The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary

Alter, Robert

A clear, fundamentally literal translation from one of today’s greatest Hebrew Bible scholars. Alter’s remarkable insight into the original language returns meaningful phrasing to passages like Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) 1:1 “Merest breath, said Qohelet, merest breath. All is mere breath.” A rewarding and invaluable addition to the library of biblical scholars, or students of literature.

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Here, in Robert Alter’s bold new translation, are some of the most magnificent works in world literature. The astounding poetry in the Book of Job is restored to its powerful ancient meanings and rhythms. The account of creation in its Voice from the Whirlwind is a soaring and unforgettable challenge to the place of man in the universe. The serene fatalism that construes life as ephemeral and without purpose suffuses Ecclesiastes with a quiet beauty. The pithy maxims of Proverbs impart a worldly wisdom that is still sound and satirically shrewd.

Each of these books conveys and undermines the universal wisdom that the righteous thrive and the wicked suffer in a rational moral order; together they are essential to the ancient canon that is the Hebrew Bible. In Alter’s translation they regain the energy and force of the original, enhancing their ongoing relevance to the lives of modern readers.

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