January 28, 2015 – The image above is from Exodus: Gods and Kings…
But come to think of it, another image comes to mind. The movie – E: G&K – ends with Moses riding in a wagon, with the Ark of the Covenant in the back. (This was after the parting of the Red Sea and after he was re-united with his family, but before the 40 years of Wandering in the Wilderness.) Up to now in the movie, Moses had appeared youthful and dark-haired. But as the movie ends, Moses looks pretty much like the guy on the Home Page, to wit: Moses at the Battle of Rephidim, “in John Everett Millais‘ Victory O Lord! (1871).”
But we digress…
In the photograph above, Moses stands in the foreground. He – Moses – will eventually become the “greatest prophet, leader and teacher that Judaism has ever known.” In the background stands Ramesses II. He will soon become the all-powerful Pharoah of Egypt.
The kicker is that up to the time shown in the photo, these two powerful men of Egypt had considered themselves life-long blood brothers and fellow warriors.
Wikipedia described what happened later, when Moses learned the truth about who he was. (This was shortly after Moses saved Ramesses’ life in battle.) The reigning Pharoah – Seti I, played by John Turturro – sent Moses to the city of Pithom, to check out the man overseeing the Hebrew slaves. See Exodus: Gods and Kings – Wikipedia:
Upon his arrival, he encounters the slave Joshua and is appalled by the horrific conditions of the slaves. Shortly afterwards, Moses meets Nun, who informs him of his true lineage; he is the child of Hebrew parents who was sent by his sister Miriam to be raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses is stunned at the revelation and leaves angrily.
The point? Until he was 40 years old, Moses thought of himself as an Egyptian, and only as an Egyptian. More than that, he thought of himself as literal Prince of Egypt. Small wonder then that he was “stunned” as he listened to an old Hebrew slave named Nun. (Whose son Joshua would become Moses’ second in command and go on to write the sixth book of the Bible).
It was at that moment – when he was 40 – that Moses learned that everything he’d been told about himself was lie. He wasn’t a prince. He’d really been born a lowly and despised slave…
And so the movie – indeed the original Bible book – could well have been named Pilgrimage. (As in Pilgrimage: Gods and Kings.) Both versions show a pilgrimage, in large part from an “Eden-like” state of innocence and ignorance. From there Moses’ pilgrimage took him through the pain of increasing knowledge, and the pain of failure that led to that knowledge.
So again, during the first 40 years of his life Moses came of age believing he was a literal “Prince of Egypt.” He had the power of life and death at his disposal. In a sense he believed that the “world revolved around him.” But then he learned who he really was…
* * * *
Before exploring that topic further, let’s see what Wikipedia said about the movie:
Exodus: Gods and Kings is a 2014 biblically-inspired epic film directed by Ridley Scott. It was written by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian. The film stars Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Sigourney Weaver, and Ben Kingsley. It is an interpretation of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt as led by Moses and related in the Book of Exodus. The film is dedicated to Scott’s younger brother and fellow director, Tony Scott, who committed suicide in 2012.
See Exodus: Gods and Kings – Wikipedia. To see how Christian Bale prepared for his role as Moses see ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’: Christian Bale on Moses, Biblical Scale, & Charlton Heston. He started out by watching Cecille B. DeMille’s 1956 epic, The Ten Commandments. One of his first conclusions: “You can’t out-Heston Charlton Heston:”
This was a man with an incredible weight on his shoulders. This is about a man straining. He fought against being the Chosen One [but with the film] “Ten Commandments” it was very much sort of an uplifting… I felt like ours should be about [Moses] desperately trying to move forward because of the enormous pressure that is on him. (E.A.)
So right from the start, the newer version tried to focus on a more-realistic Moses, a more human Moses who had his times of doubt. A man who sometimes felt abandoned by God. (Or at least he felt God wasn’t always there when he needed Him…)
But first a bit of foreshadowing. Back when Moses got sent to Pithom, his task – as noted – was to “check out the man overseeing the Hebrew slaves.” That overseer, the Viceroy Hegep, wanted more troops to control the unruly Israelite slaves. To make his point (that they were unruly), he told Moses that the very name Israel – in their own language – meant “fights with God.” But Moses corrected him, saying the better translation was “wrestles with God.”
(Remember, this was before Moses learned he was born an Israelite, a “wrestler with God.” For more on that point – about wrestling with God – see the post On arguing with God.)
This version of Moses – played by Christian Bale – later does “wrestle with God,” until the day he dies. He challenged God, and even argued with Him. What’s more, God argued back.
Which brings up the anomaly – to some – that in this movie God is portrayed as an 11-year-old:
If there’s anything daring in Scott and his screenwriters’ take on this oft-told tale … it’s the decision to depict God, or his earthly iteration, as a bratty kid with an English accent. As Moses struggles with issues of faith, madness, and spousal neglect … this pint-size Brit (Isaac Andrews) challenges Moses to rise to the occasion. The lad warns the beleaguered Hebrew of the coming plagues, browbeats him, taunts him. If you want a less portentous title for this big and curious cinematic endeavor, The Prophet and the Pip-squeak could work nicely. (E.A.)
See ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings‘: God as a bratty kid, and Ridley Scott chooses 11-year-old boy as voice of God. The second article quoted the director: “Sacred texts give no specific depiction of God, so for centuries artists and filmmakers have had to choose their own visual depiction… Malak [the “God character’] exudes innocence and purity, and those two qualities are extremely powerful.” (And incidentally, Malak as defined by Wikipedia is “the Semitic word for ‘angel.'” See also Strong’s Hebrew: 4397. מַלְאָך (malak).)
So right from the start we have a couple of controversies about this film. It’s gotten reviews like this: Very predictable, Historic mistake, and Ridley Scott made this movie out of contempt. The third review included a comment that Scott “has a personal grudge against all Christians.”
To which I say, “Well, apparently not all Christians…“
To review the theme of this Blog: It’s all about reading the Bible to expand your mind and your horizons. On that note the blog includes posts on people like Thomas Merton. (See On Thomas Merton.) One biographer wrote that Merton was helped in his spiritual quest by both Christian mysticism and his ongoing “wide knowledge of Oriental religions.”
That is, later in his life Merton studied Taoism, “regular” Buddhism and Hinduism. But dallying in these exotic disciplines didn’t weaken his Catholic faith. (Merton was a Trappist Monk.) If anything, such “dalliances” strengthened his faith, as a biographer wrote:
…by approaching the spiritual quest at unexpected angles, they opened up new ways of thought and new ways of experiencing that invigorated and released him…
Which is pretty much what this blog is about: Reading the Bible in ways that can invigorate and release you. (Only in that way can you expect to perform even greater miracles than Jesus did. See John 14:12, discussed in “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?”)
Now, about that “God as bratty kid.” For one thing, there’s Matthew 18:3, where Jesus said unless you “become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom from heaven.” Then there’s the ancient Buddhist proverb: “A child looks at a mountain and sees a mountain. An adult looks at a mountain and sees many things. A wise man looks at a mountain and sees … a mountain.” And finally – if you want to get all Fruedian – you might say Moses’ vision of God as a young boy was prompted by a sense of guilt for his abandoning his family, including his first-born son Gershom, to go and save the Hebrews from their slavery.
All of which leads to the point:
This will have to be continued…
Re: “This will have to be continued.” See On Exodus (Part II) and Transfiguration.
The upper image is courtesy of ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings:‘ Differences Between the Movie & the Bible. The lower image was borrowed from On Moses and “illeism,” and refers to the Heston-DeMille “original” movie version of the Exodus. In turn the image is courtesy of wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b0/DeMilleTenCommandmentsDVDcover.jpg. The tagline in the “illeism” post reads, “Moses doesn’t like this. Moses doesn’t like this one bit…“ (Illeism is the practice of “referring to oneself in the third person instead of first person,” and is exemplified in the first five books of the Bible. According to tradition, Moses himself wrote those first five books…)
Re: Moses as greatest prophet, leader and teacher Judaism ever knew, and being 40 years old when he “heard the truth.” See Judaism 101: Moses, Aaron and Miriam: “The biblical narrative skips from his adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter to his killing of an Egyptian taskmaster some 40 years later.”
Re: blood brothers. The term refers to either “a male related by birth, or two or more men not related by birth who have sworn loyalty to each other.” See Blood brother – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Re: anamoly: See Definition of anomaly by The Free Dictionary, referring to a “deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule,” or something that is “peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify.“
Re: Trappist monks. The full citation is Becoming a Trappist Monk or Nun: Homepage.
Re: Thomas Merton. See Monica Furlong’s Merton A Biography, Harper and Row (1980), page 325.
Re: wise man … mountain. See (of all places) Can I? – Mitsubishi Delica L400 with the 4M40 engine.
Re: Gershom. See Gershom – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the added note:
The passage in Exodus concerning Moses and Zipporah reaching an inn contains four of the most ambiguous and awkward sentences in Biblical text. The text appears to suggest that something, possibly God or an angel, attacks either Gershom or Moses, until a circumcision is carried out by Zipporah on whichever of the two men was being attacked.
The passage in question is Exodus 4:24-26, and is one of the topics bearing further meditation.