asher63 (asher63) wrote,

Early Prophets

Today's mail brought my order of 'Ancient Israel' by Robert Alter. It's a translation / commentary on Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. I'm interested in this part of the Bible because it's challenging yet important. Joshua is quite brutal - even by Biblical standards - and Alter says of it that "the prevailing sense ... of the first half of the book is ruthlessness, and the general effect of the second half is tedium." We must read the book remembering that it is an account of "the image of the nation that the guardians of the national literary legacy seek to fix for their audiences and for future generations." (Alter, p. 5.)

There follows the anarchic period of the Judges, followed by Samuel - largely the story of Saul and David - and Kings. King Saul was the first king of Israel and the first one to get fired from the job (he p*ssed off the Boss). His son Jonathan was intimately bound to Saul's successor (or usurper) David. But what fascinates me most is the story of Michal - Saul's daughter and David's wife. The "dancing" episode (2 Sam 6:13 - 23) is intense and complex, and Alter's footnotes bring out all the nuances of the Hebrew text.

This is exactly what I like in a Bible commentary: a book that calls attention to the subtleties of the text, drawing on religious and secular scholarship but not pursuing a pre-conceived ideological agenda. It just helps me appreciate and understand the Bible.
Tags: hebraica

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