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A Hebrew Reader for Ruth.

A Hebrew Reader for Ruth. By DONALD R. VANCE. Peabody, Mass.: HENDRICKSON PUBLISHERS, 2003. Pp. x + 85. $12.95 (paper).

The author is quite right to note in the preface of this work (p. v) the difficult task of students' switching over from doing the exercises in a Biblical Hebrew (BH) textbook to reading the Hebrew Bible by themselves. This book presents the entire Hebrew text of Ruth (Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia), the author's translation to be used later for comparison with other translations, and a parsing of each word, along with references to many of the standard grammars and dictionaries of the language. Some of these treatises are: F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1907), H. Bauer and P. Leander, Historische Grammatik der hebraischen Sprache des Alten Testamentes (Halle: Niemeyer, 1918-22, G. Bergstrasser, Hebraische Grammatik (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1918), C. Brockelmann, Hebraische Syntax (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1956), P. Jouon, Grammaire de l'hebreu biblique, 2nd ed. (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1923), E. Kautzsch, ed., Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, translated by A. Cowley, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1910), and T.O. Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971).

Some of these are older grammars and may prove difficult for many of today's students, although they should certainly have familiarity with Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar. Reference to B. Waltke and M. O'Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1999), would have been useful, and I would also suggest reference to T. Muraoka's translation and revision of P. Jouon's Grammaire de l'hebreu biblique (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1993).

Perhaps the reader has already gained a feel for the pedagogical soundness of Vance's approach. I agree with his pronouncement that Ruth is an excellent choice as a first text for introductory students due to its "standard morphology, syntax, and vocabulary" (p. vi). The work has the advantage of the availability of workbook sheets on the Internet (

The remainder of my remarks address specific details:

p. 3, line 2: The BH vocalization of s[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]m 'there' is erroneously printed with a tsere, i.e., sem 'name,' in Ruth 1:2.

p. 3: The word ben 'son' is given as possibly coming from the root bnh (in essence, bny). It is much more reasonable to postulate derivation from bn, a biradical. Cf. Classical Arabic 'ibn 'son.'

p. 4: Forms such as wayy[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]m[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]t 'and he died' should be explained as consisting of the jussive y[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]m[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]t rather than imperfect indicative, which, in fact, is y[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]mut. This affects all jussive verbs of this type throughout the publication.

p. 27: BH bat 'daughter' is said to derive from the root bnh (in essence, bny). Rather, the root is bnt (cf. Classical Arabic bint 'girl'; 'daughter', also 'ibna). See the discussion above on ben 'son.' The morphological breakdown is ben 'son' + -t 'feminine'; this, too, is best analyzed as an original biradical plus the feminine suffix -t.

p. 29, line 7: 'mother-in-law' is correct for this term, given here without hyphens.

This is a well-designed volume. However, the author would have been well advised not to keep repeating the same information after the same word throughout; e.g., 'is 'man' is said to possibly derive from the root 'ns on p. 2, and again on pp. 3, 4, 13, 15, 26, etc. A system of cross-references would have worked wonders in this connection.

A. S. K.
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Author:Kaye, Alan S.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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