Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew

Van Pelt, Miles. Practico, Gary. The Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

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This book is what it says it is in the title. However, the genius of the book lies in giving the reader a descending order of word frequency in the Hebrew Bible. The authors note: “By memorizing only the first fifty words in the vocabulary frequency list, students will be equipped to recognize almost 55% of the total words that occur in the Hebrew Old Testament (419,687). Students who master the 641 words that occur 50 times or more will be able to recognize 80% of all words that occur” (Van Pelt and Pratico ix).

My brethren, I can testify. I had 2 years of Hebrew in seminary and let it drop when I left. I probably didn’t touch it again for six years. When I came back, my grammar, verb tenses, etc were weak, obviously. But I followed the reasoning of this book and my vocabulary recognition was surprisingly strong.

The first section of the book is by overall frequency. It begins with waw (50,524 occurrences). The 100th most frequent word is peh, mouth (498 occurrences). The 500th most frequent word is tsar, foreign or strange (70 occurrences).

The other sections of the book are arranged by common root, proper nouns, common gender, endingless feminine singular nouns, adjectives, prepositions, verbs, verbal roots in the derived stems, Weak Verbs I-נ, III-ה, I-Guttural, II-Guttural, III-ח/ע, III-א, Weak Verbs Biconsonantal, Weak Verbs Geminate, and identical words with different meanings.

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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