This is the first of a series of posts in which I am going to put dictionaries and databases of ancient Hebrew literature in electronic format to the test. I review ten electronic dictionaries which include discussion of biblical Hebrew vocabulary items, and describe what it’s like to use them alongside other tools, electronic and otherwise, in the course of an exploration of the statistics, morphology, and semantics of the verb אכל ‘to eat.’
In the study of ancient literature, few things matter more than how useful and accurate tools like lexica, grammars, and concordances are. We might especially expect accuracy in reference works that relate to the Bible, a book, after all, pored over with great care by many. To the extent that reference works fail to describe textual details helpfully and accurately, I will pound the point home. If the sight of blood disturbs you, turn back now.
My comments relate in almost equal measure to print and electronic versions of resources where available in both. The discussion will be of interest to anyone who loves the fine detail of the language and literature of the Hebrew Bible, regardless of whether one plans to acquire electronic tools for research purposes or not. If nothing else, my discussion of specific passages may prove interesting. Referenced resources are referred to by author, acronym, or short title. Full bibliographical data are supplied in a downloadable file. In this post, I concentrate on the statistics of אכל. Statistics, properly understood, reveal more than is sometimes thought.