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The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel Paperback – September 17, 2000


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The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel + The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary + The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Later Printing edition (September 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393320774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393320770
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #364,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There are countless good reasons to read The David Story, Robert Alter's new translation of the story of King David (beginning in I Samuel and ending in I Kings 2). In the book's introduction, Alter contends that the story of David is "probably the greatest single narrative representation in antiquity of a human life evolving by slow stages through time, shaped and altered by the pressures of political life, public institutions, family, the impulses of body and spirit, the eventual sad decay of the flesh. It also provides the most unflinching insight into the cruel processes of history and into human behavior warped by the pursuit of power." Alter's translation is more literal than the King James version, which makes his rendering of Scripture newly immediate and jarring. (When Samuel anoints David in I Samuel 16, for instance, "the spirit of the LORD gripped David from that day onward.") This David Story is worth reading for the footnotes alone, which describe in vivid detail the mechanics of sheep-shearing festivals, sacrificial feasts, and other cultural phenomena that add depth and life to this familiar story. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In his latest effort, Alter (Hebrew and comparative literature, Univ. of California, Berkeley) has produced a compelling literary translation of the story of the beginnings of the ancient Israelite monarchy and of one of the Bible's most colorful characters. He argues hereAas he did previously, in his translation of Genesis (LJ 8/96)Athat this story is a literary whole rather than merely a stitched-together collection of independent bits. Alter's translation bears a resemblance to the King James Version (sans "thee" and "thou"), which he considers a true literary translation. But in many instances, his version surpasses King James's by more accurately reproducing the rhythm, syntactical arrangement, and word plays of the Hebrew text. His faithful representation of the Hebrew wawAtranslated as "and"Agives a sense of the story's forward movement and leaves some current translations, in which subordinate clauses often obscure the waw, seeming flat. This is a translation for readers; recommended for all collections.ACraig W. Beard, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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I highly recommend this book to anybody who is serious about studying the Bible or about telling Bible stories authentically.
Katherine Harms
There's more to the text than what appears in english, and that's what i like about Robert Alter, making the commitment to expand the meaning of the Hebrew language.
Sebastian Garcia
The extensive footnotes bring to the reader a clarity of presentation and historical context of the text that makes the experience as a great narritive history.
Fred T. Isquith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 79 people found the following review helpful By David Richter on December 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The stories of Samuel, Saul, and David are high points of Biblical narrative, and Robert Alter's superb new translation with commentary is geared to make the slightest nuances of the richly woven stories available to the reader who must read them in English. Both translation and commentary are first-rate: The David Story alerts the reader to puns and plays on words in the Hebrew, while Alter's own interpretations are enriched by his use of insights by other fine scholar/critics such as Fokkelman, Polzin and Sternberg, along with the traditional rabbinic sources. (A gentleman as well as a scholar, Alter gives credit where it is due.)
The Book of Samuel comes down to us in a Hebrew text that is clearly faulty in spots, and it is also obvious that more than one author has been at work. Some scholars, like Kyle McCarter, editor of the Anchor Samuel, looking for documentary origins, emphasize the breaks in the text, the inconsistencies that suggest that different traditions have been incompletely harmonized with one another. In accordance with his views in "The Art of Biblical Narrative" and his practice in his translation of the book of Genesis, Alter plays down the "documents" approach and instead emphasizes the skill of the final redactor of Samuel who wove those disparate stories into a single skein.
For example, we are confronted by two disparate stories of how David comes to be introduced into Saul's court, first as a skilled musician in Saul's entourage and second as the shepherd boy from Bethlehem who comes from his flock and slays Goliath. Early in chapter 17, that harmonizer is at work when he tells us that "David would go back and forth from Saul's side to tend his father's flock in Bethlehem" (1 Sam 17:15).
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Michael JR Jose on June 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Having enjoyed Robert Alter's translation of Genesis I approached `The David Story' with keen anticipation. The same high standard is maintained - I had half-expected that there would be less to remark upon as these stories are so familiar. The vivid characters, their speech, the detail of their lives all seem to gain new life in this version.
Although I am no Hebraist it seems to me that part of Alter's success lies in the high view he takes of the ancient text and its integrity. He has little time for the deconstructionist cut-and-paste scholars who would see a committee, or a series of committees, as being capable of producing such a closely crafted and unified piece of literature - as if Shakespeare could be written by consensus. I break out in silent applause when Alter expresses his candid views on these theories. For example, on II Sam. 11&12: "Though analytic scholars have variously sought to break up break up these chapters into editorial frame, and Succession Narrative...emending patches of the text as they proceed, such efforts are best passed over in silence." He also gives good, consistent reasons for these statements, if not for all of his other opinions.
For those interested in the translation process itself, the footnotes give a fascinating over-the-shoulder view of his workings. He naturally relies heavily on the Masoretic text but explains his usage of the alternative sources - Dead Sea scroll, the Septuagint, Josephus, and even the Targums. As Samuel is in places a notoriously difficult (and imperfect) Hebrew text his explanations are very welcome. He also makes use of background detail such as the archeological discovery which supplied our understanding of the Hebrew word `pim'. This word occurs only once in the bible, and is found in Samuel.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By David Galinsky MD on December 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
At the beginning of the book of Samuel, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prays wordlessly. The priest, Eli, accuses her of being drunk. Professor Alter points out that the priest misunderstands the situation and that this is a theme that will recur throughout the story - characters misunderstanding the actions and motives of one another. I was knocked off my seat because I had read this passage many times before and had never appreciated that Eli just didn't get it! Later, Eli will be physically blind, but in this scene he is spiritually blind. From beginning to end, Professor Alter offers fascinating insights into the text. He analyzes it to bring out both specific detail and broad general themes. His explanation of the role of the redactor in putting together various sources to make a thematically cohesive story was new for me. There are multiple explanations about how David came to Saul's court which seem to be contradictory. But, if they are seen as illustrating different aspects of David's personality, then the contradictions no longer matter. Every page has interesting interpretations. I have mentioned just two examples of the sort of interpretation that occurs on every page of this book. As Alter points out, biblical Hebrew language is terse. Therefore every modern reader is able to project new ideas into the interstices of the language. This book is masterful at presenting new and plausible interpretations. I have read and reread this book. I recommend it to all, both those new to the story and to those who are familiar with it but want new insights.
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