On Exodus (Part II) and Transfiguration

Exodus: Of Gods and Kings, out on December 12 in U.S. theaters tells the story of Moses (played by Christian Bale, left) rising up against the Egyptian pharaoh Rhamses (played by Joel Edgerton, right)

So we meet again,” says Moses to the Pharoah of Egypt, in Exodus:  Gods and Kings


Yesterday – Sunday, February 15, 2015 – was the Last Sunday of the Epiphany season.  It was also Transfiguration Sunday, based on the Mark 9:29 account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  That ties in with the movie Exodus:  God’s and Kings, because it shows Moses finally getting to the long-awaited Promised Land, some one thousand years after he died.

There’s more on that below, but first let’s get back to the actual movie, “Part II.”

I did an initial review, “Exodus: G&K,” the movie.  This second installment starts with some things the movie left out.  For one thing, it didn’t mention Moses writing the first five books of the Bible, the Torah or Pentateuch.  For another thing, it left out the part about Moses’ father-in-law “inventing the Supreme Court.”  See On Jethro inventing the supreme court.  Third, the  movie left out Zipporah telling Moses, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me!  That was in Exodus 4:25, one of the “more unusual, curious, and much-debated passages of the Pentateuch.”  See Zipporah at the inn – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

But mostly this review will focus on how God got so mad at Moses that He didn’t let him enter the Promised Land, or at least not when Moses expected to.  But more on the below…

The movie itself starts with Moses – played by Christian Bale – at the height of his military prowess.  This Moses is a proud, self-sufficient warrior with little or no patience for the reading of entrails (see Haruspex – Wikipedia) or other religious superstitions of the time.

This Moses has no idea he was actually born a Hebrew, and strongly denies that charge when confronted.   (In the manner of Peter denying Jesus?)  He only ends up saying he’s Hebrew to keep the woman presented as his “sister” from having her hand chopped off.

In other words this movie-Moses is entirely different from what we’ve been led to expect.

On that note, some people read the Bible as saying Moses knew all along what he was about.  (Or at least after the Burning bush.)  They seem to believe Moses had no transition to make, from being a prince of Egypt to the offspring of a lowly slave woman, and eventually a fugitive murderer.  (An outlaw, a “lawless person … especially one who is a fugitive from the law.”)  Such people seem to believe that from the moment he did find out he was Jewish, Moses talked on and on with God, like good buddies, and that he – Moses – never had a moment of doubt.

Or argument.  At one point the Viceroy in charge of the Hebrew slaves asks Moses a question, when he – Moses – was still in his role as a devout Egyptian warrior.  The Viceroy asks if Moses knew that the very name Israel, “in their own language, means ‘fights with God?'”  In response this Moses was either well-read enough or open-minded enough to correct the Viceroy:  the correct literal translation is “wrestles with God.”   (For more see On arguing with God.)

And Moses in E: G&K is the opposite of what we’ve been led to expect for other reasons.  For one thing he hears voices, strange and unknown, just like Jesus.  See Jesus as a teenager:

“I fasted for three months.  I even whipped myself before I went to sleep.  At first it worked.  Then the pain came back.  And the voices.  They call me by the name: Jesus.”

(This was on the idea that ” Jesus may not have known the minute He was born who He was.  He found out some time later in His life.”  Just like Moses may have experienced…)

And the Moses in E: G&K is unlike what we’ve been led to expect because he is so full of pride and stubbornness and self-doubt, just like we are today.  And perhaps for that very reason, this Moses was someone God might choose for a special assignment, just as He did with the Apostle Paul.   (As Paul said “today,” of God:  “He has judged me to be faithful and has put me into His service, though I was previously a blasphemer and a persecutor…”)

In other words, from the beginning of the life that he knew – and especially so according to E: G&K – this Moses was strongly identified with the other side of God’s people, just as Paul was.  And yet – like the Apostle Paul – somehow this Moses pulled off a miracle…

I’ve said all along that the Bible would be far more relevant if it was written by people just like us.  And in my view, it is and was.  See for example, Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000:

Suppose the Bible was about – and was written by – people just like us today? What if those Bible-writers had all the faults and failings that we have, yet they somehow managed to personally experience the presence of God, the Force that Created the Universe

The Moses portrayed in Exodus: Gods and Kings is just such a person.

And this Moses was somebody God might punish by denying him entry into the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 tells of Moses climbing to the top of Mount Nebo, near the end of his life, to see the Promised Land he’d struggled so hard to reach but would – apparently – never enter:

Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land.  The view from the summit provides a panorama of the Holy Land and, to the north, a more limited one of the valley of the River Jordan…   According to the final chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses ascended Mount Nebo to view the Land of Israel, that he would never enter, and to die; he was buried in an unknown valley location in Moab (Deuteronomy 34).

See Mount Nebo – Wikipedia.  As to why God didn’t let Moses enter the Promised Land, there are several theories – some pretty far-fetched – set out in sites like Why was God so upset with Moses and Why Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land.

The best answer seems to come from God’s faithful servant, Moses, which noted that in the fullness of time Moses made a comeback, in Matthew 17:1-8.  That’s when Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain, “and behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah:”

Moses’ faith had its ultimate reward and vindication centuries later.  In God’s economy, promises and fulfillment are not measured by our calendars.  Centuries run their course.  Yet some day in the future, the full meaning of our acts and life of faith will become evident.  That was true for Moses, and it will be true for us.

In other words, Moses eventually did make it to the Promised Land, just not when he expected.

All of which was implied at the end of E: G&K, with Moses sitting in a wagon, heading away from Egypt and toward his ultimate destiny.  He has aged dramatically, but he has the Ark of the Covenant safely tucked away in the back of the wagon, for further review later.

And so – at the end of the movie – all Moses had to do is get through 40 years of Wandering in the wildnerness.  During that time – aside from leading hundreds of thousands of love-to-argue desert cutthroats – all Moses had to do was write the first five books in the Bible, and in doing so convince his fellow Hebrews that they are God’s Chosen people


Transfiguration by Lorenzo Lotto

The Transfiguration, where Moses realized a centuries-old dream…


The upper image is courtesy of Ridley Scott chooses 11-year-old boy as voice of God in Moses movie.

The lower image was borrowed from the post On the readings for October 26, and in turn is courtesy of The Transfiguration of Christ – Lorenzo Lotto – WikiArt.org.

Re: “As Paul said ‘today,’ of God.”  The New Testament reading in the Daily Office for Monday in the Week of 6 Epiphany is 1st Timothy 1:1-17, which includes the quoted verses 12-13.  (See 1st Timothy 1:12 .)  But while this normally would have been the Week of 6 Epiphany (Book of Common Prayer page 948), it is actually now the Week of Last Epiphany, with a different set of readings.  (See RSV.)

For a fuller explanation see Tables for Finding Holy Days, in the Book of Common Prayer Online:

Easter Day is always the Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring
equinox on March 21, a date which is fixed in accordance with an ancient ecclesiastical
computation, and which does not always correspond to the astronomical equinox. This full
moon may happen on any date between March 21 and April 18 inclusive.

The upshot is that since Easter Sunday is a “floating holiday” that ends the season of Lent, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent are also “floating,” as is the end of Epiphany.   All of which means an assiduous reader of the Daily Office must now go through the readings for the Weeks of 6, 7 and 8 Epiphany, to get where he or she needs for “today,” Monday in the Week of Last Epiphany…

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