Hollywood Moses v. The Real Moses

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. – Hebrews 11:24-25

This Sunday Huntingtown United Methodist Church is beginning a church wide study on Moses: Following God into the Unfamiliar. Whenever I read stories about Moses, I can’t help but remember Ben Kingsley’s Moses, the animated Prince of Egypt, and The Ten Commandments, my favorite.

I grew up being fascinated by Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments every Easter. I still love it, even though it takes artistic license with the story, including Moses. Comparing and contrasting the Moses of the Bible with the Moses in the movie makes for some excellent table discussions Here are a few examples:

An Egyptian princess named Nefertari appears throughout the first half of the movie.  She and Moses have an interesting palace romance, but she does not appear in any Jewish literature. In Exodus, Moses gets married to Zipporah, a Midianite whom he saves by a well.

Charlton Heston was a classically-trained orator, but the Old Testament says that Moses had a speech impediment. This was one of his fears when God sent him back to Egypt. Moses had to relay all of his messages through his brother, Aaron.

In the movie Moses descends from the mountain with hair highlights from the Mount Sinai salon. There is no reference to Moses’ hair color, but we do read that his face glowed after being in the presence of God. It was scary enough that people kept their distance from him. 

Moses was a son of a Jewish slave growing up alongside Egyptian royalty. Maybe, like DeMille, I’m stretching my imagination to fill in some gaps, but I don’t think so. I imagine the younger Moses as a looked down upon outsider who lacked confidence and self esteem. He likely was educated and had military training and experience. Despite its artistic license, the The Ten Commandments does remind us that Moses’ upbringing in an Egyptian palace, good and bad experiences, prepared him for the calling he receives from God.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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