America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story [NOOK Book]

Overview

The exodus story is America's story. Moses is our real founding father.

The pilgrims quoted his story. Franklin and Jefferson proposed he appear on the U.S. seal. Washington and Lincoln were called his incarnations. The Statue of Liberty and Superman were molded in his image. Martin Luther King, Jr., invoked him the night before he died. Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama cited him as inspiration. For four hundred years, one figure inspired more ...

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America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story

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Overview

The exodus story is America's story. Moses is our real founding father.

The pilgrims quoted his story. Franklin and Jefferson proposed he appear on the U.S. seal. Washington and Lincoln were called his incarnations. The Statue of Liberty and Superman were molded in his image. Martin Luther King, Jr., invoked him the night before he died. Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama cited him as inspiration. For four hundred years, one figure inspired more Americans than any other. His name is Moses.

In this groundbreaking book, New York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler travels through touchstones in American history and traces the biblical prophet's influence from the Mayflower through today. He visits the island where the pilgrims spent their first Sabbath, climbs the bell tower where the Liberty Bell was inscribed with a quote from Moses, retraces the Underground Railroad where "Go Down, Moses" was the national anthem of slaves, and dons the robe Charlton Heston wore in The Ten Commandments.

"Even a cursory review of American history indicates that Moses has emboldened leaders of all stripes," Feiler writes, "patriot and loyalist, slave and master, Jew and Christian. Could the persistence of his story serve as a reminder of our shared national values? Could he serve as a unifying force in a disunifying time? If Moses could split the Red Sea, could he unsplit America?"

One part adventure story, one part literary detective story, one part exploration of faith in contemporary life, America's Prophet takes readers through the landmarks of America's narrative—from Gettysburg to Selma, the Silver Screen to the Oval Office—to understand how Moses has shaped the nation's character.

Meticulously researched and highly readable, America's Prophet is a thrilling, original work of history that will forever change how we view America, our faith, and our future.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Whether they think of it as coincidental or providential, for many Americans, the story of our country evokes the biblical saga of the Exodus. This deep connection has been felt since the earliest years of Pilgrim settlements. Since then, the story of Moses and the exiled Israelites has been linked to the American epoch by Founding Fathers, presidents, religious leaders, civil rights activists, writers, and filmmakers. In America's Prophet, Bruce Feiler (Walking the Bible; Abraham) brings the message of Moses home to our country. By using those deeply felt parallels, he explores what we see in this ancient patriarch and why we identify so closely with his mission.
Publishers Weekly
A bestselling author for his popular explorations of the lands of the Bible, Feiler turns his attention to the biblical figure of Moses in U.S. history. He argues that the story of the life of Moses as told in the book of Exodus has been the dominant metanarrative employed by political and social leaders in shaping America's identity, from the Pilgrims escaping religious persecution to the civil rights movement with its vision of a Promised Land. A journalist rather than a historian, Feiler approaches his subject using the same formula he has employed in previous books: physical walks through historic sites and interviews with experts. Although the book offers snippets of interesting anecdotes, the approach is uncontroversial and the book lacks forward momentum. Feiler is a popularizer, and readers interested in a light and cursory treatment of a theme in U.S. history will enjoy it. Readers wanting a more in-depth and critical understanding of the subject may want to look elsewhere. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Many books that examine the influence of the Bible on American society focus on controversies such as the true meaning of Genesis (Storms over Genesis: Biblical Battleground in America's Wars of Religion by William H. Jennings, Fortress, 2007) or Christmas displays on government property (War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot To Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought by John Gibson, Sentinel, 2005). Others, such as Melanie J. Wright's Moses in America: The Cultural Uses of Biblical Narrative (Oxford Univ., 2003), relate the Bible to aspects of popular culture. Feiler (Walking the Bible) goes in a different direction, starting with the unique thesis of Moses as Founding Father: the story of Moses as the story of America. Part history, part religious study, America's Prophet examines the American cycle of oppression, followed by inspired leadership, and culminating in the sometimes violent journey toward freedom. Feiler posits that from William Bradford and George Washington to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., the United States has been a nation of many Moseses, reluctant leaders giving voice and vision to those with neither, the very human leaders who ultimately fail in some respects, after many trials, to reach the Promised Land. Feiler gives us the American struggle—from the Pilgrims escaping religious persecution and slaves seeking human dignity to European Jews fleeing anti-Semitism and African Americans demanding equal rights—and in the same straightforward, readable style as his previous works. Yet the book possesses a depth and a gravitas that belie the accessible text, attributable to the numerousauthorities—religious and civic, historians, and others—interviewed for the book. VERDICT Both students of the Bible and of American history will find insight in the connections Feiler makes, and both specialists and lay readers in religious studies will want this.—Michael F. Russo, Louisiana State Univ. Libs., Baton Rouge
Kirkus Reviews
A breezy look at the story of Moses and its role in the making of America. During his studies and travels, writes popular religion commentator Feiler (Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion, 2005, etc.), he stumbled on a "little-known storyline" of American history-the influence of Moses in the making of the nation. The author claims that Moses' imprint can be seen on many major figures, including the Pilgrims, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and, most recently, Barack Obama, who used the Exodus story throughout his presidential campaign. "One person has inspired more Americans than any other. One man is America's true founding father," writes Feiler in his typically bombastic style. "His name is Moses." In the introduction, the author twists himself into knots-"Could the persistence of his story serve as a reminder of our shared national values? Could he serve as a unifying force in a disunifying time? If Moses could split the Red Sea, could he unsplit America?"-to justify a narrative that settles into a predictable pattern: first-person reporting at a historic landmark, an interview with a historian and fairly standard textbook history. Feiler indulges a few tangents but always dutifully returns to Moses. Like a conspiracy theorist, the author often mistakes coincidence for portent. "Just because some of our ideas correlate with the Revolution doesn't mean there's causality," says one of Feiler's interviewees. Though his subject is discussing the history of the Freemasons, it could easily apply to the author's Moses thesis. However, even though the author stretches his thesis too far, he does provide an interesting greatest-hits digestof American history from the point of view of revolutionaries. A facile retracing of American history on a Mosaic theme-which is not to say Feiler fans won't love it. Author tour to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Detroit, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Savannah, Ga., Washington, D.C.
Booklist (starred review)
“Fascinating and thought provoking.”
The New Yorker
“Astunning collective portrait of an ingrown community with its own history, hierarchy, and traditions.”
New York Times
“Penetrating and insightful. . . . Bruce Feiler’s Dreaming Out Loud details the ins and outs of Nashville.”
Booklist
"Fascinating and thought provoking."
New York Times on Dreaming Out Loud
“Penetrating and insightful. . . . Bruce Feiler’s Dreaming Out Loud details the ins and outs of Nashville.”
The New Yorker on Under the Big Top
“Astunning collective portrait of an ingrown community with its own history, hierarchy, and traditions.”
Simon Winchester
“This is one of the most original, intelligent and endlessly fascinating books I have read in years: it should become a set book for anyone wanting to know what truly makes America tick.”
Tony Horwitz
“With a journalist eye and an adventurers spirit, Bruce Feiler brings his prodigious gifts of biblical analysis to a reconsideration of Moses as the essential prophet of the American Experience. This is an accessible and engaging book of indispensible insight.”
Douglas Brinkley
“What a smart, original, and deeply intriguing reflection on the role Moses played – yes, Moses – in U.S. history. America’s Prophet is Bruce Feiler at his innovative best: compelling, sweeping and engaging. Highly recommended!”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061939259
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 262,560
  • File size: 8 MB

Meet the Author

Bruce Feiler is the author of six consecutive New York Times bestsellers, including Abraham, Where God Was Born, America's Prophet, The Council of Dads, and The Secrets of Happy Families. He is a columnist for the New York Times, a popular lecturer, and a frequent commentator on radio and television. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and twin daughters.

Biography

Bruce Feiler has turned his curiosity into a career, writing on topics from clowning to Christianity with a sense of wonder, humor and inquisitiveness. Most recently he has become known as both theological tourist and tour guide, exploring Biblical history and its physical and cultural roots in the 2001 bestseller Walking the Bible and in 2002's Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths.

Feiler had begun his career writing about another culture with Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, a funny and enlightening account of his year as an English teacher in a small Japanese town. The book continues to be embraced by those who want a better understanding of Japanese culture, one spiked with the humor of its alien gaijin observer. Feiler depicted another hallowed educational system in Looking for Class: Days and Nights at Oxford and Cambridge, an account of the author's experiences as a graduate student at Cambridge. Feiler's books educate, but their appeal also lies in the discoveries he makes as someone entering a new situation with natural preconceptions, then having those ideas upended by reality.

Kicking the fish-out-of-water theme up a notch, Feiler joined the circus for Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus. Here, Feiler showed the journalistic enterprise and mettle that would later figure into his bold journeys through Biblical territory. Spending a year performing as a clown on the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus, Feiler provides a surprising look at the show, its performers and the often seamy underside that accompanies circus life.

Feiler jumped into yet another milieu with his look at the country music industry, Dreaming Out Loud. Presenting an insider's view of Nashville made possible by his access as a journalist to stars such as Garth Brooks and Wynonna Judd, Feiler puts together of picture of starmaking -- including in his profiles a young talent named Wade Hayes -- and the machinery that runs modern country music. As with his other books, Feiler describes how his notions (he hated country music before Brooks made him a fan) have evolved along with his subject.

Feiler is also an award-winning food writer and journalist who has written articles for major publications such as the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the New Republic. But he gained a larger audience when he took on his biggest topic yet: the Bible. "Over more than a decade of living and working abroad I found that ideas, and places, became more real to me when I experienced them firsthand....In the Middle East, the Bible is not some abstraction," Feiler wrote in an essay on Barnes & Noble.com about the origins of Walking the Bible. "It's a living, breathing entity unencumbered by the sterilization of time. That was the Bible I wanted to know, and almost immediately I realized that the only way to find it was to walk along those lines myself."

In taking that walk, Feiler vastly expanded his audience and found himself a subject he would stick with. He was already working on a sequel to the book when September 11 redirected him toward one aspect of his earlier studies: the religious father figure of Abraham. He set out to find hope in this binding tie among Judaism, Christianity and Islam; but found, again, a different picture than the one he anticipated painting. Feiler's education is ours; without him asking the questions, we might not have new insights on cultural fixtures that already seem so familiar.

Good To Know

How he wrote his first book: Feiler appropriated sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov's self-description as an "explainaholic," then explained in an interview with a country music web site how he came to write his first book: "I wrote a series of letters home [from Japan] of the ‘you’re not going to believe what happened to me today' variety. When I came back home, everywhere I went people said to me, ‘I really liked your letters,’ and I would say, ‘Do I know you?’. It turns out that these letters had been passed around. I thought, well, if this is as interesting for me and my family and all of you, I should write a book about [my experiences]."

Feiler, who grew up Jewish in Savannah, Georgia, says that an early encounter with the legend of Abraham was part of a watershed moment for him. The Torah passage he read for his Bar Mitzvah was Lekh Lekha, the story of Abraham going forth from his father's house. He told BeliefNet, "The defining moment of my life was the night of my Bar Mitzvah, when my father pulled me aside at this family gathering, poured me a drink, and said, 'Son, you're a man now, you're responsible for your own actions.'"

Feiler's exploration of the Bible has been confined to the Hebrew Bible, leaving out much in the Old Testament and the entirety of the New Testament; but he told readers in a USA Today chat that he hopes to do a sequel that would take him through the events of Jesus' life.

Feiler is also a contributing editor at Gourmet magazine and has won two James Beard Awards for his food writing.

Feiler says he has traveled to over 60 countries and sprained his ankle on four continents.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Bruce S. Fieler
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 25, 1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Savannah, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Yale University, 1987; M.Phil. in international relations, Cambridge University, 1991

Table of Contents

I Moses! Moses! 1

II An Errand into the Wilderness 7

III Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land 35

IV A Moses for America 73

V Let My People Go 106

VI The War Between the Moseses 140

VII Mother of Exiles 176

VIII The Ten Commandments 208

IX I've Seen the Promised Land 241

X A Narrative of Hope 275

Giving Thanks 311

The Books of Moses 315

Select Bibliography 325

Index 337\

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Did you know what was supposed to be on our money instead of the pyramid and the American eagle?

    I know most of you know the story of Moses and the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt into the land of milk and honey. But did you ever stop and think just how that story still relates to America?

    Do you see the correlation in the Pilgrims fleeing their ruling King James of England in search of the New Land? Or how many of our past presidents have made reference to the story of Moses and his life, the instruction from God, the giving of the 10 Commandments, and thus failure to follow God.

    Moses was commanded to follow God's instruction to the T, and every time he didn't he was punished. He never got to see the fulfillment of the Promised Land to the people he led for 40 years in the desert.

    In the book, America's Prophet, How The Story of Moses Shaped America by Bruce Feiler, you are taken back to the story of Moses and see how many times this very man and his life is repeated through our own history in America. I can honestly tell you as someone who loves history and faith in God, this book spoke to my heart and soul. I absolutely loved seeing God's hand in the creation of this once blessed nation and how He continues to mold and shape us through the retelling of the story.

    You'll learn about the history and creation of the liberty bell and learn how God was involved.
    What the actual inscription means that is molded into the bell.

    You'll learn how valuable the Bible was that Washington used, what scripture was open when he took his oath of office and what the connection was to September 11, 2001.

    You'll learn what the original seal was supposed to be, and how we got to the eagle and one-eye pyramid, and so much more. I think I interrupted my husband so much with each new tidbit I learned and couldn't wait to share it.

    This is a must read for those that love history, especially American History and how God really worked in this great nation even to the present day.

    I received this book compliments of TLC Book Tours for my honest review and must say it's a permanent fixture in our library now for our kids to learn about as we study history. Any parent would benefit from teaching their kids a little bit more about what's missing from our traditional history books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2013

    Bruce has done it again!

    This is a wonderfully researched history of the United States and how we got to where we are today. Moses has been with us all the way from the Pilgrams, to our first President, slavery, Civil War, Emancipation and into New York Harbor to the Statue of Liberty. This a great read.

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  • Posted September 21, 2010

    Awesome!

    Oh, the things they fail to teach us in school. A must read.

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