“The Koren Tanakh of the Land of Israel” is without doubt the best Bible commentary in English. I say this after using over a hundred such books while writing my own books on the Bible, such as my many volumes on the differences between the Hebrew Bible and its Aramaic translation called Onkelos. I feel so strongly about this conclusion that although I had heart surgery with five by-passes three weeks ago, on December 16, because my arteries were eighty percent closed and I am now in the recovery stage, I feel that I should share these thoughts so that people can learn much in a pleasant manner from this new translation and commentary, with a wealth of related information and illustrations.
This volume focuses on the second book of the Five Books of Moses, Exodus. The translation follows the suggestion of Maimonides to his own translator who translated his Arabic “Guide of the Perplexed” to Hebrew: Do not translate literally, word for word, because what makes sense in one language often does not make sense when copied literally in another language. So find the intent in the original and make the translation clear by inserting the intent, such as rendering vayehi vayamim harabim, which literally means “And it was many days,” is rendered “Years passed.”
The extensive commentary is by highly respected Modern Orthodox rabbis and is very rational. The many comments and essays on ancient Egypt and other Near Eastern countries are by scholars who are expert in the ancient Near East.
Among much else, the volume explains such things as why the numbers used in Scripture must be understood metaphorically, such as the number 70 descendants of Jacob coming to Egypt – for the number of males was less than 70, and when wives are included, the number is much higher. When the Bible states in the Ten Commandments that God rewards those who act properly for a thousand, it does not mean a thousand generations, but a thousand people often benefit from the good deeds of others. It also tells us why many Orthodox Jews do not accept the dating of the Exodus from Egypt asserted by scholars, and much more.
A history of surrounding nation and their customs is included. There are many maps, charts, timelines, dates, articles on language, Egyptology, the plagues, the Ten Commandments, what is the Masoretic Text, comparing the Torah to ancient Near East law collections, geography, biblical botany, pictures of the Tabernacle and items used during its service, and detailed discussions on subjects such as an introduction to the book of Exodus, archaeology items found in and near Israel such as the Mesha Stone, the story of the Golden Calf, the power of ancient covenants, the idea of a seven-day week with a day of rest being introduced by the Bible, and the purpose of the tabernacle with detailed pictures,
Everyone reading the several hundred pages of this excellent book or even browsing through it, whether Jew or non-Jew, even if the reader has a university education on the Bible or attended Orthodox yeshivot for many years, will benefit from this book a thousand-fold by learning more about the Bible, its history, its comparison with the teachings of other ancient cultures, and much more.
Another great Bible commentary is The Rational Bible (on Exodus) by Dennis Prager. His commentary is very rational and I think you will enjoy it as much as I did. Hope you are well,
I found Dennis Prager’s “The Rational Bible Genesis” interesting, but I differ from him because he takes Bible stories literally, that they really happened, while I see many of them as parables and read many statements as metaphors, hyperbole, poetry, and the like.
Admittedly, I only read the 28-page Sample, but I disagreed with items such as the following:
He asks: Who was the most tragic figure in the Bible? He answers: God, because of God’s disappointment in humans. He feels that God has emotions. I do not think that God has emotions. I think the Bible is describing the way intelligent people would react to the bad behavior.
Another example: Why did God kill animals in the flood? He answers that animals were created for the use of humans, and since only one family remained after the flood, there was no need for so many animals. I agree with Maimonides in his Guide 2:48, that the Torah ascribes to God natural events because God is the ultimate cause since God created or formed the laws of nature. I see the flood as a natural event, and most likely, not all of the animals died. It is even possible, perhaps likely, that the flood only struck a small area.
Having said this, I do think Prager has much to offer, he raises good questions and many of his explanations are good.
We live in a wonderful age of medical technology.Glad you are making a complete recovery and can maintain your brilliant analysis of every thing that you read and pass on
Thank you very much Hessel for you wishes aand for your compliment.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the Koren book. It sounds like an interesting read; one I will pick up for sure. I am also glad to hear that you are recovering from cardiac surgery. That is a blessing. I wish you all the best,
Thank you very much Jonathan. I really appreciate what you wrote.
Dear Rabbi, we very much enjoy your work and glad to hear your recovery is going well; may you continue to draw strength.
We have always respected your opinions regarding biblical matters and can’t wait to order the The Koren Tanakh, thanks ! .
You are very nice. I appreciate what you wrote. I am improving a little every day.
Dear Dr Drazin
I just wanted to wish you a “rfuah shleimah” having just learned about your recent cardiac surgery and delighted to see that you on track to make a full recovery. May you be blessed “ad me’ah v’esrim.”
Thank you very much Anna.