Like the historic Moses, Barack Obama is a champion of freedom. Now some fear that, like the Hebrew Moses, Obama may be as well a prophet of disappointment. After leading the Israelites for 40 years, Moses was denied entry to the Promised Land. The story of the current American Moses is still being played out.
From the Pilgrims to the Founding Fathers, from the American Civil War to the civil rights movement, Americans have turned to Moses figures in periods of crisis because the Moses narrative offers a road map for hope in troubled times.
The Moses image was so pervasive in the early American colonies that, on July 4, 1776, after signing the Declaration of Independence, the American Colonial Congress asked Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to propose a seal for the United States. Their recommendation was a seal showing Moses, leading the Israelites through the Red Sea as the water overwhelms the pharaoh. In their eyes, Moses was America’s true Founding Father.
Hollywood film producer Cecil B. DeMille turned Moses into a symbol of American power during the Cold War. The 1956 epic The Ten Commandments opened with DeMille appearing onscreen. “The theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God’s law or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator,” he said. “The same battle continues throughout the world today.” To drive home his point, DeMille cast mostly Americans as Israelites and Europeans as Egyptians! And in the film’s final shot, Charlton Heston adopts the pose of the Statue of Liberty and quotes the line from the third book of Moses — Leviticus — inscribed on the Liberty Bell: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
Barack Obama is the first U.S. President to hold a Passover Seder in the White House. This is no accident: the story of Moses is, above all, a narrative of hope.
Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt: former U.S. presidential Moses figures. And Now Barack Obama. But President Obama needs to pay close attention to the entire Moses story……The Bible outlines at least a dozen rebellions in which his people attempted to overthrow Moses.
Moses learned that the strongest leaders face the harshest criticism; but they hold fast against their opponents. This may be Obama’s biggest challenge.