Gods and Kings (SPOILER ALERT)
As a lifelong believer, itís
hard not to view this epic film in terms of how it diverges from the Biblical
account, or takes artistic liberties with it.
And the two biggest things are first, the
portrayal of Moses as an Egyptian general, and completely non-spiritual fierce
warrior, in his growing-up years.
The second is portraying God as a little boy.
About ten years old.
Looking like a Bedouin shepherd.
They show Moses (Christian Bale)
as someone who knew he was adopted, certainly, but they concoct a story that
the sister of Pharaohís wife, who was otherwise childless, was the one who
claimed him as her own, saying the father was one of the Egyptian generals,
but failing to name which one.
So yes, Mosesí lineage is still in doubt (as
was the lineage of that other Savior), and yes, his sister Miriam briefly
appears, as does Aaron, but this isnít their story.
More prominent is the role of the chief elder of
the slaves, Nun (Ben Kingsley), who would be, of course, Joshuaís father.
He was the one who not only informed Moses about
his true origins, but challenged him about the prophecy regarding his destiny
(OK, you biblical scholars, donít ask for a scripture reference here; there
isnít one). They
even have a pagan Egyptian priestess prophesying to the older Pharaoh, the
religious one, using animal entrails, no less, about a new leader, but when he
dies, any modicum of spirituality on the Egyptian throne dies with him.
His son, Ramses (Joel Edgerton), is a cruel and
arrogant despot, who views the slaves as something subhuman, and treats them
that way. Oh,
and he bans Moses into exile because of questions about his origins (as
opposed to Moses running away on his own accord, frightened of the potential
consequences of his own impetuosity).
But now itís the fierce warrior
with the sharp sword who clears the well for Zipporah, and before we know it,
Moses is indeed raising sheep and a new family, but he doesnít age quite as
much as the Bible says. Heís
still in his strong middle years when he sees the burning bush, and the
Bedouin shepherd boy tells him his name: I AM.
Moses couldnít take off his sandals at the time
because he happened to be stuck up to his neck in the muck, which may have
been the only way heíd listen, anyway.
Having heard the call to return to
, he goes alone (no whining about needing his brother to be the
spokesman), and threatens Pharaoh with a sword to the neck in the royal
stables: still the fierce and fearless warrior.
The plagues come, but Moses doesnít order them,
or wave his staff dramatically, which theologically, at least, puts the
emphasis much more on Godís intentions rather than on Mosesí authority
over the elements. The
final plague has even Pharaoh asking what kind of God would do this, but
Ramses has already claimed his own divinity, and heís slain plenty of
innocents himself, and not for any grand religious purpose, either.
Of course the whole point was the
get the slaves out of their 400-year-old bondage in
, and into the
Ridley Scott understandably doesnít detail the long wanderings in the
wilderness, but instead concentrates on the dramatic events of the Exodus
Nile River covered in blood, the plagues of locusts and flies and disease, the
skin boils, and of course the death of the firstborn, with the Hebrews
swathing their doorposts in lambís blood so the angel of Death would pass
over, and Director Scott shows a darkness passing over the land, surely a
suitable metaphor. Yes,
heís already being pursued by the dogged hounds of political correctness for
using all-white actors for the primary Hebrew and Egyptian roles, but overall,
itís a grand epic on a 3-D scale that deserves its own hearing.
Because though it is an interpretation, it
clearly relies on faith in God.
today, thatís still rare enough to be embraced with
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,