The Oxford Book of Bible Stories

It is said that

At first there was nothing but God.
Everything around God was chaos
Like a wild, wide,
Deep, vast ocean.
God filled it with light
And called it Day
And he called the darkness, Night.
That was the dawn and the dark of the first day.

Contents:

CreationEdenCain and AbelNoahThe Tower of BabelAbraham, Father of all NationsThe Cities of SinSarai and HagarAbraham and IsaacJacob and EsauLaban the TricksterThe Journey HomeJoseph the Dream-readerMoses, the Child of the RiverMoses and the PharaohParting the WavesA Land of Milk and HoneyJoshuaGideon against the MidianitesJephtha’s DaughterSamson, the Strongest Man in the WorldRuthSamuelSaulDavid the Giant-killerDavid the OutlawDavid the KingThe City of DavidBathshebaSolomon the Wise KingKing Solomon’s TempleRehoboam the Foolish KingElijah the ProphetElijah in the WildernessElisha and the LeperJezebelDaniel and NebuchadnezzarBalshazzar’s BanquetDaniel and the LionsEsther, the Queen of PersiaJerusalem Rises AgainJonah and the Monster FishIndex of Places and Names

As you see, it’s a very comprehensive collection covering 271 pages.

When I was a child, in a small seaside town, I used to go to the beach and listen to a man telling stories. One was about a baby whose mother hid him from the soldiers in the bulrushes, and whose sister Miriam watched and waited to see what would happen to him. Another was about Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale and was later spat out, still alive! Another was about Daniel, who spent the night in a lion’s den, and not a hair of his head was touched. While he was talkng, the man stuck little cut-out felt lions, whales, babies and suchlike onto a felt board; sometimes they would drop off – the desert camel, which turned up in most stories, had a particular habit of doing that. The children would giggle and whistle, but I used to sit with my heart stopped while the story-teller groped in the sand, desperate for him to carry on with his story.

I loved those stories. I didn’t even know that they came from the Bible.

Then, one day, OUP invited me to retell stories from the Old Testament. Imagine my joy at revisiting these stories from my childhood. In my research I discovered more that I only half knew, or had never met before, and realised that they are all part of one big, important story, like chapters in a book. These chapter-stories are full of danger and treachery, of heroes and villains, of fierce love and simple devotion, of hopeless despair and glorious triumph. I am haunted by characters such as Ruth, stranded in a strange land; Jeptha’s daughter, who knows she will never grow up; Hagar, sheltering her dying son from the desert heat; David, shepherd boy, giant-slayer, King… Oh – but I can’t stop there! But they are all in these pages, for you to discover.

I hope you love reading them as much as I loved listening to the man on the beach. Instead of his felt figures, you have Jason Cockcroft’s superb illustrations. I hope the stories will stay with you for the rest of your lives.

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