The Founders' views on Faith: Day 3

America’s Prophet: How the Story of Moses Inspired the Founding Fathers

by Bruce Feiler


Author, America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story


America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story

A few years ago, I set out looking at the role of Moses in inspiring generation after generation of Americans.  I had just returned home from a decade retracing the bible through the Middle East for a series of books called Walking the Bible, Abraham, and Where God Was Born, and was interested in how the Bible helped shape America.

I sailed on Plymouth Harbor, where the Pilgrims compared their journey to Moses; I retraced the Underground Railroad where “Go Down, Moses” was the national anthem of slaves; I climbed the Statue of Liberty, whose spikes of light and tablet were taken from the moment Moses comes down Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments; and I donned the robe Charlton Heston wore in The Ten Commandments

But nothing surprised me more than how central Moses and the story of the Exodus were to the Founding Fathers.

As the Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia in 1776, comparisons with the Exodus filled the air.  From politicians to preachers, many of the rhetorical high points of the year likened the colonists to the Israelites fleeing Egypt.  The Liberty Bell has a quote from Moses on its side, “Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land to all the Inhabitants Thereof – Levit. XXV 10.”  Thomas Paine invoked the analogy in Common Sense, the best-selling book of the year.  Samuel Sherwood made it the centerpiece of the year’s second best-selling publication, The Church’s Flight into the Wilderness

And on the afternoon of July 4th, after passing the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress asked John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin to come up with a public face of the new United States.  They chose Moses.

Three of the five drafters of the Declaration of Independence and three of the defining faces of the Revolution proposed that Moses be the face of the United States of America.  In their eyes, Moses was our true founding father.

But how did this happen exactly?  How did the reluctant leader of Israelite slaves end up as the favorite son of the founding fathers?  In short, how did Moses become the hero of the Revolution? 

The themes the Founders drew from the Exodus were similar to the ones the Pilgrims and Great Awakening preachers had emphasized: freedom is a God-given right; God promises liberation to the oppressed; God freed the Israelites from Egypt, he can do so for the colonists.  But the new generation of Exodus-lovers went further, insisting that the Bible expressly rejects the British form of government, the divine right of kings, and endorses the kinds of freedom the patriots were proposing.  In 1775, Samuel Langdon, the president of Harvard, said Americans should adopt the form of government that God handed down to Moses on Sinai.  “The Jewish government,” he wrote, “was a perfect republic.”

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense invoked the Moses story to make similar attacks on the English political system.  Paine was the anti-religious zealot who continually cited religious examples.  He hated Scripture but quoted it relentlessly, showing the enduring power of the Bible even for Deists.  In Common Sense he cites Gideon, Samuel, and David, to show how the Bible argues against kingship.  And he calls King George III the “hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh of England.”  By contrasty, Paine never quotes Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Bacon, the pantheon of Enlightenment thinkers.

The pace of Mosaic references seemed to escalate as Independence drew closer.  The seeds of biblical promise first hinted at by Columbus in 1492 and planted by the Pilgrims in 1620 finally appeared to be reaching full flower in 1776.  Like Moses, the country was prepared to stand up to the most powerful force in the world and declare, “Let my people go.”

“I think what’s important about all this language,” said Tim Safford, the preacher of Philadelphia’s Christ Church and a student of the Revolution, “is that these leaders were using the Bible to convince themselves they were free.  They’re not that biblically pure; often they’re not that religious.  But they’re using these stories to build the case that they’re justified in standing up to the Crown.  You’re individuals, they’re saying to the Colonists.  You’re children of God.  You’re no longer subject to the king.”

“So you don’t think this reliance on the Exodus is unusual, or over-the-top?” I asked.

“The founders were otherworldly to a great degree,” he said, “but generally they were hugely influenced by rationalism and pragmatism.  For them, this whole notion of deliverance was a practical matter.  They weren’t looking for the freedom of Christ in the next world, they were looking for the freedom of Moses in this world.”

“So they wanted the story to be true.”

“It certainly seems that way.  John Adams sailed multiple time to Europe.  Benjamin Franklin did the same.  They were willing to risk everything because they believed in something.  And what they believed is that you should sacrifice your own fat-and-happiness for something far greater than yourselves.  That is an Old Testament narrative.  You risk.  You don’t look back, or you’ll end up a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife.” 

“Do you believe,” I said, “that pilgrims could have gotten on that ship, or the Founders could have signed the Declaration –“

He cut me off.  “The only reason they could have done that is because they had a narrative larger than their own lives.  A narrative of God delivers me through the Red Sea.  A narrative that if you’re lost in exile, you can remain holy.  A narrative of life is stronger than death, love is more powerful than hate.  If you do not have a narrative larger than the world gives you, you’re just going to get sucked up by the world.

“The question to ask about the Founder is not whether they believed in the Bible,” he continued, “it’s Are you going to live by the narrative you find there?  The Pilgrims, George Whitefield, even Benjamin Franklin I would say, trusted the narrative.  They believed God would deliver them.  They never sunk into the pure limitations of rationalism, that the world was only what they could perceive.  They always seem to be fueled by a reality they couldn’t see.  And because of them, that narrative became America’s narrative.”




Bruce Feiler is the New York Times-bestselling author of nine books, including Walking the Bible, Abraham, and the recently published, The Council of Dads.  This article is adapted from his bookAmerica’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story, which Glenn Beck called “the best book of narrative history I have ever read....  A fantastic book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”  For more information, please visit www.brucefeiler.com or www.facebook.com/brucefeilerpage.

Glenn Beck: This is the ONLY endgame that makes sense for the FBI’s raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home

(Left) Photo by James Devaney/GC Images (Right) Video screenshot

If you're celebrating this FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, you have no idea how much this changes things. We don't do this in America. At least, we didn't. But the left cannot have Donald Trump be president again. His "America First" platform goes against everything they've been working for. So, what's their endgame here? On the radio program, Glenn Beck said there's really only one endgame that makes sense — and it should scare us all.

"If you are not for the destruction of America, you better pay attention quickly. This is a massive move," Glenn said of the Mar-a-Lago raid.

"And who has credibility on this? ... The right will believe Donald Trump, but nobody on the left, so you're not going to change any minds there. Do you think the right will believe the New York Times? MSNBC? NBC? CBS? Do you think we're going to believe the New York Times — the people who have been carrying water for the Biden crimes? The Clinton crimes? And ... I'm talking about her server and having her own State Department people go into a skiff, which is the top secret room, completely sealed off, going in and getting documents, cutting off 'top secret,' and then emailing them to her on her private server. And nothing? And now you're going to try to convince me [that] this has nothing to do with January 6?" he added.

"Remember the [allegations about] bank servers, [Trump] was pinging a bank? Untrue. Carter Page is a Russian spy? Untrue. Donald Trump is a Russian spy? ... Untrue. Collusion with Russia? Untrue. Ukraine, the perfect phone call? Not true. Not true. Wasn't a perfect phone call. Was not impeachable. The pee tape dossier? None of that was true. Here's why they can't have [Trump] as president of the United States. They can't have him as president of the United States because we are headed towards a completely new, all redesigned, non-capitalist, nonconstitutional Great Reset," Glenn argued. "They cannot have him be president because he is America first."

Glenn warned Americans that our federal government is accumulating massive power, case in point the 87,000 new IRS agents. "Coupled with the [IRS agents] they already have ... that's almost the size of our National Guard. Do you feel comfortable with that? Democrats? You don't think there's a possibility ... that someone ... might come in at some point and weaponize the IRS?"

He also warned that the FBI's raid on Donald Trump’s home has implications that stretch far beyond simple dislike for the former president. So what are they hoping to accomplish?

"What is the endgame? You make him into a martyr by throwing him into jail or killing him ... so you make him stronger? That doesn't make sense. Why would they want that?" Glenn asked. "So, what is their endgame? The only one that makes sense to me, is to stop him at any cost, then lunatics will take to the streets, and then [they] will have [their] evidence that the [right is] more dangerous than anyone could possibly imagine. Please, pray for your country."

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis, and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.

In just the past few days, the Senate passed an unprecedented $740 billion spending bill amid an inflation crisis, we found out that the IRS purchased nearly $700,000 worth of guns and ammo ahead of plans to hire 87,000 new "enforcement" agents, and on Monday the FBI raided the home of a former U.S. president. It's pretty safe to say that there's a whole lot going on in this country that we've never seen before, and conservatives had "better wake up," said Glenn Beck on "The Glenn Beck Program."

"This is the beginning of an entirely new kind of America. And when it is all implemented, look out! The only other thing that I think [Democrats] could do to really polish us off is [use] emergency orders. If [President Joe Biden] goes for emergency orders and declares a national emergency over the weather, we're going to be cooked," Glenn said.

Glenn went on to explain why he believes a new "season" is on the horizon for our nation, but it’s not all bad news. He said he's hopeful for a new class of politicians to enter Washington, D.C., and, while no politician is perfect, a few such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis can still surprise us.

DeSantis always seems to be ahead of the curve on hot-button issues, and he tackles them the legal way without abusing his power. Just look at how much the media is trying to paint him as evil. That’s a telltale sign that "he’s on the right track, at the right speed. And he's taking all of it on," Glenn said.

Watch the video clip below to catch more of the conversation. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.


Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis, and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.


Here are 3 ways the 'Inflation Reduction Act' WILL impact you (Hint: NOT by reducing inflation)

(Left) Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images/(Middle) Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/(Right)Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate has passed President Joe Biden's $740 billion "Inflation Reduction Act" over the weekend, but the only way this deceptively-named bill will reduce inflation is by crushing your buying power. The massive spending bill includes the largest climate spending package ever passed and will allocate a whopping $80 billion to make the IRS bigger than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI, and Border Patrol combined. And just wait until you see how the bill will affect our farmers.

On the radio program Monday, Glenn Beck broke down three rather "terrifying" components of the 755-page bill and how they will impact you.

Watch the video clip below. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn’s masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis, and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.