Book Review: Beyond The Hebrew Lexicon

Beyond The Hebrew Lexicon:  Learn To Do Hebrew Word STudies That Take You Beyond The Lexicon, by Chaim Bentorah

In theory, this is a worthwhile book, and the author does at least write with some insights about matters of interest to me as a student of the Bible [1].  Namely, the author is quick to recognize the nuanced and ambiguous nature of Hebrew and the layered nature of the Hebrew scriptures that requires a fair amount of subtlety in one’s understanding since it lacks the precision of Greek and other languages like that.  Likewise, the author’s look at the meanings inherent in the letters of the Bible is something that is useful for those who want to see the commentary inherent in biblical Hebrew itself.  That said, this book has a lot of problems, the two biggest of which are that the author is terribly sloppy in both English and Hebrew and that the author finds bogus Trinitarian allusions in Hebrew letters and their number values.  In many ways, the author combines the worst elements of Hebrew love for human tradition and the worst of contemporary Christianity’s obsession with the imaginary Trinity, and does it with a large amount of typos in both English and Hebrew.

This book is divided into five chapters.  The author begins with an introduction and then with a discussion of the history of the Hebrew alphabet and its changes over time from paleo-Hebrew to the square alphabet used after the Babylonian captivity (1).  After that, the bulk of the book is taken up by the author’s discussion of the meaning behind the Hebrew letters, a meaning that the author finds in the shape of the letters, the letters used in the letter name, the numerical value of the letter, and in various negative “shadow” meanings of the letter (2).  The next chapter deals somewhat briefly with the Gematria, looking at words that share the same numerical value as being thematically related (3).  After this the author briefly discusses word play and esoteric word plays (4), before closing with a discussion of the three necessary contexts of understanding and translating Semitic languages–namely technical understandings, the esoteric approach, and the emotional and revelatory context.  After this the author gives his conclusion and includes a short bibliography of other books.  One might note in looking at this brief book of less than 200 pages that the author spends a considerable amount of time dealing with esoteric matters of letter and number meaning, something that will likely interest some would-be readers and repel others.

In looking at this book, it is clear that the author of this book wishes to capitalize on the fervor that exists among many Christians in understanding the Hebrew Bible better and especially on the popularity of various esoteric means if seeking a deeper meaning in the Bible than its surface level of understanding.  The author tries to avoid what he considers to be too high a level of mysticism, but it is clear that Bible symbolism and deeper levels of understanding scripture are definitely of interest to the author.  Unfortunately, the writer not only has a strong interest in Jewish mysticism but also has a love of seeing an imaginary trinity wherever he can, which means that this book is not aimed so much at Christians who strive to obey God’s commandments, but rather is a book that seeks to make Hellenistic Jews with unbiblical beliefs about the nature of God more equipped to engage the Bible on a symbolic and allegorical level without taking its straightforward meaning (especially as far as the law is concerned) seriously in their own behavior.  One does not expect this sort of behavior from someone who names themselves Ben-Torah (son of the law), but this book is generally a disappointment all around.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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