Today on Twitter a friend of mine from seminary posted this question: “can I get a list of frequent words from a passage of scripture?” The question was for a particular class where the professor assigns different biblical passages for which the student must apply his hermeneutical method. I tried a couple quick searches for this in Genesis 22, and then posted a screen shot with my preliminary results. Since the screen shot needed a bit of explanation, I thought I would write a blog post to describe what I did.

BHS word frequency search

In this example in the BHS text I ­started my search with any word *, and added two qualifiers linked with @ to exclude particles and specify a frequency count.

The first qualifier excludes all particles. To do this select Search > Enter Grammatical Tag > Particle… . In the dialogue box you can select all of them by leaving it blank, then click OK. Next, type a minus before the bracket: [PARTICLE]- @*.

Next, I added the COUNT (⇧ ⌘ U).  You can obviously tweak the frequency count here, but I assumed that if the word occurs 3 or more times, it is important.

I then added the range. But, note here that I defined a custom range (⌘ R) for Gen 22. The reason I did this is because I wanted the frequency count to be restricted to this passage only. If I had simply used the Range command with Genesis 22, it would have based the frequency count on the entire Hebrew Bible, which is not what I wanted. To use the the custom range, simply click the more options disclosure triangle and select it. Note, after creating a custom range it will automatically be selected.

Lastly, click on the Details button, then Analysis tab to view the results (I selected Sort Down as well). Here we can see the most frequently used words in this passage.

HCSBS word frequency count

In this example in the HCSBS, I replicated the same search. (Hint: to duplicate a tab use the shortcut ⌘ D). Then, I just changed the search text to the HCSBS, and edited the qualifier.

Since this is a key number text, and only the more significant words in the Old Testament are assigned a key number, I qualified my word search to include any word with a key number. To do this select Search > Enter Command > Key. Then enter * for any key number. You can also use the shortcut ⇧ ⌘ K.

If this was in the New Testament (or with a non-key number text) it would include a lot of extra hits. You can easily eliminate these by adding the appropriate words in parentheses: -(a, and, the, but, to, in, with, he, I, you).

Now, just click on the details button, and analysis tab to view your results.

Whether you perform this search in Hebrew or English you can see that in a quick amount of time you can identify the most frequently occurring words in a particular passage. Oh, and if you’re tempted to drool, just don’t get any on your keyboard!