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Book: The Great Poems of the Bible
Author: James L. Kugel
Simon and Schuster, NY, 1999, pp.350



Excerpt from Jacket:

From the Psalms to the Prophets, from Job to Ecclesiastes, much of the Bible is written in poetry. The poems of the Bible include some of its best known and most beloved passages: "The Lord is my Shepherd," "Let justice roll down like water," "By the rivers of Babylon," "Remember your Creator," "Arise, shine, for thy light is come!" These poems live in the hearts of those who are familiar with the Bible and offer rich rewards to anyone who is approaching the world's greatest book for the first time. . . . . Taken together, these poems represent the very essence of the Hebrew Bible. Reading them one after another is like taking a guided tour through Scripture, meeting firsthand some of its most important teachings and opening the way to an understanding of the Bible as a whole. Each poem is accompanied by an eloquent and accessible explanation of the poem's language, and a reflection of its meaning . . . What did people in biblical times believe about God? Where is a person's soul located and what does it do? Is there an afterlife? How does one come to "know" God? Why wasn't Eve meant to be Adam's "helpmate and what does the Bible have to say about the role of women?

Excerpt from book:

People sometimes have a tendency to sell biblical wisdom short. This is especially true in our own age, because the very nature of wisdom is misunderstood. It was not given principally as an explanation of how things work. It was fundamentally an attempt to impart an outlook and an instruction; like all such things, it is necessarily abstract and schematic. [Take for example] "No harm befalls the righteous, but the wicked are full of misfortune" is [this] truly the way the world works? Certainly anyone in biblical times knew that this often appeared not to be the case, knew incidents from his own or other people's lives that tragically, horrendously, seemed to impart just the opposite lesson. . . . But the world of wisdom is one of "nevertheless." It lives in the soul, a place of inside essences. However reality might appear in the sunlight of everyday perception, in the realm of spiritual absolutes, reality takes on another aspect. There the spirit rules, and what "really is", is not always what the eye sees.

Sample of Table of Contents:

1. Psalm 104 "This is where birds make their nest" A Place in the System

2. Psalm 42 "My soul longs for you" The Double Agent

3. Psalm 29 "Listen! The Lord" The Death of Baal

4. Amos 4:4-5:24 "Let Justice roll down like waters" A Prophet of Israel

5. 2 Samuel 1:19-27 "How the mighty have fallen" David's Lament

6. Job 28 "There is mine for silver" Where Wisdom is Found

7. Judges 5 Deborah's Song Tough Women

8. Psalm 51 David's Confession A Pure Heart