Episode 3 "Homeland"
The fall of Jericho closed out the first two hours and began the next two. Over all, it was fairly well done, with Rahab saying that she did not know how the people could fight against the God of Israel. Okay, there were a few inaccuracies. The spies climbed up the outside wall to get in; they had to fight a skirmish or two in the streets. They entered Rahab’s house and threatened to kill a child if she did not help, and the scarlet cord was on the door to the city instead of the outside wall, but at least it accurately conveyed the power of God. The Commander of the Lord made an appearance to Joshua; the Israelites marched around the city as directed and then shouted, after which the walls collapsed. No mention was made of the parting of the Jordan River so that Israel could reach Jericho.
The worst representation of a Bible event thus far in the series pertains to Samson. Forget the fact that Samson and his mother are both Black (what branch of the Israelites were they?). Samson’s father, Manoah, seems not to exist. He neither appears nor is referenced, thus missing an opportunity to use one of the great lines in the Bible, when he prayed to God for Him to “teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born” (Judges 13:8). Instead, when the angel of the Lord announces to Samson’s mother that she will have a son who will be a Nazarite, she seems to be pregnant instantaneously, which would constitute a virgin birth. Whether this idea was intended or not, Samson has no father. Besides, would a virgin-born child have behaved as immorally as Samson did?
Whereas Samson’s wife was given to another, the producers omitted that fact, along with Samson setting the foxes on fire. They just burn her and her father to death. When the Philistines enlist Delilah’s cooperation to bring Samson down, she protests that he is a changed man since he met her. However, money talks and she gives in. He tells her the secret of his strength the first time she asks. After he is blinded, he stands between two pillars, but they are not that close together. He keeps running and banging into first one and then the other until he knocks them down. Samson also looks as though he could be on Wrestlemania. His mother mourns his death amidst the rubble.
Samuel, Saul, and David
Beginning with Samuel, the series improves (it would almost have to). The people demand a king of Samuel and tell him that his sons are not righteous as he is, all of which is correct. Samuel anoints Saul, and one wonders how many times the actor playing Samuel had to practice anointing someone’s forehead without the oil coming down into the recipient’s eyes. Saul and the people bring Agag back alive, but Samuel just stabbed him with a sword rather than hacking him to pieces (not that anyone wanted to see Agag dismembered; it simply could have been commented on).
Episode 4 "Kingdom"
When Saul anoints David, there is no mention of his family or his brothers. David’s relationship with Jonathan and Michal were accurately portrayed, which was refreshing. When David faced Goliath, he took five stones from the ground where the army was rather than from the brook, and an interesting touch was David saying portions of the 23rd psalm as he went out to face the giant. The producers also included the part about David giving Saul 200 foreskins of the Philistines in order to have Michal as his wife.
Saul’s execution of the priests of Nob was not particularly well done. The student of the Word waits in vain for the priests there to defend themselves, claiming that David was the king’s son-in-law, but the three of them only offer a feeble response to Saul. One would never have imagined that there were 70 who were put to death. When David and his men have a chance to kill Saul in the cave, Saul proves to be ungrateful for having his life spared.
This is a different interpretation than what is recorded in the Scriptures. And who is David’s right-hand (not to mention handsome) man in the cave? One wonders if it is Joab, but it proves to be another.
Saul cries out to God that he has been God’s faithful servant, which is presumptuous since he has continually tried to kill David, an innocent man, and since he was so bold as to kill the priests of God. It does indicate that God is not speaking to him, but how much longer would it have taken for him to say that God had not communicated with him by means of dreams, by Urim, or by the prophets (Samuel was now dead)? There is no woman with a familiar spirit at Endor to whom Saul goes in this version of the Scriptures.
When it comes to that last battle that Saul has with the Philistines, Jonathan dies first, and Saul is grieving at his loss. Rather than being wounded, however, or having an armor-bearer, Saul falls on his sword because of the loss of his son. An Amalekite furtively enters the battleground and removes Saul’s crown, which he takes to David, thinking he will receive a reward. He is taken away as David laments, “How the mighty are fallen!” Much of this movie seems to be done the way some translators approach the Scriptures—via the “dynamic equivalent” route. Sometimes, the key facts are present, but the way some of the events occurred had a wide latitude of interpretation.
The second two-hour episode of The Bible concludes with a few events from David’s reign. One of those is the conquering of Jerusalem, which will serve as David’s capital city (don’t even try to find anything about Abner and Ishbosheth). David offered to whomever climbed up into Jerusalem by means of the water shaft the position of chief and captain, but David himself leads the way in this presentation.
Then there is the transportation of the ark into Jerusalem, and David is leaping and dancing as it occurs. Now we discover who David’s trusty lieutenant is—Uriah the Hittite. Yes, they have been close warriors for some time now. And (sit down for this one), David dances with Uriah’s wife in public, amidst all the rejoicing about the ark. Apparently, this is a precursor to what happened later, thus making David’s sin even worse, since Uriah seems to be his most faithful soldier. The idea that a king and a woman would have actually danced in public together is ludicrous. Nothing like that ever happened.
Bathsheba’s famous bath does not occur at night but in broad daylight; nothing is mentioned of David’s other wives. David comes on rather aggressively to her, but she protests that she is loyal to her husband. David responds by saying, “No one will know.” Surely, David knew better than that. Although it may not be the worst blunder in the ten hours of the series, it is certainly one of the greatest disservices to the viewer when Nathan confronts David.
In the Bible, Nathan comes and tells the king of a poor man who only had one ewe lamb, which was taken by a wealthy man to serve to a guest (although he had plenty of his own). As David becomes enraged at this behavior, Nathan says to him: “Thou art the man!” David immediately humbles himself and repents after this brilliant method of showing his sin to him. In the miniseries, Nathan says to David, “You think you can sweep what you’ve done under the carpet.” Really? Is this supposed to be some modern dynamic equivalent to 2 Samuel 12? Phooey! It sounds more like a petty dispute than a serious matter.
The conclusion of part two contains a very ominous statement. There is a mention of Solomon (one of the few ever given), and the words used are chilling. “Solomon will build God’s temple, but, like his father, he’ll find it impossible to obey God’s commandments.” Was David just compelled to commit adultery? Could he not have prevented it? Would Solomon have no choice but to build idolatrous temples for his foreign wives? Surely, these words are not trying to excuse adultery, murder, and idolatry. Of course, people are going to be guilty of lesser things and be in need of His grace. And those who commit these atrocities can still be forgiven through God’s grace, but these words make it sound as though we have no control over anything we do, which has the effect of removing us from personal responsibility or guilt. That the producers chose such words with which to close a segment of The Bible is quite perplexing.
Gary W. Summers
*altered format from original publishing to correspond to aired episodes