Review: Jonathan Kline’s “A Proverb A Day In Biblical Hebrew”

Having recently co-edited the Reader’s Edition of the Septuagint, it probably comes as no surprise that I am an advocate of well-produced texts to cultivate learning and appreciation of the biblical languages. So I was excited to see yet another volume from Jonathan Kline suited for that very purpose. Kline has already put together a series of biblical language books that I recommend to students. And this new book, A Proverb A Day In Biblical Hebrew (Hendrickson 2019) is yet another excellent resource to help keep students, pastors, and scholars in the Hebrew text.

The idea is simple and for that very reason extremely useful. Kline has selected 365 proverbs for the reader — one for each day of the year — from the “Proverbs of Solomon” section of the book of Proverbs (10:1–22:16). One proverb is presented on a page, broken into two poetic lines. Each line is then broken into words or grammatical constructions underneath, with a curated set of glosses to help get a sense for the semantic range involved (and thus interpretive possibilities). Every verb is parsed as well. The pages look like this:

A Proverb A Day In Biblical Hebrew

Image from ChristianBooks.com

What that image does not show is how, at the bottom of each page, Kline has also produced his own (often delightfully creative) translation of the proverb. Ingeniously, the translation for any given proverb is provided on the following page. Why is that ingenious? Because, admit it, you would cheat if it was at the bottom of the same page. But with the way this volume is laid out, that’s impossible, meaning that you actually think about the Hebrew itself before you jump to English. Kline has also made a number of strategic decisions about the ordering, layout, and other textual features to help you focus on Hebrew in manageable, meaningful units.

Other things I love about this book:

First, it is really well made. Quality production is one major reason that Lanier and I chose Hendrickson when we were looking for a publisher for our Reader’s Edition. And they have not disappointed with Kline’s new book. It is a clothbound hardback, inlaid with a tasteful and slightly iridescent floral design (which also appears in green ink on the inside endpapers). The book has a sewn binding as well that, even when the book is new, is willing to lie almost totally flat. With a little use, I’m sure that won’t be a problem. Notably, even with this level of production, the price point is extremely reasonable. With production like this, the book would make a perfect gift for the seminarian or pastor in your life.

Second, the way Kline has put this volume together is meant to encourage reflection. It is not just a book to help you grind dutifully through Hebrew vocabulary because you feel obligated to. It is a book that is aware of the lasting value and wisdom of the scriptural content it so thoughtfully presents. The biblical proverbs have wisdom to offer time and again, regardless of how often you read them, and Kline’s volume makes dwelling on them not only manageable, but enjoyable. It comes highly recommended.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.