John Winthrop delivered his famous speech about the dream of a city upon a hill in 1630, as his group of colonists was about to depart for Boston. It was a message of hope and Christian wisdom for Winthrop’s followers who were going to change their lives. Several aspects of the speech refer to the Biblical story of Moses and the exodus of his people from Egypt. The similarities can be observed on two levels, both physical and spiritual. In the first sense, the passengers of Arabella were embarking on a long journey from the old land and into the new world. Like the people of Israel were fleeing captivity and slavery in Egypt, Winthrop’s audience could not find its place in England. They performed a physically challenging journey that could literally become a matter of life and death. However, the reward in both cases was highly promising, bearing a chance for the new life and a fresh start.
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At the same time, the spiritual aspects of the two events also demonstrate similarities, making Winthrop’s allusions to Moses justified. Both journeys were more than a physical act of traveling across long distances. They required a considerable degree of courage, faith, and trust from the people who embarked on them. Winthrop’s followers could not be sure of their future in Massachusetts, but they believed that their lives would change for the best. Faith and determination were the primary driving forces behind their decisions. The “city upon a hill” became a symbol of hope reminiscent of the Lord’s promised land for the people of Israel. This imagery has been widely used until today in regards to the United States politics. Ultimately, the allusion introduced by John Winthrop acquired a sacred status in American society, as it successfully adapted the Biblical context to the new reality.