Pathways through the Bible
Classic Selections from the Tanakh (Third Edition)
Publication Year: 2002
Published by: Jewish Publication Society
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Foreword to the 2002 Edition
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Ever since its establishment in 1888, The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) has recognized that the TANAKH, the Hebrew Bible, is the core of the Jewish literary heritage. Accordingly, the Society has committed significant resources to producing two acclaimed English translations of the Bible—the first in 1917; the second in 1985. Each of these...
Foreword to the Original Edition
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About six years ago, The Jewish Publication Society of America launched the project of a simplified version of The Holy Scriptures which would be readable, easy to comprehend and even enjoyable. Pathways Through the Bible seeks to encompass and realized these goals. While this book is intended primarily for the young, it is believed...
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You have heard of the Bible. You know it is a sacred book and that it has been highly esteemed by all humankind throughout the ages. You may have even tried to read it. You probably found it hard to read or to become interested in, at least in those copies of the Bible you have seen. You may, indeed, have become discouraged about understanding...
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How did the world begin? What does it mean that there is evil in the world, which brings pain and suffering? What does it mean that people have to work so hard to make a living? How did murder come into the world? What was the origin of clothes? How did the arts and crafts of civilization begin?...
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The descendants of Israel increase in numbers. After the death of Joseph, however, they become enslaved to the Egyptians. They win their freedom from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. For forty years the Israelites are governed by Moses, the great Prophet and Liberator, and under his guidance they become a nation of free people...
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We often ask questions like these today. According to our Torah, our ancestors asked similar questions of Moses centuries ago. They received their answers in the written Covenant of Mount Sinai and in the teachings of Moses, for Moses was not only the Liberator of the Israelites, he was also their great Teacher...
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Encamped at Mount Sinai, the Israelites have received the written Covenant of the Torah that has become their Constitution, making them into a religious people. They have remained at Mount Sinai for about a year. Now the Israelites travel, under the leadership of Moses, toward the Promised Land, where they hope to develop their religious...
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The new Israel has been born and has grown up in the wilderness. They have not been eyewitnesses to the stirring events of the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Covenant at Mount Sinai. Indeed, they have not actually accepted the Covenant of Mount Sinai, nor have they yet sworn allegiance to it. Moses, aware that the end of his life is...
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A new period of great achievements opened for Israel when Joshua became their leader. The great task ahead of Joshua and the Israelites was to enter the Promised Land, conquer its inhabitants, and then hold possession of the land upon which they settled. Did the Israelites have competent leadership? Did they possess the courage...
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The death of Joshua leaves no one to take his place. Without a strong leader to hold them together, the tribes soon lose their feeling of being a united people, Israel. Each tribe, dwelling on its own piece of land, must struggle alone against its hostile neighbors. It has little or no interest in the welfare of the other tribes. Only when they...
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The story of Ruth, from Moab, is one of the most beautiful in all literature. It describes the friendship, the love, and the devotion of two women—Ruth and Naomi. It praises loyalty—loyalty to one’s family. This loyalty plants in human beings the seed of confidence and faith in each other. And out of the seed of loyalty in human beings to each...
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The Philistines were a shrewd, strong, and well-led foe. They were united in a federation, and were well trained in the arts of war. They had set up a fortress in Gibeah, in the very heart of the tribe of Benjamin. They had disarmed the neighboring Israelite tribes; they forbade blacksmiths from making tools, and armor-makers from forging...
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Every U.S. citizen knows the story of the American Civil War. For about seventy-five years the American nation had grown in strength, influence, and prosperity after the original thirteen colonies won their freedom from England and succeeded in forming a Union, the United States of America. Early on, they had adopted the...
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Amos, the prophet, was born in the little village of Tekoa, which lay in the hill country of Judah, about eighteen miles south of Jerusalem. Little is known about Amos’s life except that he was a shepherd who also tended the ripening fruit of sycamore-fig trees. He was a simple, strong, stern man who lived close to nature and to God..
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Assyria, at first like a gray mist on the horizon, now loomed like a thundercloud, threatening terrible storms over the land. The kings of Israel, in their madness, played politics with Assyrian and Egyptian monarchs, and had to pay them tribute...
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Isaiah son of Amoz lived and prophesied in Judah, the southern kingdom. He has been called the prophet-statesman. Like Amos and Hosea before him, Isaiah was a great preacher who interpreted to the people what God wanted of them. He was a child when Amos spoke at Bethel, and he was a young man when Hosea pleaded with Israel to...
Isaiah of the Exile
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According to the scholarly theory, this other “Isaiah” delivered his poems at about the time when Cyrus, king of Persia, announced that the Jews could return to the Land of Israel to rebuild their Temple and nation. Because these writings were similar to Isaiah’s in grandeur of ideas and in beauty of language, they were added to the original book...
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Jeremiah, the prophet, was born in the little village of Anathoth, situated a short distance northeast of Jerusalem. He came from a priestly family. Jeremiah received his early education from his parents. He studied the writings of Amos, Isaiah, and Micah. Especially he loved the tender words of Hosea who strongly influenced him...
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Ezekiel son of Buzi was born in Judah, and was of high priestly family. He seems to have come under the influence of Jeremiah, whom he may have known personally. When a young man, he was among the elite that was exiled to Babylonia with King Jehoiakim (known as the First Captivity, 597 B.C.E.).* He was active as prophet in...
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Jonah was a reluctant prophet. He refused to obey God’s command that he go to the Gentiles in the city of Nineveh and bring them God’s promise of forgiveness, if they repented of their sins. Jonah did not believe them worthy of God’s love, nor did he think they were capable of repenting. Hence, Jonah had to be taught the lesson of God’s universal...
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Have you ever been lonesome and unhappy? Have you sometimes failed in your work and felt discouraged and depressed? Or, have you ever been so overjoyed that you could not find words adequate to express your feelings? Who has not done something wrong and been ashamed of it afterwards? There is not a person who has not felt fear...
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Do you remember what King Solomon chose when he was asked in a dream what he desired most in the world? He wanted “an understanding mind.” God granted him his wish. And Jewish tradition, because of his reputation for great wisdom, considered King Solomon the author of the Book of Proverbs, which is a book of wisdom and a...
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One of the serious questions we often ask is: Why do good people suffer misfortunes—like sickness, or poverty, or the death of dear ones? Have you ever asked yourself why it is that good people you know are often unhappy? Do you sometimes wonder whether God is always fair and just?...
The Song of Songs
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The Song of Songs, also called “The Song of Solomon,” is a collection of love lyrics of sheer beauty—tender and exquisite. We walk amidst country scenes where doves hide in the clefts of the rocks, gazelles leap over the hills, trees are clad in varied foliage, and flowers with bright colors and richly scented perfumes are everywhere. The...
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Powerful Babylonian armies swept down on the Land of Israel in 586 B.C.E. and their commander, the emperor Nebuchadnezzar, captured and sacked Jerusalem, sent the Temple up in flames, killed the prime young men, and carried off the rulers, priests, princes, and leading citizens into what has come to be known as the Babylonian...
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The Bible, for the most part, has a happy, joyous, hopeful attitude towards life. However, the Book of Ecclesiastes is sad and sometimes even gloomy. Its author was a gentle, kindly man who was greatly puzzled and disappointed by what he experienced. Like Job and many another person, he was perplexed by the mystery of life. Neither...
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After the Babylonians had captured Jerusalem, they exiled the leaders, nobles, priests, and a large part of the people of Judah to Babylonia. The people settled down in Babylonia, determined to be good citizens and loyal subjects of the ruler. Indeed, they received a letter from their great prophet Jeremiah advising them to do this.* They followed his...
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During their exile in Babylonia, the Jews were loyal citizens of their country, but they refused to give up their religion. Typical of these Jews were Daniel and his three friends. They were God’s faithful who time and again had been put to severe tests, but each time proved their loyalty...
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Impossible as this may seem, it actually happened to the Jewish people. Since the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah both deal with that period, the Hebrew Bible groups them together in one book. Although they appear separately in English Bibles, they have here been recombined. They tell how the Jewish people returned to the Land of Israel...
ALONG THE PATHWAYS
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You have now traveled on these pathways through the Bible. You have glimpsed in Torah the beginnings of the world, humankind, and Israel, as inspired Jewish writers have thought about them (Genesis). You have witnessed how Israel entered into the Covenant of the Pact (Exodus), which laid upon them the duty to live a life of justice...
ABOUT MORTIMER J. COHEN
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Mortimer J. Cohen, D.D., Ph.D., D.H.L. was born in New York City on March 1, 1894, and educated at City College of New York, Columbia University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary. As a young rabbi in 1918, he was recommended to a just-organizing congregation in North Philadelphia. The congregation, Beth Sholom, began in the...
ABOUT ARTHUR SZYK
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In April 1945, Mortimer J. Cohen met with Arthur Szyk (pronounced “Shick”) to discuss the awaited first printing of Pathways Through the Bible, which Cohen had authored and Szyk illustrated. Shortly after their meeting, Rabbi Cohen wrote his friend: “I am sure we shall together make a real contribution to our people’s appreciation of their...
EDITOR’S NOTE TO THE 2002 EDITION
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Publication Year: 2002