We often and unconsciously read our contemporary understanding of words and ideas into the Pentateuch. Who is to blame? The past is a foreign territory. Ancient Near Eastern cognitive environment of the patriarchal period overwhelmingly finds its location outside our contemporary mindset.
Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (2002), edited by T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, provides immensely wealth of information in form of comprehensively finely written articles to familiarize us with this foreign territory. This dictionary creates a solid bridge between our modern worldview and that of the patriarchal period of ancient Near Eastern. It assembled leading Old Testament scholars, such as Peter Enns, Richard S. Hess, John H. Walton, John E. Hartley and Victor H. Matthews, just to mention the few, whose articles drag the past into the present. This dictionary will help you start reading the Pentateuch for what its worth.
This monumental work plays well as a referential tool to biblical scholars, graduates, clergy and laypersons who are interested in understanding Old Testament’s literature and form criticism, background information, archaeology, ancient Near Eastern worldviews, and so on, mostly in relationship to the first five books. Like any dictionary, this resource is not meant to be read from cover to cover. It’s meant to be used as a referential goldmine to guide you into the unfamiliar territories of the Pentateuch.
Few of my personal favorite articles are E. C. Lucas’ Cosmology and J. H. Walton’s Creation. These two articles helped me comprehend the cognitive understanding of ancient Near Eastern cosmogony. Swimming in our contemporary salty and bloody waters of confusing ideas concerning the opening chapters of Genesis, exploring how ancient Near Eastern Jews would have understood the creation story of Genesis 1-3 is quite refreshing.
This resource is at the top of my Pentateuch dictionaries list. I will continue to use it as main referential source when it comes to the first five books of Moses. I will definitely direct students and pastors to it. It is, I would judge, the best contemporary dictionary on the five books of Moses available today.
When integrated with Logos, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch is taken to a higher and most accessible level. Logos has tagged this resource with Timeline events that link a specific event, e.g. the Flood, to the global narrative. This feature enables you to place the event in its global historical context(click to expand the screen-capture on the upper right). Logos have also link-tagged most of cited sources in this dictionary. If you own those particular cited sources in your Logos‘ Library, these link-tags help you jump right into those resources with a single click. If you do not, you have a chance to obtain them through their Products’ page.