HALOT vs. DCH: Battle of the Hebrew Lexicons—The Final Fight

by | Jun 15, 2020 | Battle of the Lexicons | 2 comments

Welcome to the final installment of the series where I pit biblical language lexicon against biblical language lexicon. Accordance Bible Software has kindly sponsored three matches between the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) and the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (DCH). Each match consists of three rounds where we’ll consider three words from a narrative passage from the book of Jeremiah. For each round, I’ll provide the Hebrew lemma, the verse where it’s from (English and Hebrew), a screenshot comparison of lexicon entries, breakdown, and analysis. Let’s begin.

Round 1: כְּליּא

Jer 52:31  And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison.

וַיְהִי֩ בִשְׁלֹשִׁ֨ים וָשֶׁ֜בַע שָׁנָ֗ה לְגָלוּת֙ יְהוֹיָכִ֣ן מֶֽלֶךְ־יְהוּדָ֔ה בִּשְׁנֵ֤ים עָשָׂר֙ חֹ֔דֶשׁ בְּעֶשְׂרִ֥ים וַחֲמִשָּׁ֖ה לַחֹ֑דֶשׁ נָשָׂ֡א אֱוִ֣יל מְרֹדַךְ֩ מֶ֨לֶךְ בָּבֶ֜ל בִּשְׁנַ֣ת מַלְכֻת֗וֹ אֶת־רֹאשׁ֙ יְהוֹיָכִ֣ין מֶֽלֶךְ־יְהוּדָ֔ה וַיֹּצֵ֥א אוֹת֖וֹ מִבֵּ֥ית הַכְּלִיא [הַ][כְּלֽוּא׃]


All screenshots taken from Accordance Bible Software.

This is a study in brevity, and for good reason. Jeremiah 37:4 and 52:31 are the only two occurrences listed. This entry is glossless because it’s an occurrence of Ketib (K) and Qere (Q). The Ketib (written) form כְּלִיא, according to the Masoretic scribes, should be read כְּלוּא (Würthwein, 21). We can check that entry out too, but there’s not a whole lot for us to see.

For our purposes, what we come away with from this entry and the one before it are the Ketib and Qere for our word in Jer. 52:31 along with a refer to the word כֶּלֶא. So let’s look at this word.  

We see the variant form from our passage. And after the Semitic cognates, there are two glosses: imprisonment, prison. The Jer. 52:31 usage shows up under this sense. The second sense, used later on in our text regarding Jehoiachin’s clothing, refers to prison garments. 


Our word is a masculine noun. It occurs in Jer. 52:31 as part of a construct relationship (<CSTR>) translated “the house of confinement, i.e. prison.” There’s a notation that this is an occurence of a Ketib, and the asterisk directs us to a note giving us the Qere form. And we’re referred to the verb כלא (to restrain) for further study.  

Assessment: HALOT requires an additional click, while DCH gives us a similar gloss right away. The relevant entry HALOT refers us to is meatier, and for that reason it wins round one. 

Round 2: טוֹבָה

Jer 52:32  And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon.

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אִתּ֖וֹ טֹב֑וֹת וַיִּתֵּן֙ אֶת־כִּסְא֔וֹ מִמַּ֗עַל לְכִסֵּ֧א מְלָכִים [הַ][מְּלָכִ֛ים] אֲשֶׁ֥ר אִתּ֖וֹ בְּבָבֶֽל׃


HALOT tells us the noun is difficult to distinguish from the adjective. Our Jer. 52:32 reference is listed under the first sense: good things. It’s a plural that occurs with the verb דִּבֶּר (to speak) and the preposition אֵת (“with”). It can be translated as “kind words.”


There is more to this entry, but I’ve only included the material up to where our reference is listed. (At the end of the entry we find synonyms, antonyms, and a referral to the related verb.) 

The given gloss for this usage in Jer. 52:32 is kind, pleasant words. It’s also the object of the verb speak

Assessment: Both of these treatments are helpful. Both are about equally useful for informing our lexical understanding. Let’s call this one a tie. 

Round 3: אֲרֻחָה

Jer 52:34  and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, until the day of his death, as long as he lived.

וַאֲרֻחָת֗וֹ אֲרֻחַת֩ תָּמִ֨יד נִתְּנָה־לּ֜וֹ מֵאֵ֧ת מֶֽלֶךְ־בָּבֶ֛ל דְּבַר־י֥וֹם בְּיוֹמ֖וֹ עַד־י֣וֹם מוֹת֑וֹ כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֥י חַיָּֽיו׃


I’m thinking “trad. ארח” means the traditional etymological understanding of this word is that it derives from the verb ארח (“to be on the road”). That would fit with the explanation of “provisions for a journey” for this word’s Jer. 40:5 usage. But HALOT leans more towards the Akkadian cognate arāḫu meaning “to consume, to destroy.” The word is glossed as allowance, and the Jer. 52:34 occurrence refers to the “sustenance” of Jehoiachin in exile, which included 15 liters of sesame oil per month according to the bibliographic source provided.  


This feminine noun is glossed ration of food. It appears in a construct relationship and with a suffix. We see a portion of our passage is quoted and translated, and then we’re directed to the related word ארח (journey), which HALOT also referenced. 

Assessment: Apart from the etymology, HALOT gives us some background information we might not expect to see in a lexicon with its reference to 15 liters of sesame oil for Jehoiachin. It might be mixing the roles of resources when a lexicon offers this kind of background information. Despite this potential philosophical fault, HALOT opens up a broader discussion on whether this word has any relationship to a word with the sense of “journey,” as DCH would imply. For this comparison, the win goes to HALOT


Here’s what we’ve seen over the three matches between the standard Hebrew lexicons. The first match went to HALOT for its beefier treatments of terms. We saw the same in this third round as we compared the two resources. Round two went to DCH, in part because of its extra syntactical information. Overall, the winner is HALOT, but both resources have their respective strengths. Only HALOT will give you up-to-date comparative Semitism. DCH is stronger in its syntactical prowess. They both share the common weakness of excluding definitions and relying solely upon glosses. Both lexicons are extremely useful and I will continue to use both of them for the valuable insights each has to offer.

Thanks to Accordance Bible Software for providing me with a free digital copy of DCH. (I recently purchased HALOT on my own!) This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Brent Niedergall

Pastor, Grammarian, Runner

Brent Niedergall, MDiv, is Chief Editor at Positive Action for Christ in Whitakers, North Carolina. He’s gone to war in Afghanistan, felled towering trees, and parsed Greek verbs.


  1. Roberto Carrera

    Great stuff!

    I don’t know if you have addressed this, but since HALOT is a translation of Koehler-Baumgartner Lexicon it should be used with caution.

    Just my only caveat.

    Roberto Carrera

  2. Stephen Brown

    I generally prefer HALOT, but DCH can be helpful. For example, from 5:726a-727b I learned that נפש, as used in Ps 68:18 [Heb. 19] is not elsewhere used as an (indirect) object of the verb קרב, nor indeed of verbs of motion generally (נשא and שוב being used in some cases, but non-spatially). This information helped me decide in favor of the suggestion (Viganò, Nomi e titoli di YHWH alla luce del semitico del Nord-ovest Vigano, 28-29) to repoint אֶל as אֵל, and גאלהּ and גאלה, leading to a gloss, “Draw near, O God! / My soul redeem! / For the sake of my enemies redeem me!” This improves the metrics of the passage and heightens the focus on God specifically as the direction David’s mind turns in his trouble.

Brent Niedergall