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Clines, David J. A. The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew. Vol 5: m_n. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001. Pp. 957. ISBN 1-84127-217-5. US $220; GB £110.

1. In the period since the previous volume of the Dictionary was published, in August 1998, the project has faced serious financial problems. For a time the future of the Dictionary was in question. These difficulties are now resolved, and the completion of the project is now envisaged by the end of the year 2005. The innovative character of the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (DCH) should be known by now. There are two main characteristics that distinguish it from its predecessors. Unlike previous dictionaries of ancient Hebrew, this work does not restrict itself to the texts of the Hebrew Bible. It systematically records the language of all texts written in Hebrew from the earliest times down to the second century of the common era. For this purpose the texts have been divided into four corpora: the Hebrew Bible, Ben Sirach, the Qumran documents, and inscriptions. Secondly, unlike previous dictionaries, DCH is characterized by its usage of modern linguistics and its synchronic approach. It does not search for etymologies or for a diachronic analysis of the meaning of a word, including references to other languages. It studies each word in its context. A further feature of this volume deserves special mention: with the exception of the preposition Nmi, which occurs more than 9000 times, every word is treated exhaustively. For each word, all places it occurs in Classical Hebrew have been cited, and every occurrence has been analysed.

2. In the fifth volume under review here the principles and procedures followed in the previous volumes have been continued. One minor change is noted in the Introduction. From this volume onwards a closer definition of "new" words has been adopted. A "new" word is a word that did not appear in the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon of 1907. These words are marked with an asterisk (*). For an example we may refer to [rn"] II mark. The bibliography mentions Driver's article in Biblica (Driver 1951: 185). The meaning of the square brackets is not immediately obvious. The sign is not taken up in the introductory list of Abbreviations and Signs (pp. 93-95). It is to be found, however, in the Introduction to the first volume: "If the noun does not actually occur in the extant texts in the singular absolute, the lemma is placed within square brackets to indicate that the form has been reconstructed." rn" II is said to occur only once, in Prov 21:4, and then only in some mss. The further comment is somewhat cryptic: in between brackets it says: L rni mark of (L is the siglum for Codex Leningradensis). Users wonder whether this means that L is the only ms with this reading. They also look in vain for an entry with rni or ryni mark of. In the translation of Prov 21:4 under the lemma rn" II mark, one finds "the lamp of the wicked is sin," and not "the mark of the wicked is sin."

3. Beginning with the second volume of the Dictionary, the longer entries have been provided with a table of contents. We illustrate this with an example. The verb )#&n I is given 13 pages or 26 columns (pp. 758-770). The index or table of contents is rather detailed and helpful. Under qal-stem of the verb it lists 18 meanings, each one with an indication of the column in which this meaning is discussed. Similar indications are given for the other stems of the verb. The statistics give three figures: the first mentions 659 attestations of the verb in the Tanach; the second, 27 occurrences in Ben Sirach; and the third, 68 in the Qumran literature. The morphological section then lists all the forms of the headword that exist in the texts. The semantic analysis forms the body of the article. Here the "senses" of the word are analysed. The first meaning (1) of the qal-stem is "lift up"; in subdivision 1b we find "lift hand"; on p. 761a, "lift hand" is said to mean "to bless people," "to swear oath," "to show power," "awe, reverence," "prayer," or to be used "as signal." For each of these meanings all available occurrences are listed. Let us have a look at the listing under "to swear oath." Here we find Ex 6:8; Num 14:30; Dt 32:20; Ezek 20:5+6t; 36:7; 44:12; 47:14; Ps 106:26; and Neh 9:15. According to the list of abbreviations and signs, the siglum "t" in Ezek 20:5+6t means "times." It takes the reader some time to figure out that "+6t" then means that the expression occurs "6 more times in chapter 20"; that is, once more in 20:5 and five times in verses 6, 15, 23, 28, and 42. So far so good. The interpretation of the expression in these occurrences is more questionable. Does it really refer to an oath? The translation of the Septuagint in Ezek 20:5, 6 argues against it. The expression rather implies an active divine intervention (see Lust 1995) The Lord lifts up his hand to show his power; compare Ps 10:12, where he is asked to lift up his hand. The comment further displays the syntagmatic relationships of the verb )#&n within the expression "lift hand": it lists all possible "subjects" and "objects" of the verb as well as the "prepositions" used with it. Here one might object that a listing of all possible objects is rather meaningless, since it has to be "hand." However, the English notion "hand" can have two Hebrew counterparts: Pk and dy. A further distinction should perhaps have been made between the plural "hands" and the singular "hand." This would have made it clear that, for instance, the meaning "prayer" always implies the plural, whereas the meaning "to swear an oath," or better "divine intervention," always implies the singular. Under the header "Coll" (miscellaneous collocations), the comment then notes the synonyms or antonyms of the word in question that are attested at that point in the text. It may be relevant that, insofar as (dy)#&n "lift (hand)" is concerned, one finds verbs such as Mwr "lift up," but never (b#$ "swear."

4. For text-critical purposes, the Dictionary is helpful in several ways. First of all, it often notes textual variants and emendations. For an example we refer to the entries dealing with hsek;mi, noun, masculine, "covering" and hs@ekam; "covering". In the comment to the first entry one finds:

of ship (Ezk 277 [if em.; see Subj.]), <SUBJ> hyh be Ezk 277 (if em. K7s@'kami your covering to K7s'k;mi your covering).
The comment to the second entry looks pretty much the same:
awning of ship (Ezk 277 [or em.; see Subj.]), . . . <SUBJ> hyh be Ezk 277 (or em. K7s@'kami your covering to K7s'k;mi your covering)

5. To find out what is going on here, one has to consult the major commentaries on Ezekiel. They explain that MT reads K7s@'kami, a piel participle of hsk; according to Zimmerli, the parallels in Gen 8:13 and elsewhere suggest that the reading K7s'k;mi (substantive) should be preferred. Other commentaries, such as Greenberg Ezekiel, disagree. Often, DCH offers another interesting help to the reader in search of text-critical information: in a separate section at the end of the volume (pp. 823-922), it lists the bibliographical items in which the emendations or variants are proposed or discussed. For an example we may recall the entry on *[rn"] II mark, where reference is made to Driver's article in Biblica (Driver 1951: 185). The examples should make it clear that the Dictionary does not intend to be directive. It simply signals the data and leaves the decisions to the user.

6. We may conclude that the authors of this innovative dictionary provide us with a helpful tool. Its main new features are the inclusiveness of its source material and its ordering of the data inspired by the new linguistic methods. Several of its features provide the text-critically oriented scholar with stimulating incentives.

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2003.


Driver, G. R. 1951. "Problems in the Hebrew Text of Proverbs." Biblica 32: 173-197.

Greenberg, Moshe 1997. Ezekiel. AB, 22A. New York: Doubleday.

Lust, Johan 1995. "The Raised Hand of the Lord in Deut 32:40 according to MT, 4QDeutq, and LXX." Textus 18: 33-45.

Zimmerli, Walther 1969. Ezechiel. 2 vols. Biblischer Kommentar, 13. Neukirchen: Neukirchener.

Johan Lust
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven