Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT)

The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) is one of the most important Hebrew dictionaries available in biblical studies today. It is an essential tool for any serious biblical scholar.

What is HALOT and where did it come from?

HALOT is the English translation of the classic German lexicon from the 2nd half of the 20th century written by L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner. Their work went through several revisions with the contributions of several additional scholars. This translation by M.E.J. Richardson (i.e., HALOT) is mostly based on the third edition of Koehler/Baumgartner.

Although BDB has long been considered the most important dictionary for the Hebrew Bible, HALOT has come to challenge BDB’s dominance. Today, many scholars recommend HALOT over BDB. However, if one encounters a particularly difficult word, it would be wise to consult both lexicons.

HALOT has many advantages:

  • Entries are not organized by root, but rather by spelling. This makes words easier to find.
  • HALOT has the most comprehensive and up-to-date material on cognate languages for any dictionary available. It has important information from Ugaritic and Akkadian, as well as other languages such as Aramaic, Ethiopic, and Arabic.
  • Unlike BDB, all Semitic cognate words are transliterated. This makes the information easier to understand for those who can’t read all the major ancient Semitic languages!
  • For words that occur less frequently, HALOT can often be used as a concordance.

HALOT has a few disadvantages:

  • Entries are not organized by root, but rather by spelling. This means that finding words from the same root can sometimes be much harder.
  • HALOT is expensive, especially compared to BDB. Although HALOT is still much more affordable than DCH, often younger scholars are actually expected to buy HALOT, whereas this is usually not the case with DCH.

In fact, the biggest impediment to new scholars using HALOT is its cost – new copies cost just under $300. Obviously, this price can be prohibitively expensive for new students.

If cost is an issue for you, here are 3 ways to proceed:

  • Just use the copy in a campus library (although it is really nice having your own copy at home)
  • Look around for deals. Used copies are sometimes cheaper. Also, sometimes local bookstores can be overstocked.
  • If you are using a bible software program, a HALOT module can often be purchased to go along with the software. Usually this will save you money on a copy of HALOT. However, you will have a propriety copy of HALOT – that is to say that your copy of HALOT can only be accessed when you are using the particular bible software program that sold it to you.

Holladay, the shorter, cheaper alternative to HALOT

In addition to HALOT, there is another dictionary based upon Koehler/Baumgartner. Prior to HALOT, William Holladay translated and created a concise version of the German dictionary. Holladay’s concise dictionary is much cheaper than HALOT.

Like HALOT, Holladay’s dictionary is also arranged by spelling rather than by root, making it very easy to use. However, this concise dictionary doesn’t have any information on cognate languages or biblical references.

Nevertheless, Holladay’s dictionary is great for beginners and/or those wanting to do a quick translation of a text. This dictionary is not appropriate for those wanting to do an in-depth analysis of a text.

Final Verdict

HALOT is one of the most important dictionaries for Biblical Hebrew available today. Using HALOT is absolutely essential for any kind of serious exegetical work. If you plan on studying the Bible in Hebrew for a significant period of time, you shouldn’t be without it. Consider it an investment.

Information about purchasing HALOT can be found by clicking on the image below. Or learn about other biblical hebrew dictionaries.

Please note: some of the above links are affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Please know that I recommend these products because I think they are helpful for biblical studies. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel they will help you achieve your learning goals.