Excruciating Exodus Movie Exudes Errors

Exodus: Gods and Kings reeks with wretchedness

Note: This discussion of Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) contains spoilers.


Colossal expense equals colossal waste for the new Ridley Scott movie Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014). The story has been changed so much from the Biblical narrative that it is barely recognizable.

My mother always taught me that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I should say nothing at all. If I were to follow her policy, this review of Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) would end now.

I should say I am not a purist. I understand that Biblical material needs to be added to in order to make a motion picture. After all, very rarely does the Bible give a physical description of a character. I also understand that changes might need to be made for technical reasons or to make the story flow—though Scott’s explanation for the racial make-up of his casting falls flat. Heck, I even like Dan Brown books. Sure, I notice the inaccuracies, but the man tells good stories. So why am I annoyed that Exodus: Gods and Kings bears almost no resemblance to the Biblical narrative? Because it pretends to be something that it is not.

It is beyond me to understand why one of the most action-packed, intense Biblical narratives needed such dramatic altering by writers Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian. Their story 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—especially with all the Arthurian mythology woven in—though the caricature and stereotypes that ran through the film shoved the viewer in that direction.

In the free eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus, top scholars discuss the historical Israelites in Egypt and archaeological evidence for and against the historicity of the Exodus.


Not only have the exciting Biblical elements, such as a lonely baby floating down a raging Nile, a hero with a speech impediment sent to speak to the most powerful leader in the world, a brotherly side-kick, been edited out of the movie, God has been turned into a petulant child. This is the precise opposite of the narrative, which depicts a God who has control of every element of nature, including death and Pharaoh. But movie Moses’ exasperated cry, “Who are you punishing?” misses the textual point that the Hebrews were not subjected to the majority of the plagues. I should not be surprised as it seems no one involved with this movie has ever read the Biblical account. This comic visually demonstrates the plague of darkness that affected the Egyptians but not the Israelites (Exodus 10:22–23). Image: bit.ly/1C3fxnd courtesy Barer at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.

The movie is manipulative in its anti-religious polemic. All the supernatural elements of the story (which are in the Bible to make theological points about the God of the Hebrews and thus are literarily important to the characterization of God, regardless of one’s faith position) are stripped away or given a “scientific” explanation within the dialogue. It’s amazing that the movie had time for that when it rushed through the plagues. To my count, only eight or possibly nine were depicted (though the alligator plague might be an improvement on the text). The Egyptian priestess (apparently there was only one in Memphis) and the prophet are slain for incompetence. Moses is a firm atheist until he suffers a traumatic brain injury which makes him hallucinate a boy-god. Which brings us to the petulant, malicious boy-god, who plagues the Hebrews alongside the Egyptians, ignores Moses’ pleas for mercy and binds the Hebrews to him without choice in the final plague. All of these alterations were designed to make religion look senile. This is misdirection at best considering the blatant attempt to attract religious viewers with the movie’s “Biblical” subject matter.

My intention was to create a list of all the changes made to the text, the historical inaccuracies and the archaeological brutalities, but there are just too many of them. To do this would result in a review that was twice the length of the script itself. Even where I might be able to offer praise at the movie’s use of paleo-Hebrew (a single rudimentary mem), it was written on a full sheet of papyrus by a slave. Seriously?! What slave can afford to buy papyrus? Not to mention can read or write? I know I am not supposed to ask these questions, but I am also supposed to find at least something nice to say about everything. I guess I am just not very good at doing what I am supposed to.

Leaving aside the mutilations to the text, the historical record and the archaeological remains, the melodramatic nature of the characters made them phony and dislikable. Thus, even if you can put everything else aside, I would still recommend you skip this incredible waste of time and money.

For more on Hollywood movies, read “The ‘Gods of Egypt’ Movie: A Mess of Anachronisms and Exoticization,” “Rock Giants in Noah” and “Blending into One: The ‘Left Behind’ Movie, the Book of Revelation and the Rapture.”

ellen-whiteEllen White, Ph.D. (Hebrew Bible, University of St. Michael’s College), is the senior editor at the Biblical Archaeology Society. She has taught at five universities across the U.S. and Canada and spent research leaves in Germany and Romania. She has also been actively involved in digs at various sites in Israel.


More on the Exodus in Bible History Daily:

Exodus in the Bible and the Egyptian Plagues

Who Was Moses? Was He More than an Exodus Hero?

Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination

Searching for Biblical Mt. Sinai


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  • Amanda says

    I liked the comic. But Israelites didn’t wear kippahs!

  • Richard says

    I am currently half way through the movie. I am watching it in bits and pieces so as not to get overwhelmed by how bad it is. This is a period of time that I cherish so I watch this travesty to compare what the movie portrays to what I know happened. Mainly, then, I watch it to mock the film and mock Hollywood. I am not one to question someone else’s devote beliefs, but Ridley Scott is an avowed atheist. I’m not saying that an atheist could not make this movie, but I’m guessing that he looks at the events differently than I would. In trying to come up with an analogy, maybe it would be like a director from the old Soviet Union making a movie about The Bill of Rights to show to the American public. The acting is less than stellar. I want them all to lose.

  • Jay says

    Dear Miss White,

    I have recently watched exodus:gods and kings, and I have to say I am more than disappointed with it. After reading your wonderful artical I came to the conclusion that this motion picture doesn’t only lack the basic facts of Moses’s story told from a Hebrew or Christian religious point of view, it also lacks the Muslim’s point of view. For instance: Moses had a brother called Arron, he was the one who addressed Ramsis and tried to negotiate the release of the Hebrews because Moses lacked the necessary articulacy to address such a powerful man.
    Moses didn’t not leave his wife and child behind, they went with him to Egypt.

    There was no mention of staff of Moses..

    And many other details..

    Like you mentioned in your article, it might be necessary to alter or change some details in the story to adapt it to a theatrical motion picture. But what the writers and Ridley Scott did was far more beyond minor alterations..

    Nevertheless, your artical showed me that it’s not only me who is confused with this project.

    Thank you and please keep up the good work


  • cmbaker says

    Turned off 1/2 hour into it. Terrible non Bible based drival. Shame, what a wonderful movie the book oc Exodus could have been.

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