10 inaccuracies plaguing the ‘Exodus’ movie

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Ridley Scott's epic film deviates from the biblical narrative in at least these 10 places. - Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Ridley Scott’s epic film deviates from the biblical narrative in at least these 10 places. – Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Polls have shown that religious audiences care a lot about whether a Bible film is “biblically accurate.” This is a difficult phrase to use when one is talking about taking a story from one medium (literature) to another (film), but I understand the sentiment. Religious moviegoers want the film to be recognizable or to “feel” like the story as they know it.

“Exodus” has now been in theaters for a week, and many religious bloggers have pointed to the ways in which the film deviates from the text. Now I’m no purist when it comes to Bible films, and I appreciate meaningful artistic flourishes. But I have still compiled a compendium of where the film fails to get the story straight. Readers can judge whether they believe the error is problematic or not.

1. Moses: Orator or Stammerer?
The bible describes Moses as ineloquent and “slow of speech and tongue.” But in the movie, he is a courageous and capable communicator. He even gives a rousing speech as the sea parts reminiscent of Braveheart.

2. Fleeing For The Wrong Reason
In the biblical narrative, Moses murders an Egyptian who is beating a Hebrew slave and hides the corpse in the sand. In the movie, he kills an Egyptian for no reason and leaves the corpse in the street. In the biblical narrative, Moses flees Egypt when his murderous act becomes known. In the film, he flees when Pharaoh suspicions that he may have been born a Hebrew.

3. Boy, Not Bush
In the Bible, Moses sees a burning bush and, when he investigates, God speaks from within the bush. The film opts instead for a scene that depicts God in a somewhat schizophrenic way. Moses wakes from a terrible accident to see a bush mysteriously on fire and next to it is a young boy who speaks as if God. Director Ridley Scott told me that the boy is “Malak” or a “messenger” of God rather than the Almighty. But the boy uses the famous “I Am” line to take on the divine name, so religious audiences will be excused for their confusion.

4. A Society in Self-Tanner
There has been much hullabaloo over the film’s race problem—that is, there are almost no people of color in the film except in some smaller roles. Instead, we get a cast of white Western actors playing a society of people who would undeniably have had dark skin. Sigourney Weaver—hold your laughter—plays a African queen.

5. Prince of Egypt Mythology
There is some extra-biblical mythology that has emerged in some modern retellings of Exodus in which Moses grows up as Pharaoh’s son and the brother of the future Pharaoh. This allows for a sub-narrative of sibling rivalry that spices up the story. Bu there is little biblical support for such a thing. In actuality, the text says Moses grew up as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter or Pharaoh’s grandson. The man cast as Moses brother–the original Pharaoh’s son–in the film would likely have been Moses’ uncle. Regardless, there is no mention of anything resembling “sibling rivalry” in the text itself.

6. Jewish Freedom-Fighters
The Bible casts Moses as a messenger who lets God handle the destruction. The film casts him as something of a violent liberator that trains the Hebrew slaves to fight like Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. His protégés end up burning fields and killing sailors, waging a war of attrition. A scene where he leads a band of guerrilla fighters to blow up an Egyptian storehouse is especially odd.

7. A Staffing Problem
The staff of Moses is not just folklore. It is a prominent part of the biblical narrative. But Moses’ iconic staff is absent in the film. Instead, he wields an Egyptian sword, which plays a central role in the sea-parting miracle.

8. Only Two Announcements
In the Bible, Moses and Aaron announce or administer each of the plagues before Pharaoh. In the film, Moses has a nighttime encounter with Pharaoh before the first plague and offers a vague warning before the last. How do they know that God may be behind it all? A mysterious horse shows up with the message painted on its ribcage. Seriously.

9. The Crocodile Plague (and the seven, err, eight others)
In the Bible narrative, God uses Aaron to transform the Nile by stretching his rod over the waters. In the film, this never happens. Instead, hundreds of crocodiles seem to go insane. In a violent frenzy they kill themselves and others and their blood turns the Nile red. Also, the film depicts eight or nine plagues, depending on what you count. Ten plagues are mentioned in the Bible.

10. Pharaoh Survives
In the Bible, God says that victory will be obtained “through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen” being destroyed in the sea. After the miracle, the text says that “not one of [the Egyptians] survived.” But in the film, Pharaoh somehow survives the crushing weight of the water wall. Who knows…maybe Scott is setting us up for an epic extra-biblical sequel.

Did I miss any? If so, add them below in the comment section.

  • Jon

    The data suggests that inaccuracies are not a problem. This can be seen by the fact that of the Christian Bible movies of 2014 (Noah, Son of God and Exodus), the biggest loser was the one that stuck to the Bible – the Son of God.

    “Son” was a box office bomb. By Saturday the Hobbit will have already made more in a few days than Son did in months. By contrast, the Christian Bible movie that strayed the most from the Bible was clearly Noah – which was far and away the biggest success of all of them, which isn’t saying much.

    So it seems that keeping to the bible text gives a failure of a movie. Exodus is in between.

    Data. It does a discussion good. Just check box office mojo dot com.

  • JR

    #1 really can’t be considered an inaccuracy when you consider that God assured Moses “…I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:12 ESV) One can only assume God accomplished in Moses what he said he would. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the movie)

  • Larry

    1. Porky Pig, “I, Claudius” and “The Kings Speech” already taxed the limits of audience patience with stuttering lead characters. One should not subject audiences for a Biblical epic to the same for 2.5 hours.

    Mr. Merritt you are asking for audiences to be tortured for the sake of accuracy

    2. I would guess it ended up on the editing floor. This is usually the case with scenes which lack elaboration or seem out of context. I would wait for the Blu-ray not edited down for time to come out

    3. I am sure they could have used a CGI burning bush. Dramatic license is still dramatic license.

    4. It is pandering to a mostly white audience. Its like the old timey convention of having Brits play Romans/Egyptians/Oppressive types and Americans playing Hebrews, slaves, Thracians…. [Charlton Heston was ALWAYS exempt from this rule.]

    5. Did Cecil B. DeMille catch flak for the same exact dramatic license?

    6. Where do you think those slaves got their grain for unleavened bread and gold for that calf in the desert?

    7. In all fairness they were non-entities in the Heston film also. If not for the extra-Biblical subplot of Joshua loving the concubine of Little Caesar/Dathan one of the few a, they would pass unnoticed in that one as well. Ironically one of the few actual Jewish actors in that film played an Egyptian taskmaster.

    8. DeMille gave no announcement at all. One moment Chuck and Yul are talking, the next thing the stream on the soundstage turns red.

    9. Some of those plagues are tough to distinguish. A lot of the bug/disease ones kind of blend together. Wild animals is pretty vague.

    10. Entirely correct. Can’t find a reasonable excuse for that one.

    But in general, the 1956 film got away with much of the same inaccuracies but gets a pass by most people.

  • Ben in oakland

    Taking the story literally seems to me to be fair more the bigger problem.

    not a single mention of the Hebrews being slaves in Egypt, Joseph in Egypt, or the disaster of the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea (or, the Reed Sea, as some claim) ANYWHERE in any accounting of Egyptian history.

    And then there is that bit about the Egyptian priests changing their rods into serpents by the power of their gods. Is this yet another admission by the One and Only that he wasn’t the one and only? He pretty much said so in the Ten Commandments– and I’m not referring to the movie.

  • Ben in oakland

    BTW, the alleged race problem?

    Go to Ask.com, type in “ancient Egyptian race controversy” and receive a wealth of answers saying basically that no one knows, but everyone has an opinion.

  • Karla

    The Bible says God appeared in a burning bush so the movie was wrong
    in what they had in the film but many people today don’t stick to what the
    Bible/Word of God says. Many take verses out of context as well like the do
    not judge verse. We are not to make judgments between right and wrong
    but we are not to judge in a hypocritcal way which is why the Bible says to
    pull the plank out of our own eye first before we make righteous judgments
    about others but we are to make judgments between right and wrong! Bible
    says that we all must Repent! Many try to justify drinking by only drinkin wine
    not realizing that the wine Jesus made was from the fruit of the vine/new wine
    and diluted/made for symbolic reasons not to get drunk plus also John 2:10
    says that the cheaper/watered down/poorer wine was brought out after they
    had been drinking the stronger wine so best for last refers to the watered
    down/poorer/diluted wine and the Bible also says don’t get drunk on strong
    wine/don’t get drunk with wine for it’s debauchery so the people who try to
    justify their drinking by only drinkin wine are wrong/go to hell too cause the
    Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:10 all drunkards go to hell which includes all
    the people that get drunk with strong wine! Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk with wine for it’s debauchery! People have premarital sex then get
    married thinking that they covered it up but they never Repent and agree
    that sleeping around/premarital sex is wrong! We all need to/must Repent!

    Luke 13 the whole chapter says we must bear good fruit and that fruit is of
    Repentance not good works cause many non-believers do good works so
    we all must Repent! The Bible says that if you have a sharp tongue your
    religion is worthless so people need to stop being mean/bridle their tongue!
    Gossip,coveting/greed,jealousy,pride,gambling,takin the Lords nam in vain
    are also in need of being confronted. All sin is wrong! We all must Repent!
    Bible says Repent and believe the Gospel to be saved! We must Repent!

  • Re: #3, the ambiguity inherent in the “angel of the LORD” or “messenger of the LORD” being identified with God himself is there in the text. (The angel who appeared to Moses at the burning bush is mentioned in Exodus 3:2 and again in Acts 7:30-38.) Sometimes, in this and other stories, the angel speaks of God in the third person, and sometimes he is identified with God himself. Many Christians have resolved this ambiguity by supposing that the “angel of the LORD” was actually Jesus, i.e. God the Son, and that his references to God in the third person were actually references to God the Father.

    The angel who appeared to Moses at the burning bush has been omitted from most movies about Moses, so the fact that Exodus: Gods and Kings includes the angel is actually one of the few areas where this movie is *more* biblically accurate than its predecessors.

  • Marsha Lynn

    I suppose this is a minor thing, but I was really distracted by all those horses in the desert. My understanding is that horses are terrible in the desert because of their need for water and grain and were never commonly found among the Israelites.

  • Jon

    Two additional reasons why the Biblical differences are probably not a main cause of why Exodus bombed. (in addition to the data showing that it bombed because it was a Christian movie, given earlier).

    First – the number of people who care about what their chosen Bible says is simply too small to matter. Polls show that only around 25% of people (US) take their Bible literally – and those people are mostly in the older ages, who don’t go to movies much anyway. Driving off those people won’t change much.

    Second – even among those who care about bible literalism, Christians as a whole don’t know what their Bible actually says. Measure after measure of Christians knowledge of their Bible shows that they often don’t know the basics and rarely know details like those listed in the article above. In fact, the same poll data show that it is Atheists – who don’t care about the movie anyway – who are most likely to be knowledgeable about the text.

    So they don’t care and don’t know anyway.

    I didn’t post links to the data (RNS doesn’t like links posted), but they can be easily found with even a small amount of google-fu skill.

  • Jon

    Also – yes, there have been online complaints of deviating from the text by Christians. We already know there are a small proportion of Christians who are well versed in their Bibles and who are passionate about their Bibles. This small group will of course speak out, as we’ve seen. My point is that they are not in the demographic, nor are they big enough, to cause the epic fail of the Exodus movie. It was a bomb of, one could say “biblical proportions”.

  • TeeTee

    I appreciate the article. As a result of it, I am not likely to see the movie. One commented that The Son of GOD is the only one or most accurate of the Bible movie this year an I was the moved the most by Son. Powerful! Having seen many Biblical movies before reading the actual Bible provided me with my own
    Set of inaccuracies. Nevertheless, movie makers should stick to the Text with pristine accuracy. Anything else, is just a lie.

  • Marie

    I enjoyed the movie. The movie isn’t exactly the bible story but it is along the lines. No movie is ever exactly as the story. Ever. Everyone knows that. Especially if youre tying to make it entertaining. I enjoyed the film. It was spectacular.

  • Fran


    I agree that after seeing the Exodus movie, I felt that it deviated from the Bible account in so many ways and was very disappointed with it. Yes, I am very passionate about the Bible.

    At the same time, not everything in the Bible is literal (such as the creation days of the earth, the parables of Jesus, including the “rich man and Lazarus,” which many refer to as literal hellfire, but is not; and much of the symbolic language found in the book of Revelation).

    However, the good news is that when God’s kingdom or heavenly government officially exercises its upcoming 1,000-year rule over mankind on earth, many of the faithful servants of God mentioned in the Bible such as Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Ruth, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, etc, including the prophets of God such as Daniel, Ezekiel and Isaiah, will be resurrected from death back to life on earth, during that rule.

    We can then get the “real deal” from the mouths of Moses and Aaron themselves as to how and what happened back then before their exodus out of Egypt, as well as after!! I can hardly wait!! 😀

  • Fran


    See my response to Jon below!! 😀

  • Michael

    The new documentary, Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, makes a very compelling case for the historicity of the biblical event.

  • Jon

    Fran, your post seems like a short mention of my post followed by a lengthy and unrelated sermon. If you’d like you preach to people who aren’t interested, you can also preach on any nearby streetcorner.

  • Jon

    Hey look! We found someone, somewhere, who did see the movie!

  • veggiedude

    The film’s producers took the research from various sources, not just from the Bible. They considered the Koran as well, so the journalist of this piece has a bias, and should do their homework first.

  • Jon

    Looks like a production that was largely ignored, and being that it disagrees with the agreement of both archaeologists and modern Bible scholars, it’s pretty clear it’s hogwash. It makes sense that hogwash would be ignored. Being listed as a “documentary” means nothing. For instance, “Alien Autopsy” is listed as a “documentary” as well.

  • Garson Abuita

    In the text, after killing the Egyptian, Moses intervenes between two Hebrews who were fighting. One of them alludes to Moses’s earlier killing of the Egyptian and Moses realizes that people know what happened. Then Pharoah finds out about the incident and seeks to kill Moses. Moses flees after Pharoah finds out and seeks to kill him, not after he realizes that his fellow Hebrews know about the previous killing. Rashi comments that the fighting Hebrews informed on Moses to Pharoah. So the movie saying that Pharaoh found out about Moses being a Hebrew isn’t that much of a stretch.

  • Fran


    Jesus prophecied that the good news of God’s kingdom or heavenly government would be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations before the end of this wicked era would come (Matthew 24:14).

    That work is being accomplished in all nations and many languages, which includes sharing it with those who are interested and those who are not.

    It is being done house to house, on public streets, even street corners, so that everyone may have the opportunity to hear it and make their own choice…for man’s governments or God’s.

  • Brittney Watt

    What about the fact that in the movie the sea never actually parted? It misteriously dried up and went away only to come back down from the sky looking like a tornado. Like seriously? I’m so happy Hollywood decided that their version was better than God’s version. If it had not been based on a true story, I’m sure it would have made a fabulous movie.

  • A Black man

    A movie about Egypt without any Black or Brown people. Good Luck.

  • Joan Olsson

    I did, too. I didn’t expect much accuracy so was pleasantly surprised when it occurred. I appreciated being able to visualize various aspects of the Biblical story in Exodus, especially since I am currently studying the life of Moses in BSF. Some artistic leeway must be given to any story, Biblical or otherwise, that deals with historical accounts. Some sanctified imagination. It was disappointing that a producer would chose to deliberately leave out the interaction between Moses and a powerful, sovereign God in a story where that God was the prime mover. I understand the producer isn’t a believer but it seems he almost bent over backwards to omit such a God. But overall, I enjoyed the movie.

  • Son of God

    Hello children of the one true living God, please pray that you will be accounted worthy to escape the hour of temptation that is going to come upon the whole world. And pray that you will also be accounted worthy to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.

  • Forget stuttering, or self tanner! Both film versions, DeMille’s & Scott’s, depict Moses as receiving a personal revelation from G-d on Mt. Sinai, yet the Bible states it was a National Revelation in which G-d spoke to everyone present at Mt. Sinai, not only Moses. I don’t know why this is never depicted accurately.

    Deuteronomy 4:10-13
    10 Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai,[a] where he told me, ‘Summon the people before me, and I will personally instruct them. Then they will learn to fear me as long as they live, and they will teach their children to fear me also.’

    11 “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while flames from the mountain shot into the sky. The mountain was shrouded in black clouds and deep darkness. 12 And the Lord spoke to you from the heart of the fire. You heard the sound of his words but didn’t see his form; there was only a voice. 13 He proclaimed his covenant—the Ten Commandments[b]—which he commanded you to keep, and which he wrote on two stone tablets.

  • Matthew

    This is a rather skewed view of the Box Office results. Son of God may not have the total Box Office that Exodus does, but it had a significantly smaller budget and never was expected to be a “blockbuster”. It has tripled the budget which is truly something since a considerable part of the movie had already aired on free television as part of a miniseries.

    Noah and Exodus each had blockbuster budgets and each has made a good profit. I’d imagine that Noah has the International total edge because it was first. Exodus has had a ‘it’s been done before’ vibe and failed to get as much publicity for the Biblical butchery.

    When the final totals are looked at and the distribution of each film is considered, I’d wager that Exodus is the most disappointing to its studio. Son of God had a lot of exposure and a great box office for the budget. One has to look at things in perspective because comparing a movie culled from a miniseries versus two blockbuster budgets is an apples and oranges point of view.

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  • if you knew

    Real sons of God would not watch any off those movies they all have one thing in common they when and when not to stick to the bible so weather a little or a lot a lie is still a lie. Salvation is to beatiful and precious. The bible talks about if adding thinthings to the bible that’s not there God will add plagues to that person and if they take things from the Bible or not included things that he will remove your name from the book of life. Truth is these movies are made to deceive the unbelievers and to keep you blended it’s sad that you can’t see God even thou he shines so bright. 2 corinthians 4vs 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

  • Morrick

    Son of God was not really an accurate movie either. (example: Mary Magdalene is not/was not a disciple); also it was just a bunch of clips from the TV miniseries.
    Son failed because it had already been shown on TV in sense, and it was itself inaccurate.
    The other two films likely did better do to casting-director-producer-budget.

    misrepresentation and misinterpretation of data.

    Ten Commandments is an example of how being accurate can be extremely successful, and the cast-director-special effects-budget ect. were superb back then.

  • Chad

    This film left me walking away with mixed feelings. Admittedly, I did enjoy the change of pace Ridley made using Russell Crowe in “Robin Hood” in contrast with Kevin Costner in “Prince of Thieves.”
    However, with this genre–it obviously appeals to religious audiences, and these audiences will undoubtedly gauge the film to Scriptural text and make comparisons. It would be naïve to think otherwise.
    The common pitfall for directors with respect to religious material is to provide the viewer with rational, scientific explanations for the SUPERNATURAL PHENOMENONS that occurred in the Scripture. [i.e., 1. in Exodus, Ridley Scott portrays a carnivorous crocodile frenzy to rationalize the Nile turning red with blood; whereas in the Book of Exodus, Aaron’s staff was placed into the river and this of itself caused the waters to turn. 2. The interpretation was introduced of a ‘low-tide’ Red Sea, making it essentially more scientifically believable, convenient, and having perfect timing for 2 million Hebrews to cross over at the very time Ramses’ army was hunting them down.]
    I very much enjoyed the acting, cinematography and other creative avenues the film explored, but please, producers…please….do not use creative license to distort text accuracy. Believe it or not, just as a comedian CAN succeed without the use of “sex jokes”, a biblical film can be unique, creative and successful without twisting the words of the Bible.

  • Audrey

    Thank you for your well-written post. It helped me to talk through the comparison between the Bible and the movie with my 10-yr-old before we even watched the movie.

  • Xer2003

    If movie makers want to be successful in bible story movies, they have to be accurate, at least in context of the mainstream Christian’s interpretation, translation. It must be as close to the time and culture of the story, otherwise It will suffer financial lost producing it and God will also curse it if the message of that the movie is inaccurate. “Good luck” to those directors of all these junk movies.