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Authors: Jonathan Kirsch

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God Against the Gods

BOOK: God Against the Gods


Jonathan Kirsch is the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed
The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible; King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel; Moses: A Life;
The Woman Who Laughed at God
. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, PEN Center USA West, and a book columnist for the
Los Angeles Times
, Kirsch writes and lectures widely on biblical, literary, and legal topics. He lives in Los Angeles, California.


The Woman Who Laughed at God:
The Untold History of the Jewish People

Moses: A Life

King David:

The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel

The Harlot by the Side of the Road:

Forbidden Tales of the Bible

Kirsch’s Handbook of Publishing Law:
For Authors, Publishers, Editors, and Agents

Kirsch’s Guide to the Book Contract:
For Authors, Publishers, Editors, and Agents

Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Canada, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto,
Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell,
Victoria 3124, Australia ( a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre,
Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany,
Auckland 1310, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in the United States of America by Viking Compass,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2004
Published in Penguin Books 2005

Copyright © Jonathan Kirsch, 2004

All rights reserved

Title-page art: Andrea Celesti (1637-1706).
Moses Ordering the Destruction of the Golden Calf.
Palazzo Ducale, Venice, Italy. Credit: Cameraphoto/Art Resource, NY

eISBN : 978-0-142-19633-5

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Ann Benjamin Kirsch,
Jennifer Rachel Kirsch,
Adam Benjamin Kirsch and Remy Elizabeth Holzer,
my beloved and gifted family.

And for
Laurie Fox,
my agent, muse, fellow writer and cherished friend.

“ . . .
inscribe us in the Book of Life . . .


My first thought, as always, is for Ann Benjamin Kirsch, my wife and lifelong best friend, and our gifted and accomplished children, Jennifer Rachel Kirsch and Adam Benjamin Kirsch, whose constancy, companionship and love have been essential to the writing of
God Against the Gods
and everything else I do.

This book is dedicated to my family and to someone who has been crucial to my writing life ever since the publication of
The Harlot by the Side of the Road
—Laurie Fox, whom I first met when she worked behind the counter of a bookstore in West Hollywood and soon came to know as a cherished friend. Laurie is my literary agent, and the kind of agent whom every writer dreams about, but that is only one of her gifts—she is also an accomplished artist, poet and novelist, a wise counselor on whom I have relied for her vision, sagacity, good advice.

Janet Goldstein, my editor at Viking, guided me through the conception and writing of both
The Woman Who Laughed at God
God Against the Gods
, and I am grateful for her discerning eye, expert editorial hand and lively spirit.

I am deeply grateful, too, to Clare Ferraro at Viking, who has given me so many opportunities over the years, starting with
The Harlot by the Side of the Road
and including the present book.

Among the many people at Viking with whom I worked closely on the present book were Beena Kamlani, Carolyn Coleburn, Cindy Hamel, Melanie Thurston, Rakia Clark, Ann Mah, Francesca Belanger, Greg Mollica, and Trent Duffy and I deeply enjoyed the opportunity to do so.

At Viking, I also appreciated the opportunity to work with Mike Brennan, Nancy Sheppard, Phil Budnick, Fred Huber, and Glenn Timony.

Susan Olinger, a gifted writer who shares my fascination with the ancients, provided expert and imaginative research assistance, and I made good use of research conducted for my earlier books by Adam Kirsch, Andrew Solomon, Leonard Braman and Vera Tobin. Michele Goldman ably assisted in map research and proofing the manuscript and galleys.

I have been supported and encouraged in important ways by family, friends, and colleagues to whom I express my heartfelt appreciation:

Judy Woo and Eui Sook (Angie) Yoon, my cherished friends and colleagues.

Remy Elizabeth Holzer, my daughter-in-law, and her family, Harold, Edith and Meg Holzer.

Candace Barrett Birk and Raye Birk, Maryann Rosenfeld and Shelly Kadish, Pat and Len Solomon.

K. C. Cole, my dear friend and a writer whose work on science has shaped my own work on the history of religion.

Janet Fitch, Diane Leslie, Mary Rakow, Carolyn See and Bernadette Shih, each of whom I admire as a fellow writer and depend on as a dear friend.

Linda Chester and her colleagues at the Linda Chester Agency.

Linda Michaels and Teresa Cavanaugh at Linda Michaels Ltd. International Literary Agents.

Steve Wasserman, Tom Curwen, Nick Owchar, Orli Low, Kristina Lindgren, Sara Lippincott, and Ethel Alexander at the
Los Angeles Times Book Review

Doug Brown, Tom Crouch, Lara Furar and Barbara Morrow and at the
Los Angeles Times

Jan Nathan and Terry Nathan at the Publishers Marketing Association.

Larry Mantle, Kitty Felde, Aimee Machado, Jackie Oclaray, Linda Othenin-Girard and Polly Sveda at KPCC-FM.

Rob Eshman at
The Jewish Journal

Sarah Spitz at KCRW-FM.

Gwen Feldman and Jim Fox at Silman-James Press, and Tony Cohan at Acrobat Books.

Connie Martinson, host of
Connie Martinson Talks Books

Doug Dutton, Lise Friedman and Ed Conklin at Dutton’s Books in Brentwood; Linda Urban at Vroman’s in Pasadena; Stan Madson and Jeanne D’Arcy at the Bodhi Tree in West Hollywood; Lita Weiss-man and Peggy Jackson at Border’s; Michele Yanow at Tree of Life Judaica & Books in Seattle; Abigail Yasgur at the Jewish Community Library in Los Angeles; and Michael Graziano.

Charlie Alexiev, Scott Baker, Lillian Heller Conrad, Jacob Gabay, Inge-Lise DeWolfe, Fred Huffman, Jill Johnson Keeney, Les Klinger, Rae Lewis, Dennis Mitchell and Dolores Sloan.

At various significant points, I have relied on the published work and the generous encouragement of Jack Miles, Donald Harmen Akenson, Karen Armstrong, David Noel Freedman, Leonard Shlain and David Rosenberg, each of whom has inspired my own work in important ways.

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