Review by vermontelf -- I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation

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Review by vermontelf -- I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation

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[Following is a volunteer review of "I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation" by Val D. Greenwood.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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I rate I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation: Old Testament Storiesby Val D. Greenwood as 3 out of 4 stars. This rating is because I struggled with so many stories seemingly being so similar (which is faithful to The Old Testament) but I greatly enjoyed how the stories were retold in a modern style making them accessible to the common reader. The book is well written and has been revised and edited with care. This book can be read by either a common reader mostly unfamiliar with the Old Testament, or someone who devotes time daily to studying the Old Testament.

I began reading this book with the mind of a middle school humanities teacher. I believe religion is a part of culture and world cultures should be taught to our students for a better understanding of humanity. I often teach world religions through the stories and myths of the religion to explain the beliefs and the pillars of that culture’s morality. In the preface, the author himself stated “...that the overall effect of these stories is both inspirational and educational.” I further appreciate that the author included maps, two indexes, hundreds of footnotes, and suggested pronunciation guides as a further reference for the reader. I looked forward to better understanding the stories of the Old Testament through this book.

As I began reading, I struggled a little with the sentence structure, as it seemed stilted and jarring. Soon though, I fell into the rhythm of it and the text smoothed out. The brevity of the stories helps the reader also, as the action is tight, description is light, and familiar and less familiar stories are intermingled. For example, I am quite familiar with the creation story as well as the garden of Eden, or the widow’s oil, however not so familiar with Cain and Abel (previously I missed the requirement of blood sacrifice, a crucial detail) and this retelling was educational. Reading the stories, as chronological steps through time, gives the reader a solid foundation. Throughout these stories of the Old Testament I was repeatedly surprised by the “If you...then I will give you my blessing/covenant” promised made by Jehovah. Especially as he seemed to offer the same bribe over and over. I soon tired of reading about the children of Israel traveling the wilderness on their way to the promised land and the many battles. A few times I thought they had reached their destination and then they traveled and battled more. The repetitiveness was broken some by more tales I knew such as the “burning bush”, “Moses parting the Sea”, “Jonah and the Whale”, and “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”, among others.

For someone more familiar with the Old Testament and looking to improve their understanding, this book would be far less redundant and the battles would be more memorable. Overall, for the common reader such as me, it is the miracles that are more entertaining than the journey. For someone more familiar with the stories, Mr Greenwood retells the journey and the challenges in an easy-reading format so one can focus on the challenges and lessons and not the flowery language of the Old Testament. Also, one more familiar with the stories would be more familiar with the names, whereas I needed to reference the names/relationships more often. This book is well designed for any level of familiarity with the place names, family names, or individual names.

This book is written in such a style that it is appealing to both the common reader and the more familiar reader. The lessons are not expounded and the symbolism is left to interpretation. Throughout the book the stories are simply retold to be more easily understood by the modern reader. The included indexes and pronunciation guides are helpful to both the common reader and the more familiar reader. Likewise, the hundreds of footnotes add clarity to the common or familiar reader. I found many stories that I could use in a middle school classroom with no fear of innuendo or anything inappropriate. However, I might skip many of the parables as these sometimes include references to harlots or sodomy. I would not assign the book in its entirety, but rather a grouping of the short stories that might be read piecemeal or combined. I recommend this book for anyone interested in the stories of the Old Testament in an easier to read format.

I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation
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