History Channel’s “The Bible”: Episode 2

This installment, like the first week, was a mixture of good and coulda-been-better.  They totally screwed up one of my favorites, (Samson), but I liked how they did the David storyline so well that by the end I forgot I was upset about their portrayal of Samson (until I looked back over my notes.)  I think it was better than last week’s, and I’m starting to wonder just how many of the inaccuracies are due to budget or time constrictions, but I don’t really see how limited funds would have prevented them from showing things like Rahab hiding the spies on her roof or Samson standing with a hand on two separate pillars like it specifically says he was.  *sigh*

Jericho

This episode started by re-playing the last few minutes of the previous show, when Joshua sent spies into Jericho. In the Bible, they’re supposed to scout the whole area, but Joshua does tell them “especially Jericho” so I guess it’s alright that the show simplified.  I’m not sure why they felt the need to add scenes of the spies knife-fighting in the street, (other than the sense that the producers of this series think bloody fighting=good drama, as we saw with last week’s warrior angels), but according to the Biblical text, somehow the king of Jericho did find out that there were spies in the city, and sent people to Rahab’s house to find them.  So I guess it’s possible that the city was alerted to the presence of spies because they left some dead bodies and lots of witnesses in their wake, but then they would be pretty poor spies, wouldn’t they?  (Like spies who try to shush an enemy woman into not giving them away…why wouldn’t she?  Just because you “shushed” her?  That was kinda dumb.)  Anyway, the show changed the manner in which Rahab helped the spies escape quite a bit, but it still showed her saying she thought they were sure to succeed in their coming campaign because she had heard of all the miracles that God had done and was convinced He was on their side.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. –Joshua 2:8-11

I wish the show hadn’t shown the spies coercing her into cooperation by holding a knife to a boy’s neck, (presumably her son).  Because that takes away from the power of her volunteering to help them just because of the reputation the Israelities and their God had.  I was glad they showed Rahab joining the victory chant at the end of that segment, though, because it’s indicates that she did become one of them as the Bible records.

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. –Joshua 6:25

Did you know that Rahab actually went on to become part of the lineage to Jesus?  I guess my main complaint with her portrayal in the show is that they took away a lot of her agency as a character.  She’s threatened into helping the spies instead of volunteering, and they only established that she was a prostitute by having a smarmy soldier leer at her and call sneer “my little whore,” which to me was not a clear indication that she actually was a prostitute as it could have just as easily been interpreted as harassment, so she’s a passive victim and not somebody who makes choices for herself, good or bad.  Maybe she was forced into a life of prostitution, whether explicitly or through socio-economic factors; we just don’t know.  But did the producers make this style choice because they didn’t want to portray one of Jesus’ ancestors as someone who once willfully sold her body for money? I don’t like any attempts to sugar-coat people in the Bible and make them seem better than they were.  They were all flawed humans, and God used them anyway.  I don’t understand the tendency for Christians to elevate Bible heroes and make it that much harder for us to relate to today, as if they never struggled with doubt, as if they never had moments of weakness, as if they were all perfect from the start and not broken, emotional messes like we are.  As if we could never measure up to their example if we tried.

But it was never the people in the Bible stories that were incredible.  It was always God’s power working through them.   Their biggest contribution was having the faith to trust Him to lead their lives, and not one of them ever got that totally right either.  Go read Hebrews 11, which lists many of the imperfect people from the Bible, including Rahab, and commends them for the actions they took by faith.  This whole awesome list is basically concluded by saying, now it’s our turn!  What will God do with our lives, if we let him?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. –Hebrews 12:1

You can read more fully about Rahab and the spies in Joshua 2, and about the battle of Jericho in Joshua 6.  I was pleased that they included details that are often omitted in re-tellings of this particular story, like the angel visiting Joshua and instructing him on how to take the city, and the fact that they actually walked around the city once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day.  The main concern I had for this section besides the Rahab thing is that they never really explained the ark of the covenant.  They opened with a shot of Joshua praying by it, and they mention it briefly throughout, including when the priests carry it around the walls of the city, but it is such an important symbol of God’s covenant and power that it would have been really helpful to the audience to establish that a little more, so that the significance of David rejoicing when it’s brought into Jerusalem later in the episode makes sense.  The ark has the stone tablets of the ten commandments in it!  It has Aaron’s staff that budded, and a jar of manna.  It represents God’s presence with the Israelites.  When it’s captured by their enemies and placed in a temple of Dagon as a trophy, the statue of Dagon falls off its pedestal and bows to the ark.  It gives the people who captured it tumors.  The ark of the covenant deserves its own segment on the show, is what I’m saying, yet I can’t even find a picture of it on the show’s website.

Samson

The Samson in the show was pretty close to how I’ve always imagined him, except that show-Samson had more than the seven braids mentioned in the Bible.

Samson, (with his more-than-seven braids), and his mom. (source for image).

Samson and his mom. (source for image).

My statement in the opening paragraph of this post that the show “ruined” the story of Samson may have been too harsh, but they just left so much outSamson is easily one of my favorites; his story is full of great drama, and he’s so deeply flawed and tragic.  He has a weakness for women.  He has a temper.  He’s a fascinating character.  But the show left out a lot of the best parts of his story, like killing a lion with his bare hands, and making a clever riddle out of the fact that bees made honey in the lion’s carcass, and the fact that his new wife was married off to the best man because they thought Samson didn’t want her anymore, and she wasn’t burned to death until after he burned all the fields of the Philistines by tying torches to foxes’ tails and making them run through the grain.  I suppose some of those things were cut to make it shorter, and some because they didn’t have the budget for the CGI or whatever, but I was basically just yelling at my screen the whole time because they skipped through it so fast, and it could really be an amazing full-length movie on its own.  I’ve always secretly wanted to write a screenplay for it myself.

Anyway, there were a lot of points that the show got right: Yes, his wife was burned to death, yes, he handed himself over to be bound and brought to the Philistines before breaking out of the bonds and kicking butt, yes, he used a donkey’s jawbone as an improvised weapon (but he killed way more men with it than the one or two in the show), yes Delilah betrayed him for money and yes he was that stupid and told her exactly how to do it, (but only after he had lied to her 3 times about how to make him lose his strength, and seeing her try to betray him all 3 times.  I told you he had a weakness for women.)  And yes, he prays for a final surge of strength when he’s brought out at a Philistine party to be mocked, and pushes down the pillars and the whole building collapses and kills all the revelers along with himself.  His mother wouldn’t have been there so soon after to dig him out of the rubble, but it does say that:

Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him.  They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father.  He led Israel twenty years. –Judges 16:31

I don’t have time to include quotes from all the great parts in the Samson story, but you should go read the whole thing, it’s really really good.  Probably my favorite part in the show was when he snapped the chains that were supposed to be restraining him and then started swinging them around as a weapon.  But wouldn’t it have been cool to see him tear the gates of the city of Gaza from the wall and carry them up the hill, too?  That might have been more doable under the budget than fighting a lion with his bare hands.  Oh well.

Saul and David

Is it bad that the first thought I had when Saul appeared on screen was “he’s not handsome enough!”?  (Right after “whoa, they skipped all the way from Samson to Samuel with no transition!”, that is.)  Here’s how the Bible introduces Saul:

Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else. –1 Samuel 9:2

Sorry dude, you're probably not as handsome as the real Saul was. (source for image)

Sorry dude, you’re probably not as handsome as the real Saul was. (source for image)

Regardless, I liked this portrayal of Saul, and later in this section that of adult David, and this was my favorite segment this week.  They got a lot of things just right; now that I think about it, I probably liked it the best because it was the most accurate to the text.  (They still skipped a lot, but in fairness there was a lot more to skip, too.  I mean, David’s narrative spans two whole books of the Bible).

I loved the sarcasm of Samuel when he said confronted Saul about not having carried out the Lord’s instructions to destroy everything that belonged to their enemies; it was perfect.

“But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears?  What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” –1 Samuel 15:14

The David and Goliath bit was pretty good except I’m not sure I would have swapped out David’s original dialogue as he went up against the giant for the 23rd Psalm.  In a way it was a cool decision because David did write those lyrics, and maybe he did go around quoting his own stuff when it felt relevant, (although it’s unknown whether he would have written that particular psalm by this point in his life or not.)  I like the first part of what he really says in the Bible, about his God being his weapon, but re-reading it now I guess the second part is pretty grisly:

 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” –1 Samuel 17:45-47

I liked Goliath’s warrior ponytail when he took off his helmet, but then I liked it even more when I realized they only styled him that way so they could make it easier for David to hold up his severed head.  It just made me laugh, along with the inexplicable British accent of the young David a la Isaac and Sarah from the last episode.

I didn’t quite catch whether the show mentioned exactly what was inside that bag that David handed him as proof that he had more than fulfilled Saul’s price of 100 dead Philistines for the hand of his daughter Michal, but it was 200 foreskins.  Gross, right?  I’m totally okay with the decision to put them all in a bag and keep them unseen from the audience instead of having them count out the full number before the king as the text says.  Yeah.  I don’t need to see that.

The inclusion of Saul ordering some priests killed was a bit of a strange choice; maybe it was meant to really show how far off track he had gone?  I don’t think it illustrates his craziness as much as him hurling spears at David one minute and then asking him to soothe his nightmares away with his harp the next, but if they had done this scene the way it happens in the Bible, Saul comes off more paranoid about everyone conspiring against him to support David, yet most of his men are unwilling to carry out his kill order against the priests.  It’s just kind of a strange story, but maybe it was included to meet the show producers’ seeming quota for bloody violence.  They love to fit those fight scenes in wherever they can.

David creeping up behind a peeing Saul and cutting a piece of his cloak to prove he could have killed him if he’d wanted was pretty much exactly how it happened.

The deaths of Jonathon and Saul and David’s reaction to hearing about them were terrific, I thought.  The text doesn’t specify how Jonathan died, just that it was during the battle, so an arrow makes sense, especially since it does say that archers critically wounded Saul.  Saul does kill himself by falling on his sword, but only after his armor-bearer refuses to kill him for him.  The messenger that relays the news of the deaths to David tries to take credit for killing both the king, perhaps mistakenly believing that David will reward him for killing his “enemy.”  In the show, David rebukes the messenger for thinking it’s good news, but in the Bible he kills him for “lifting your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed.”  But the emotions of this whole part were right, if not all the details.

The dramatization of David and his men crawling into Jerusalem through the water shaft and climbing up out of the well was fantastic.

I do wish they hadn’t introduced Bathsheeba during the scene where David is dancing in the street before the returning ark of the covenant, because it tainted the unbridled joy of that scene, when David is supposed to be leaping and dancing in such an undignified manner that his wife Michal is embarrassed, and tries to shame him for it and his skimpy attire.  (I always thought the linen ephod the text says he was wearing was more like underwear, but in the show it looks more like a kind of a kilt?)

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” –2 Samuel 6:20-22

I loved Nathan’s rebuking of David for taking “everything from [Uriah’s] life,” and I thought it was a good choice to have the ending focus on the fact that David’s son Solomon will build the Lord’s temple.

Sorry it took me a few days to get this post up.  I’ll try to be faster next with next week’s episode!

History Channel’s “The Bible”: Episode 1

Last Sunday, The History Channel debuted its new five-part miniseries, The Bible.  I didn’t get a chance to watch the first episode until later in the week, but I will try to catch the premieres of the rest of the episodes and have a review post about them up later that same night.  I know I’ve neglected this blog lately, but this is the exactly the sort of thing this blog is suited for, I think.

Overall I must say I am pleased that such a show, (dramatizing stories from scripture), is on the air.  I admire the motivation of producer Mark Burnett, as quoted in Entertainment Weekly:

Burnett has said he made the special effects-filled project to help tackle “Bible illiteracy” among young people. “In school, you have to know a certain amount of Shakespeare, but no Bible,” Burnett told the Christian Science Monitor. “So there’s got to be a way to look at it from a pure literature point of view. If it wasn’t for the Bible, arguably Shakespeare wouldn’t have written those stories.”

I’m not so sure Shakespeare’s works are directly dependent on the Bible, but it is at least true that many works of art and literature are full of Biblical allusions and a working knowledge of scripture would be useful in studying and understanding them.  But of course I don’t think that’s the main benefit for knowing what is actually written in scripture, and while I am pleased that an effort is being made to bring some of the Bible to life in this most recent project, it is not without flaws, and it is my job to point out the scriptural inaccuracies and the reasons why they matter here.  I hope that my posts are another contribution in the struggle against Biblical illiteracy.

Noah and Creation

I can get behind the decision to open with Noah on the ark, reciting the creation of the world from Genesis 1 as the rains pour.  The first chapter of the first book of the Bible doesn’t really lend itself to visual representation or re-enactment very easily, (but A+ for the brief shot of Adam rising up out of the dirt), and I liked that show-Noah made an explicit link between sin entering the world through the first humans’ actions and the manifestation of the Flood to “cleanse the earth.”  That’s theologically spot-on.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.  So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. –Genesis 6:5-8

The fact that it stops raining just as Noah gets to “and on the seventh day, God rested” doesn’t make it clear that the Flood was much longer than a week, though.  It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and they were on the ark for almost a year total since they had to wait for the waters to recede.  The shot of a rainbow behind the floating ark in the show is not quite right, since it shouldn’t appear until after they’ve gotten off the ark and made a burnt offering sacrifice, but it’s probably good that they included it since the rainbow is such an iconic element of that story.

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” –Genesis 9:12-16

One of the main complaints I have for the Noah portion of the show are that I don’t believe the ark would have been that leaky; they spent years building it and the whole thing was coated with pitch inside and out, after all.  I’m sure having water pour in was for dramatic effect, but it kind of makes it look like they barely survived as opposed to having planned and prepared by God’s instructions to be spared from the destruction.  At least the dimensions of the ark from the outside look pretty accurate.  The other complaint is that the girl in the scenes with Noah and his wife is too young.  She must be the wife of one of Noah’s sons, because the only 8 people on the ark were Noah, his wife, his three sons, and his sons’ wives, but the show made her look more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law.  Relatively minor inaccuracies, and they didn’t really show enough of Noah to clarify a lot of elements, so I’d say this first segment wasn’t too bad.

Noah on the ark (source).

Noah on the ark (source for image).

Abraham

This was my favorite segment; I thought it was mostly very well done.  I particularly loved the way the relationship dynamics between Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham were portrayed–the bitterness and jealousies felt very realistic.

Abraham and Sarah.  I was pleased that there weren't any blue-eyed, blonde-haired characters populating this ancient near-eastern stories...but then a blonde-haired blue-eyed Isaac showed up. (source for image)

Abraham and Sarah. I was pleased that there weren’t any blue-eyed, blonde-haired characters populating these ancient near-eastern stories…but then a blonde-haired blue-eyed Isaac showed up.  Also, why did Isaac and Sarah have British accents?  That was random. (source for image)

I liked the depiction of the angelic visitors at first, but I was disappointed in the artistic license decision to embellish their role by having them kill people, with swords.  And get injured in said sword-fight!  I’m sorry but I just don’t think beings with the power to instantly blind an entire crowd would have a need to resort to measly mortal weapons.  Also, even though they were on a mission to destroy the city and everyone in it (except Lot’s family), I was uncomfortable with the idea of the angels actually physically killing people one-on-one.  I’m just not sure that’s something God’s warriors do.

Bible_Warrior_Angel

A warrior angel, I guess?  Do angels bleed?  Maybe only when they take human form? (source for image)

As far as the depiction of the sacrifice of Isaac, I thought that the emotions were well done, and I was very glad to see that they did show Isaac carrying the wood for his own sacrifice up the mountain, because that is one of many parallel’s to Jesus’ sacrifice, (in this case to carrying his own cross to Calvary.  The parallel was slightly blurred since in the show Abraham also carried a bundle of wood instead of “the fire and the knife” as it says in scripture, but at least it’s still there for people who know to look for it.)

The problem with this scene was that it deviated from the Biblical account when Abraham turned around and saw a lamb with it’s leg caught in a tree, instead of a ram with it’s horns caught in a thicket, to sacrifice in place of Isaac.

 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Genesis 22:13-14

This may seem like a small change, but it’s actually quite significant.  There are strict specifications for the appropriate way to make a sacrifice.  The animal had to be the best that you can offer; you don’t give God an imperfect specimen.  It had to be without blemish.

Do not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him.

Deuteronomy 17:1

If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord.

Leviticus 1:3

 If an animal has a defect, is lame or blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it to the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 15:21

The lamb in the show with its leg caught in the the tree would likely not meet the requirements for sacrifice, since its leg is probably injured.  At the least bruised, at the worst twisted or broken.  Either way it’s not an animal without blemish.  That’s why the Biblical text includes the detail that the ram was caught in the thicket by his horns, so it’s clear that there’s no flaw on the animal’s body.

It’s a very high standard, and it may seem like a small element of the story, but it’s theologically important.  Because that standard is why Jesus’ sacrifice was so critical, and so necessary.  Literally no-one else could have done what he did.  No other human has ever lived a life “without blemish” like he did.  No-one else’s undeserved death could have offered a cleansing for the world’s sins, because no one else would ever be pure enough.

Moses

I wish they hadn’t skipped from child Isaac all the way to adult Moses!  I know Moses is one of the most famous stories, but I thought part of the whole point of this show was to educate people about the Bible stories they didn’t know.  And there are so many richly dramatic interludes and interesting characters in the span they skipped!  *sigh*  There’s so much context to the story of Exodus that gets left out if you start with Moses instead of his ancestor Joseph, who is the reason they were in Egypt to begin with…just read all of Genesis, everyone, you won’t be sorry.

This section was by far the one I liked least, because it was so poorly done, and same subject matter has been done before so they needn’t have bothered.  They should have just aired The Prince of Egypt, which does a much better job overall even though it features some of the same inaccuracies as this version (like Moses not knowing about his true identity until he’s an adult.)

The burning bush scene was woefully lacking.  Some of it may have been just due to budget limitations; Moses is supposed to be watching a herd of sheep but there are none to be seen, and he doesn’t perform either of the two miracles that God makes him do (turning his staff into a snake and making his hand suddenly leperous then suddenly healed) to boost his confidence that he’ll be able to convince the Israelites to follow him.  The CGI for the flames on the bush didn’t even look that impressive.  Moses didn’t take off his sandals, as he is instructed to do in the Bible because “the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:3).

The whole scene was just far too short; show-Moses asks “but how can I set them free?”, and after hearing the reply “I will be with you,” show-Moses is suddenly super-sure of himself, throws his staff to the side, and proclaims “With your power, I will set my people free!”  Compare that to the Biblical account, when Moses is still reluctant to carry out God’s bidding even after God has him perform the two aforementioned miracles at the burning bush, displaying absolutely no self-confidence and begging twice for someone else to do it instead.

Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth?  Who makes him deaf or mute?  Who gives him sight or makesh im blind?  Is it not I, the LORD?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”

Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite?  I know he can speak well.  He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you.  You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.”

Exodus 4:10-15

Show-Moses just seemed overly arrogant and cocky, strutting around without any self-doubt and throwing miracles and faith certainties in people’s faces.  Also, why did show-Moses have Aaron put his staff into the Nile to turn it to blood, instead of Moses doing it with his own staff as he does in the Bible?  Was it to indicate that Aaron’s staff is tied also tied to miraculous power as it later grows an almond bloom as a sign he’s to be the leader under Moses?  They didn’t include that part anyway, so there was really no point to confuse things the way they did.  Maybe this was the show’s way of acknowledging that it was Aaron’s staff that turned into a snake in Pharaoh’s presence, before the plague of blood?  It’s really the only time in the show that Aaron assists Moses, but as mentioned in the preceding paragraph, Moses actually relied on his brother’s help in a much more significant capacity.

Moses and Aaron (source for image)

Moses and Aaron (source for image)

I also didn’t like how they made Joshua look weak and full of doubt.  Maybe I’m wanting to hero-worship him too much, because I’m sure he was a flawed human like everybody else, but he’s known for being one of the very few who had faith that God would deliver the Promised Land to them, when ten of the other twelve spies argued that it was impossible.  But who knows, maybe he really was bitter and doubtful before witnessing the miraculous exodus out of Egypt…although I think the real reason the show made Joshua keep voicing doubts was so the audience would recognize him when he takes over as leader of the Israelities.  The end of this episodes sets up his leading the battle of Jericho for next week.

The ten plagues were not specified, (how many people unfamiliar with the story would realize that the scene with the lit torches was meant to take place during the plague of darkness?) and I’m not even sure the showed all ten.  All of Moses’ warnings to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh’s giving in and then recapitulating on his promises after numerous plagues were lifted, is reduced to quick-cuts of vaguely-identified plagues and Pharaoh saying “no.”

They only killed one lamb (which really looked more like a sheep) for Passover, instead of one for each household as scripture instructed.  And most egregiously, instead of using hyssop branches to spread the blood on their door frames, they use what looks like a literal modern-day paintbrush for one house, and a dirty rag for another!  I found this whole depiction very troublesome, in line with my complaints about failure to accurately depict the significance of sacrifice in the Abraham section as outlined above.  The whole point of the blood on the door frames was to show that a death had already cleansed that house.  You don’t show respect for cleansing sacrificial blood by smearing it around with a dirty rag!  And it’s not as if this was a minor, little-known element of the story; the hyssop branch used to paint the blood on the door frames is an explicitly mentioned part of annual Passover dinners.  I just don’t understand how they messed that up.

Furthermore, the crowd of Israelites was far to small.  I’m sure they just didn’t have the budget for that many extras, but it looked like maybe a few dozen people, yet Exodus 12:37 says:

There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children.

The show left out the pillars of cloud and fire that led the Israelites and that came between them and Pharaoh’s pursuing chariots to keep them at bay for the whole night while the crowd crossed the Red Sea.  Now doesn’t that make more sense (and isn’t it more of a spectacle) than a ragtag bunch of newly-freed slaves somehow out-running the finest warrior chariots?  These inaccuracies matter because too many people already don’t believe that Bible stories like this one really happened. It doesn’t help to deviate from the text and make them even less believable, and they aren’t suffering for drama as written.

Conclusion:

Even though there were all these issues, I have to repeat that I’m glad an attempt to portray the stories of the Bible is on television at all, and I hope more than anything that watching this series might inspire people to actually read some scripture.  Because as is often the case with film adaptations, the book is better!