Semantic Fields and Words

1. Semantic Fields and Alphabetical Organization

The Hebrew words are arranged alphabetically in the order of the Hebrew alphabet, rather than in the order of the English (as in NIDNTT, see the review in Int 32, 1978, 203-5). Whereas NIDNTT has the words for "Love" grouped together under the English word "Love," one will find that the words for "love" are arranged in the order of the Hebrew alphabet in NIDOTTE. Second, a determination of the meaning of a word may be better assessed in its discourse and in relation to other words (semantic field). On the one hand, the discourse provides a structure of relationships within which the meaning of a word can best be judged. On the other hand, the determination of the meaning of a word is also contingent on its relationship with other words. This relationship may be synonymous (with an absolute, near, or partial overlap), homonymous (lexemes that have the same spelling and lexical form, but are unrelated in sense), polysymous (lexemes that have multiple related senses), antonymous (difference in spelling and form and opposition in meaning), or hyponymous (a lexeme that has a different meaning, but shares in some aspects the boundary limits of another lexeme, e.g., water in Gen 1:2 is a part of the earth).

One will find such related words in alphanumerical order, both in the abbreviated field at the end of most lexical entries and in the fuller entry in the Index of Semantic Fields. For example, the words related to the field of love are:

Love, loyalty: See bh'a; (love, be lovable, H170; bh'a&o, joys of love, H171; bh'a&', gifts of love, charm, loveliness, H172; hb;h}a', love, H173); See qb'D: (stick, cling, cleave, pursue, H1815; qbeD:, cleaving, attached to, holding fast to, H1816); See bb'j; (love, H2462); See ds'j; (show o.s. kind, H2874; ds,j&,, loyalty, faithfulness, goodness, H2876; dysij;, faithful, pious, H2883); See dydly: (beloved, H3351; t/dydIy", darling, H3353); See nj'r: (love, have compassion, H8163)

It becomes apparent by a perusal of the lexical meaning that the words in the semantic field overlap with other fields, such as Cleaving, Compassion, Faithfulness, Goodness, Loyalty, Pursuit, etc. For example, the word ds,j&, connects the fields of Love with Faithfulness:

Faithfulness: See "m'a; (support, be faithful, believe, put trust in, H586; "Wmae, reliable, true, H573; "Wmae, reliability, stability: reliability, faithful, H574; hn:Wma', steadiness, reliability, honesty, H575; "mea;, amen, surely, H589; "m,a&0, reliability, H590; hn:m]a;, truly, H593; iin:m]a;, surely, truly, H597; iin:m]au, indeed, H598; tm,a', reliable, lasting, fidelity, truth, H622); See qb'D: (stick, cling, cleave, pursue, H1815; qbeD:, cleaving, attached to, holding fast to, H1816); See ds,j&, (loyalty, faithfulness, goodness, H2876; dysij;, faithful, pious, H2883)

The word qb'D: overlaps the fields of Love, Faithfulness, and Pursuit:

Pursuit: See qb'D: (stick, cling, cleave, pursue, H1815; qbeD:, cleaving, attached to, holding fast to, H1816); See ql'D: (set on fire, burn, hotly pursue, H1944; tq,L&,D", inflammation, H1945); See 5d"r: (be behind, pursue, persecute, H8103; 5D:r"mu, persecution, H5284)

The lexeme nj'r: brings together Love and Compassion:

Compassion, comfort, consolation: See sWj (pity, look upon with compassion or regret, H2571); See lm'j; (spare, have compassion, H2798; hl;m]j,, compassion, mercy, H2799; hl;m]ju, compassion, H2800; lm;j]m', yearning, H4720); See HyNId"[}m' (dainties, comfort, delight, H5052); See nj'n: (be sorry, comfort, have compassion, repent, H5714; nj'n^O, pity, compassion, H5716; hm;j;n<, comfort, H5717; ^mijunl, consolation, comfort, H5719; t/mWjn"T' / ^miWjn'T', consolation, H9487/9488); See |jg"[; (have pity, H6327); See |j'r: (love, have compassion, H8163; |Wjr", compassionate, H8157; |j,r&<, womb, H8167; jymij}r", compassion, H8171; ynIm;j}r", compassionate, H8172); See gWn[}T' (comfort, delight, enjoyment, H9503)

See the Index of Semantic Fields for some two thousand fields and for further directions. 2. The Numbering System

The reader will receive further help in locating the entry in the lexical portion by number. While Strong's numbering has become standard, it was decided to adopt the numbering system of the Exhaustive Concordance of the NIV, edited by Edward W. Goodrick and John R. Kohlenberger III (Zondervan, 1990 = NIVEC). This system of numbering is more in touch with the existence of homonyms, as is found in up-to-date Hebrew lexicons. Where the author disagrees with the existence of a homonym or where he prefers to acknowledge the existence thereof, one will generally find only a number that is the most appropriate. For example, both rr"P; (break, H7296) and rr"P; (shatter, H7297) are located under H7296, even though in this case we allowed for a separate entry rr"P; (shatter, H7297) and added a cross-reference back to the article on rr"P;.

A suffix after the number may indicate either that the word is covered separately from several angles or that the NIVEC did not recognize the difference between the meanings. One will find h[;r: (feed, graze, shepherd, rule, H8286) developed under two entries: h[;r: (feed, graze, shepherd, rule, H8286) and h[,ro (shepherd, H8286 a). Similarly, the nom. d[e/m has two entries: appointed time (H4595 a) and meeting place, assembly, Tent of Meeting (H4595 b). Similarly, jWr (be high, exalted, proud, H8123) is treated separately from jme/r (exalt, H8123 a) and jm;/r (praise, H8123 b). The distinction is based on the inflection of the vb. and, consequently, the meaning of these forms, not on the existence of a separate homonym. The root qr"y:, however, has two homonymous forms: qr"y: (spit, spew, H3762 a) and qr"y: (be green, H3762 b).

Sometimes, one will see verbs that appear to be unrelated in meaning and have a separate number in NIVEC in one article. For example, the entry jw"r: (H8118) combines two separate meanings, jw"r: A (q. become wide or spacious; pu. be spacious; H8118) and jw"r: B (hi. smell; H8193).

The numbering system enhances the usefulness of the dictionary among students of the OT who are not so familiar with the Hebrew language. They may also benefit from The NIV Hebrew-English Concordance to the Old Testament (ed. John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson, 1997). This volume lists the Hebrew words together with the number identification and the translation(s) as given in the NIV. Those who are more familiar with Strong's numbering system will find a conversion chart to the NIVEC numbering in its index.

3. General Structure of the Lexical Entries

(a) Box with NIVEC number and lexical entry, followed by lexical definition(s). This information is mainly for orientation to the potential meaning(s) of the word(s). The lexical meaning(s) given is/are suggestive and need(s) to be modified by the textual and discourse meaning (see Peter Cotterell, 7. LINGUISTICS, MEANING, SEMANTICS, AND DISCOURSE ANALYSIS, B. The Source of Meaning, 4. Discourse meaning).

ll'D: (H1937), q. be small, unimportant (H1937); ID", nom. adj. mean, scanty, helpless, powerless, insignificant, dejected (H1924); hL;D", nom. the unimportant (H1930).

(b) ANE. The purpose of this entry is to help some readers with etymological connections. There is a danger in providing this information because of the widespread abuse of etymologies (see 7. LINGUISTICS, MEANING, SEMANTICS, AND DISCOURSE ANALYSIS, C. Lexical Semantics, (b) The etymological fallacy). Nevertheless, the cognate material is relevant both in understanding the extent of semantic fields and in defining the meaning of hapax legomena (hapleg.) or the existence of homonymous forms or of idioms. The ANE literature provides a fertile area for literary analysis as well as for the study of connections between Hebrew and its broader cultural milieu in the ANE. For an example, see the entry on rp'K; (cover, paint, smear, atone, appease, H4105).

(c) OT: The meaning and usage of the word(s). Words are treated in various ways. Most authors begin with the verbal form and treat the derived form(s) separately. Their task is "to clarify the theological meaning, paying attention to specific contexts (canonical and literary) and to the broad range of OT literature." In addition to the consideration of theological meaning, many authors present exegetical possibilities and issues inherent in the OT text, because they were encouraged to present alternatives: "Where marked differences of opinion exist, contributors should aim at fairness and at factuality. The articles should not avoid textual, historical, and interpretive difficulties" (from the instructions to contributors).

(d) P-B [LXX/Q/NT]. The reader may find the usage of the word in postbiblical Hebrew writings (Qumran and rabbinic), the translation(s) of a Hebrew word into the Greek Septuagint (helpful for connections with the NT and with NIDNTT), as well as a reflection on the usage of a word in the NT.

(e) Semantic fields. We have provided one or more fields to which the word belongs. The data are intentionally shorter than those found in the Index of Semantic Fields. The semantic field may help the reader locate other words that may have a bearing on defining the meaning of words. This information is useful and linguistically necessary as the meaning of a word can be better understood by relating it to and contrasting it with other words. While we have provided synonyms in the semantic field entry, the reader can find antonyms in the article proper, in the OT text (where synonyms and antonyms are often collocated), or in entries that are in opposition to the field (see the Index of Semantic Fields). For example, the entry "good" has "bad" as its opposite, but the meaning of "good" or "bad" will be different in the Hebrew language than what may be connoted in English. Compare:

Good: See b/f (be good, do well, act rightly, H3201; b/f, good, H3202; b/f, good, H3202; bWf, goodness, H3206; hb;/f, goodness, H3208; bf'y:, be good, do well, H3512; bf;yme, best, choice, H4774)

Bad, vicious, wicked: See nm'z: (plan, purpose, plan evil, H2372; hM;zI, plan, foul deed, H2365; hM;zIm], consideration, plan, evil plan, plot, H4659); See yl'yKi (scoundrel, H3964); See lw"[; (act wrongly, H6401; lw<[&;, wrong, injustice, H6404; lW:[', transgressor, criminal, H6405; hl;w"[', perversity, wickedness, H6406); See hd:x; (act intentionally, H7399; hY:dIx], intentional, malice, H7402); See [['r: (be bad, injure, H8317; [r"me, atrocity, H5334; [r", evil, H8273 b; ['ro, perverseness, malice, H8278; h[;r:, harm, wickedness, misery, H8288); See [v'r: (act wickedly, unrighteously, be guilty, pronounce guilty, H8399; t['v&'r"mi, wicked, wicked woman, H5360; [v'r&<, wickedness, evil, unrighteousness, H8400; [v;r:, evil person, wicked, unjust, wrong, H8401; h[;v]rI, guilt, wickedness, evil, H8402)

(f) Bibliography. Authors of longer entries generally provide readers with a bibliography for further reading. These are often referred to the article in an abbreviated form. At times, references to other works are located in the article proper.

C. Topics

The "Topical Dictionary" portion of NIDOTTE is a topically arranged section of entries on proper names (personal and geographical), the theology of each book of the OT, historical epochs (e.g., Kingdom of Judah, Exile, Intertestamental Period), peoples of the OT, extrabiblical literature (e.g., Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha), as well as concepts (e.g., Retribution).

The approach to each topic varies according to the nature of the subject. There is generally a similar structure in the entries that pertain to the theology of an OT book: A. Historical Context; B. Literary Structure; C. Theological Themes; D. Canonical Context. Whereas sections A and D are sometimes omitted, one can be sure that all contributors delineate the literary structure and theological themes and thereby make a contribution in keeping with the methodological concerns expressed above.

To further integrate the topics with the Lexical Articles, cross-references to topics and individual words are provided. At the conclusion of an article, one may find (a) cross-reference^) to (a) semantic field(s) related to the subject. However, no attempt was made to cover all the potential topics, because this would duplicate the Lexical Articles. Instead, one will find alphanumeric references to the lexical entries, such as:

Adultery See H5537 (5a'n:, commit adultery, idolatry)

Beard See H2417 fq;z:, beard)



The Index of Semantic Fields is designed to be a useful complement to the set. Of course, for those who merely wish to use the Dictionary as a dictionary, it may be enough just to go to either the English entries or to the Hebrew entries by using the alphabetical article lists. Users who wish to consult NIDOTTE for its exegesis of a particular passage need only entry a book, chapter, and verse number in the search dialog, and the program instantly locates all articles that contain any reference to the verse. Studying several locations in NIDOTTE where the same passage has been discussed or explained differently by several contributors greatly enhances the value of the Dictionary as a reference work.

The Index of Semantic Fields is designed to be a helpful means of finding entries that convey words that may be semantically related (see discussion under INTRODUCTION, B. Semantic Fields and Words above). The listing of about two thousand fields is not intended to be a complete thesaurus of the Hebrew language, but it provides a convenient way of finding groups of Hebrew words that are collocated in the Hebrew text or are conceptually interrelated through the use of English words with similar meaning. For example, a search for "barren" reveals the following entry:

Barren, childless, miscarriage: See dWml]G" (barren, H1678); See lp,n£E (stillborn child, miscarriage, H5878); See rq;[; (barren, childless, H6829); See yrlyrl[} (childless, H6884); See Ik'v; (be bereaved, bereavement, miscarry, H8897; l/kv], bereavement, H8890; IWKv', bereaved, H8891; hI;Wkv], bereaved, H8892; ^liKuvi, childlessness, bereavement, H8898); See Adoption

However, if the word "barren" does not come to one's mind, one could consult "childless" and find a similar entry:

Childless: See rq;[; (barren, childless, H6829); See yrlyrl[} (childless, H6884); See Ik'v; (be bereaved, bereavement, miscarry, H8897; l/kv], bereavement, H8890; IWKv', bereaved, H8891; hl;Wkv], bereaved, H8892; iiyliKuvi, childlessness, bereavement, H8898); See Adoption

Furthermore, a word such as the one mentioned first, rq;[; (barren, childless, H6829), may suggest the field "barrenness" or other fields, such as "miscarriage" or "bereavement." In many cases similar to this, one will be able to move associatively from concept to concept.

Another way of assessing the Index of Semantic Fields is through the short listing of the semantic field that appears under each entry of the Lexical Articles and Topical

Dictionary articles. For example, the entry of lk'v; (be bereaved, bereavement, miscarry, H8897) has a brief listing of semantically related words:

Barren, childless, miscarriage: See dWml]G" (barren, H1678); See lp,n£E (stillborn child, miscarriage, H5878); See rq;[; (barren, childless, H6829); See yrIyrI[} (childless, H6884); See lk'v; (be bereaved, bereavement, miscarry, H8897)

This short listing may prompt one either to consult the more comprehensive Index of Semantic Fields or simply to turn to the some of the words in the short listing.

Further, many semantically related fields can be found in the Topical Dictionary. Here one will find articles on persons, events, and concepts, together with cross-references to words in the Lexical Articles. For example, under "Childless," one will find the following reference: See H6829 (rq;[;, barren, childless). Sometimes this process is reversible in that the Index of Semantic Fields also makes reference to a relevant subject in the Topical Dictionary by adding a reference in bold print, e.g., See Adoption (the reference to "Theology" after the colon refers the reader to the Topical Dictionary; even though theology is found throughout the set, we have used this designation to distinguish Topical Dictionary articles from the Lexical Articles. See also the directions in the Index of Semantic Fields.

The use of the other indexes opens up other avenues of approach. The Index of Hebrew Words organizes alphanumerically the lexical entries in the order of the Hebrew alphabet —it is arranged numerically and alphabetically (in the order of the Hebrew alphabet) for easy access to all students of the OT.

For those who are looking for theological information, there may be no better approach than that of consulting the Index of Fields. This index is a map to the vast knowledge contained within NIDOTTE. It catalogs the conceptual content by using English main headings and subheadings arranged alphabetically. Every effort has been made to provide a well-organized and accessible index.

This index is designed with a wide range of users in mind, listing countless subjects and including jumps to the articles that cover those subjects. It lists hundreds of synonyms by which someone might want to locate a subject in NIDOTTE and gives cross-references to main headings and subheadings of the index where the locators are listed.

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