Friday, December 12, 2014

Parting the Red Sea: the Bible, Christianity, Obama and Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott's Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings fully supports traditional religious teachings and interpretations of the essential story of Moses (Christian Bale) leading the Children Of Israel out of Egypt and away from the tyrannical ruling of Ramses (Joel Edgerton) while at the same time introducing facets through symbols and metaphors to engage us in a way we never have before with the story. Further, Scott offers his audience a critical look at Barack Hussein Obama and, like Ender's Game and Dracula Untold, offers a warning to audience members about the inevitable happening. This is the way modern religious films should be made, and I hope to see more, embodying both high-Hollywood quality and the deep wisdom of Scripture. (This is full of spoilers, so you have been warned!)
This is a striking poster design and radically different from posters coming out lately. The temple in the background symbolizes the pyramid of rocks Malak, the little boy who could symbolize God, or God's messenger, builds to tell Moses what He wants him to do. The temple symbolizes how we, in our lives, will either build a temple to God, or a temple to ourselves. The gold Ramses wears illustrates his power and his hunger for wealth: since the gold covers his chest, where his heart is, we can deduce that gold is what his heart hungers for. Moses, on the other hand, has gold on his arms, which symbolizes his strength, and around his neck, which (like a collar) symbolizes what "leads him" or what "guides" him in life. The symbol for Ramses in the film is the snake, as he regularly takes cobra venom to build up his immune to it (more on this below) but the symbol for Moses becomes the bird, as we see on his armor in this image; why? In the opening scenes, Seti consults a priestess who "reads" the entrails of a bird and predicts that a leader will be saved and another will become a leader (meaning Moses will save Ramses' life and become the leader of the Hebrews); likewise, when they have stopped at the Red Sea and Moses doesn't know what to do, when he awakens, birds are everywhere in the air circling about as a sign of the Holy Spirit (who would take the form of a dove at the Baptism of Christ). Moses' sword in this image is in its gold sheath, because Moses understands the "wisdom" of having power, without having to use it; Ramses' sword is unsheathed because he doesn't have any wisdom. Gold usually symbolizes kings and royalty, because (in the old days) only royalty could afford gold and gold was the gift given to royalty. But Moses and Ramses are two different types of royalty, one wise as purified gold, the other corrupted by worldly riches and all it buys.
There are tons of symbols, metaphors and foreshadowing devices used in the film, so let's start with the most obvious one that people might have a difficult time "coming to grips with," but permit me to make an important point: Ridley Scott definitely displays that the miracles of the plagues and parting of the Red Sea are done by the Hand of God and not any earthly means; so, when Scott interprets something that some people might get upset with, Scott is asking us to indulge him because he does everything else so well, and we owe him that, so when you see it, don't get your back up, ask yourself, why would he do it this way, and what can I learn from it?
Biblically, the story of Moses illustrates how God likes to work: with one person, or on the smallest scale possible, and through that narrow channel, bring greatness into the world, as with Constantine, St. Francis, and so many others. Ultimately, we can say Exodus: Gods and Kings is a film about civil war, and with the third Captain America film about the civil war caused by Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, and the metaphor of civil war in the Dwayne Johnson film San Andreas, we can safely deduce we will be seeing more of this theme in the next year.
One of what may prove to be the most controversial metaphor is that God is being represented as a child, even a naughty child. There is a horrible storm, three sheep have escaped and Moses tries catching them in the storm; there is an avalanche, mud and rocks come down, hitting Moses on the head and burying him in mud; he wakes up and sees a bush alight with a blue flame and there's a little boy; Moses says help me, I've broken my leg; and the boy replies, you've done worse than that. As Moses and the boy talk, the boy lays down rocks, and he builds a pyramid, which is a recurring symbol in the film.
What does all this mean?
Seti (John Turturro) is the father of Ramses and uncle of Moses who would rather put Moses in charge of Egypt but can't. For a pagan, we know Seti is considered to be wise because of how his eyes are drawn, with the heavy black liner on both the upper and the lower lids. Outlining the eye as such indicates that he has wisdom for both day-to-day matters (the lower-lid) and of things of a higher order (the upper lid). Ramses wears liner on only the outside bottom lid, whereas Moses wears black liner on the inside bottom lid (showing self-knowledge and meditation). As you can see, there is a cobra on the headdress of Seti; his black and gold fabric head piece is meant to symbolize the expanded hood of a cobra. When the film opens, Seti holds a war council to determine what should be done with a band of nomads on their border. It might be tempting for some people to look at this as the issue of illegal immigration in the US today, but I don't think that would be a wise course, rather, it demonstrates that, in spite of Seti's "wisdom," even he is a tyrant of the socialist order because he can't let people "just be," he has to destroy or enslave them, just like socialist states. It's important to note that, as Seti lies dying, Ramses lurks in the background, "eating" something, which foreshadows how his "appetites" will control him during his own reign.
The storm Moses walks into is the "dark night of the soul," the kind of storm that symbolizes life's problems (think of when Jesus and the 12 are on the boat and they encounter the storm and Jesus calms the waves with one word; or the storm that arises when Jonah runs from delivering the message of the Lord to Nineveh). This storm refers to the "storm" that broke out when Moses confessed himself to be Miriam's brother (more on this below) and Moses was exiled. How can we say that? Because through this storm, Moses is 1) following three sheep and, 2) walking up the mountain. These are also symbolic.
The Burning Bush in the story of Moses is a reflection of Moses' own soul, because it foreshadows how Christ Crucified will be the Burning Tree (Jesus' love for us consuming Him as He dies on the tree of the Cross for us), but Moses is only a bush, because--while Moses is a great man and a prophet--he is only man and anything he does is imperfect but it foreshadows the coming of the perfect Lord in Jesus. In this image, Moses sees the bush (but he's buried in mud with a broken leg) and it burns with the blue intensity of coals at their hottest; why? God knows, because God made Moses, that if Moses chooses to follow God, Moses will have pure, and (as much as possible) perfect love for God, and in return, God will reward Moses with great wisdom, which is what blue (the color of the flames) symbolizes; as we know, however, blue is also the color of depression, because the path to wisdom is the path of sorrow and loss. There are at least three reasons for Malek being represented as a little boy: first, the journey of Moses is one of the first narratives to provide an identity for God, so even though God is ancient, He is still young in terms of what we know about Him at this time in human history. Secondly, this foreshadows what Christ would say, have the faith of little children, and God wants Moses to have this kind of faith, but Moses is no where near being that spiritually advanced. Thirdly, There are times when Moses (and I know this from my own personal experience) behaves childishly rather than like a child. The difference is in the form of yelling, temper tantrums and fits, and the little boy gives us a more intimate view of what Moses has to overcome in becoming the great leader he is destined for.
The three sheep symbolize the Holy Trinity (think of the Three Angels who came to visit with Abraham on their way to see what was happening in Sodom and Gomorrah) and, after Moses met with the elders, Nun (Ben Kingsley) wanted to tell him something; Moses should not have gone, but he was being led by,.. something. That was the Holy Spirit, and the Will of the Trinity, symbolized by those three sheep running up the mountainside in the wild storm. Why a mountain? When we are getting closer to God, we go "higher-up" in our conscious state, towards "higher ideals," rather than the lowliness of earthly concerns. The journey, however, is difficult, and we have to overcome the obstacles of sin (the big rocks) our lack of faith (there being no clear path to take) and our bond to earthly things (slipping and getting stuck, wanting to turn back). In discovering he is Hebrew, Moses has started out the difficult climb on the mountain.
What about the avalanche?
This woman is the priestess who tells Set, Ramses and Moses that, in the fight Seti wants Ramses to lead, a leader's life will be saved and another man will become a leader. After hearing her oracle, Moses tells Ramses that, when Ramses comes into power, Ramses needs to get rid of her; after Moses returns, however, she is still there; why did Ramses not get rid of her? Because even though Moses was sent into exile, and Ramses knew he wouldn't hear from him again, Ramses knew in his heart that Moses would become a leader against him, just as Moses, hearing Nun's story (Ben Kinglsey) believed it in his heart even though he denied it with his lips. What's interesting is, the drawings on her face and her features liken her to Zipporah, Moses' wife. Why this similarity? Zipporah is the vessel of Moses' faith as the priestess is the vessel of Ramses' faith. A difference between the Cecil B DeMille Ten Commandments and Scott's is the absence of the rivalry for the same woman, however, that rivalry still exists, but it's transferred to Egypt (the motherland). 
The avalanche, the releasing of the mud and rock, symbolizes the difficult events God permits to happen to us to make us realize how weak we are (like Moses leading the people but getting lost, and then being faced with a deep sea that they can't cross unless God intervenes; there is also the avalanche when Ramses' chariots fall over the cliff, and that, too, is God intervening, warning Ramses not to go further, but Ramses won't heed the warning). No one likes to be told they are sinners, so God shows us how we are sinners. When the mud and rocks are loosed in the storm, Moses is knocked off his feet and hit in the head with a big rock. This symbolizes that Moses is "hard-headed," and he will be difficult to work with, but God is infinitely patient, and this is how God has determined He wants to save Israel and Moses because Moses needs saving, too.
This is an interesting shot of Zipporah, Moses' wife, because her face is framed in the silver jewelry the way we will see Moses' face framed in mud when he sees the Burning Bush on the mountain. Why? Moses is destined to be a prophet but that doesn't change that he's a man of sin for the moment; Zipporah, however, is a woman of faith, even standing up to Moses to defend it because she believes it. In Hebrew, the word for "word" sounds very much like the word for silver, and that's why Christ, the Word of God, is so often depicted in silver on the Cross; in this image, Zipporah's face surrounded by the silver illustrates her deep faith in the mysteries of God and God keeping His "Word" to His people. Like Seti's eyes, Zipporah's entire eye is outlined, but in blue, not black, because Zipporah will gain much wisdom, but mostly because of the sorrow she will have to bear because of Moses and his role for Israel.
When Moses "wakes up," he is "waking up" spiritually; he's buried in mud, and this symbolizes two things: first, that Moses has been dead in sin, buried like a dead man and, secondly, that Moses is covered in sin (the filth). That's okay, because showing people mercy is what God does best, but because Moses lacks all spirituality (which we know from a previous discussion with his wife over their son being taught her religion) he has to start from the very beginning, and that's okay, too, because you can't give someone something that you yourself have not received first; in other words, God is going to "raise Moses from scratch," so that Moses, in return, will be able to raise the Israelites from scratch in their spirituality. So, when Moses wakes up, first he sees the Burning Bush (please see discussion above under the caption for the image) and then the little boy comes out and that's where things get serious.
Why does Ramses keep checking his wife and baby to see if they are all right and still breathing? Because Ramses is a slave to fear, as are all tyrants. Fear stun ts our growth, which is why God will pull "avalanches" in our life, so we get over being enslaved to fear and learn to trust Him, but this doesn't happen with Ramses. What's important is to compare the three little boys in the film: Ramses' son, Moses' son and the little boy Malek. If you will notice, the two times that we see Ramses' son's face, it is like he has some mucus crusted around the bottom of his nose, little kids get the sniffles, but it's like something is wrong with him. What? Well, when Moses goes to the district where the slaves live, he stinks, and Moses covers his face; the nose usually symbolizes the presence of sin or virtue because scent is a way to communicate that which cannot readily be seen or touched. In other words, the crustiness around the baby's nose suggests he is all ready infected with sin; why? Because of the way Ramses loves him (hold this thought for a moment). When Malek appears to Moses, Moses is buried in mud and his leg broken and head hurt, but Malek doesn't do anything to help him, Malek talks about what he wants done, not about what aide Moses needs; why?  This is "tough love," the kind of love that doesn't spoil or pamper, but exists so you can grow and reach your potential.  God loves us tough because He is the only one who can make the hard decision to let us suffer. Moses tries to blend these two types of love with his son, but most importantly, the love Moses has for his son is the love we need to imagine God, our Father, having for us. 
Officially, the little boy isn't referred to as "God" in the film, but as Malak, which is Hebrew for messenger, sometimes angel. Moses sees what, to him, is a little boy, and says, help me, my leg is broken. This validates what we have said above, regarding Moses not being spiritually advanced: he sees a brilliantly burning bush that doesn't burn, and then he sees a little boy that he has never seen before, and he thinks it's a human boy, rather than thinking with his heart and understanding something supernatural is happening, literally, something above nature and above the explanations we can offer. When Moses says he thinks he has broken his leg, this is a stroke of genius, because without this, we wouldn't understand the next hour of the film.
I couldn't find an actual image of Isaac Andrews portraying Malek (God) in the film, but this is the actor who does so, and quite well. This is a point of artistic license: Scott could have, as in The Ten Commandments, had God be nothing but a big, deep, dramatic voice; what's wrong with that? Well, a lot. God is majestic, I am not trying to undermine that, but God also compares Himself to a human mother, and we should not undermine that, either. It's difficult to develop the "character" of God if it's just a voice, and it's difficult to develop the bond and relationship with Moses if it's just a voice; it makes both of them seem "other worldly" and while there is a great deal of the "super natural" taking place, the relationship that does develop illustrates how natural it is to have a relationship with God and how much God wants to have a relationship with us and the path it takes.
The legs symbolize our "standing" in society, our reputation, our status and position in society (so, earlier, when the Viceroy arrives to tattle on Moses, the Viceroy completely kneels before Ramses, hiding his legs totally, literally saying, before you, great pharaoh, I have no standing, I am so humbled). Moses telling Malak, I have broken my leg, means, I have lost my position at the Egyptian court and I miss it (at least, there are things I miss about it); when Malak tells Moses I am in need of a general, Moses mis-understands what Malak is saying, and Malak realizes that, but wants Moses to work his way through his mis-understanding because, until Moses realizes that Malak really means, nothing can be accomplished.
So, what does Malak mean?
There is a saying in the spiritual life: if you are not progressing, you are digressing. Moses is always ready to do what needs to be done, whether that is go to battle or go check on a unruly viceroy; Ramses doesn't ever really seem ready for anything, and is, therefore, constantly digressing. Even though Moses hasn't been working on the right path, he has worked on his ability to work, which is important, and is the main reason why Moses will make a good leader, after he finally overcomes his pride.
Moses wants to be a earthly general again, the kind that he was at the start of the show, going into battle; Malak needs a general of "spiritual warfare," but Moses doesn't even know such a thing exists yet (there is an interesting note about St. Francis we can use to illustrate this: in a dream, God showed Francis a room full of weapons, and God said he was going to give these weapons to Francis and his followers; Francis took this to be a call from God to go to war but, Francis later realized these were weapons for spiritual warfare, fasting, prayer, penance, discipline, etc.). The next hour of the film is, literally, Moses trying to lead an actual war against Egypt and failing, until Malak tells Moses that he has failed and it's time to let him work (more on that in a moment). Now, what do the rocks Malak uses symbolize?
This was an important moment in the film for me, and it ends up that it was an accurate prediction: the raised, closed fist is a fairly common gesture, however, it's also one we have seen more of lately, especially being used by socialists and minority groups identifying with socialism, such as the Black Panthers. 
When Moses tells the "boy" that his leg is broke, Malak replies, "There's more wrong than that," and this is why Moses is buried in the mud, and it might also refer to Moses not being circumcised, which is a detail from the Biblical story; regardless, Malak knows Moses has no faith, doesn't know anything about being Jewish, and doesn't know anything about Him (which no one really does, which is why God allowed all this 400 years of suffering to happen, so we could come to know Him). Now, what do the rocks Malak uses symbolize?
This is the moment when, during the battle that was prophesied about at the start of the show, Moses saves Ramses' life, and Ramses takes a spear and almost acts like he's going to kill Moses; why? Again, just as Moses believes the story Nun tells him about his birth (and maybe about him being the leader to set them free) so Ramses believes that Moses is going to undo his destiny to rule Egypt. 
Obviously, they symbolize a pyramid, but there is more to it than just that. Malak puts down one square rock, then another beside it, and so on; the first rock symbolizes Moses, who is a precursor to Christ, who is described as the "cornerstone" upon which all the other rocks are built. At this point, when Moses sees the rocks stacked like that, he thinks of the Egyptian pyramids; what Malak actually means are the great temples to Himself He is going to cause to be made of which Moses is a cornerstone. Remember, the opening lines of the film talk about "slaves" building the structures, cities and glory of Egypt; now, it will be the Children of God becoming the structures, the temples, the glory of God and that is how Moses is going to become a leader to Israel. Now, let's pause to ask the overwhelmingly obvious question,...
On a black horse, with a white cowl, Moses goes to see the slaves and talk to them to see if they are planning some kind of sedition. Moses rides a black horse because his spirit is dead, consumed at this point by only worldly concerns (the economic concerns of Egypt). The white cowl illustrates that, at this time, Moses is dead to faith, to innocence and holiness; he is a walking corpse. This leads us to an interesting facet that Scott somewhat amends: the assassins. When Moses comes out of Nun's hut, there are two Egyptian guards there that Moses kills and hurts, who end up being assassins sent by Ramses' mother. In the Scripture, Moses killed an Egyptian and buried him in the sand; why? the Egyptian symbolizes Moses himself, that part of him that grew up in Egypt and loves Egypt, so when he embraces his Hebrew identity, he has to completely destroy that inner-Egyptian and he does so by burying it where he can't continue to be Egyptian (in the sand). Once Moses has been exiled, and Moses goes through the dust storm, when his horse dies, he wakes up and there are two men there that Moses kills. They are thieves, but not really "human" thieves, but demons sent to turn Moses astray from the path he was following. His horse dying symbolizes the spirit within him dying, but when he has to fight (the signs that he can become a general of spiritual warfare) he wins a double portion of his spirit back (the two horses that had belonged to the thieves). 
Why on earth did God choose Moses?
Why not choose someone who grew up with the slaves? Why not someone who had all ready been through all the spiritual warfare and progression? Why not someone who wouldn't argue with Him? Because God's patience is infinite, and His determination to save souls is as well. Remember, as Moses tells the Viceroy, Israel means "One who wrestles with God," and in choosing Moses, God lived up to His Name. But there is another reason: just because Moses is "rough around the edges," God sees the heart, and knows what He made Moses to be, that when Moses is probably trained, Moses will be the leader God destined him for. This is evidenced by what will surely be another controversial point: why does Moses carve the Ten Commandments, instead of receiving them from the Hand of God?
In this scene, Moses learns from Nun (Kingsley) that his mother is not Bithia and his sister is Miriam. This is the first time Moses has heart it, but the next day, Ramses will bring Miriam in and threaten to cut her arm off if she doesn't tell Ramses that she is the sister of Moses and Moses is the one who stops Ramses and yells "Yes!" she is my sister, after having heard Nun's story the night before. In nine years, after his exile, when Moses comes back, he comes back to Nun and they work out how to deliver the Hebrews from bondage. To show how far Moses progresses in his faith, he won't even believe a story in this scene, but at the end of the film, his eyes have turned blue (he's not blind, rather, filled with wisdom in all he "sees") and he rides with the Ark of the Covenant. 
It would have been easy for Ridley Scott to show us the lightening bolt carving the commandments of God into the stone, but instead, Scott takes a more intimate view: most of us, in today's world of emails and texting, don't know what it was like to have to carve a letter onto a stone tablet. When, towards the end of the film, we see Moses patiently carving and Malak preparing and bringing him something to drink, what on earth does this mean? After all, Moses was fasting for forty days when he received the Ten Commandments, so this is obviously a blatant disregard for the Scriptures, right? Wrong. When we fast, we abstain from earthly food so we can focus on purifying ourselves to receive spiritual food, the Word of God, His Laws and Commands (man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from God). What Malak hands to Moses that he drinks from is symbolic of that spiritual food Moses has been receiving during his forty day fasting. This spiritual food is what allows God to engrave the Ten Commandments upon the heart of Moses--for Moses first has to receive them into his heart, which he fully does when he descends from the mountain and finds the worshiping of the golden calf. But Moses carving the stone symbolizes what God Himself has done in the heart of Moses, and what God does in the "stony" hearts of each of us as we become closer to Him.
Before Moses goes to see the slaves, we see Ramses with a yellow King Cobra around him, and there is a pit of them. Moses enters and offers to do the errand for Ramses, and Moses watches him take some of the cobra's venom. "A little venom in the blood is good," Ramses tells Moses, "it helps to build up an immune to the next bite." What does this mean? Ramses doesn't trust anyone because no one treats him the way he wants to be treated, the way he treats his baby in his crib. There are snakes on his decorative armor, so--like Seti above--Ramses identifies himself with the very snake he fears will bite him. Why is this important? The snake invokes the serpent in the Garden Of Eden, and Ramses identifies with that rather than God, as Moses does. 
God introduces the plagues to demonstrate that He, not Moses, and not the military powers are going to free the Children of Israel, and He begins with a part that is not in the Bible: crocodiles. Why on earth does Scott include this scene and what does it mean? Because the Egyptians worshiped the Nile crocodile in the god Sobek, which is a false god, so the True God has turned the Egyptians gods against the Egyptians so they have no protection. For example, Sobek specifically was a god who was supposed to ward off evil, in the film, however, Sobek's crocodiles introduce the evil in the blood spilling out into the waters of the Nile. No, Scott does not use this as a natural explanation for the plagues, and to emphasize that, he has the "Expert" talk to the Egyptian court (please see note above under the first poster for more). So the crocodiles attack and the Nile turns to blood; why?
The Egyptians also worshiped the Nile, it was one of their many gods, including frogs and various livestock that ends up dying. This demonstrates that God, the I AM who called Moses into His Service, not only dominates all the elements of the earth, but all demons and any idols. Why did God want to do this? For at least two reasons. First, to assure the Children of Israel that, finally, God had heard their prayers and was on their side working in their favor; secondly, to show the Egyptians that their gods could not stand up to Him, and they should convert to the God with the most power. In not converting to the God with the most power, the Egyptians proved that they deserved to have the plagues come upon them  because of their hardness of heart. But what about the innocent Hebrews who also were experiencing the plagues, as Moses points out to God?
When Moses first goes to the Hebrew slave settlement, it stinks, and he has to cover his face, someone saying, "You get used to it." That stench is the order of sin. Even though they still pray to God and hope for deliverance, not having had a spiritual leader and God not having revealed Himself to them, they fell into the ways of the Egyptians and picked up all kinds of bad habits, like idolatry (we know this from the making of the golden calf episode). Moses rides past Joshua being whipped, but smiling and the taskmaster telling Moses that Joshua claims he feels no pain; why not? Because Joshua knows pain is redemptive, that God is purifying him by means of his pain and suffering, that's why he's Joshua and will take over the leading of the Israelites after Moses is taken up, and Joshua himself will become a foreshadowing of Christ. So even though Moses doesn't want the Hebrews to suffer, God knows that it is necessary. Before moving onto the political, let's talk about what is proving to be another controversial point: the parting of the Red Sea.
I have seen two reports of critics who have said that the film doesn't show God parting the Red Sea. First of all, why is this--like the Burning Bush--important? The parting foreshadows Christ upon the Cross (the nails holding His hands apart as two men held Moses' arms apart and up so all the Hebrews could cross) parting the troubled waters of the worldly concerns so you and I can come to Him and leave the world behind. Moses was a prophet, but he was also just a man, and as such, did things imperfectly, whereas Jesus Christ, as God, did all things perfectly, including His death. This is why it's an important theological issue; so, does Scott, or does he not, show an acceptable parting of the Red Sea?
When God is parting the Red Sea, the Hebrews start crossing before all the water has been pushed back for them; why? It's to demonstrate that sometimes, God allows us to start out in deep water, but He is there and is in control; as the Jews cross, the water is completely pushed back and they do, indeed, cross on dry land (does that sea bed look like low tide to you?). 
To insure that we the audience know God has parted the Red Sea, Scott has Moses go "the wrong way" from the map he originally drew; Moses doesn't get to the Straits of the Red Sea where he had intended on leading the Israelites at low tide, instead, he gets lost and leads them to a deep part, so deep, it has small, white-capped waves, and finally, God wins: Moses is humbled. This whole time, Moses has depended upon himself to free and lead the Children of Israel, but now, he doesn't know what to do and in humility, he asks God for help, and God answers. The critics who have said God doesn't do it, must not have watched the scene, because it's big, it's dramatic, and only the Hand of God could have done what is done (please see the water piled up in the image below, that's NOT low tide); to emphasize that God, indeed, does part it, Ridley Scott chooses to have Moses doing something else rather than standing up with his arms being outstretched, which leads us to our next point.
It's difficult to see, but there are little white birds in this scene, and that stands for both Moses and the Holy Spirit (since the Spirit uses Moses to lead). The horse is a sign of the lack of faith, the lack of belief that God will save and deliver the Jews from the Egyptian army. The water comes crashing down on the horse to demonstrate that this miracle destroys the disbelief any had that God is in charge and He will protect His people, which is why the water has a green tint to it, that's hope, which means that since God will protect His people, anything is possible.
Why does Moses and Ramses stay out and get swept up in the water? Moses goes out onto the sea bed to meet Ramses because NOW, Moses has complete faith in God that God will protect him and keep him safe (this is not an arrogance thing, but the faith a child has in their parent); Ramses, on the other hand, wants to be swept up and away, he wants it all to end; if he can't kill Moses, he wants to be killed himself, as he suggested in the first battle opening the film when the possibility of Moses saving him was brought up. Why does Ramses survive being nearly drowned? This is where we go into the political dimensions of the film.
When the Jews have packed and are leaving Egypt, we briefly see a little girl who holds a cross made out of straw; later, when Ramses tracks them down, he finds the cross left on the ground and steps on it; why? It's the admission by Scott that the following events of the parting of the sea and the chasing of the people to destroy them prefigures what will take place on the Cross, and that Ramses is a part of that drama, being filled with the venom of the serpent. Ramses survives being drowned because he symbolizes the socialist threat and tyrannical reality, it works to create a balance protecting us today from those who would break the rules of society and capitalism for their own gain; this threat makes the big businesses realize they have to respect the workers and small businesses or they may espouse socialism and the big businesses would have everything to lose then.
THE defining moment of linking Ramses to Obama comes when Ramses thinks Moses is nearby (no, it's the Presence of God) and Ramses is talking out loud and says, "Do you want to see who is better at killing? Me or you?" Who is it who has recently boasted about how good they are at killing people? Obama told his aides that he is really good at killing people in 2012. The real test, however, comes when Ramses and Moses see each other for the first time in like ten years.
What do the multiple tornadoes symbolize? We have seen them several times lately: Take Shelter with Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, Journey 2 with Dwayne Johnson and Into the Storm with Richard Armitrage; what does it mean? Multiple storms. Simple, huh? No, in America right now, there are so many scandals going on, this is a perfect illustration of the Fast and Furious, NSA, Veteran's Administration, Benghazi, the IRS, wire-tapping the journalists, illegal immigration and un-Constitutional power grabbing, and beheading of American citizens by ISIS (and this is just off the top of my head) that all these devastating storms--anyone one of them fatal by itself, but catastrophic altogether--are unnatural/supernatural.
Ramses is up late, by himself, and wanders into the stables where Moses finds him and tells him that "things have gotten worse" since Ramses came into power. No, Ramses, tells Moses, things are better. For Americans, let me ask you, are you better off now than you were before 2008, or were you better off then? Ramses goes onto claim that there is law and order. Moses retorts that the bodies of slaves are being burned day and night, he's seen it with his own eyes. Now, when has a government engaged in the burning of human bodies day and night? The Nazis with the concentration camps and the burning of the Jews which is exactly what Ramses is doing, killing Jews! But when Moses tells Ramses that Moses wants Ramses to set them free, Ramses replies that they are animals, and they wouldn't know what to do with themselves.
Does this sound familiar?
It should.
It's important that it's been nine years since Ramses and Moses have seen each other; why? Nine is "novena" in the Catholic Church, the same number of days the Apostles were told to pray and Christ would send the Holy Spirit upon them, so Moses has been (unknowingly) participating in a nine-year novena for the Holy Spirit to come upon him so he can confront Ramses. Ultimately, for the political interpretation, this is the most important scene in the film because it's the accusations of Moses that reveal Ramses for being a socialist tyrant.
Socialists don't believe in the human soul, our inherent dignity as Children of God created in His image. Socialists believe, just like Ramses, that the state is god. "I am god! I am the god!" Ramses shouts into the night. The reason socialists want such a strong state is because they believe that people are not capable of taking care of themselves, just as Ramses says in the scene above. There is a whole slew of other instances verifying this interpretation, for example, the killing of innocent people until Moses and his family is turned over; the determination that his elaborate projects should be built for his glory (we see this in the former Soviet Union, North Korea and China with citizens being used as slave labor to implement state projects). During the plagues, an official asks Ramses to open the granaries for the people so they don't starve and Ramses replies, "So, what, you want me to starve? They have water, they will manage." In every socialist state, this is exactly what happens (every single one of them, and in America today, too) because when citizens break into the granary, Ramses orders them executed.
There is an excellent scene in the film, when Ramses pursues the Hebrews, and they follow Moses on a narrow mountain pass. Ramses refuses to allow the horses to stop and rest, and he refuses to proceed slowly around the narrow pathway, going full speed ahead:
This scene in the clip above is actually shortened from what takes place in the film, but you get the idea: those who follow Ramses find only death. This pattern is repeated (with what remaining men he has) at the Red Sea and all are lost. This is the time, however, to ask, "Why does Ramses survive? Why does God permit him to continue living?" This is the purpose of the two swords, Moses having Ramses' sword, and Ramses having Moses' sword. Socialism--to a degree--actually protects capitalism because if capitalist governments and business owners violate the rules in capitalism, their victims have the option of bringing out "the sword of Ramses" to bring justice to those who are the violators of the law (the way Obama's election was seen as a reprimand to companies like The Lehman Brothers and Fannie Mae); whereas, in socialist countries, the citizens (theoretically) have the sword of Moses, the sword of revolt to insure their leaders keep their promises and take care of the people.
In conclusion, Exodus: Gods and Kings is both an excellent Biblical film, bringing us deeper into the mysteries of the story of Moses and our own spirituality, while simultaneously commenting on the increasingly tragic state of America today. In all of this, the great political irony is that Obama was the one seen as the "liberator," the Messiah who would usher in a new great era of humanity; in reality, he's just another petty tyrant like Ramses. After the last image, a title card comes up saying, "Dedicated to my brother, Tony Scott." Death has a way of touching us all; for those of us who believe in indulgences, let us remember his soul in our prayers.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
I just want to make this abundantly clear one more time: the vast water wall you see in this image is what it looks like in the film; this is NOT low tide, and Moses and the Hebrews know God has parted the Red Sea when they cross it. There are two enemies of this film: those who hate religion and want to see the film fail, and those who hate art and don't want to understand their own religion, of their own heart, better. The film isn't for everyone, but if it looks good to you, I hope you will enjoy it; I plan on getting a copy of this for my own library when it comes out. Because of the timings of the earliest showings, I didn't get to see it in 3D, which I sincerely wish I could have; if you have that option, I would go with it!