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The Great Poems of the Bible

The Great Poems of the Bible

A Reader's Companion with New Translations

In The Great Poems of the Bible, James Kugel, acclaimed Harvard scholar and former poetry editor of Harpers Magazine, selects eighteen essential poems from the Hebrew Bible and offers his own original and articulate translations of these core pieces of religious literature. His eloquent renditions are paired with deeply informed discussions about the conditions surrounding each poem, including its history and whatÊthe best religious scholarship and literary criticism tell us about how the poem should be understood. Kugel explains traditions, clarifies often-misunderstood language, and offers readers wonderfully insightful explanations that are indispensable to understanding the poems and, ultimately, the fundamental teachings of the Old Testament.
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  • Free Press | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416589020 | 
  • October 2008
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Psalm 104
Bless the Lord, O my soul -- O Lord my God, You are very great.
[At the creation:]
Clothed in glory and honor, You wrapped Yourself in light.
Then You put up the sky like a tent and covered it over with water.
The clouds You took as Your chariot and rode off on the wings of the wind.
The winds themselves You made messengers, and flames of fire Your servants.

Once You had set the earth on its struts, so it never would swerve or sway,
You cloaked it with water all over, water loomed over the mountains.
How they flee at Your cry, those waters, at the sound of Your thunder...
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About the Author

James L. Kugel
Photo Credit: Erwin Schenkelbach

James L. Kugel

James L. Kugel is Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University, and a regular visiting Professor of Biblical Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.  He is the author of a number of books of biblical scholarship, including How to Read the Bible (2007), for which he won the National Jewish Book Award for best book,The Great Poems of the Bible (1999), and The Bible As It Was (1997). In 2001, Kugel was awarded the prestigious Grawemeyer Prize in Religion.  He lives in Jerusalem, Israel, and in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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