Book Review: A Proverb A Day In Biblical Hebrew

A Proverb A Day In Biblical Hebrew, by Jonathan G. Kline

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Hendrickson Publishers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

As a reader I have greatly enjoyed Kline’s books on biblical languages [1], and this book certainly shows many of the qualities that made them so enjoyable.  For one, the book contains 365 daily study portions, in biblical Hebrew, of verses from the Proverbs.  The Proverbs are well worth studying on their own and contain a great deal of insight for us, and Kline does a great job at choosing such a rich area to focus his attention on here for the interest of the reader.  The pithy and aphoristic approach that the proverbs themselves demonstrate also allows the author to focus his attention on the mechanics of the Hebrew language and demonstrate how it is a deeply complex matter to turn biblical Hebrew into English that gets the point across with the same punch.  And although the author’s efforts to do so are not uniformly successful, the book is still a worthwhile one for the reader who wishes to improve one’s understanding of the biblical Hebrew of the Proverbs in small and manageable portions.

This particular book is about 400 pages long.  It begins with a sizable preface of nearly 20 pages in relatively small print that frame the difficulties not only of understanding the Proverbs but even of grasping the grammar of the Hebrew in the verses where the author shows of his virtuosity such matters.  After that comes the main body of the text, and that is 365 daily portions of the Proverbs which are organized in the same format, with a noting of the day of the year (and the calendar date) as well as the verse in question on the header of the page, and two sections for the parallel components in Hebrew for the verse in question followed in each case by a look at the Hebrew words in question with vowel pointers and a translation of that word.  On the footer of the page is a free translation by the author of the verse in Proverbs from two days before.  After the year’s worth of Proverbs verses is complete there is a substantial amount of supplementary material that is also worthwhile, namely an alphabetical index of the Hebrew words, a frequency index of the Hebrew words in the proverbs cited (in descending order from two words which occur on 52 days to those words which only appear once), and then a scriptural index of verses cited from the book of Proverbs which reveals them to all rest between Proverbs 10:1 and 22:16.

If you either have a strong degree of interest in biblical Hebrew, especially as it relates to questions of translation and interpretation of the Proverbs, or you have a high degree of knowledge and expertise in the subject, this book is an obvious and enjoyable reference guide.  Considering the number of books that the author has already released on this subject, it is likely that substantial interest exists in the author’s approach or he would not keep on releasing books on the subject.  There are enough passages that remain in the book of Proverbs for there to be another such volume of material should the author wish to do so; I am personally fond of the wisdom of Agur and a great many people enjoy the parable of the multuous/virtuous woman, and neither of those sections was included in this book.  For me the only substantial weakness of the book is the author’s somewhat too free translation of the Parables into English in an attempt to make the English more hip and relevant for contemporary audiences, which takes something that could have been timeless and makes it something that will date rather quickly and not well, but these are minor quibbles.

[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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