Review: Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch

IVPWe 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.

Links Resources

Thousand thanks to Logos for the review copy of Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are solely mine.

6 thoughts on “Review: Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch

  1. I don’t know… two Evangelical Christians from blinkered biblical colleges aren’t really trustworthy sources in this matter.

    For honesty and accuracy, one can’t go past the Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary; the first authorised commentary on the Torah since 1936. Published in 2001 by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (in collaboration with the Rabbinical Assembly and the Jewish Publication Society) the 1,559 page long Etz Hayim concludes with 41 essays written by prominent rabbis and scholars who admit the Pentateuch is little more than a self-serving myth rife with anachronisms and un-ignorable archeological inconsistencies, and rather than triumphant conquest, Israel instead emerged slowly and relatively peacefully out of the general Canaanite population with monotheism only appearing in the post-Exilic period, 5th Century BCE.

    As Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine wrote: “The Jews did not begin with Abraham. The Jews did not emerge as a nation under the leadership of Moses. They were never rescued from slavery in Egypt. They never stopped at Sinai…. Two Hebrew nations emerged in the highlands of Canaan. One was Israel; the other was Judah. The relationship of the two nations was often hostile. The Israelites were more powerful than the Judeans (Jews). Omri and Ahab were greater kings than David and Solomon. But Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians. Only the Jews survived.”

    I’d also point you to the second edition Encyclopaedia Judaica as a brilliant and truthful source, which concludes that the entire Exodus narrative was “dramatically woven out of various strands of tradition… he [Moses] wasn’t a historical character.”

    And for a really good read on emerging Orthodox Rabbinic thought, thought that is admitting the truth, look to Orthodox Rabbi Norman Solomon’s, Torah from Heaven: The Reconstruction of Faith.

      • Perhaps. I just don’t have much confidence in evangelicals approaching the subject in an honest manner. Better to go to the source: the Jews. Their conclusions carry weight, whereas the cognitive dissonance of Christians has been on abhorrent display for too long for them to be taken seriously… even if these two bible college researchers did try to do a good job.

        Enjoying your summer up there?

      • I say, “no confidence,” because if the evangelical admits the Pentateuch is geopolitical myth (which it is) then it proves Jesus didn’t know what he was talking about, as he names Moses and Abraham on numerous occasions…. A tremendous blunder, i think you’d agree.

Comments are closed.