Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion

Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion

by Bruce Feiler

Hardcover(First Edition)

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Where God Was Born combines the adventure of a wartime chronicle, the excitement of an archaeological detective story, and the insight of personal spiritual exploration. Taking readers to biblical sites not seen by Westerners for decades, Bruce Feiler's journey uncovers little-known details about the common roots of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and affirms the importance of the Bible in today's world.

Where God Was Born is a daring quest that offers a rare, universal vision of God that can inspire different faiths to an allegiance of hope.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060574871
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/13/2005
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Bruce Feiler is the author of six consecutive New York Times bestsellers, including Abraham, Where God Was Born, America's Prophet, The Council of Dads, and The Secrets of Happy Families. He is a columnist for the New York Times, a popular lecturer, and a frequent commentator on radio and television. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and twin daughters.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

October 25, 1964

Place of Birth:

Savannah, Georgia


B.A., Yale University, 1987; M.Phil. in international relations, Cambridge University, 1991

Read an Excerpt

Where God Was Born

A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion
By Bruce Feiler

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Bruce Feiler
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060574879

Chapter One

Man of Blood

Razor wire is made up of thin metal twine with small sharp barbs every few inches that is twirled into coils about two feet in diameter, then bundled outside fences, roofs, and doorways like a lethal scarf. Razor wire is so ubiquitous in Israel it could almost be the national flower. It even looks like a shrub, the way it twists and turns, catches plastic bags and soda bottles in its web, and rubs against civilization like poison ivy on a playground. Whenever I see a bundle, I imagine myself making a daring escape through its coils. Then I see myself slipping, my leg catching in the tangle, tearing, then blood, and the disappointment of failure. Razor wire is barbed wire with a greater power to intimidate.

It does have one unexpected benefit, though. The airiness of its coils allows just enough light to get through so that if you leave it for a while, at, say, the checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, a sprout of yellow daisies can take root in the desert and pop up through the fear.

Razor fences are not the only impediment to traveling the six miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. There is also, on this chilly morning, the Israeli Army, the Palestinian security forces, and a border so volatile that Avner couldn't traverse it. He left me at a long line of cars to walk along a cliff with a few Italian tourists in wheelchairs, through a checkpoint armed with Israeli teenagers, into a gamut of taxi drivers so desperate for business one actually looked hurt when I passed him by. "Why are you angry?" he shouted.

Moments later Arlet Odeh sped up in a white Mercedes. She was thirty years old, with dangling curls, a hawk nose, and deep bags under her eyes that came more from lack of hope than from lack of sleep. Arlet was also a tour guide with no tours to guide. For three years she hadn't worked. Her father is old, she said, her mother ill. They are one of only one hundred Palestinian Christian families left in town. "We are living in a cage," she said. "But living means having a life. I have no life. Would you like to see where Jesus was born?"

"Actually, on this trip, I'm interested in King David."

She brightened. "He was born here, too!"

We headed toward the center of town. The cobblestone streets, repaved when Pope John Paul II visited for the bimillennium of Jesus' birth, were deserted, shops boarded up, few people in sight. Though Christmas was still months away, a pale plastic wreath and faded star dangled from the side of the road.

Bethlehem is one of the few cities that appears across the entire two-thousand-year arc of the Hebrew Bible, from the patriarchs to the prophets. The city is first mentioned in Genesis as the place where Jacob's wife Rachel died after giving birth to Benjamin. A tomb marks the spot, which we passed on our way into town, fenced in, empty. Joshua later assigns the area to the tribe of Judah, and it's frequently mentioned during the period of the kings, most prominently as the birthplace of King David. The story of the boy warrior who becomes the king of Israel lords over the early books of the Prophets and introduces what will become a major theme of the second half of the Hebrew Bible: the Israelites' quest to find proper balance between their spiritual identity as an ethically minded people of God and their political identity as a nation strong enough to survive in a region of superpowers.

After the lightning conquest described in the Book of Joshua, the biblical story quickly becomes diffuse, even chaotic. The Book of Judges describes an awkward transition as the people settle the land and try to determine their political leadership. The preeminent fact of the Israelites' existence is that, unlike their neighbors, they don't have a monarch. Four times the text says, "In those days there was no king in Israel," adding, "every man did what was right in his own eyes." For two hundred years, their leaders are judges, including Ehud, Gideon, and Samson, from the Hebrew word sopet, which adds the theological element of divination to the more legalistic English term. The authority of the judges comes from God, the ultimate sopet, and their principal task is to ensure that the people uphold the Laws of Moses.

But the people are not satisfied, especially as they are repeatedly trounced by the Philistines, the new power along the coastal plain. Samuel, the reigning judge at the time, gathers the Israelites and leads a comeback. But the people still feel insecure and, around 1020 B.C.E., parade en masse to an aging Samuel: "Appoint a king for us, to govern us like all other nations." In a classic case of "Throw the bums out!" they declare they are not happy being ruled exclusively by God; they want more competent, secular leadership based on sound economics and a strong military.

We have reached a familiar moment, when the crabby wandering people of the desert become the surly settled people of the land. The Israelites are never happy. In the Sinai they gripe about the lack of food and poor leadership and demand to be sent back into slavery; in the Promised Land they gripe about their lack of power and poor leadership and demand to be subjected to a king. In both cases, Israel lives up to its namesake, Ysra'el, one who wrestles with God.

And God, as he has done before, lashes out: "Me they have rejected as their king." Still, he grants the request but asks Samuel to warn them of their mistake. Samuel's speech is one of the most prophetic in the Bible. A king, he says, will take your sons and sacrifice them in battle, take your daughters and make them perfumers, cooks, and bakers. He will seize your choice . . .


Excerpted from Where God Was Born by Bruce Feiler Copyright © 2005 by Bruce Feiler.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Be Strong and Very Courageous1
Book ILand
1Man of Blood53
2Your Throne Shall Be Established Forever91
3The House of the Lord137
Book IIExile
1In the Garden of Eden187
2Come, Let Us Build Us a City233
3By the Rivers of Babylon268
4City of Peace311
5A Future with Hope355
Book IIIDiaspora
1Let There Be Light395
2His Anointed One436
3A Crown of Beauty475
With Gladness and Joy510
O Give Thanks567
Words of Peace and Truth573

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Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Where God Was Born got me at the title. Wow, what an amazing concept, God being born. I had never stopped to ponder such a question. Bruce Felier did ponder it, and he took that question and he traveled thousands of miles to find the best way to explain God's birth...God's purpose for all of us. The way he blends travel and history with religion and emotion is incredible. Feiler is Jewish and I am Catholic, yet I found his message to be one that should be shouted from every roof top: Respect and Admiration for ALL of God's people is essential for a harmonious world, God's world. We have heard such a message before, but rarely in such an eloquent and documented way. Feiler traveled through Israel, Iraq and Iran places that are virtually off limits to the western world in the modern day. Through words, he showed us the land of the stories, the land where God showed himself and first spoke his word, a word that would spread throughout all the nations. I enjoyed this book very much and will read it again soon. Hopefully Feiler's message of fighting religious extremists with religious moderation will enlighten the people who think that violence is the only way, and that one religion and one ideal is better than all others. I believe that moderation is the key. I for one do as much research as I can about every religion. I also read about science biology, astronomy, archaeology, etc. because i believe it all ties together. I find that poetry, music and art all tie together as well and lead to one conclusion: There IS a God, he made everything, and he is in everything. From there, I am able to keep God as the highest, most important thing in my life, and have him with me every day while I sort through all the rest of life's details. Recent books with similar messages, like Michele Geraldi's book Calling in the Night, are also good to add to any spiritual collection. It is different than Where God Was Born, in the respect that it is more fictional and storytelling than it is travel and antiquity. Nonetheless, Calling in the Night is a good companion for Where God Was born because Calling in the Night has the same subtle message of God being in everthing. I also think that reading the bible will really help you with Where God Was Born. Read the bible first. That way, when you read this book you will feel familiar with it and the places Feiler visits will feel very special to you. Where God was born is an excellent book, and I hope people will give it a chance even if their morals, relgion, political views or whatever tell them otherwise. So often we hear that people of religion are not 'open minded.' In fact, the people who will not give religion a chance because they have prejudged it as being fantasy or something else, are indeed the one's with the closed minds.
justine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Compelling and inspiring, a real accompaniment to Walking the Bible.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Continuing the ¿saga¿ he started in Walking the Bible, Bruce sets out to explore the Fertile Crescent and nearby areas, especially Iran, to work out what the second half of the Hebrew Bible discussed¿the rise of monotheism and the development of Judaism. He also continues to try to discover ways that the 3 Abrahamic Faiths can learn to live together. This book is a wonderful mix of ancient history and current events that sometimes threatened to overwhelm me (I¿m must do something about my lack of geographic and political knowledge) but kept me enthralled, educated me in many areas, and gave me much food for thought about my own faith beliefs and how I live them out. The chapters about Iraq and Iran were particularly meaningful to me because until I read this I knew virtually nothing about these areas except what I¿ve been reading in the headlines. One thing that struck me¿and Bruce points this out near the end of the book¿the Biblical stories about these areas tell of many, almost constant wars as the Jews were moving into and living in the Promised Land as they came up against societies who did not share the value system they felt they were getting from God; it seems that in these 20th and 21st Century times once again there seems to be almost constant conflict brought about by differing views about God and how we should serve Him. Is it a vain hope that we can ever get along? According to Bruce the only thing that can save our religions is religion¿the moderates need to be more proactive and not allow the fundamentalists destroy any possibility of being able to accommodate each other and learn from each other. Although he puts it differently, Bruce seems to believe as I do that no one religion or faith has a ¿lock¿ on The Truth¿we all have aspects of Truth but not a final answer. We need each other to come closer to knowing what God would have us all do.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Bruce Feiler is a rare and exceptional writer who has again created a masterpiece. He was given some help by a fabulous archeologist named Avner Goren. Together they take the reader on a truly wonderful journey. Don't pass on this writer's works.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The idea is interesting enough. Where God Was Born will hopefully give you a better understanding of your own moral progression. An excellent find!
harstan More than 1 year ago
As he did with the prequel WALKING THE BIBLE: A JOURNEY BY LAND THROUGH THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES, Bruce Feiler combines a tour guide of biblical locations with intriguing annotations and ¿sermons¿ lifted from ancient times but also includes modern events. WHERE GOD WAS BORN: A JOURNEY BY LAND TO THE ROOTS OF RELIGION starts with Joshua and continues on through to the Babylonian captivity and the Diaspora written by a fine author who describes what he observes first hand. Well written with incredible insight somewhat thanks to archeological companion Avner Goren, readers will appreciate this fabulous journey that goes way beyond just Israel¿s¿ borders as the author finds greatness in the non-Jewish Semite cultures of the region as much as he embraces being a Jew. Because he and Mr. Goren are not armchair travelers, but instead visit the locales described, this superb reference work and his previous excellent nonfictions are inspirational for us religious moderates who believe in tolerance for all suicidal extremists or intelligent designers who share in common their faith is the divine one need to pass as these groups will reinterpret the simple underlying moral message of Mr. Feiler¿s strong belief in the words of the bible................... Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must read especially those who are interested in Religion, God, and biblical things. Edmond Davis Instructor of History Pulaski Technical College