The Benefits of HALOT
A few weeks ago we mentioned a new resource coming to Olive Tree, HALOT, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. We are excited to offer HALOT because it is one of the best biblical Hebrew resources available today. To explain why it is such a valuable resource, Matt J., one of our Original Languages Content Formatters, is here to outline the many features in HALOT. Here’s Matt…
The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, commonly known by the acronym HALOT, is widely regarded as the best lexicon currently available for biblical Hebrew. Many of you may wonder how HALOT developed this reputation and what exactly makes it so much better than other Hebrew dictionaries (which often cost substantially less). As is often the case, what sets HALOT apart is the fact that it is organized around a few simple principles and follows them faithfully.
1. All words are arranged alphabetically.
Many older dictionaries (including BDB Hebrew and English Lexicon) have entries arranged by root rather than in strict alphabetical order. If an English dictionary were arranged this way, it would mean that to look up a word like “invaluable”, you would have to look under the entry for the word “value”. Someone who already has a good grasp of the language and understands organization by roots may be able to find the correct entry without too much difficulty, but for beginning and even intermediate level students this is often a daunting task. I remember spending many frustrating hours when I was first learning Hebrew looking up imaginary roots in futile attempts to discover what root a particular form really was derived from. Although there are advantages to arranging words by roots, strict alphabetical arrangement is a better system for ease of finding a particular entry.
2. All irregular forms are referenced.
Those of you who already know Hebrew know how commonly it drops letters in certain stems or forms. Most of these are predictable, but may still be difficult for students to identify. In addition, Hebrew (like all languages) does have many irregular verb and noun forms. Whenever a word has a form that is unusual or might be confusing, HALOT contains a separate reference that will point you to the correct entry. This makes it ideal for even beginning students. Once again, if an English dictionary were arranged like this, you could look up an irregular verb form like “is,” and the dictionary would identify it as the third person singular present tense form of the verb “to be”. Since it gives you the root form, you can then look up the definition.
3. Extensive quotations are provided for each word.
HALOT attempts to provide as much context as possible for the definitions it gives. This is mainly in the form of biblical quotes. In our electronic edition, these quotes have been turned into hyperlinks to the verses referenced. To give you an idea of how useful this feature is, there are over 120,000 scriptural references in HALOT. Each of these can be accessed in BibleReader by tapping or clicking on the link.
4. Extensive etymologies are provided, including cognates from other Semitic languages.
One of the main reasons that HALOT has eclipsed many older dictionaries as the standard reference on biblical Hebrew is its use of the modern discoveries of ancient Near Eastern literature in many languages closely related to Hebrew. The study of cognate words in languages such as Akkadian or Ugaritic has helped clarify many difficult passages in the Hebrew Bible, and HALOT makes full use of these sources.
5. Hebrew words are separated from Aramaic words.
This may seem like an obvious distinction to make, yet many older dictionaries lump them all together. HALOT separates Hebrew and Aramaic into different volumes.
Two additional points that don’t quite fit with the rest of this list should be noted. The first is that HALOT is an exhaustive lexicon of the Hebrew Bible. This means that unlike some other dictionaries (such as the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament), you will find entries for every word occurring in the Old Testament.
The second has to do with the arrangement of entries. One advantage of arrangement by roots is that it allows you easily to see all of the words derived from a particular root. Since the entries in HALOT are organized alphabetically, there are times when these kind of relationships would not be obvious. To overcome this problem, HALOT provides cross references to related forms under each root. In all, there are over 15,000 of these cross-references that have been turned into hyperlinks in our electronic edition.
While each of these points may seem obvious, many other dictionaries do not share these same features. HALOT is the current standard due to its excellent scholarship, accessibility, clarity, and consistency.