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Review of IVP’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Logos edition)

March 25, 2013

IVP OT Dictionary Pentateuch

Over the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing IVP’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch in Logos Bible Software. I’ll look at a few dictionary articles in each post, commenting on the content of each, as well as on the dictionary’s presentation in Logos.

I’ve reviewed Logos 4 and 5, looking at several packages and additional resources. Find those reviews collected here.

The dictionary is easy to lay out in Logos with other accompanying resources. Here I have it next to the Hebrew text with English translation and a Hebrew lexicon (click to enlarge):

IVP OT Dictionary Logos

As with all of Logos’s resources, you can hover over hyperlinked words (see “Heb 7:2″ above) to see the Scripture without leaving that tab.

One solid feature so far (true of Logos resources in general): being able to use the shortcut command (Mac) or control (PC) + F to quickly find words in the entries.

One thing to critique so far: the items in the Table of Contents don’t expand to all the subpoints. In the shot above, for example, you can see that “1. Prosopography” under Melchizedek has “1.1. Name” in the entry, but not in the left sidebar Table of Contents. This makes navigating through multiple layers of detail a bit more cumbersome. (By contrast, the Accordance version of this module looks like it has the triangle that continues to expand, here.)

What about content of the dictionary itself? In this installment, I summarize and review three articles: “Sarah,” “Melchizedek,” and “Language of the Pentateuch.”

Sarah

R.G. Branch notes that Sarah and other “matriarchs of God’s people” are “equally significant” compared to the “widely recognized Israelite patriarchs” (733). Chief among these is Sarah. Even if there is not the amount of biblical material about Sarah that there is about Abraham, she remains a “pivotal character” in Genesis (733).

Branch divides the “Sarah” entry into two parts: “Sarah in the Ancestral Narratives” and “Sarah in the Later Tradition.”

In the first part Branch notes that Sarah, about 10 years younger than Abraham, is “the first matriarch of the biblical text” (733). Her childlessness in Genesis 11:30 is a key characteristic. Her first mention in that passage describes her barrenness, which “sets the tone for the stories about them that follow” (733). Sarai and Sarah (her name after God changed it in Genesis 17) both mean “princess” or “chieftainess.” Genesis records several threats to the possibility of Abraham and Sarah bearing offspring, not the least of which is two stories (in Genesis 12 and 20, which Branch understands as two separate incidents) of “marital deception,” where Abraham claims Sarah as his sister (734).

“In both cases,” Branch notes, “Abram feared for his life because of his wife’s great beauty” (734). It is this beauty that is the focus of the second part of the article, “Sarah in Later Tradition.” Branch cites various Jewish sources that extol Sarah for her immense beauty. She is also said to have been “surrounded” by miracles (735).

Branch gives a good, basic summary of biblical and Jewish rabbinic material about Sarah (as well as her importance for understanding Elizabeth in the New Testament), with citations that the reader can follow up for more.

Key statement from this article is: “Many of the issues in the stories about the couple can be understood as their struggle to come to terms with God’s promises of land, offspring, greatness and blessings” (734).

Melchizedek

Scripture contains very few references to the mysterious figure of Melchizedek. S.J. Andrews recounts Abram’s encounter with Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20, which Psalm 110 (noted as a “royal Psalm”) cites. Andrews also does well in noting the book of Hebrews’ understanding and interpretation of Melchizedek.

In “Prosopography” Andrews notes the complications that arise in trying to understand the name malkîṣedeq. Hebrews reads it as “king of righteousness,” but Andrews notes scholarly disagreement on “whether it was originally a Northwest Semitic personal name (theophoric or descriptive) or a royal epithet” (563). Therefore, “The name could mean either ‘(my) Malk/Melek is just’ or ‘Ṣedeq is my king’” (563). Either way, Genesis calls him “king of Salem,” which could be Jerusalem, or just mean, “king of peace,” as in Hebrews 7:2.

The “Historical Account” section of the article delves more into the story of Abram’s victory of kings and subsequent exchange with Melchizedek, where the latter gives the former bread and wine and a blessing, and the former appears to tithe to the latter.

In the final section, “Messianic Application,” Andrews explores various possibilities for the appearance of Melchizedek, what it meant, possible connection to a Messiah, and so on.

Andrews says, “The Qumran text 11QMelch portrays Melchizedek as an archangelic figure like Michael” (564), but he could have perhaps gone into more depth about the Qumran understanding of Melchizedek. However, his basic overview serves as a solid starting point for understanding the Melchizedek figure in biblical tradition.

Language of the Pentateuch

R.S. Hess’s “Language of the Pentateuch” article consist of three sections: “A discussion of the history of languages in and around Palestine during the third and second millennia b.c., a consideration of the grammar and style of the Pentateuch’s language in comparison with Classical Hebrew, and a study of those linguistic elements within the Pentateuch that might relate it to the period in which the narratives and events recorded in Genesis through Deuteronomy claim to have taken place” (491).

He offers a survey of Pentateuchal chronology, marking the date of the exodus as “sometime between the fifteenth century b.c and the end of the thirteenth century b.c.” (492), part of the Late Bronze Age. The Hebrew language is part of a family of West or Northwest Semitic dialects. There are not immense differences between the language of the Pentateuch and the language of (presumably) later Old Testament texts, but Hess does point out research around some “distinctive elements found in the Pentateuch that might set it apart from the grammar of the remainder of biblical Hebrew” (493), though these are few. Hess holds to an “early date” for at least the initial writing of the Pentateuch.

This particular article was a bit dry at times, but the level of detail is still to be appreciated.

So far my overall impression of the dictionary is positive. I will write more about it later. UPDATE: Part 2 is here.

The Dictionary is on Amazon here (in print) and at Logos here. My thanks to Logos for the review copy.

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