I'm a bit slow off the mark with this particular blog. Last Tuesday Channel 4 showed a one-off drama called Exodus. It was an attempt to retell the biblical story of Moses and the Israelites escape from Egypt in a modern setting. I think it would be fair to say that few Christians would expect such a drama to be a stirring, accurate and interesting account of a vital part of the bible. But even given those caveats, Exodus was one of the most frustrating pieces of television I have witnessed.
The concept itself of moving the action into a contemporary setting was both sound and intriguing. So we had a dictator style politician (cunningly named Pharaoh) carrying out a sort of ethnic and class cleansing act, sending all the undesirables to live in Dreamland, an old run down ex-theme park type of place. The baby Moses was seen left on the beach for Pharaoh's wife to find, as his mother attempted to flee the military police. But once the concept was in place and the story began, the production ran into trouble.
Crucially the makers couldn't decide whether to either eschew the religious aspects completely or to keep the (let's face it, pretty vital) role of God in their drama. The result was a sort of airy-fairy spirituality, usually involving Moses hearing a lot of whispering. Rather than a burning bush, on fire yet not consumed, there was a bizarre man-made (and man-burned) giant wooden statue, strangely reminiscent of The Wicker Man! Instead of God and Moses having an amazing conversation in which God reveals his true name and character (Exodus Ch 3), there were simply a few whispered words which it seemed that a dead man was communicating rather than the Living God.
In this case, approaching Pharaoh and asking for the freedom of his people was really Moses's plan. He embarked on some sort of idealistic crusade which turned into sheer vigilantism. In the Bible all of the events are divinely inspired. God is in control at all times. It is he who commands, judges and redeems with perfect justice.
Horrifically in this new adaptation, the people created their own plagues! They launched computer viruses, genetically engineered a plague and put algae in the water to make it red and undrinkable. This is just terrorism. Worst of all, the Passover became a midwife bombing a baby clinic. That just made me feel sick.
The wonder of the Exodus story is in the amazing way that God keeps his promises and foretells the coming of Jesus, the ultimate Passover lamb. God was only mentioned by name 2 hours into the film. In trying to justify the atrocities committed Moses claims, "God told me to do it!" Has he been watching the same thing as I've been watching? Having spent so much for the running time hedging their bets on the God stuff, the makers then have the audacity to blame him for these completely human acts.
Come the end all pretence of remaining true to the Biblical story was abandoned. In a utterly baffling turn of events following Pharaoh's allowing the people to leave, firstly a civil war broke out amongst the 'Israelites' and the 'Egyptians' (in the Bible, the Egyptians give the Israelites all sorts of valuable items for them to take to the Promised Land), Moses briefly became a superhero (he jumped from a multi storey building to the ground without a scratch on him), he alone parted the sea and was then drowned! Utterly absurd. In truth, God led his people out of Egypt (literally, as a pillar of cloud and fire), through the Red Sea (drowning the chasing Pharaoh in judgment) and eventually to Mount Sinai where Moses received God's law.
I haven't even come close to describing the brilliance of the exodus; God so clearly at work and in control, protecting his people and redeeming them from slavery. The makers of Exodus should be ashamed of themselves. Not only was their programme insulting to millions of Bible believing Christians, but it was just bad TV.