpfully presented. The book is divided into four major sections: (1) the created order, (2) the human order, (3) the social order, and (4) the constructed order. Within each of these sections, Pleins has organized words under various conceptual categories. For example, under the section labeled “the created order,” the reader will find categories such as Heavens and Earth, Colors, and Flora.  Pleins has also included two helpful appendix articles that provide additional reading for further study on the various conceptual categories and gathers clusters of verses by the same categories.

There is much to be praised about the work of Pleins and Homrighausen and the vision for this project. As I interacted with the book, I found that the organization was both helpful and logical. I also appreciated the references provided for further study, including Scripture references and lexicons such as DCH and HALOT. That said, I do think that there was room in this volume to make it more visually appealing to the reader. The cover art lends to how this could have been accomplished, but the content therein is unfortunately just words on paper. This is a small shortcoming to an excellent resource, but I think it would have added volumes to its usefulness and appeal to students.

Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories: A Student’s Guide to Nouns in the Old Testament by J. David Pleins and Jonathan Homrighausen is an excellent addition to the library of anyone looking to better understand and mentally organize the memorization of the Hebrew language. Pleins and Homrighausen have done a great service to students of the Old Testament and I sense that his approach will be utilized more broadly in the coming years. While the publisher may have missed an opportunity to make the volume more appealing with illustrations throughout, the book delivers on it’s promise. I couldn’t recommend it more highly!

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