A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew

  • Duane A. Garrett, Jason S. DeRouchie
  • Oct 20, 2009
  • Series: Volume 12 - 2009

Duane A. Garrett and Jason S. DeRouchie, A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (textbook and workbook). Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009. Textbook: vi + 412 pages + verb paradigms. Hardback. $31.49 ISBN 978-0-8054-4962-4. Workbook: 309 pages. Paperback.  $30.39 ISBN 978-0-8054-4963-1.

A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew is a complete revision of Duane A. Garrett’s earlier work entitled A Modern Grammar for Classical Hebrew (B&H Publishing, 2002).


Most biblical Hebrew grammars currently available on the market introduce the features of biblical Hebrew through a traditional grammar-translation approach. Garrett & DeRouchies’s grammar adopts this traditional approach. The authors supplement the Textbook with ancillary materials on a CD, on a website (http://www.bhacademic.com/A-Modern-Grammar-for-Biblical-Hebrew/), and with a fabulous Workbook of exercises.

The material in A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew is designed to cover two semesters of biblical Hebrew in academic and non-academic settings (16 weeks @ 3 hrs/week). According to the authors, “those who complete the entire 41 chapters will have translated over 300 verses of actual biblical Hebrew (+ numerous made-up sentences) and memorized nearly all words used 79x or more in the Hebrew Bible (+ some extras), including 510 core vocabulary and 155 proper names” (p.v).

The TEXTBOOK is divided into six major sections:

1. Orthography and phonology – chapters 1-4 – The material covered in chapters 1 to 4 is intended to introduce students to the Alphabet (consonants & vowels), the shewa, dagesh, mappiq, metheg, gutturals, and major accents. Although the terminology used to describe the phonetic value of each letter of the Alphabet is somewhat technical for first year students (e.g. plosive, fricative, spirant, sibilants, velars, nasal, lingual, glide), the content of the chapters is presented in a systematic and clear fashion.

According to the authors, the pronunciation of certain consonants reflects an ancient phonology: dalet = dh, vav = wow, tav = th. This pronunciation has gone out-of-use in many academic contexts, especially in classes where there are students who speak Modern Israeli Hebrew.

2. Basic Morphology and Syntax – chapters 5-26 - By the end of chapter 26, students have studied all the basic features of biblical Hebrew grammar, including nouns, prepositions, pronoun suffixes, adjectives, numbers, and the principal parts of the Qal verbal system in the Strong verb and in the III-heh verb, minus the Jussive and Cohortative (covered in chapter 30). Each chapter includes new grammatical features with explanations and charts, a vocabulary list, and the guided reading of a biblical Hebrew text.

The principal parts of the Hebrew verbal system are introduced and discussed briefly in Chapter 6.  The authors have adopted the following terminology for the principal parts: Qatal (for the Perfect), Yiqtol (for the Imperfect), Weqatal (for the Perfect Consecutive), Wayyiqtol (for the Narrative Preterite), Imperative, Participle, and Infinitive absolute and construct.

Basic details related to Tense, Mood, Aspect, and Voice in the Hebrew verbal system are introduced in chapter 6 along with various functions of the principal parts. Beginning with chapter 6, students learn inflected forms of verbs as vocabulary words. These are then used in full sentences in examples and exercises.

The seven stems and their basic meanings are introduced methodically in chapter 20, followed by a detailed explanation of the root system of the Hebrew language. Chapters 21 to 26 focus on the morphological features of the verbal system of the Strong and Weak roots in the Qal and derived stems, primarily in the simplest form (3ms / ms).

3. Detailed study of the Qal Verb – chapters 27-30 Chapters 27 to 30 build on the introduction of the verbal system covered in earlier chapters, and focus primarily on the features of the Weak verbs in the Qal stem. While earlier chapters had introduced the basic morphological details of weak verbs (mainly 3ms / ms), chapters 27 to 30 provide full paradigms of each principal part in the Qal stem for Strong and Weak verbs. Each chapter concludes with a vocabulary list and a biblical Hebrew text for reading exercise.

4. Detailed study of the Derived Stems – chapters 31-35 Chapters 31 to 35 cover the entire verbal paradigm of Strong and Weak roots in the derived stems (Niphal, Piel, Pual, Hiphil, Hophal, Hithpael). The chapters discuss briefly the morphological features of each principal part in each of these stems. The Geminate root is introduced as an Alternative Doubled stem.

5. The Masoretic Text, Detailed Study of Syntax, and Poetry – chapters 36-41 The Textbook concludes with a detailed description of the Cantillation marks (ch. 36), an overview of syntactical and literary features (ch. 37), a discussion on the structure of texts and discourse markers (e.g. main line vs subordination, clause types – ch.38-40), and an overview of Hebrew poetic features (ch. 41). The material in this section of the Textbook is often covered during a third semester of biblical Hebrew.

6. Appendixes – 1-8 The Textbook includes eight appendixes with basic instructions for using the BHS (App. 1), information on using a Hebrew lexicon (App. 2), nominal clauses (App. 3), information on discourse analysis (App. 4), a glossary of linguistic terms used in the Textbook (App. 5), a Hebrew-English vocabulary list by chapter (App. 6), a Hebrew-English vocabulary list in alphabetical order (App. 7), and verbal paradigms (App. 8).

The format of the grammar is clear and well organized. Every chapter includes numerous charts and paradigms. The Textbook follows a logical sequence in the presentation of new material, progressing from simple details of orthography to semi-complex elements of syntax suitable for first and second year students.

The Textbook CD includes audio files of the Alphabet and of the new Vocabulary found in each chapter. Unfortunately, the pronunciation that is used in the audio files differs from that which is used by speakers of Modern Israeli Hebrew. For example, the dalet is pronounced dh, the vav is pronounced waw, and the tav is pronounced th. This pronunciation is not suitable for classes where there are speakers of Modern Israeli Hebrew, and for classes that use interactive activities in Hebrew based on Second Language Acquisition methods (SLA). In addition, the CD includes Powerpoints with vocabulary words, pdf files of the biblical texts studied after chapter 26, and a Vocabulary ‘Catch-Up List’ for third semester students of Hebrew. This list is a great review tool for students who have completed two semesters of biblical Hebrew and are continuing their journey in the study of Hebrew.

The WORKBOOK includes a variety of exercises for each chapter (e.g. translation, charts, crossword puzzles, fill-in-the-blanks).  The exercises correspond directly to the material in the Textbook and serve to reinforce the learning of new features of Hebrew covered in the corresponding chapter. The format of the Workbook is clear and easy to follow. Each chapter includes a sufficient number of exercises to help students learn the new material well.

An Answer Key for each exercise is provided at the end of the Workbook. This tool is usually helpful for self-learners who like to check their own work after they have completed the exercises, but it can also be to the detriment of students who are less motivated and use the Answer key in order to ‘complete’ their assignments. The Answer Key is followed by a 2-page card that includes basic charts and paradigms for important features of the Hebrew language (e.g. Alphabet, Nouns, Suffixes, Verb paradigms).

The WEBSITE provides sample syllabi for two semester courses. In addition, various tools are made available by the authors to instructors and students (e.g. Powerpoints Lecture Aids on chapters 1-14, lecture notes [which I could not open]). Unfortunately, there are a number of errors in the Powerpoint presentations. For example, vowels often appear between two consonants rather than below the consonant (slides 2.11, 3.7, 11.3, 11.6, 13.3, etc.), the Hebrew font is not consistent (slides 11.3, 13.6, etc.), the chart of pronoun suffixes includes a dash on the wrong side of the suffix (slide 14.3), divided word syllables appear in the wrong order (slides 2.12, 3.5, 4.3, 4.5, 4.6, etc.), word divisions are problematic (slides 14.6, 14.8, etc.), etc. These inconsistencies and errors could be edited and corrected quite easily.

Garrett and DeRouchie have produced a very good and very intense grammar of biblical Hebrew. Its structure is excellent for those who wish to teach using a traditional grammar-translation method, but it leaves very little room for flexibility for those who wish to include interactive activities in the classroom (e.g. Total Physical Response – TPR, songs, listening comprehension exercises, speaking exercises). Instructors who wish to use this grammar will need to simplify the explanations of grammatical features for most of the students in their classes.

Regarding the authors - Duane A. Garrett is currently the John R. Sampey Professor of OT at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Jason S. DeRouchie is Associate Professor of OT at Bethlehem College and Seminary.

Hélène Dallaire, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Denver Seminary
October 2009