“Exodus: Gods and Kings” — Conflict, Control, and Conversion

By Ruben Chavez

For many people Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston will always be the definitive cinematic version of the Exodus story. This holiday season veteran director Ridley Scott gives the audience his retelling of the classic moment in salvation history that deserves a real good amount of reflection and introspection. Exodus: Gods and Kings follows the story of Moses, played by Christian Bale, and Ramesses, played by Joel Edgerton, who are raised under the false belief that they are half-brothers in a polytheistic society that believes in the power of their prophecies and gods. Ramesses believes in gods that serve his need. On the contrary, Moses does not believe in any kind of god. After being exiled because of the discovery of his Israelite nature, Moses’ true mission in life is revealed to him by the one and only true God who refers to himself as “I AM.”

Under the circumstances, there are a few themes that jump out as the story unfolds. One of those themes has to do with conflict. There many conflicts throughout the film which create great tension between every character. These conflicts include the conflict seen visually on screen during the battle scenes; the conflict Ramesses has in his courtyard with Moses being an Israelite; the internal conflict Moses has accepting the truth about himself and a God that wants to save His people; and, ultimately, the conflict between Ramesses and God. The tension makes for good solid character study, analysis, and entertainment. In our faith, we are challenged by many events in our lives. We can feel conflicted in many situations, but character and heart grow in unison when we learn how Christ wants us to endure and resolve conflict or allow Him to solve some for us.

Consequently, the power of control is wielded back and forth between Moses, Ramesses, and God. If there is one thing Moses and Ramesses have in common, it is that they are very similar in how much certainty they have in their own strengths. Even after Moses is exiled and practically saved by a nomadic Israelite tribe in Midian, he still does not feel he needs a God to survive or handle himself. When he is given the mission from God, Moses still chooses to do it his way. which includes warfare tactics, but to God this is a waste of time. Likewise, Ramesses believes he is a god who even challenges Moses and God to see who can kill the most people. Both of these men believe that everything is under their control. In the end, God has the final say, and that is something not found in many movies these days.

Overall, this story is ultimately told in the scope of the conversion story of Moses. This is the heart of the film. In the Bible, Moses is a reluctant leader, and the director, Ridley Scott, chose to spotlight on Moses’ relationship with God. God has to keep nudging Moses to the point where God yells at Moses. Moses argues with God almost the entire film, and for some people this may not be the ideal way to talk to God. For others, like those who are trying to understand God in their own lives, arguing with God is sometimes the only way some can talk to God. Many people don’t just understand God and his ways, and this movie did a good job of showing how we sometimes struggle with being patient with God and how that patience does pay off with His promises.