When Gods Go to War

Last week, the first trailer came out for Ridley Scott’s new movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings. I’ll admit, I didn’t watch it right away, but I’ll explain why in just a little bit. I finally got around to it. And here it is, so you can see it for yourself:

So it looks pretty interesting, right? I mean, I dig the imagery of the plagues, especially the hailstorm. And that last shot of the horse standing before the waters took my breath away.

I guess the real question is, will I go and see it in the theaters?

As of right now, my answer is a qualified “We’ll see.”

What I do find intriguing is the subtitle, “Gods and Kings.” I’m hoping that means that Ridley Scott has tumbled to one of the interesting subtexts of the Exodus story, the fact that the story isn’t just about a labor dispute between Pharaoh and Moses. Instead, this is an example of a Deity going to war against other gods. It’s the story of God showing that the Egyptian gods are powerless before Him.

That’s part of what the plagues are all about. Each time that God struck at Egypt, He wasn’t just punishing Pharaoh and his subjects. No, God was also demonstrating that Egypt’s gods were nothing but fabrications.

Take the first plague, turning the Nile to blood. According to Egyptian religion, Hapi was the god in control of the Nile’s annual flooding. By turning the Nile to blood, God was issuing a challenge to Hapi: “Try and stop me.”

The same thing is true when it comes to the ninth plague, that of darkness. The supreme deity within the Egyptian pantheon was Ra, the sun god. By covering the land of Egypt with thick darkness, God was showing that Ra too was powerless before the God of Israel.

That’s even true of the final plague, the death of the firstborn. The Egyptians believed that Pharaoh himself was divine, a descendant of the gods Osiris and Horus. By striking at Pharaoh, God showed that his supposed divinity was nothing.

Why would God bother with knocking around Egypt’s gods? Well, remember, at that point, the Israelites had been in Egypt for somewhere around four centuries. They had lived in a land dedicated to the worship of these deities. The Bible even suggests that the Israelites themselves worshiped these gods. Because of that, God had to free His people not just from bondage to the Egyptians but to the Egyptians’ gods as well.

And really, that’s what God continues to do for us, even today. Our world is still filled with little gods who try to claim us and our devotion. The sad thing is that we usually give ourselves to one or many of them freely. But thankfully, through Christ, God continues to call His people out. He calls us to freedom.

I don’t know if Ridley Scott picked up on that subtext and wove it into his movie. If he did, good for him. If not, well, it might be an interesting spectacle.

One Comment:

  1. What a timely post; I just finished reading about the plagues.

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