“All honor to the Old Testament! I find in it great human beings, a heroic landscape, and something of the very rarest quality in the world, the incomparable naïveté of the strong heart; what is more, I find a people.”

—Friedrich Nietzsche,

On the Genealogy of Morals

Founding God’s Nation: Reading Exodus is political philosopher Leon Kass’s second volume on the Bible, after his 2003 commentary, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis. In both books, he aims to read the Hebrew Bible “philosophically”—that is, in search of wisdom. In the case of the Book of Exodus, this wisdom is revealed in God’s legislation and Moses’ acts as prophet and ruler.

Kass’s Moses is first motivated by moral outrage, and then by wonder: moral outrage at the Egyptian oppression of the Israelites, and wonder at the bush that burns but is not consumed. Moses receives his commission from God, but fills in the Lord’s orders with notions of his own—at times successfully, at times disastrously, as in his first confrontation with Pharaoh (5:1-23) or in the blood covenant with which he attempts to seal Israel to the law (24:4-12).

Kass forces readers to compare the commentator with the prophet: like Moses fostered in Pharaoh’s palace, Kass tells us he was brought up apart from the primary

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