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April 18, 2014 3:20 pm

The Moses Legacy

avatar by Yoram Ettinger

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Moses pleading with the Israelites. Photo: Wiki Commons.

3,400 years ago, the Moses legacy was shaped during the first clash of civilizations (Passover) between faith and responsibility-driven liberty (Moses) on the one hand, and paganism and subjugation-driven repression (Pharaoh) on the other hand. The victory of the Moses legacy established a dramatically new world order for millennia.

In 1623 and 1630, the mindset of the Mayflower and Arabella Pilgrims was: a departure from contemporary Egypt (England), the parting the modern day Red Sea (the Atlantic Ocean), culminating with the landing in the new Promised Land (USA). They laid the foundations for the morally, industrially, scientifically and militarily exceptional Judeo-Christian American culture, based upon the Moses legacy.

In 1776, America’s founding fathers fulfilled the vision of the Pilgrims, establishing a unique political system, eventually naming it “federalism” — a derivative of the Latin word “foedus” — the Covenant. They were inspired by British and French political scientists, as well as by the Moses legacy of disciplined-liberty, justice and the separation of powers. They viewed themselves as “the people of the modern-day Covenant” and overcame “the modern-day British Pharaoh” in a clash of civilizations, which jolted the prevailing world order.

In 2014, U.S. exceptionalism — which saved the Free World in two world wars against Germany and the cold war against the USSR — is now challenged by the proliferation of tectonic clashes of civilizations, involving Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, the accelerated Islamic penetration of Europe, the proliferation of Islamic terrorism sleeper cells on the U.S. mainland, Russian and Chinese imperialism as well as the Arab Tsunami.

In 2014, in the face of such challenges, the Judeo-Christian USA has only one effective, unconditional, reliable, democratic, strategic ally, possessing the capabilities and the will to unleash them: the Jewish state, Israel. The U.S. and Israel are the only countries in the world that derive their vision and culture from the Moses legacy.

The widespread impact of the Moses legacy upon the American culture is gleaned through biblical citations from liberal and conservative leaders alike. During the 18th century, the Bible was cited much more often — by the Rebels — than John Locke or Montesquieu. More recently, following the 2000 presidential election, then President-elect George W. Bush asked his pastor, Mark Craig, to repeat a Moses-based sermon — originally delivered in 1999, which convinced Bush to run for the presidency. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton branded pessimists as the “Back to Egypt Committee,” which wanted to return to servitude in Egypt, rather than enter the Promised Land. President Barack Obama identified himself as “the Joshua of our time” following in the footsteps of the “Moses Generation.” Tom Harkin, a very liberal Democratic senator, congratulated the majority leader for displaying “the patience of Job, endurance of Samson and wisdom of Solomon.” And, former President Ronald Reagan said: “I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.”

In 2014, a reference to Moses and his legacy is well-received by the American public, since the U.S. is the most religious Western democracy: Over 40 percent frequent churches on Sunday; 80-90 percent believe in God; 80 percent believe in Judeo-Christian values; 15 million copies of the Holy Bible — which can be found in most U.S. hotel rooms — are sold annually; “In God We Trust” is the U.S. national motto; “one nation under God” is in the Pledge of Allegiance; a morning prayer launches daily deliberations in the U.S. House of Representatives; some 300 Christian TV stations operate in the U.S.; Moses’ statue faces the speaker of the House of Representatives and is fixed above the Supreme Court justices; the Liberty Bell displays an inscription on the Jubilee — Leviticus 25:10; monuments to the Ten Commandments stand on the grounds of the Texas and Oklahoma state capitols.

In fact, one does not have to be religious to appreciate Judeo-Christian values in the U.S. On December 24, 1968 — during the first manned mission to the moon, aboard Apollo 8 — Commander Frank Borman, Lunar Module pilot William Anders and Command Module pilot Jim Lovell recited to the American people the first ten verses of the book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth … and God saw that it was good.”

According to Bruce Feiler’s America’s Prophet — How the Story of Moses Shaped America, “For hour hundred years … one person has inspired more Americans than any other. One man is America’s true founding father. His name is Moses.” Feiler added that in June 1788, former Harvard University President Samuel Langdon stated: “The three-branch structure of government of God’s New Israel [USA] was identical to that of God’s Old Israel.” The Exodus became “the covenant of Black America … the single greatest motif of slave spirituals: “Go down Moses; Let my people go — the Negro Marseillaise.” In The Making of the President, 1964, Theodore White wrote: “It was as if Kennedy, a younger Moses, had led an elder Joshua [Lyndon Johnson] to the height of Mount Nebo, and there shown him the Promised Land which he himself would never enter.”

Feiler opined that “the idea that one biblical story [the Exodus] has inspired such radically different leaders as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, G. W. Bush and Barack Obama, suggests that the story has transcended time and political party to become a leitmotif of the American presidency. … No single thinker has had more sustained influence on American history, over a longer period, than Moses.”

The Moses legacy has played a key role in shaping the American story, the special attitude of the American constituent towards the Jewish state, the special win-win U.S.-Israel ties, and the exceptional capabilities of the U.S. in the face of intensifying world disorder.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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  • Fred

    Sounds good Yoram, but your figures are way off. Hope you are more professional about your demographic figures. Have not a seen a Bible, Gideon or other, in a hotel room for a long time. 80-90% believe in God? When 70% of American Jews don’t believe in God but maybe in some mystical power that cannot be described. Certainly not the God mentioned in the fairy tale book we call the Bible. The Pledge of Allegiance has been all but banned for public schools, why have you not noticed? The Liberty bell and monuments you refer to would be banned if they had to happen today. They are relics from a time long ago. And where exactly did all the anti-Jewish sentiment come from during all those years where Jews were forbidden to join certain clubs, attend certain schools, buy certain homes, etc etc? There are states that still have clauses in the Deeds of Trust that Jews are forbidden to buy the property. Wake up Yoram!

  • Our political leaders should reread Exodus seeing themselves as modern-day figures like Moses. This article should serve as a transition to a serious discussion of the Hebrew Bible as general academic political theory.

    “Enlightened” academics often pay lip service to the Hebrew Bible as political theory while it has generally been ignored. Not until recently has the prejudice against the Hebrew Bible been broken down.

    Aaron Wildavsky’s, Moses as Political Leader, was the first book length study of the political thought of the Bible by a contemporary scholar of politics. It was originally published in 1984 and has now been reissued in paperback.

    Aaron Widavsky came to the study of Moses after he was already among the world’s most respected political scientists. He received his doctorate from Yale University in 1958 and spent the last thirty years of his life as professor of political science and public policy at the University of California at Berkely. Aaron Wildavsky was author or co-author or editor of 39 books, including respected contributions to the study of the functioning of government, public policy, and cultural theory.

  • Let us all learn a few lessons from Moses.

    The author has averred, “No single thinker has had more sustained influence on American history, over a longer period, than Moses.”

    The author has cleverly escaped from presenting a dab of scientific data to prove his assertions. Yet, one cannot neglect that the current overthrow of Ukraine’s government marks the 80th time that the US has tried to overthrow foreign governments since 1953. Indeed, its first disaster was removing the elected Prime Minister of Iran by CIA in 1953. Had this crime not occurred, the Middle East would not be swimming in a pool of blood today. Apparently, my government paid no heed to precious Nabi Moses!

    Likewise, let us examine if the Israeli government follows the prized dictum of Nabi Moses. Here are a few facts. As of WW II, except for the US, Israel has bombarded, attacked, and occupied more countries than other state in Africa and the Middle East. Israel’s victims have been and are Egyptians, Jordanians, Iraqis, Lebanese’s, Palestinians, Syrians, Sudanese’s and Yemenis. Thru its horror web, Israel has used covert terrorist attacks in dozen countries, and has executed murders, for examples, in Asia, Dubai, Europe and Iran, even the US. Let us study History 101 first before spreading unsubstantiated declarations.

    Did the Prime Minister listen to Moses and seek peace with 5 million Palestinians? Based on countless books by Israeli historians, nearly one million Palestinians were driven from their homes and lands at gunpoint, now homeless for 65 years? Regrettably, the current Prime Minister has angered the world against Israel than the worst anti-Semite! Unless principled Jews, those who follow Moses to the word, stand against the cruelty of the Israeli government Israel isolation will be intensified each day.

    My Jewish brothers and sisters: Jews, Armenians, and Moslems live in peace in my hometown, Esfahan, Iran, for hundreds of years. This city was established 2500 years ago by Cyrus The Great to shelter Jews.

    I believe the same dream can be achieved in the land of Abraham. Here is an example. The Sesame Synchrotron, established in Jordan, offers evidence. The project advances a flash of harmony between Iran, Israel, the United States, and other countries in a way akin to my birth town.


    In lands of tactless animosities, Sesame particle accelerator is the basis of a highly clever scientific partnership. Sesame will be used by researchers to study everything from basic science, viruses to new drugs. A dream to use science as diplomacy will be alive if sufficient people are resolute to drive it. I am! Are you?


    Professor Akbar Montaser
    From The noble 13th century Persian Sufi Poet Rumi:
    “I go to a synagogue, church, and mosque, and I see the same spirit and the same altar.”

  • Julian Clovelley

    These are rather dangerous allusions in that the origin of White America could be regarded in an entirely and I fear more accurate manner.

    According to this same Bible – but differently read – the escaping Hebrews invaded the land of Caanan, displacing its original inhabitants, and any group that they saw as opposed to them, with a combination of war and genocide. The book of Samuel records one of these, being the slaughter of the Amalekites. Another comparable event that might be considered is the destruction of Jericho – In both these examples the attacks were inspired by the Priests, claiming Divine command, and in the case of Jericho all of the spoils. In both cases the enemy were massacred – in Jericho’s case sparing the local whore

    What was founded was a state with a theological and moral core, none of which appeared to extend its full protection to the slaves within the new nation – often foreign captives. There were therefore two clear levels to the moral base of the nation – and it was almost impossible for a slave to pass from one level of existence to the other. All this is Biblically sourced, and according to the Bible the behaviour pattern was written into the entire theology.

    The Americas were discovered tens of thousands of years ago and at the time of Columbus’s belated arrival were inhabited by a collection of largely tribal based civilisations. Many of those in the southern continent built large cities, operated complex nation-wide administrations and were advanced in their use of wood, stone, metal and agricultural and irrigation methods. They also produced very fine artifacts and architecture

    Europeans invaded the two continents, ruthlessly decimating the indigenous peoples, destroying and pillaging their cities and vilifying all of their individual religions as an excuse for invasion, domination, and enslavement. The Thanksgiving mea, celebrated so joyously each year, is in fact a meal consumed over the bones of the slaughtered and the rubble of their societies. It is a terrible hypocrisy that it is consumed in the spirit of celebrating Divine Salvation.

    America proceeded to becoming a slave state for the next centuries, breaking with the British throne when the threat of slavery abolition loomed. Religion in America has always been a combination of an excuse for dispossession and a hypocrisy of attempted and actual theological rule. As Thomas Jefferson, himself a slave owner, however warned, the greatest threat of tyranny in America was priests who sought to dominate society with a violent, oppressive, illogical, and often murderous superstition.

    Are you sure you really want these allusions? With allusions sometimes comes blame.

    I’m asking as a person born in England – I too had to get over national mythology – recognising that the great and benevolent British Empire, that everyone within it adored, was in fact the product of some seventy six wars, and hated by the oppressed, nationally dominated, exploited, and dispossessed

    If we are honest with ourselves, then we recognise that the paths that led us to our present situations are diverse – and fortuitous or unlucky. The past is not really a valid source for present pride or blame. What we really need is to recognise humanity’s present state and seek to universally better it. Only in this, in my opinion do the writings of the past have any role to play – as contributory philosophical and spiritual sources of morality and ethics separated carefully from nationalist and imperialist myths.

    Letting go of invalid allusion is a small start. Recognising obvious mythology and relegating it to the level of artisanship, artistry, fiction and political justification is an even better one.

  • Tone Lechtzier

    amen… however, here in the US, we are presently back where we started, in Egypt.
    With Blessings ~ B”H ~ hermitone

  • Jacobite

    I would like to point out also that the Bibles that you quote are made up of an old TESTIMENT, and a new TESTIMENT.
    Mose introduces the Mosaic Law as designed and intended as a law of preparation for the coming of a deliverer as the Mosaic law which had enslaved the Jewish race to law they were perpetually condemed by.
    Much of the law upon close examination is pointing to Christ coming as a sacrificial lamb, and deliverer from sin in the flesh.
    Jesus Christ fur filled the Mosaic law and freed Israel from it. Close inspection will show that Christ is in perfect harmony with Moses and introduced foregivnes of sin via him as an intercesor between him and his father Almighty God.
    So I think Jesus Christ would have had a greater influence on America as Christ also removed a wall of partition which divided the Gentile world from the hope and promises made to Abraham that under that Mosaic law was for national Israel only.
    The example of the Samaritants examples this in the new TESTIMENT.
    Moses was a leading figure as High priest but Christ ranks higher as he will rein as a high prest and King at a time appointed by Yahweh Elohim, near at hand.