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Exodus Gods and Kings

Sexist Exodus

Exodus Gods and Kings

Where were Miriam and the Midwives?!

I went to the film Exodus: Gods and Kings with low expectations – you’d have to have been living under a rock to have missed the controversy of having all-white casting. But I was totally unprepared for the excision of the significant women from the story. And I have yet to see a reviewer focus on that!

Every year at Easter, at the very least, we proclaim the end of the Exodus:

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’ (Exodus 15:20-21)

Here, in the film, the Exodus ended, and (tell me I’m wrong) Miriam wasn’t even anywhere to be seen!

The Bible was produced in a sexist context, often skimming over the significance of women, and not even giving their names. But the Biblical Exodus story begins with two midwives defying the order of the Pharaoh. The Bible celebrates this nonviolent defiance of unjust (male) authority, which has so much to teach us, and passes on their names: Shiphrah and Puah.

The film makes no mention of the midwives whatsoever! And with them goes the wise bravery of Moses’ mother, Jochebed, and her clever ruse accomplished with Miriam.

It is not as if the Exodus film is averse to the ruse, the Biblical basket story, in fact it tells an altered version of it. But why did it not show it in a flashback?!

I have no problem with Ridley Scott, the director, being an atheist, and his attempt to make the story be understood naturalistically. I just think that, even more than many other movies, the book is SO much better than the film.

This is a lengthy film (two and a half hours). The (lengthy, not-in-the-book, macho) battles with the Hittites add little to the story, nor does the searching for the (adult) Moses, and the execution of people each day he is not found. If you wanted to show the ruthlessness of the Egyptians, the Bible’s killing of the babies (not mentioned in the film) does that so much better. Why have Ramesses (chasing Moses and the Hebrew slaves to the sea) cross a mountain and lose many of his army to bad driving by a steep road rather than in the sea? And why have Moses throw his sword into the sea, rather than the biblical staff?

The petulant child (male again!) representing the God image in the mind of the (presented-in-the-film-as-probably-insane) Moses is not only peculiar but woodenly acted by 11-year-old Isaac Andrews.

Other reviewers have commented on the poor music, the already dated feel of the film, and the Prince-of-Egypt-type representation of Moses’ relationship with Ramesses and connected that with the director’s relationship with his director brother who committed suicide in 2012 and to whom the film is dedicated.

I agree with Ellen White (a senior editor at the Biblical Archaeology Society),

[The story in the film] was so different that if they didn’t use the Biblical names and released the same movie with a different title, I might not have even recognized it.

Yes – the book is MUCH better! The film is a prejudiced white macho version of a story that was more liberated and inclusive three millennia ago!

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3 thoughts on “Sexist Exodus”

  1. Not having seen the film, I wonder how it deals with the immigration issues surrounding the Hebrew slaves. If it dealt with it according to the book, we should easily see the parallels between Pharaoh and modern-day despisers of the foreigners in our midst.

  2. I think you are making something of nothing in respect of the race and gender bias in this instance as the film is not intended to be a record of events. I’ve seen the trailer a couple of times and that was enough to put me off. It looked like rubbish and the box office collapse after the first weekend supports this view. Some atheists seem to think Christians are stupid or that you can butcher a bible story yet claim a credible relationship to it.

    “Unbroken”, also directed by an atheist I gather, opens this weekend and that looks to be far better. It is doing well at the box office. The book is outstanding and the Louie Zamperini’s Christian conversion was very intense and moving. If true to the book, its a film largely about men, a relationship to God and promises kept (although Louie’s female wife was a key part in the life saving conversion) so may offend some progressive people who will find the lack of an openly gay or transgender character offensive. The Gospel is, after all, foolishness to those who are perishing

    1. Thanks, Brown.

      I have not seen “Unbroken”, but the reviews I’ve read indicate that, contrary to your understanding, his Christian conversion is underplayed. As to the film lacking an openly gay or transgender character, again, not having seen the film, I cannot comment whether that is correct, but would remind you that when the story was set, being so was illegal. For those unaware of this I suggest another film, The Imitation Game – and please sit through the explanation in the credits.


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