Moses: A Life

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Lawgiver and liberator. Seer and prophet. The only human permitted to converse with God "face-to-face." Moses is the most commanding presence in the Old Testament. Yet as Jonathan Kirsch shows in this brilliant, stunningly original volume, Moses was also an enigmatic and mysterious figure--at once a good shepherd and a ruthless warrior, a spiritual leader and a magician, a lawgiver who broke his own laws, God's chosen friend and hounded victim. Now, in Moses: A Life, Kirsch accomplishes the wondrous feat of revealing the real Moses, a strikingly modern figure who steps out from behind the facade of Sunday school lessons and movie matinees.

Drawing on the biblical text and a treasury of both scholarship and storytelling, Kirsch examines all that is known and all that has been imagined of Moses. In these vivid pages, we see the marvels and mysteries of Moses's life in a new light--his rescue in infancy and adoption by an Egyptian princess; his reluctant assumption of the role of liberator; his struggles to wrest his people from the pharaoh's dominion; his desperate vigil on Mount Sinai. Here too is the darker, more ominous Moses--the sorcerer, the husband of a pagan woman, the military commander who cold-bloodedly ordered the slaying of innocent people; the beloved of God whom God sought twice to murder.

Jonathan Kirsch brings both prodigious knowledge and a keen imagination to one of the most compelling stories of the Bible, and the results are fascinating. A figure of mystery, passion, and contradiction, Moses emerges from this book very much a hero for our time.
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About the author

Jonathan Kirsch, a book columnist for the Los Angeles Times and author of the critically acclaimed The Harlot by the Side of the Road, writes and lectures widely on biblical, literary, and legal topics. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, and a former correspondent for Newsweek, he lives in Los Angeles.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Ballantine Books
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Published on
Oct 7, 2009
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Pages
448
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ISBN
9780307567925
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Religious
Religion / Judaism / History
Religion / Leadership
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Look out for Julie's new book, The Stars in Our Eyes.

From the author of Friendkeeping and Love at First Bark, one woman's hilarious, bittersweet account of growing up in a family of career-shunning, dependence-seeking women and her journey to a state of twenty-first-century self-reliance.

Julie Klam was raised as the only daughter of a Jewish family in the exclusive WASP stronghold of Bedford, New York. Her mother was sharp, glamorous, and funny, but did not think that work was a woman's responsibility. Her father was fully supportive, not just of his wife's staying at home, but also of her extravagant lifestyle. Her mother's offbeat parenting style-taking Julie out of school to go to lunch at Bloomingdale's, for example-made her feel well-cared-for (and well-dressed) but left her unprepared for graduating and entering the real world. She had been brought up to look pretty and wait for a rich man to sweep her off her feet. But what happened if he never showed up?

When Julie gets married to a hardworking but not wealthy man-one who expects her to be part of a modern couple and contribute financially to the marriage-she realizes how ambivalent and ill-equipped she is for life. Once she gives birth to a daughter, she knows she must grow up, get to work, and teach her child the self-reliance that she never learned. Delivered in an uproariously funny, sweet, self-effacing, and utterly memorable voice, Please Excuse My Daughter is a bighearted memoir from an irresistible new writer.
Sex. Violence. Scandal. These are words we rarely associate with the sacred text of the Bible. Yet in this brilliant new book, Jonathan Kirsch shows that the Old Testament is filled with some of the most startling and explicit stories in all of Western literature. These tales of seduction and rape, voyeurism and exhibitionism, intermarriage and illegitimacy, assassination and murder have been suppressed by religious authorities throughout history precisely because they are so shocking. "You mean that's in the Bible?" is the common reaction of the contemporary reader to the stories that Kirsch retells and explores.

In The Harlot by the Side of the Road, Kirsch recounts these suppressed and mistranslated tales in the grand storytelling tradition. Here is the tale of Dinah, the young Israelite daughter raped by a princely suitor. The price for her hand in marriage? The circumcision of every man in his kingdom. Here, too, is the story of Lot's daughters, who, when faced with the possibility that they are the last survivors on earth, must copulate with their drunken father to continue their race. And the story of Tamar, the harlot by the side of the road, who must disguise herself as a prostitute and seduce her father-in-law in order to bear the child who has been promised her.

Kirsch places each story within the political and social context of its time, and delves into the latest biblical scholarship to explain why each story was originally censored. He also brings to light when and where each story was first written down, and how it found its way into the Bible. And he shows how these stories have something important to say to contemporary readers who might never pick up a Bible.

Kirsch reveals that the Bible's real power lies in its unflinching lessons in human nature. And he illuminates the surprising modernity of the Bible's characters: these were, like us, people delicately balanced between their destructive and generous natures. Certain to excite controversy and ignite intellectual debate, The Harlot by the Side of the Road will undoubtedly be one of the year's most talked-about books.
Standing at the very foundation of monotheism, and so of Western culture, Moses is a figure not of history, but of memory. As such, he is the quintessential subject for the innovative historiography Jan Assmann both defines and practices in this work, the study of historical memory--a study, in this case, of the ways in which factual and fictional events and characters are stored in religious beliefs and transformed in their philosophical justification, literary reinterpretation, philological restitution (or falsification), and psychoanalytic demystification.

To account for the complexities of the foundational event through which monotheism was established, "Moses the Egyptian" goes back to the short-lived monotheistic revolution of the Egyptian king Akhenaten (1360-1340 B.C.E.). Assmann traces the monotheism of Moses to this source, then shows how his followers denied the Egyptians any part in the origin of their beliefs and condemned them as polytheistic idolaters. Thus began the cycle in which every "counter-religion," by establishing itself as truth, denounced all others as false. Assmann reconstructs this cycle as a pattern of historical abuse, and tracks its permutations from ancient sources, including the Bible, through Renaissance debates over the basis of religion to Sigmund Freud's "Moses and Monotheism." One of the great Egyptologists of our time, and an exceptional scholar of history and literature, Assmann is uniquely equipped for this undertaking--an exemplary case study of the vicissitudes of historical memory that is also a compelling lesson in the fluidity of cultural identity and beliefs.

David, King of the Jews, possessed every flaw and failing a mortal is capable of, yet men and women adored him and God showered him with many more blessings than he did Abraham or Moses. His sexual appetite and prowess were matched only by his violence, both on the battlefield and in the bedroom. A charismatic leader, exalted as "a man after God's own heart," he was also capable of deep cunning, deceit, and betrayal. Now, in King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel, bestselling author Jonathan Kirsch reveals this commanding individual in all his glory and fallibility.

In a taut, dramatic narrative, Kirsch brings new depth and psychological complexity to the familiar events of David's life--his slaying of the giant Goliath and his swift challenge to the weak rule of Saul, the first Jewish king; his tragic relationship with Saul's son Jonathan, David's cherished friend (and possibly lover); his celebrated reign in Jerusalem, where his dynasty would hold sway for generations. Yet for all his greatness, David was also a man in thrall to his passions--a voracious lover who secured the favors of his beautiful mistress Bathsheba by secretly arranging the death of her innocent husband; a merciless warrior who triumphed through cruelty; a troubled father who failed to protect his daughter from rape and whose beloved son Absalom rose against him in armed insurrection.

Weaving together biblical texts with centuries of interpretation and commentary, Jonathan Kirsch brings King David to life in these pages with extraordinary freshness, intimacy, and vividness of detail. At the center of this inspiring narrative stands a hero of flesh and blood--not the cartoon giant-slayer of sermons and Sunday school stories or the immaculate ruler of legend and art but a magnetic, disturbingly familiar man--a man as vibrant and compelling today as he has been for millennia.
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