The Ten Commandments

(I posted this over at The American Catholic, and I thought the film mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)


David Griffey at Daffey Thoughts rejoices that after sixty years Cecil B. Demille’s masterpiece, The Ten Commandments, is still immensely popular:

The Ten Commandments still popular

I wish we could have seen it on the big screen!

Good to see.  All hope isn’t lost.  I already wrote about how much I enjoy and appreciate the film.
 Last night, when we watched it on Easter on Blueray (quite a jolt of cinematic awesomeness let me tell you), we noticed just how many subtle nods to a Scriptural vocabulary are sprinkled through the movie.  We focus on the fictional love story and sexed-up elements meant to drag people away from the new invention of television.

But throughout the movie there are little statements here, or little scenes there, that all point to a Scriptural worldview that the 1950s audience would no doubt recognize faster than most post-moderns today.  A scene where the Hebrews break into temple granaries reminds one of David doing the same.  A scene in which a Hebrew slave dies in a mud pit, lamenting that he didn’t get to see the Deliverer when Heston (Moses – the Deliverer) is holding him in his arms makes you think of Simeon.

So while there is plenty of pageantry and Hollywood embellishments, there are no more than modern Hollywood takes.  And many of the additions are for more noble ideas of freedom and equality than the millennial caterwauling that dominates today’s ventures.

And you have the parting of the Red Sea.  What more can you want!


Go here to read the comments.  My favorite section of the movie has always been the moments just before the parting when Israel was in a panic because the chariots of Pharoah were hot on their trail, momentarily stopped by the pillar of fire.  Even with all the miracles they had witnessed, panic and hopelessness seized the people.   (This has not gone unnoticed by the rabbis who wrote the Midrash commentary on the Torah.  They contended that the sea did not part until a man of Judah,  Nahshon (stormy sea waves), had the faith and guts to walk into the Red Sea up beyond his nostrils, and only then did God part the Red Sea.  (Michelangelo in his Sistine ceiling painting depicts Nahshon as one of the ancestors of Christ.))  The ringing response of Moses in the film:  The Lord of Hosts will do battle for us. Behold His mighty hand! What a lesson there is for us in that scene.  Too often Christians expect God to solve our difficulties by miracles.  If necessary He has on occasion.  But usually it is necessary for the miracle to be accompanied by faith, trust and courage as shown by Moses and by Nahshon, according to the Rabbis.  Not bad thoughts to have this Easter season.
In regard to the film, it is often the little things that show the master hand of DeMille.  Note, that after God collapses the sea onto the Egyptians, Moses is not triumphant, but rather turns his head down in sadness so that he did not see the final clashing together of the waves.  He had lived forty years among the Egyptians as one of them, and he did not rejoice in their deaths.  This is underlined by the look of anguish on the face of the foster mother of Moses.  I saw the film on the big screen in the seventies and it is well worth doing so if any of you ever have the opportunity.  The film was not merely the artistic capping of a career for DeMille, but also it conveyed a message he believed in with all his heart.  An ardent anti-Communist, in the introduction he states that the message of the film is eternally relevant:  is Man to be ruled by the laws of God or by the whims of dictators?
Published in: on April 5, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Ten Commandments  
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