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The Bible Miniseries on
The History Channel
A Review of Episode Two
By Gary F. Zeolla
“The Bible” Miniseries on The History Channel: A Review of Episode One was posted on this site on March 6, 2013. On March 12th I posted the following on my Facebook page:
I recorded the second episode of “The Bible” off the History Channel Sunday night and tried to watch it yesterday. But after the first half an hour, I got so aggravated by it, I shut it off. It was Biblically inaccurate and jumbled, just like the first episode.
It truly breaks my heart. The History Channel had a great chance to present the Bible to millions of people. Instead, it comes out with this shoddy production that is doing nothing but distort the Bible in the minds of its viewers.
Bottom line, if you want to know what the Bible teaches, read the Bile itself. I’ve been encouraging people to do that for almost 22 years through my ministry.
Since I posted that three days ago I have been feeling like I should back up my claims that the episode was Biblically inaccurate. So in this article, I will review the half an hour of it that I watched. The episode was titled “Homeland.”
Note: All Scripture quotations are from my newly published Analytical-Literal Translation of the Old Testament: Volume Two: The Historical Books. Copyright © 2013 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).
Joshua and the Conquest of Jericho
The episode opened with Joshua praying about how to conquer Jericho. He was leaning on the ark of the covenant, which was sitting on the grass in the middle of an open field. This appears to be a rather pious scene, but there are several problems with it.
First, the ark would have been kept in the tabernacle (Exod 40:21). It would not have been sitting in an open field.
Second, only the Levites were to bear the ark and to minister before it (Deut 10:8; 1Chr 15:2). And even then, they were to only carry the ark by its bearing poles (1Chr 15:15). They did touch touch the ark itself. Non-Levites were not allowed near the ark. Joshua was not a Levite. He was of the tribe of Ephraim (1Chr 7:20,26). As such, he would not have been near the ark, let alone leaning on it.
This is an important point. Later in Biblical history, David was bringing the ark to Jerusalem by having it ride on a wagon rather than being carried by Levites (1Chr 13:5-8). As a result, “Uzzah put forth his hand to hold the ark, because the young bull [Heb., oxen] upset it. And the LORD was enraged with wrath upon Uzzah, and He struck him there, because of his stretching out his hand upon the ark: and he died there before God” (1Chr 13:9-10). So Uzzah was struck dead by the LORD just for touching the ark. If Joshua had been leaning on the ark as depicted in the show, he would not have survived.
This is important as the ark was the most holy object of the Jewish religion. But the casual leaning on it by Joshua as depicted in the show eliminates this sense of holiness.
Next in the episode, Joshua sends out two spies to spy out Jericho before the conquest of it. That is true. But the show depicted the spies as entering the city by scaling the wall with a rope and hook. But the Bible simply says, “And the two young men having gone, entered into Jericho” (Josh 2:1). Now maybe they scaled the wall, or maybe they just entered through the gate while it was open during the day. It wasn’t until much later that the Bible says “And Jericho having been shut up and having been made fast and secure, and none were going out of it, none were entering” (Josh 6:1). So when the spies were sent out, the city was probably not yet secured, so they could have just walked in.
Next, the show depicted the two spies as being spotted in the city streets. Some of the residents attack them with knifes and swords, and the spies defend themselves with the same. They escape into Rahab’s house, but she isn’t there. However, her parents are. So the spies take her parents hostage at knife-point. Rahab then enters, and one of the spies grabs her from behind, puts a knife to her throat, and threatens to kill her if she cries out.
This is a dramatic scene. But none of it is Biblical. The Bible simply says, “And they entered into [the] house of a woman, a prostitute, whose name [was] Rahab [LXX, Raab], and they lodged there” (Josh 2:1). There is no mention of the spies fighting in streets or of the spies holding anyone at knife-point.
The show then depicts Rahab as professing her belief that Jericho is destined to be overtaken by the Israelites due to the LORD being on their side. That is Biblical (Josh 2:9-11). But it didn’t take her being held at knife-point for her to make that profession.
The spies were seen coming into the city (Josh 2:2). And the show rightly depicted Rahab as hiding the spies from those who came looking for them, and her being promised safety when the Israelites attack the city, if she hangs out a red cord to indicate her home (Josh 2:12-21).
However, the Biblical scene of Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordan River, by having it be stopped is left out of the show, as is the setting up of memorial stones in the Jordan and on its banks (Josh 3-4).
Next the show depicts the Commander of the army of the LORD appearing to Joshua. That is Biblical (Josh 5:13-15). But the show omits what the Commander says to Joshua, “Loosen your sandal[s] off your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy.” That is important, as it echoes what the LORD said to Moses from the burning bush (Exod 3:5). But then, those words of the LORD to Moses were omitted from episode one.
In any case, it is because of this connection between these two scenes that many commentators believe the Commander was actually an appearance of the pre-incarnate Son of God. This is why some versions like the NKJV and my ALT capitalize the pronouns referring to Him.
This is also why it was strange that the show used a black actor for the Commander. Now if He was just any angel, then He could have been of any skin color. Angels are spirits (Heb 1:13-14). They don’t have physical bodies. They only take bodily form when appearing to humans. But if the Commander was the pre-incarnate Jesus, then it is inaccurate for Him to have been depicted as being back since Jesus was not black.
In any case, what the show does have the Commander saying to Joshua are the instructions for the Israelites to march around the city. But those instructions were given directly by the LORD to Joshua. They were not given by the Commander (Josh 6:3-4). The Israelites’ marches around the city are only depicted via flash-forwards while the Commander is talking.
Next the show depicts the falling down of the walls of Jericho. But it makes it look like it was a chance earthquake. But what really happened was, “the priests sounded with the trumpets. And as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, all the people shouted at once with a loud and strong shout; and all the wall fell round about, and all the people went up into the city!” (Josh 6:20). It was a miraculous not chance event.
The actual battle for Jericho is not really depicted. But then, it would have been a bloody battle, so maybe its best it wasn’t depicted.
And that is it for the episode as far as the Book of Joshua goes. Achan’s sin in taking from the spoils of Jericho, the Israelites initial defeat at Ai as a result, their repentance and the judgment on Achan, and then taking of Ai are left out (Josh 7-8). And the rest of the conquests of the Promised Land as recorded in the Book of Joshua are omitted. But again, that would have been a bunch of bloody battles, so maybe it’s good they weren’t depicted. But that is a lot of Biblical history that is omitted.
The narrator of the show then simply says that the Israelites then were ruled by a series of judges. But none are named and none of their exploits are depicted as described in the Book of Judges, except for one, Samson. His story is depicted is some detail.
First, the adult Samson is shown. And right off the bat there is a problem. He is depicted as being black. As stated, there would have been no problem with showing the Commander of the army of the LORD as being black, if He were just an ordinary angel. However, Samson was a Jew. And Jews are not of African descent, so they are not black. I am not being racist here, just giving genetic facts.
In the first episode, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, and the rest of the Israelites were depicted as being white. And Joshua and the rest of the Israelites in episode two are depicted as being white. So why depict this one important person as being black? My guess is the producers were trying to be “politically correct” by having a racially-diverse cast. But in doing so, they were being genetically incorrect.
Also on the appearance of Samson, he was a large man, but he looked rather chubby to me, not muscular as I always pictured Samson.
In any case, via a flashback, the scene of the angel appearing to Samson’s mother and announcing Samson’s birth is depicted. The angel correctly tells her that Samson is not to drink any alcohol or to cut his hair (Judg 13:5). But omitted is the angel telling her, “And now be very cautious, and drink no wine or strong drink, and do not eat any unclean [thing]” (Judg 13:4). Also omitted is the following scenes of Samson’s mother telling her husband about the angel’s visit, of the angel appearing a second time, first to the woman and then to her husband (Judg 13:6-23).
The show then flashes back to the adult Samson. He tells his mother he wants to marry a Philistine woman. She chides him for his desire to do so, telling him he is supposed to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines, not marry one of them. It is true Samson wanted to marry a Philistine woman and is chided for it. However, the Bible specifically says he is talking to “his father and his mother.” And it is both his father and his mother who chide him for it (Judg 14:1-3).
The point here is the show completely omits Samson’s father from all of the scenes in which he is referred to in the Bible. The impression is given in the show that Samson was raised by a single mother, not by a father and mother. Again, I’m guessing this was done for “politically correctness” sake, to have an important figure in the Bible be the product of a single-parent household. But again, it is not Biblically accurate.
In any case, it is also not Biblically accurate for Samson’s mother to have told him he was supposed to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines. There is no Biblical equivalent to that statement.
Next Samson is shown marrying the Philistine. But the Philistines are angry about it, so they grab the woman, throw her into her house, and burn the house down with her in it. A very dramatic scene, but it simply did not happen.
Now it is true that the Philistines threatened Samson’s wife that they would burn her and her family if she did not reveal to them the answer to Samson’s riddle (Judg 14:15). But they never actually do so, as the woman deceives Samson into telling her the answer to the riddle, and she in turn tells it to the Philistines (Judg 14:17).
But the problem was, omitted from the show was the series of scenes of Samson killing a lion with his bare hands, of him later finding honey in the mouth of the lion, and then using those events as the basis of a riddle that he tells to guests of his seven-day wedding feast as part of a “bet” for 30 changes of clothing. Also omitted is the aftermath of the guests solving the riddle, namely, Samson killing 30 Philistines to get the changes of clothing (Judg 14:5-19).
Next, Samson goes on a rampage because of the killing of his wife, killing several Philistines. But since his wife wasn't killed, this scene is has no Biblical basis.
Then in the last scene I watched, a bunch of armed Philistines took Samson’s mother and several other people hostage. The armed men were threatening the people that they would kill them one at a time if they didn’t tell them where Samson was. That sounds like a scene out of some cop drama show, but there is nothing remotely close to it in the Bible.
And that’s when I got disgusted and shut the show off. It was obvious to me that the show had no intents of actually following the Bible. It was re-writing Biblical scenes and details or simply making scenes up for dramatic or politically correct reasons. It was not coming close to being faithful to what the Bible actually teaches.
In the conclusion to my review of episode one, I was trying to be congenial about this History Channel mini-series by saying that it would worthwhile if it inspired people to actually read the Bible. And that might still be true. However, viewers of this show are being given a false impression as to what the Bible actually teaches. And once people get false impressions about the Bible implanted in their minds it can be hard to get rid of them even if they start to read the Bible. So in that sense, this mini-series is doing a great disservice to its viewers.
And Christians should be upset about this mini-series, not praising it as many are doing. My fear is that the reason so many Christians are praising it is because they are not very familiar with the Bible. As such, they are not noticing the many distortions of the Bible being portrayed. But for me, the distortions are blatantly obvious. And it is just too aggravating to see the Bible so distorted. That is why I shut the show off after half an hour into the second episode and have no intents of watching any more of the mini-series.
So I will close my discussion on this disappointing mini-series by repeating what I said above: if you want to know what the Bible teaches, read the Bile itself. Don’t depend on a TV show to tell you what it says.
The above was going to be the end of my reviews of this miniseries, but I decided to continue to watch and review it. For a review of the rest of episode two, see "The Bible" Miniseries on The History Channel: A Review of Episode Two - Part 2.
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Volume Two One - The Historical Books
The above article was posted on this Web site March 15, 2013.
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