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The Ten Commandments Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 20 March 2017

The Ten Commandments

One of the top grossing films of all time is the Ten Commandments which was a remake of Cecil DeMille’s silent movie in 1923. It is considerably DeMille’s masterpiece in view of the fact that it is the highest grossing religious movie until being overtaken by “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson released in 2004. Earning $65.5 million in the year 1956, this outstanding production garnered Oscar nominations in the category of best cinematography, costume design, picture, sound, film editing, special effects and art direction.

 This biblical epic derived from the book of Exodus centered on Moses’ life as the prince of Egypt and Israelites’ deliverer from bitter struggle against slavery. The film narrated the time when Moses was set afloat in the Nile River to escape from the Pharaoh’s   decree of annihilating all first-born Hebrew males and was adopted by the pharaoh’s daughter Bithiah. Moses grew up in the royal household and raised as a prince.

He was substantially favored by the pharaoh and the entire empire because of his expertise in supervising the construction site and commanding the army. Until the moment that he finally discovered his true lineage, his sympathy towards fellow Hebrews was awaken prompting him to slay an abusive Egyptian taskmaster. Charged with treason, Moses was cast out to wilderness where he was saved by the family of Jethro. He came back to Egypt after many years and led the Hebrews out of slavery to God’s Promised Land.

In the film, the kings of Egypt are named: Ramses I, Seti I, Ramses II. In Bible, they are given no names but “Pharaoh.” Nowhere in the Bible is any Queen of Egypt mentioned.[1]

Costumes, props and set design were appropriately accurate for the time period. Most significant events in the film were eliminated from the movie. Moses brought only four plagues including turning water to blood, bringing hail, darkness for three days and death to Egypt’s firstborn starting beginning from the Pharaoh to servants and to Egypt’s beasts. The plagues which were not depicted were frogs, gnats, flies, boils, locusts and diseases that infected livestock. The film showed that the last plague was performed by the angel of death whereas in the bible it was done by God himself.

In the film, the character Nefertiri played by Anne Baxter, was the future wife of the next Pharaoh. It was altered from Nefertiti to Nefertiri. One of the controversial and most influential queens of Ancient Egypt, her name, Nefertiti means beautiful.  Some scholars believe that Nefertiti came from a foreign land and traveled to Egypt while others speculate she is a pure Egyptian by birth. Her father, Kheperkheprure Ay  is a high government official and  after her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaten’s reign Nefertiti may well have become his co-regent, and immediately after his death became a pharaoh in her own right, ruling alone for a short time.  And if there’s one thing Egyptologists agree on when it comes to Nefertiti, it’s that she had plenty of enemies.[2]

As the Israelites head off to the Promised Land, numerous carriages were being pulled by water buffaloes. This is another inaccuracy in the film since these animals were originally native to Asia, water buffaloes appeared quite early (approximately 600 A.D.) in North

Africa and the Middle East.[3]   In ancient times, it was considered a work animal and good source of meat and milk. Presently, they are found in Bulgaria and Italy.

Yokheved (Hebrew) or Jochebed (English) is the biological mother of Moses. In the film, the character was named Yochabel; she was the old lady working in the construction site putting grease under the huge stone.  It is written in the Holy Scriptures, Kohath was the father of Amram, who married Jochebed, descendant of Levi, born in Egypt. She bore Aaron, Moses and Miriam their sister.[4]

Another factual error in the film is the event when Moses slayed Baka played by Vincent Price, to protect Joshua, the Hebrew stonecutter from being ill-treated. The chief Hebrew overseer, Dathan who was in charged by Rameses to search for the deliverer, witness Moses’ revelation to Joshua that he was born from a Hebrew slave. In exchange of the information, Dathan requested for ownership of Baka’s house and Joshua’s love Lilia and appointment as the new governor of Goshen. In the book of Exodus, Moses killed the Egyptian after seeing him strike a Hebrew and then hid him in the sand. Dathan was nowhere in sight, the bible did not specify any person as eyewitness.

According to the Holy Scriptures, on the following day, Moses tried to intervene the two Hebrews quarrelling, the Hebrew exclaimed to Moses why he wanted to judge over them and did he also intended to kill them like the Egyptian. The Pharaoh heard the news and commanded his army to kill Moses, so Moses escaped and went to live in the land of Midian. On the movie, the Pharaoh was undecided on what manner of execution be bestowed upon Moses consequently, Ramses sent away Moses to the wilderness.

Moses stayed in Midian and married Zipporah and had a son named Gershom. In the film, the production added Joshua in the scene wherein Moses was herding the sheep, when Joshua came escaping from the hard labor. Moses saw the burning bush and climbed up the peak of Mount Sinai. When he got back, his face matured 10 years older. The true account as inscribed in the bible, Moses was pasturing the sheep in the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the Mountain of God. The Angel of Yahweh appeared to him by means of a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that although the bush was on fire it did not burn up. The book of exodus did not recount Joshua in Midian.

Another event portrayed inaccurately was when Moses went to Pharaoh’s house to ask for Israelites’ liberation. Turning his staff to serpent, Moses performed miracle in front of the Pharaoh and his counselors to prove he is God’s messenger. The difference between the bible and the story line, Moses was granted not only to change staff to serpent but God granted him power to turn his healthy hand to a hand covered with leprosy.

No where in the Bible were the Midianites did not come from the ancestry of Ishmael, the son of Abraham as illustrated in the movie nor did they recognize the God of Abraham given that they are idol-worshipping pagans. Many scholars propose that Jethro, the Midianite priest and pagan, instructed Moses, not only about governing justice, but also about religious understanding and practices.

Moses’ prime preceptor for understanding how to please and worship God was Jethro and scholars have asserted that the Israelites received their religion from the Kenites, a tribe associated with Jethro (Judges 1:16, 4:11) and a part of the Midianites.[5]  Jethro was a Kenite, an Eastern tribe, and with roots possibly branching from India. To encapsulate the hypothesis, the relations between Moses and Jethro suggested that Moses in some fraction became Jethro’s disciple.

The part when Moses as prince of Egypt, created a treaty between Ethiopians and Egyptians and won the battle against the Nubian army were not based in the Holy Scriptures.

In the story, when the liberation of the Israelites started, Pharaoh’s wife Nefertiri persuaded Ramses to capture and kill Moses and chase the Hebrew slaves. When the Egyptian chariots were fast approaching the tribes, Moses held out his staff and cast out a pillar of fire to the Egyptian armies to provide an escape path to the Israelites. The troops watched in awe as Moses parted the Red Sea enabling the Israelites to cross. In the biblical account of Exodus, Moses uttered that they should not fear and stay where they are. The work of Yahweh will save them. He never raise his staff to perform miracle however, the Angel of God formed a pillar of cloud between the camps of Israelites and the Egyptians. For one army the cloud provided light, for the other darkness so that throughout the night the armies drew no closer to each other.

Moses stretched his hand over the sea and God created a powerful east wind blow all night and dry up the Red sea. The waters divided and the Israelites race over the seabed, the waters forming a wall between their right and left. The pillar of cloud and fire died down, so the chariots raced in hot pursuit.

The Egyptians followed them and all Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen moved forward in the middle of the sea. God in the form of pillar of cloud and fire looked towards the Egyptian camp and threw it into confusion. God instructed Moses to stretched his hand over the sea and let the waters drown the Egyptians. In comparison with the movie, the Pharaoh Ramses remained ashore and watched the entire Egyptian armies swept away in the sea.

Many events were missing in the film such as the story of Puah and Shiphrah as viewed in Exodus chapter 1 verses 15 to 21, attack by the Amalekites, battle of Rephidim and meeting with Jethro. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with Moses’ wife and two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.

The account illustrating God providing manna, water from the rock and quails are missing in the movie. The rebellion of Korah was removed from the film and was substituted with Dathan, the former chief Hebrew overseer and the building of the golden calf. The Levite Priest, Korah instigated a belligerent rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Korah’s remarks proposed that he was merely searching for a more egalitarian form of leadership, the aggressive nature of his objection mixed with his obvious envy of Moses’ and Aaron’s authority and social station, suggested otherwise.

Because of his envy, Korah charged Moses and Aaron of using their declaration of divine influence and power as a way of increasing their own control and domination over the Israelites. And his challenge resonates with 250 “other men of renown” who joined him in his rebellion.  As the story unfolds God is so angered by Korah and his followers that God causes the ground to open up and swallow the rebels.[6]

The legendary Hollywood director and producer DeMille created remarkable stunts and special effects as well as highlighted a magnificent setting of Egypt’s famous pyramids. Though critics were not strongly amazed by stunts which for them were just ostensibly fakes and camera tricks, the film in general, was extremely potent in its narrative. Everything about “The Ten Commandments” is immense. Starting from the settings, the excellent acting and gestures and the context of the film was strikingly designed and arranged. The film exhibits a great deal of theatrical and melodramatic acting, and grand postures, but in the entire context and feel of the film, this is not even a bad thing. Though the some subplots were appended and some episodes omitted, the entire production was superb and worth seeing.


Alakbarli, Farid. “Water Buffalo in Azerbaijan Prized for Its Milk and Meat,” Azerbaijan International 13 (Spring 2005): 31.

Christian Community Bible. Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1993.

Clark, Rosemary, The Sacred Tradition in Ancient Egypt. Llewellyn, 2000.

Silver, Jack. The Torah articulates norms about legitimate dissent and authority’s reasonable response to it. [Commentary]. Weekly Torah Commentaries, accessed 29 April 2008; available from http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Weekly_Torah_Commentary/korah_ajws.htm; Internet.

Wolf, David. Jethro, the Druze and Vedic Origins [book on-line]. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 2001, accessed 29 April 2008; available from http://www.veda.harekrsna.cz/connections/Vedic-Druze.php; Internet.

Yakutchik,  Maryalice, Who was Nefertiti?, accessed 29 April 2008; available from http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/nefertiti/history/history-02.html; Internet.

  1. Rosemary Clark, The Sacred Tradition in Ancient Egypt. (Llewellyn, 2000), 97.

  1. Maryalice Yakutchik, Who was Nefertiti?, accessed 29 April 2008; available from http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/nefertiti/history/history-02.html; Internet.

  1. 3. Farid Alakbarli, “Water Buffalo in Azerbaijan Prized for Its Milk and Meat,” Azerbaijan International 13 (Spring 2005): 31.

  1. 4. Christian Community Bible (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1993), 200.

  1. David Wolf, Jethro,the Druze and Vedic Origins [book on-line] (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 2001 accessed 29 April 2008); available from http://www.veda.harekrsna.cz/connections/Vedic-Druze.php; Internet.

  1. 6. Jack Silver, The Torah articulates norms about legitimate dissent and authority’s reasonable response to it. [Commentary] (Weekly Torah Commentaries accessed 29 April 2008); available from http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Weekly_Torah_Commentary/korah_ajws.htm; Internet.

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