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A review of the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings

by 

Published: 6 December 2014 (GMT+10)
Modified: 9 December 2014 (GMT+10)
20th Century Fox Exodus movie poster
One of the posters for Exodus: Gods and Kings shows that the movie makers focus on a showdown between Moses and Ramses.

It’s understandable that if Christians compare Hollywood storytelling of biblical events with Scripture they may well be disappointed. Who did not come away from watching the Noah movie shaking their head at how much it differed from the Genesis account?

Would another ‘biblical epic’ Exodus: Gods and Kings be any different? It’s almost 50 years since legendary director Cecil B. DeMille gave the world The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston as Moses; so what would Sir Ridley Scott1 deliver in retelling the account of the Jewish nation’s exodus from slavery in Egypt?

It was never likely that Scott would portray events as they really happened. But still I couldn’t help but compare this telling of Moses and the Exodus with the Hobbit movies in the sense that director Peter Jackson did far greater justice to J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings than Ridley Scott does to the Bible narrative.

Inevitably, some things in Exodus: Gods and Kings will grate with Christians particularly how God is portrayed (as a young boy!), and the fact that Moses’ brother Aaron hardly features at all. Which is puzzling, given how important the partnership between the brothers was as they confronted Pharaoh.

Christian Bale is Moses and Joel Edgerton is Ramses who takes the throne as Pharaoh after the death of his father Seti during the course of the movie. Moses and Ramses are ‘cousins’.

Note: Although there are many views, we cannot know for sure who was Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. This is because, although pharaohs are often mentioned in the accounts of Joseph (in Genesis) and Moses (Exodus), they are not mentioned by their names, unlike later writings in the Old Testament. The word ‘Pharaoh’ is mentioned 209 times in Genesis and Exodus alone.2 Hollywood always leans towards Ramses II because the Bible mentions the Hebrews building the cities Pithom and Raamses (Exodus 1:11). However, there are good reasons to presume that the cities were not known by that name during the Hebrew occupancy of Egypt, and also that Ramses II came to the throne many years after the biblical date for the Exodus. For more on this see Egyptian chronology and the Bible: framing the issues.

Early in the movie there is a gory battle between the Egyptians and the Hittites. During this battle Moses, a general, saves Ramses’ life thus fulfilling a ‘prophecy’ we learn of in the opening scenes that “in the battle a leader will be saved and his saviour will some day lead”.

So it then becomes apparent that Moses and Ramses will from that point be at loggerheads. The story develops with the tension slowly building.

When Moses goes to the area where the Hebrew slaves are producing materials for building the pyramids (a historical inaccuracy), he meets some of the elders to establish if they are going to rebel against Pharaoh and tells Nun (Joshua’s father, Exodus 33:11) that he is wrong to think the people can return to Canaan.

Nun confronts Moses with his true heritage and explains how his parents had his sister help save him from a decree at the time that all first-born Hebrew boys should be killed. The explanation reasonably follows the biblical account, but Moses’ reaction and the dramatic scenes that follow with him being sent into exile are not so accurate.

Moses does meet and marry Zipporah and have a son named Gershom, as in the Bible, but his first encounter with God at the burning bush is presented in an ‘interesting’ way.

The dialogue includes:

Moses: Who are you?
God: Who are you?
Moses: I’m a shepherd.
God: I thought you were a general. I need a general.
Moses: Why?
God: To fight. Why else?
Moses: Fight who? For what?
God: I think you know. I think you should go and see what’s happening to your people now. You won’t be at peace until you do. Or are they not people in your opinion?
Moses: Who are you?
God: I am.
20th Century Fox Christian Bale as Moses
Moses (Christian Bale) is depicted as a seasoned warrior.

When Moses returns to Egypt he goes to see Nun and his son Joshua, meets his own brother Aaron and thereafter comes the confrontation with Ramses, the plagues and the escape through the Red Sea. The plagues and the Red Sea parting are presented in such a way that an all-powerful God is not really at work. And none of the biblical dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh concerning the plagues is incorporated. Nor is there any mention of the blood to be applied in the pattern of the points of a cross on the doorposts. The Bible indicates that judgment would pass over those so covered by the blood of the slain lamb—“without blemish”—such a clear pointer to the coming Messiah, God”s perfect Passover Lamb. Perhaps that should, while saddening us, not surprise us given that it links so powerfully to the Gospel. 

There is even a ‘scientist’ trying to explain away the plagues and his advice is unwelcome, to say the least, as Ramses becomes more irrational.

Unlike the biblical account in which Moses and Aaron go before Pharaoh on several occasions to entreat him to set their people free, the movie deals with it in a dramatic conversation between Moses and Ramses.

Part of the conversation goes like this, and seems to owe more to 21st century sensibilities than to either biblical accuracy or historical authenticity:

Moses: I’ve been told that things here have become … much worse.
Ramses: Things are better than they ever have been, Moses. We have order.
Moses: Order? Order? The slaves, their bodies burn night and day now; I’ve seen it with my own eyes; you call that order?
Ramses: They’re slaves, Moses.
Moses: They’re Egyptians; they should be treated as Egyptians; they should have the same rights; they should be paid for their work; or … you must set them free.

What can be said of the movie? An epic?—Yes. Too long?—Yes. Sex scenes?—No. Biblically accurate?—Somewhat. Entertaining?—Reasonably. Too much violence?—Some may think so.

But if you can accept that it’s Hollywood with a semblance of real history thrown in—and not expect too much—you may even enjoy it, though likely tinged with sadness about the ‘missing bits’.

Now if only I could get my money back from that Noah movie debacle.

For a subsequent review by UK creationist Phil Robinson after the movie appeared in his area, see Hollywood’s Exodus: Gods and Kings film—a review

Comparisons between the Exodus narrative and the movie storytelling

Some individuals mentioned in Exodus Individuals featured in the movie
Moses Moses
Pharaoh (not named) Seti
Ramses (succeeds Seti)
Aaron (Moses’ brother and prophet) Aaron
Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) Jethro
Miriam (sister of Moses and Aaron) Miriam
Zipporah (Moses’ wife) Zipporah
Pharaoh’s daughter who raised Moses (not named) Bithiah
Pharaoh’s wife (not named) Tuya (Ramses’ mother)
Nefertari (Ramses’ wife)
Joshua Joshua
Nun Nun
Hegep (corrupt viceroy in charge of Hebrews)

The plagues

Exodus account Movie (portrayed as continuous events)
Water becomes blood Nile crocodiles go on killing rampage
Frogs Frogs
Lice Unclear in the scenes between frogs and flies
Flies Flies
Diseased livestock Diseased livestock
Boils Boils
Hail Hail
Locusts Locusts
Darkness Darkness
Death of first-born Death of first-born

Related Articles

Further Reading

References and notes

  1. Director Ridley Scott is well known for the Alien franchise, and box office successes such as Gladiator, Blade Runner and Black Hawk Down. He received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth in 2003 for his services to the film industry. He is most certainly not a Bible-believer. Return to text.
  2. Bates, G., Egyptian chronology and the Bible framing the issues, 2 September 2014; creation.com/egypt-chronology. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Todd B., United States, 16 December 2014

Thanks for the response Dr. Wieland..so simple yet profound!

T. B., United States, 15 December 2014

Just had a discussion with a friend about seeing the movie. He said he loved it, that it was better than DeMille's film (of course that's just opinion). I told him I heard it wasn't accurate...and he said "Well nobody knows what is accurate..nobody was there to write it down." (talking about the Exodus narrative) Didn't know how to respond to that statement.. Any ideas? Thanks!!

Carl Wieland responds

I guess a lot depends on whether he claims to be a Christian or not. It all turns on the authority of the Bible. According to its own claims about itself, God (who was there) inspired its writing. But ironically, your friend is even more wrong than it would appear. Because this particular series of events features Moses. And Jesus makes it plain that Moses was the author of the Torah (the 'Law', the first 5 books of the Bible). For the events of Genesis, he was likely the editor of pre-existing documents from which he compiled the book. But when it comes to Exodus, he was was in fact there; the account features him as the principal character. And he did write it down! For more on the authority of the Bible and inspiration, see our Topics section under Bible Questions and Answers.

Peter D., Australia, 8 December 2014

I love CMI, I enjoy your articles, possess nearly every DVD and many books. I believe the review of this movie was not consistent with the usual standard of CMI. This movie was extremely blasphemous portraying God as a 8-10 year old who threw hissy fits & had to be settled & reasoned with by Moses. It was an attack on God's character. We had to leave before the last plague.

Filipp T., United States, 8 December 2014

Just want to say thank you for reviewing these kinds of movies so if I do watch it I am prepared to catch there errors (though I study the Word of God myself at times we do not catch the minor details that make a huge difference). Many Blessings!

Jennifer P., Australia, 8 December 2014

Unfortunately I went to the film on my husbands choice.

So horribly blasphemous . The burning bush was pathetic even with computer animation then the voice of ' God ' boy urchin 8 year old playing the role of the Creator of the Universe.....I spent at least a third of the movie in the foyer , checked with my husband for the details I missed.....saw the Red Sea crossing , wading thru at chest height....Moses and Rameses ( whose mummy is in the Cairo museum at odds with the Bibles account that the sea closed in on the Exodus Pharoah and his army and they all perished ) and horses ( Moses horse dies ) deluged by the late arrival of walls of water , which they could generate by CA . Even my husband knows they crossed on dry land from his Lutheran

background and the mighty wind God created. Why the mud and crushing currents ?

It took 5 screen writers and none of them consulted the wonderful dialogues in the Bible!

What else can be expected of Hollyweird and its anti Biblical / Christian agendas ?

Ryan B., United States, 8 December 2014

Thanks for the movie review, after seeing previews of the movie I was skeptical that the movie would be biblically accurate due to the last one they made with Noah, however its refreshing to see that they at least tried to make it as historically and biblically accurate as they can. Also I have two questions, the first is I been hearing lately that the Egyptians were actually of African/ black descent is there any basis behind this, also to the chronologies of the biblical timeline in ancient Egyptian history has there been any update on that at all?

CMI editor responds

The claim that the ancient Egyptians (who are by virtue of geography Africans) were a high-melanin group as for e.g. today's West Africans is based on a number of lines of thought. One is the thoroughly discredited 'curse of Ham' theory, a racist addendum to the Bible (Noah's curse was not on Ham, but on his grandson Canaan), coupled with the fact that the Bible calls Egypt the land of Ham (the Hebrew name for Egypt is in fact Mizraim, the son of Ham, and the Greek version of the Mizraim of the Bible is Aegyptos). But there is no biblical basis for ascribing any particular dominance of skin colour to the Egyptians. The country was known as the 'black land', but this was almost certainly due to the rich black soil of the Nile floodplains. Re Egypt and the Bible's history, a useful summary may be found at Egyptian chronology and the Bible—framing the issues.

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