Ancient Israel: The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings: A Translation with Commentary

Ancient Israel: The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings: A Translation with Commentary

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by Robert Alter
     
 

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Robert Alter’s award-winning translation of the Hebrew Bible continues with the stirring narrative of Israel’s ancient history.
To read the books of the Former Prophets in this riveting Robert Alter translation is to discover an entertaining amalgam of hair-raising action and high literary achievement. Samson, the vigilante superhero of Judges,

Overview

Robert Alter’s award-winning translation of the Hebrew Bible continues with the stirring narrative of Israel’s ancient history.
To read the books of the Former Prophets in this riveting Robert Alter translation is to discover an entertaining amalgam of hair-raising action and high literary achievement. Samson, the vigilante superhero of Judges, slaughters thousands of Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. David, the Machiavellian prince of Samuel and Kings, is one of the great literary figures of antiquity. A ruthless monarch, David embodies a life in full dimension as it moves from brilliant youth through vigorous prime to failing old age.
Samson and David play emblematic roles in the rise and fall of ancient Israel, a nation beset by internal divisions and external threats. A scattering of contentious desert tribes joined by faith in a special covenant with God, Israel emerges through the bloody massacres of Canaanite populations recounted in Joshua and the anarchic violence of Judges. The resourceful David consolidates national power, but it is power rooted in conspiracy, and David dies bitterly isolated in his court, surrounded by enemies. His successor, Solomon, maintains national unity through his legendary wisdom, wealth, and grand public vision, but after his death Israel succumbs to internal discord and foreign conquest. Near its end, the saga of ancient Israel returns to the supernatural. In Elijah’s fiery ascent to heaven many would find the harbinger of a messiah coming to save his people in their time of need.

Editorial Reviews

Adam Kirsch - Tablet
“One of the most ambitious literary projects of this or any age.”
Seamus Heaney - Times Literary Supplement
“Alter’s translation can be fairly described as a godsend…Immediately readable, immensely learned, an education and a restitution.”
Cynthia Ozick - New Republic
“The poets will rejoice. Alter’s language ascends to a rare purity through a plainness that equals the plainness of the Hebrew.”
James Wood - The New Yorker
“Alter takes us back to the essence of the meaning…Everything is clearer, seeming to have been rinsed not in the baptismal waters of the New Testament but in the life-giving water of the desert.”
Harold Bloom - New York Review of Books
“A considerable achievement…Alter holds me to his darkly economical texts.”
Malcolm Jones - Newsweek
“You think you know these texts, or you do until you read Alter, who reignites their beauty in bracing and unexpected ways.”
Michael Dirda - Washington Post
“Thrilling and constantly illuminating. After the still, small voices of so many tepid modern translations, here is a whirlwind.”
Peter Ackroyd - Times (London)
“Alter has achieved the significant feat of refreshing English by taking it back to one of its sources of strength.”
Tablet
One of the most ambitious literary projects of this or any age.— Adam Kirsch
Times Literary Supplement
Alter’s translation can be fairly described as a godsend…Immediately readable, immensely learned, an education and a restitution.— Seamus Heaney
New Republic
The poets will rejoice. Alter’s language ascends to a rare purity through a plainness that equals the plainness of the Hebrew.— Cynthia Ozick
The New Yorker
Alter takes us back to the essence of the meaning…Everything is clearer, seeming to have been rinsed not in the baptismal waters of the New Testament but in the life-giving water of the desert.— James Wood
New York Review of Books
A considerable achievement…Alter holds me to his darkly economical texts.— Harold Bloom
Newsweek
You think you know these texts, or you do until you read Alter, who reignites their beauty in bracing and unexpected ways.— Malcolm Jones
Washington Post
Thrilling and constantly illuminating. After the still, small voices of so many tepid modern translations, here is a whirlwind.— Michael Dirda
Times (London)
Alter has achieved the significant feat of refreshing English by taking it back to one of its sources of strength.— Peter Ackroyd
John Hobbins - Los Angeles Review of Books
“Alter the commentator deserves as much attention as Alter the translator… The strengths of his commentary are its wealth of short, pithy formulations, rich descriptions of translation issues, and historical and literary discussions… Alter is an eloquent popularizer.”
Tablet - Adam Kirsch
“One of the most ambitious literary projects of this or any age.”
Times Literary Supplement - Seamus Heaney
“Alter’s translation can be fairly described as a godsend…Immediately readable, immensely learned, an education and a restitution.”
New Republic - Cynthia Ozick
“The poets will rejoice. Alter’s language ascends to a rare purity through a plainness that equals the plainness of the Hebrew.”
The New Yorker - James Wood
“Alter takes us back to the essence of the meaning…Everything is clearer, seeming to have been rinsed not in the baptismal waters of the New Testament but in the life-giving water of the desert.”
New York Review of Books - Harold Bloom
“A considerable achievement…Alter holds me to his darkly economical texts.”
Newsweek - Malcolm Jones
“You think you know these texts, or you do until you read Alter, who reignites their beauty in bracing and unexpected ways.”
Washington Post - Michael Dirda
“Thrilling and constantly illuminating. After the still, small voices of so many tepid modern translations, here is a whirlwind.”
Times (London) - Peter Ackroyd
“Alter has achieved the significant feat of refreshing English by taking it back to one of its sources of strength.”
Library Journal
Alter (Hebrew & comparative literature, Univ. of California, Berkeley; The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary) continues his work translating the Hebrew Bible. His literary skills are on full display here as he translates with power and freshness the national epic of ancient Israel. The author precedes his translation of each book with brief essays in which he approaches the content from a literary-historical viewpoint. Further and more extensive commentary on each book may be found in the footnotes that accompany nearly every verse, providing readers with context for the stories and grammatical notes on the Hebrew. The latter, while of interest to scholars and those familiar with the stories and the language in which they were originally written, could prove off-putting to casual readers who may not be accustomed to footnotes that, on average, are half a page in length. Most puzzling is the absence of the Hebrew text itself despite commentary devoted to the Hebrew language, an issue consistent throughout Alter's series. Still, readers with no knowledge of Hebrew but curious about meanings in the original text may well find the footnotes appealing. VERDICT This work will prove of interest to both clergy and readers with a serious interest in the Bible and biblical and ancient history.—Matt Rice, MLS candidate, Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews
A fresh translation of six historical books of the Hebrew Bible. Venerable scholar Alter (Hebrew and Comparative Literature/Univ. of California; The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary, 2010, etc.) continues a decade of biblical-translation work with this new look at Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. These core historical texts explain the history of ancient Israel, including such famous figures as Samson, Elijah, David and Solomon. Each translation is accompanied by an introductory essay and extensive commentary in footnotes. Though Alter does not address the obvious question--why another translation?--his translation is unique enough and his commentary extensive and erudite enough to render the question rather moot. The author has a definitive respect for the ancient writers who first wrote these texts; he sees them not as "schools" or abstract conveyors of legend but as real people who knew they were doing an important service by recording this history, as best they knew it. Alter also reads the texts with a sharp eye for moral lessons and ethical dilemmas. Rather than ignoring ethical issues or chalking them up to cultural differences, he grapples with them, understanding the text to be an ethical and religious work. Yet he does so without snobbishness. Alter's translation has an earthy quality, sticking closely to the text without bending it to fit modern preferences for grammar and language flow. A fine, useful resource for lay scholars, clergy and serious Bible readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393348767
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/14/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
880
Sales rank:
303,657
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Robert Alter's ongoing translation of the Hebrew Bible, the magnificent capstone to a lifetime of distinguished scholarly work, has won the PEN Center Literary Award for Translation. His immense achievements in scholarship ranging from the eighteenth-century European novel to contemporary Hebrew and American literature earned Alter the Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Los Angeles Times. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, Alter is the Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Ancient Israel: The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings: a Translation with Commentary 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TedMorgan More than 1 year ago
Routinely, I order Professor Alter’s books as they are published. I have been reading his work since 1982. They have very much shaped my reading of literature in general and of the Hebrew Bible in translation. His translation of Hebrew scripture fascinates me. I read and reread these translations. I do not have all of his work but what I have deeply impresses me. I highly recommend It.