Ancient Israel : The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings: A Translation with Commentary
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.
- Hardback | 880 pages
- 165.1 x 238.76 x 48.26mm | 1,202.01g
- 17 May 2013
- WW Norton & Co
- New York, United States
"One of the most ambitious literary projects of this or any age." -- Adam Kirsch "Alter's translation can be fairly described as a godsend...Immediately readable, immensely learned, an education and a restitution." -- Seamus Heaney "The poets will rejoice. Alter's language ascends to a rare purity through a plainness that equals the plainness of the Hebrew." -- Cynthia Ozick "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 "A considerable achievement...Alter holds me to his darkly economical texts." -- Harold Bloom "You think you know these texts, or you do until you read Alter, who reignites their beauty in bracing and unexpected ways." -- Malcolm Jones "Thrilling and constantly illuminating. After the still, small voices of so many tepid modern translations, here is a whirlwind." -- Michael Dirda "Alter has achieved the significant feat of refreshing English by taking it back to one of its sources of strength." -- Peter Ackroyd "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." -- John Hobbins
About Robert Alter
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.