The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible [NOOK Book]


The King James Bible stands at "the sublime summit of literature in English," sharing the honor only with Shakespeare, Harold Bloom contends in the opening pages of this illuminating literary tour. Distilling the insights acquired from a significant portion of his career as a brilliant critic and teacher, he offers readers at last the book he has been writing "all my long life," a magisterial and intimately perceptive reading of the King James Bible as a literary masterpiece.


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The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible

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The King James Bible stands at "the sublime summit of literature in English," sharing the honor only with Shakespeare, Harold Bloom contends in the opening pages of this illuminating literary tour. Distilling the insights acquired from a significant portion of his career as a brilliant critic and teacher, he offers readers at last the book he has been writing "all my long life," a magisterial and intimately perceptive reading of the King James Bible as a literary masterpiece.

Bloom calls it an "inexplicable wonder" that a rather undistinguished group of writers could bring forth such a magnificent work of literature, and he credits William Tyndale as their fountainhead. Reading the King James Bible alongside Tyndale's Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the original Hebrew and Greek texts, Bloom highlights how the translators and editors improved upon—or, in some cases, diminished—the earlier versions. He invites readers to hear the baroque inventiveness in such sublime books as the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, and alerts us to the echoes of the King James Bible in works from the Romantic period to the present day. Throughout, Bloom makes an impassioned and convincing case for reading the King James Bible as literature, free from dogma and with an appreciation of its enduring aesthetic value.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Most readers peruse the King James Bible as a document of religious truths. Harold Bloom, the dean of literary critics, regards it as "the sublime summit of literature in English," worthy of comparison with Shakespeare. In this full-length work, the venerable octogenarian describes how a masterpiece emerged from the seemingly unwieldy collaboration of 47 undistinguished scholars. Comparing the 1611 translations with earlier versions, Bloom shows how the translators and editors smoothed, clarified, and enhanced key passages. A major work worthy of crossover readership; certain to be reviewed.

Yvonne Zipp
This is a fascinating, intellectually nimble tour de force.
—The Washington Post
Los Angeles Times

“Exhilarating, provocative. . . . Bloom [enriches] his remarks with lively associations and frequent references to his beloved Shakespeare (did you know that Hamlet's divided personality has much in common with King David's?). . . . When [Bloom] praises the English translators of John's Gospel, he calls their interpretation ‘dazzling in its audacity.’ The same, of course, can be said of this book.”—Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times

— Nick Owchar

Elegant Variation
“Just fascinating, brilliant, and reliably Bloomsian.”— Mark Sarvas, The Elegant Variation
New York Times Book Review

"Bloom . . . has many arresting things to say and says them, often, with exquisite precision.  He is, by any reckoning, one of the most stimulating literary presences of the last half-century - and one of the most protean, a singular breed of scholar-teacher-critic-prose-poet-pamphleteer."—Sam Tanenhaus, New York Times Book Review

— Sam Tanenhaus

Deseret News
“The greatest strength of Bloom's volume comes in helping the reader navigate to, and through, the finest literary passages of the Bible; explaining how the ancient verses have influenced the past four centuries of Western literature.”—Deseret News
Financial Times
“[A] product of decades of thought, this is an old man’s book – wise while verging on the sentimental, pared down yet also self-indulgent, sometimes belligerent or desperate – whose overarching message should resonate nevertheless with readers of all generations.”—Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times

— Jackie Wullschlager

Sunday Herald (Scotland)
“The book is invigorated by a passion. Bloom is evangelical on the genius of the King James Bible. He is excellent on the contribution of William Tyndale, “the authentic genius of English Bible Translation”. He can be brilliantly perceptive on the “erotic magnetism” of Esther or flawed heroism of David. His brisk run through the prophets is fun and often convincing. “Jonah is a sulking, unwilling prophet, cowardly and petulant,” he writes. “Elijah and Elisha are savage, Jeremiah is a bipolar depressive, Ezekiel a madman.”—Hugh MacDonald, Sunday Herald (Scotland)

— Hugh MacDonald

Chicago Jewish Star
“Bloom celebrates King James not for anything so pedestrian as ‘accuracy’ but for what he himself has championed during his long and distinguished career as a literary critic: creative misreading.”—Edward Alexander, Chicago Jewish Star
— Edward Alexander
Church Times

One of the United States' most high-profile literary critics, Bloom self-identifies as "a Jew of Gnostic tendencies who neither trusts in the Covenant nor shares Christian faith in the Resurrection", and who sees Shakespeare as more of a god than God. One would, therefore, expect his take on the King James Bible to be studiedly provocative, and he does not disappoint."

— Alison Shell

Washington Post
A fascinating, intellectually nimble tour de force.—Yvonne Zipp, Washington Post
— Yvonne Zipp
Washington Post - Yvonne Zipp
“A fascinating, intellectually nimble tour de force.”—Yvonne Zipp, Washington Post
New York Times Book Review - Sam Tanenhaus
"Bloom . . . has many arresting things to say and says them, often, with exquisite precision.  He is, by any reckoning, one of the most stimulating literary presences of the last half-century - and one of the most protean, a singular breed of scholar-teacher-critic-prose-poet-pamphleteer."—Sam Tanenhaus, New York Times Book Review
Iain Finlayson
“Bloom reveals his own magisterial, sometimes mischievous, self in his meditations on the masters with whom he connects.”—Iain Finlayson, The Times
Los Angeles Times - Nick Owchar
“Exhilarating, provocative. . . . Bloom [enriches] his remarks with lively associations and frequent references to his beloved Shakespeare (did you know that Hamlet's divided personality has much in common with King David's?). . . . When [Bloom] praises the English translators of John's Gospel, he calls their interpretation ‘dazzling in its audacity.’ The same, of course, can be said of this book.”—Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times
Chicago Jewish Star - Edward Alexander
“Bloom celebrates King James not for anything so pedestrian as ‘accuracy’ but for what he himself has championed during his long and distinguished career as a literary critic: creative misreading.”—Edward Alexander, Chicago Jewish Star
 “Bloom yields to the KJB’s literary splendor—and invites readers to join in his surrender.”—Booklist, starred review
Library Journal
To Bloom (Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Yale; The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life), only Shakespeare rivals the supreme literary merit of the King James Bible (1611). Its development by a group of more than 50 translators divided into six committees, five of which were chaired by an "undistinguished group of writers," produced an "inexplicable wonder" that Bloom analyzes in relationship not only to the Hebrew and Greek original versions, but also to various translations, especially those of William Tyndale, "the greatest English translator," of Miles Coverdale, and of the Geneva Bible (1560). Bloom writes as a literary critic and secularist deeply attracted to the linguistic beauty of the King James Bible; his literary appreciation remains mostly at the level of language; plot construction, characterization, setting, etc., are not his focus. VERDICT At times idiosyncratic but often adulated, Bloom's literary criticism needs thoughtful consideration by linguistic and literary scholars, cultural historians, and Bloom admirers, as well as by the general public. The book is a tour de force and the result of a lifetime of critical pondering by a major critic.—Carolyn M. Craft, formerly with Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300180015
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/13/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,202,196
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Meet the Author

Harold Bloom

Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. He lives in New Haven, CT.


"Authentic literature doesn't divide us," the scholar and literary critic Harold Bloom once said. "It addresses itself to the solitary individual or consciousness." Revered and sometimes reviled as a champion of the Western canon, Bloom insists on the importance of reading authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer -- not because they transmit certain approved cultural values, but because they transcend the limits of culture, and thus enlarge rather than constrict our sense of what it means to be human. As Bloom explained in an interview, "Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage."

Bloom began his career by tackling the formidable legacy of T.S. Eliot, who had dismissed the English Romantic poets as undisciplined nature-worshippers. Bloom construed the Romantic poets' visions of immortality as rebellions against nature, and argued that an essentially Romantic imagination was still at work in the best modernist poets.

Having restored the Romantics to critical respectability, Bloom advanced a more general theory of poetry. His now-famous The Anxiety of Influence argued that any strong poem is a creative "misreading" of the poet's predecessor. The book raised, as the poet John Hollander wrote, "profound questions about... how the prior visions of other poems are, for a true poet, as powerful as his own dreams and as formative as his domestic childhood." In addition to developing this theory, Bloom wrote several books on sacred texts. In The Book of J, he suggested that some of the oldest parts of the Bible were written by a woman.

The Book of J was a bestseller, but it was the 1994 publication of The Western Canon that made the critic-scholar a household name. In it, Bloom decried what he called the "School of Resentment" and the use of political correctness as a basis for judging works of literature. His defense of the threatened canon formed, according to The New York Times, a "passionate demonstration of why some writers have triumphantly escaped the oblivion in which time buries almost all human effort."

Bloom placed Shakespeare along with Dante at the center of the Western canon, and he made another defense of Shakespeare's centrality with Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, an illuminating study of Shakespeare's plays. How to Read and Why (2000) revisited Shakespeare and other writers in the Bloom pantheon, and described the act of reading as both a spiritual exercise and an aesthetic pleasure.

Recently, Bloom took up another controversial stance when he attacked Harry Potter in an essay for The Wall Street Journal. His 2001 book Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages advanced an alternative to contemporary children's lit, with a collection of classic works of literature "worthy of rereading" by people of all ages.

The poet and editor David Lehman said that "while there are some critics who are known for a certain subtlety and a certain judiciousness, there are other critics... who radiate ferocious passion." Harold Bloom is a ferociously passionate reader for whom literary criticism is, as he puts it, "the art of making what is implicit in the text as finely explicit as possible."

Good To Know

Bloom earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1955 and was hired as a Yale faculty member that same year. In 1965, at the age of 35, he became one of the youngest scholars in Yale history to be appointed full professor in the department of English. He is now Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale and Berg Visiting Professor of English at New York University.

Though some conservative commentators embraced Bloom's canon as a return to traditional moral values, Bloom, who once styled himself "a Truman Democrat," dismisses attempts by both left- and right-wingers to politicize literature. "To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all," he told a New York Times interviewer.

His great affinity for Shakespeare has put Bloom in the unlikely position of stage actor on occasion; he has played his "literary hero," port-loving raconteur Sir John Falstaff, in three productions.

Bloom is married to Jeanne, a retired school psychologist whom he met while a junior faculty member at Yale in the 1950s. They have two sons.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Harold Irving Bloom (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 11, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

Read an Excerpt

The Shadow of a Great Rock

By Harold Bloom


Copyright © 2011 Harold Bloom
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-18001-5

Chapter One

The Five Books of Moses

* * *


THE FIVE SCROLLS (PENTATEUCH, from the Greek) or Books of Moses long ago were called the Torah, mistranslated by Christians as "the Law." Accurately, Torah means "the Teachings," and mostly it is a story, from the Creation on to the death of Moses, who is not allowed by God to enter the Promised Land.

Though the Pentateuch early assumed Judaic primacy, it was not the first part of the Hebrew Bible to be composed. An archaic text like the magnificent War Song of Deborah (Judges 5) comes out of a world where Moses is absent and the Twelve Tribes of Israel are dominant entities. Sages and rabbis labored to control our perspective, and the Five Scrolls of Moses represent as successful a usurpation of our consciousness as does the Christian conversion of the Hebrew Bible into the Old Testament.

Genesis traditionally is divided by scholars into the Primeval History, chapters 1–13, and the Patriarchal Story, 14–62, which itself separates out into Abraham, 14–32; Jacob, 33–48; and Joseph and his brothers, 49–62. In Hebrew, Genesis takes the title Bereshit, the first word of the scroll: "In the beginning."

We do not know when Genesis was put together: it evidently was part of the enormous labor performed by the great Redactor in the Babylonian Exile of the sixth century B.C.E. I have already dismissed the currently fashionable views that fragments of textual tradition were somehow pasted into the tales of Jacob or of Moses. Anyone who can read aesthetically should recognize the narrative style of the Yahwist, or J Writer, who possibly composed during the long reign of Solomon.

Genesis 1:1–2:3 offers a Priestly prose hymn of the cosmological event of Creation, possibly written six hundred years after the Yahwist's very different vision of origins in 2:4–3:24. It is difficult to overpraise either account of Creation, Priestly or Yahwistian. Each touches the limits of literature, the sublime in the Priestly Writer, and a strange, homely uncanny in the J Writer. The Hebrew texts compete in power with each other, and neither is quite captured by Tyndale, whose Genesis nevertheless is a magnificent narrative, taken over first by the Geneva men and then by the KJB revisionists.

The height of the Priestly Creation is 1:26–28:

26 ¶And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

"Let us make" implies that the Elohim, "divine beings" of the E Writer or God of the Priestly Writer, are a conclave acting together to create, though this can be read also as a royal "we." "Man" is Adam in Hebrew, meaning also humankind, and "image" is zelem in Hebrew, a term of enormous richness, perpetually evocative in later Jewish commentary, particularly in Kabbalah.

The Yahwist's account of Creation is the very different vision of Eden, in 2:4–25:

in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

8 ¶ And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

18 ¶ And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Instead of the Priestly celebration of a blazing glory, we are in a harsh, parched Judean spring, suddenly vivified by a mist welling up from the earth. Adam is formed from the red clay of the adamah, the soil, rather as though this playful Yahweh fashioned a mud figurine and then breathed life into it until it became a living being. Eden, used as a place name, also means "delight" in Hebrew. When Yahweh in verse 16 says, You may freely eat, the statement is ambiguous.

The creation of Eve is Yahweh's triumph, aesthetically superior to that of Adam, since she is fashioned out of life and not from clay. Tyndale rendered verse 18 as:

And the Lord God said: it is not good that man should be alone, I will make him an helper to bear him company.

Geneva gave:

Also the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be himself alone: I will make him an help meet for him.

The KJB omits that awkward "himself" and changes "Also" to "And" but otherwise adopts Geneva. "Helpmeet," our now out-of-fashion term, is a poor version of the Hebrew for "helper parallel to him," though the literal meaning is "opposed to him," which bears some dark pondering.

That is a hint of the opposing agent proper, the serpent of chapter 3:

1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

For verse 4 Geneva gives, "Ye shall not die at all," while Tyndale wonderfully has, "tush ye shall not die." J's irony is that Yahweh has created the serpent to be more fully conscious than man or woman. It is important to be aware that the Yahwist is not Saint John the Divine, for whom the snake is Satan in Revelation. J's serpent is an enigma, a mischief maker without apparent motivation. Rather than translate him as "subtle," I prefer "smooth" in our American vernacular sense. J plays punningly on the Hebrew arom, "naked," and arum, "sly."

Yahweh's stage-managing of what Christianity names the Fall is adroit and rather reprehensible. It can be viewed as a bad father's deliberate blunder, since Adam and Eve essentially are children. I recall saying that J's point is "When we were children, we were terribly punished for being children." In the entire Hebrew Bible, this supposed Fall is never mentioned again.

Yahweh imposes mortality as a punishment, which makes him something of a hanging judge who thus concludes a children's story inappropriately. What mitigates Yahweh's harshness is that we are not reading narrative theology but a family romance that crosses over into tragicomedy. J's irony, too pervasive to be noticed, makes me wonder at the near-contradiction of a withdrawal from mortals of a freedom they never had. J knows nothing about immortality. The expulsion from Eden is therefore an eloquent puzzle:

22 ¶ And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.


Can J's Yahweh really fear that Adam will become one of the Elohim by devouring fruit of the tree of life? Something is missing here, but then J can be as elliptical as Dante or the later Shakespeare.

Noah and the Flood, intricately mixed together out of J and P by the Redactor, has been solemnized by tradition as Yahweh's first Covenant with mankind, "the children of Noah." The J Writer's share in the composite text is marked by deliberate hilarity:

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.

24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.


In his Norton edition of the English Bible, Herbert Marks corrects the KJB in verse 20, where the Hebrew reads, "Noah, a man of the ground, was the first planter of a vineyard." Readings differ after that, but evidently Ham sodomizes his drunken father at the moment Noah has intercourse with his wife. The delightfully circumspect behavior of Shem and Japheth has an outrageous humor, worthy of the J Writer. A similar wild spirit of comedy energizes the Tower of Babel, Genesis 11:1–9:

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Following Tyndale and Geneva, the KJB valiantly attempts to render the Yahwist at her or his most untranslatable. Satirizing Babylonian cultural aspirations, the J Writer dazzles with a Joycean wordplay that exuberantly mocks Babylonian cosmic structures. J's Yahweh, who closed up Noah's ark with his own hands, descends in person to make his own on-the-ground inspection and delights in his trickster aspect, bringing the tower down by a confusing of tongues, a kind of reverse Pentecost.

* * *

With Abram, who becomes Abraham, the Patriarchal Age begins. "Get thee out of" is Yahweh's injunction to Abram, as it will be to Moses, and to most Jews since. Through Ishmael, his son by Hagar, Abraham is the father of the Arabs as well as of the Jews. A purely legendary figure, he nevertheless had to be invented, since his Covenant with Yahweh in Genesis 17 is the foundation of Judaism, and ultimately of Christianity and Islam.

The story of Abraham, powerful in Tanakh, retains its strength in the KJB. Yahweh, totally a personality, speaks to Abraham face to face and argues with him almost as an equal. And yet the incommensurateness always abides, and with it a sense of awe. Emily Dickinson called her God, in whom she nimbly disbelieved, by the name awe. The keynote of awesomeness is heard fully in Genesis 15:12–17:

12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.

13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;

14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.

16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.

At Yahweh's command, Abram sacrifices heifer, goat, ram, turtledove, and pigeon. Then deep sleep falls upon him, and he goes into a trance. Pre-Judaic magic clearly is involved in that smoking oven and burning torch (to keep the fire going in the brazier), both of which intimate the flames associated with Yahweh's state of being. Images of cutting a covenant prepare for the miraculous begetting of Isaac by divine fiat in the wonderful opening half of chapter 18:

1 And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,

3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:

4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:

5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.

6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.

7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.

8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

9 ¶ And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.

10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.

11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?

13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?

14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said Nay; but thou didst laugh.

Yahweh, accompanied by two angels of destruction, is on the way to extinguish Sodom and Gomorrah, but is happy to stop for a hearty picnic beneath the terebinth trees. Offended by Sarah's sensible derision, he reminds her and us that nothing is too difficult for him. This is charming yet is surpassed by the rest of the chapter. Abraham courageously argues Yahweh down from his plan so that even ten righteous inhabitants would suffice to save Sodom. As there will be only Lot and his family, Sodom must be overthrown. This one time our father Abraham manifests exemplary moral courage. Knowing that he is nothing in himself, Adamic dust and ashes, Abraham stubbornly attempts to speak and act as if he were everything.


Excerpted from The Shadow of a Great Rock by Harold Bloom Copyright © 2011 by Harold Bloom. Excerpted by permission of Yale UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION The Bible as Literature....................1
The Five Books of Moses....................27
Four Heroines....................81
David (1 and 2 Samuel to 1 Kings 2)....................97
The Prophets....................111
Psalms 1....................169
Psalms 2....................180
The Song of Songs....................215
The Hidden Books....................225
The Wisdom of Solomon....................231
Ecclesiasticus: The Wisdom of Ben Sira....................234
The History of Susanna....................240
The Literary Merit of the Greek New Testament....................245
The Writings of Paul....................263
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013


    He gave a startled whinny at aeeing the wolf and watched it go.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013


    -a sandy colored wolf with red scarf ran past the horse and followed Farore's trail into the cave-

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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