Movie Review: Exodus

/Content/files/2014/ITN-ExodusMovieRevie.jpgHollywood has once again produced a movie using a biblical theme as its premise.  Before I share any of my concerns with the production, I will convey a few positive aspects.

Overall, I felt it was very well produced.  Great filming and very professional CGI (computer-generated imagery).  The viewer is greatly aided in imagining what it might have been like to live during those times, making it more real than just some alleged “story” from a mythical book.  I couldn’t help but wonder how differently someone might view this movie who didn’t have the benefit of knowing the history that precedes the events chronicled within the film.  I’ve found, however, that even many Christians don’t know much about how the Hebrews ended up becoming slaves in Egypt. (For those interested, our DVD entitled “Creation to Christ: The Old Testament in a Nutshell” gives the “big picture” of all the major events starting with creation leading all the way up to the birth of Christ. It’s a great resource for better understanding the flow of history in the Old Testament, seeing it all as one continuous story, laying the foundation for the life of Christ and the Gospel message.)

My review is going to focus on the overall tenor of the movie, highlighting a few significant issues, as opposed to being a detailed analysis or being too nit-picky about every little nuance.

My main concern with any biblically-based movie that Hollywood makes is that too many people, both Christian and not, will often assume that much if not all of what they see is actually what the Bible conveys.  Some might say that we shouldn’t be too critical and just be glad that they are doing a more wholesome production (and for that I’m glad), but it is the subtle changes to the actual narrative that are potentially more dangerous than grossly exaggerated deviations.  For example, if they had depicted Moses as a super-hero with laser vision and biceps the size of boulders, we would just role our eyes and say, “Where did they come up with that?”  On the other hand, when they make smaller changes, they’re not always noticed (that is, as a deviation from the biblical account) and can sway the viewer into perceiving things the way the producer wants them to as opposed to having a proper view of what Scripture conveys.  These “creatively induced impressions” are almost always done is such a way as to demean the character of God and His written Word.

Departures from Scripture (a few examples):

In the actual biblical narrative, after Moses kills an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave, he flees for his life out into the wilderness.  In the movie they depict him as being banished to the desert against his will.  (See Exodus 2:11–15)

One of the strangest parts of the movie was the producer had God appearing to Moses as a young boy… with an attitude.  While it’s true that God did indeed occasionally visually appear (in various tangible forms) to people in the Old Testament (called a “theophany”), Scripture makes it clear that in this instance, He did so through a burning bush.  The movie did have a burning bush in the scene, but it was unrelated to God communicating with Moses.  There was also a complete lack of holy reverence from Moses before God and no demanding of reverence from God to Moses (as we read in Exodus 3:5).   This is probably my greatest concern regarding movies like this.  They often depict God as being unreasonable, uncaring and outright vicious and vindictive (purposely not taking the time to place things in their proper context). The human characters in the movies generally seem to be more caring and moral than God Himself!

When Moses approaches Pharaoh, he is not with his brother Aaron (as in the Bible) and he simply tells him to either pay the slaves and treat them as equals or let them go.  Scripture clearly tells us he was to return to Egypt to command that Pharaoh “let his people go”.  In the movie, Moses seems more like he’s giving Pharaoh options and also doesn’t portray that the Hebrews are actually even his own people.  Moses (in the movie) even uses war tactics against the Egyptians first, before approaching Pharaoh.  This all makes it look like it’s just Moses’ strategy as opposed to God command to Moses, which he followed in faith and obedience.

The movie also chose to skip a significant biblical event… the miracle of turning Moses’ staff into a serpent to show Pharaoh that God was with Moses. It’s impossible to show everything in a movie, so it is understandable that certain aspects will be left out, so I don’t mean to be overly critical, but this was certainly significant and is one of those scenes that I was looking forward to seeing.

In a somewhat confusing sense, the plagues just sort of start happening, all looking naturalistic, not as a direct initiative of Moses and God, with Moses returning to Pharaoh each time demanding that he release the Hebrews.  To their credit, they did portray one of Pharaoh’s advisors trying to explain them away as just being coincidences, but Pharaoh does not buy his contorted and forced explanations.

In the most climatic portion of the movie, the parting of the Red Sea, the producer has Moses surprised by the parting, as opposed to him raising his staff (which he for some reason left back in the wilderness) to initiate this incredible miraculous, iconic event.  It gives the impression that this was a fairly natural event, possibly occurring with regularity, although the timing of this particular occurrence would certainly appear to be miraculous.

The movie also depicts Moses, after leading the Hebrews across the Red Sea to safety, returning to the sea to fight Pharaoh.  They both (Moses and Pharaoh) get overtaken by the returning waters, but each somehow survive.  The Bible tells us that while Moses was standing on the other side, he was commanded to “hold out his hand” and God caused the waters to return. It doesn’t specifically say that Pharaoh himself drowned… just that all in his army all perished, so it’s possible that Pharaoh did survive. (Exodus 14: 26-28)

Overall, I enjoyed seeing this movie and it was certainly well-done from a cinematic perspective.  As I shared in my review of the Noah movie, we should use this as an opportunity to further study Scripture, making sure that whatever views we have are truly Scriptural.  Secondly, we can use this as an opportunity to share our faith with those around us.  Offer to take someone to see the movie, but then plan to discuss it further with them, specifically delving into the Bible itself, ultimately ending with presenting the Gospel message, allowing the Holy Spirit to use you in bringing others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ!  If you’ve never had the honor of being involved in bringing someone to Christ, it’s an indescribable experience… one that God wants us all to have, on a regular basis!

As with all of our other articles, much more could be said about this, but if you have any questions related to this month’s article or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

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