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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 Two was going to be my last review of this disappointing miniseries, and I had stopped watching the miniseries half an hour into the second episode as I simply could not stomach watching the distortions of the Bible anymore.
However, I received requests to continue to watch and review it. These came from readers who like me, were disturbed by the distortions of the Bible in the miniseries, but who were even more disturbed by how most of the Christians they knew were thrilled by the miniseries. It seems most Christians are not knowledgeable enough about the Bible to be able to discern the problems with this miniseries. And I must say, that disturbs me even more than a secular network distorting the Bible. The latter can be expected, but the former is heart-breaking. Christians really need to learn to be more Biblically astute.
So to that end, I decided to force myself to continue to watch and review the miniseries. I was able to do so as my cable service had the back episodes of the miniseries available on its “On Demand” service. So I went back to episode two and fast-forwarded to where I had left off. I will pick up this review at that point.
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).
I left off watching this second episode with a gang of armed Philistines holding Samson’s mother and several other people hostage. That scene was totally unbiblical, as is what happens next. One of the people is killed, by having his throat slashed, in rather graphic fashion.
The hostages are released and go to Samson. His mother pleads with him to give himself up to the Philistines. He agrees, and goes to the Philistines. They tie him to a post and begin to mock him. He hears a female voice telling him he is supposed to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines. I first thought this was him remembering his mother’s supposed words to this effect. But Samson interprets it as the LORD speaking to him. But it is strange to have the LORD speaking in a female voice. This is probably once again political correctness entering into the miniseries. And the whole scene is not found in the Bible.
Samson breaks free and attacks the Philistines. It is here that the famous scene of Samson killing Philistines with a jawbone of a donkey is depicted. But they show him as only killing about a dozen Philistines with it, while the Bible says he killed a thousand (Judg 15:15).
At the end of this scene, Samson meets Delilah. There’s actually a whole story in-between here of Samson being with a prostitute that is omitted (Judg 16:1-3). But shortly after they are together, one of the Philistine leaders hear about the relationship and has Delilah brought to him. But the Bible has it the other way around, “the rulers of the Philistines came up to her.” And note the plural “rulers.”
But in the show, the one ruler offers her a box of silver coins to deliver Samson to them. But the Bible has her being bribed by the rulers saying to her, “we will give to you [each] man eleven hundred [pieces] of silver” (Judg 16:5).
Then comes the famous scene of Samson revealing to Delilah the source of his strength, that the LORD is with him and the sign of this is that he has never cut his hair. That much is true (Judg 16:17). But omitted is the three times that Samson does not tell her the true source of his strength (Judg 16:6-15). This is important, as the show makes it appear that Samson quickly gave up his secret, when in fact it was Delilah’s constant pestering that got him to do so.
Delilah cuts his hair, but Biblically, “she called a man, and he shaved the seven locks of his head” (Judg 16:19). Samson is taken captive by the Philistines and his eyes gouged out. That is true (Judg 16:21). But immediately, with Samson’s eyes still bandaged, he is brought before the Philistines in what appears to be a small temple to one of their gods. He’s between two pillars of the temples, but they are too far apart for him to reach them with both hands, so he goes back and forth pushing on them, until one comes down, bringing down the temple and killing the dozen or so Philistines in it, Delilah included.
But this whole scene distorts what really happened. There is some time between his capture and the pushing down of the pillars, as “the hair of his head began to be growing as [before] it was shaved off” (Judg 16:22). Moreover, the Bible says, “the rulers of the Philistines gathered together to sacrifice a great sacrifice to their god Dagon” (Judg 16:23). As such, they were in a much larger building than a small temple. And Delilah most likely was not there.
Moreover, the two pillars of the building were close enough together that, “Samson took hold of the two pillars of the house on which the house stood, and leaned upon them, and grasped one with his right [hand], and one with his left” (Judg 16:29). And when the building fell, “the ones having died who Samson killed in his death [were] more than whom he killed in his life” (Judg 16:30), so more than just a dozen were killed.
The Samson story ends with his mother finding Samson’s body in the rubble and crying over it. But in the Bible, “his brothers and his father’s house went down, and they took him; and they went up and buried him between Zorah and between Esthaol in the tomb of his father Manoah” (Judg 16:31). But this ties in with what was said in the previous part of this review about Samson’s father being omitted from the Samson story. But in the Bible his father is mentioned from the beginning of Samson’s life to the end.
The show then omits the rest of the Book of Judges.
Samuel and King Saul
The show then jumps to Samuel as an old man, and the people crying out to him to anoint for them a king. This is recorded in 1Samuel 8, so the first seven chapters of 1Samuel are omitted.
Also omitted is Samuel praying to the LORD about the situation, and the LORD telling Samuel, “Hear the voice of the people, just as they shall speak to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, [so as] not to be reigning over them” (1Sam 8:7).
Samuel warns the people that the king will be a “tyrant” over them. This is a very short summary of what Samuel tells them will be “the manner of the king who will reign over you” (1Sam 8:11). What he actually gives is a very detailed prophecy (1Sam 8:11-18).
Also omitted is the background of how Saul came into contact with Samuel (1Sam 9). Samuel is then anointed in private to be king, but this is also omitted (1Sam 10:1). What is shown is the public anointing of Saul, which occurs later (1Sam 10:22). But an important point in this scene is the actor portraying Saul was not “taller than all the people by [his] shoulder[s] and upwards” (1Sam 10:23).
Saul is depicted as going into various battles. Then his sin of offering a sacrifice to the LORD is depicted. Samuel shows up and rebukes him for this, as it is only the priests who are to offer sacrifices. This scene is basically Biblical, though much abbreviated. Most importantly, it is here that Samuel tells Saul that his dynasty will not continue (1Sam 13:8-14). This is mentioned but not made that clear in the show.
Next depicted is Saul going out to battle against Amalek. Samuel commands Saul that he is not to take any spoils, and that King Amalek is to be killed. Saul ignores the command. Samuel rebukes him for this and kills Amalek himself. This is all basically Biblical (1Sam 15:1-35). But just like about everything else in this miniseries, it is very abbreviated.
Most importantly, omitted is the following scene, “And Samuel turned his face to depart, but Saul caught hold of the edge of his double cloak, and tore it. And Samuel said to him, ‘The LORD tore the kingdom of Israel out of your hand this day, and will give it to your neighbor, the [one] better than you. And Israel will be divided into two. And He will not turn nor change His mind, for He is not as a person to change His mind’” (21Sam 15:27-29). The dividing of Israel into two is very important in later Biblical history.
Introduction of David
After Samuel declares that the LORD has rejected Saul from being king, he then goes to anoint David to be the next king of Israel. Samuel finds the young David in an open field by a brook, and anoints him in private there. But that’s not what happened.
In the Bible, the LORD sends Samuel to Jesse because God says, “I have seen among his sons [one] to be reigning for Me” (1Sam 16:1). Jesse brings seven of his sons to Samuel. Samuel sees the oldest and declares that he must be the LORD’s anointed. But the LORD very dramatically says, “You shall not look upon his outward appearance, or to the height of his stature, for I have rejected him; for God will not see as a person will look; for a person will look at [the] appearance, but God will see into [the] heart” (1Sam 16:10).
It appeared that Saul was chosen to be king because he was taller than the rest of the Israelites. But we see here that that was not the case. Short and unattractive people can serve God just as well as the better looking and taller among us. For a short person like myself, this is a very comforting statement that is omitted from the show.
In any case, after going through all seven of Jesse’s sons, Samuel ask if he has any other sons. Jesse mentions his youngest son David, who is “shepherding in the flock” (1Sam 6:11). He is sent for, and then, in front of his father and brothers, David is anointed king (1Sam 16:12-13).
Now in the show, very quickly David is shown playing a lyre before King Saul. But it is never explained what that is all about. In reality, the Bible says, “And [the] Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD began tormenting him... And it happened when the evil spirit is upon Saul, that David was taking his lyre, and was playing with his hand. Then Saul was being refreshed, and [it was] well with him, and the evil spirit was departing from him” (1Sam 16:14, 23).
David and Goliath
Now comes the very famous story of David and Goliath. The story begins with King Saul and his men on one side and Goliath and the Philistine army on the other side. Goliath is coming out and challenging a man from the army of Israel to fight him. He is saying that if the Israelite wins, the Philistines will be the Israelite’s slaves, but if he wins, the Israelites will be the Philistine’s slaves.
This is all basically Biblical (1Sam 17:1-11). But it is here that Saul not being depicted as being taller than the rest of the Israelites becomes important. Goliath is rightly depicted as being very tall, but given that Saul was also tall, he would have been the logical choice to be the one to fight Goliath. But Saul’s cowardliness in not coming forward is lost by him not being depicted as being tall.
In any case, David comes forward and says he will fight Goliath. Saul is rightly depicted as being hesitant about letting a boy fight Goliath. But omitted is David’s very bold statement, “The LORD who delivered me out of [the] paw of the lion and out [the] paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of [the] hand of this uncircumcised Philistine!” (1Sam 17:37).
Saul then acquiesces and gives David his shield, but David doesn’t want it. He instead picks up a few stones. This is an abbreviated depiction of David trying on Saul’s armor but rejecting using it (1Sam 17:38-40).
David is then depicted as very hesitantly approaching Goliath. As he is doing so, he softly recites to himself Psalm 23. Now that is a great Psalm and David did write it. But there is no indication in Scripture that this is when he first thought of it. And by having David recite it softly now, it makes David appear timid about fighting Goliath. But in fact, David was very bold in his approach. And instead of Psalm 23, what he really declares is the following very courageous speech to Goliath:
45And David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to you in [the] name of the LORD Sabaoth, God of [the] army of Israel, whom you defied this day! 46And the LORD will shut [fig., deliver] you this day into my hand; and I will kill you, and take your head from off you, and I will give your limbs and the limbs of [the] army of [the] Philistines on this day to the birds of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; and all the earth will know that there is a God in Israel. 47And all this assembly will know that the LORD delivers not by sword or spear, for the battle [is] the LORD’s, and the Lord will deliver you into our hands!” (1Sam 17:45-47).
In any case, David slings the stone at Goliath and strikes him in the forehead. Goliath falls down. David rushes to him, takes his sword and cuts off his head. That is all Biblical (1Sam 17:48-51).
Michal and Circumcision
The narrator now says that David “served in King Saul’s army for decades.” That “decades” part simply cannot be accurate. There is no way it fits into the timeline of the life of David. He did fight with Saul for a while, but not for decades.
But the show does rightly have the people declaring, “Saul killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1Sam 18:7). Saul is rightly upset about this as he realizes it is a challenge to his kingdom. So he concocts a plan to get rid of David. He promises David his daughter Michal to David for a wife. The show has him telling David that he has to kill a hundred Philistines for her hand. His hope is that David will be killed in the process. But Biblically, Saul says he wants “a hundred foreskins of [the] Philistines” (1Sam 18:25).
This is important as the distinction between the Israelites and the Philistines, and the rest of the surrounding nations for that matter, is that Israelite males are circumcised while non-Israelites are not. This is why David referred to Goliath as “this uncircumcised Philistine.”
The covenant of circumcision is very important to the Jewish nation. It began with the LORD’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 17:9-14). Circumcision is then referred to several times throughout the Bible, but there is no mention of it in this miniseries. I suspect this is once again political correctness. There is a movement in America today to try to get circumcision outlawed as being “child abuse.” This is an affront to the Jewish religion and freedom of religion in general. Maybe the miniseries wanted to stay out of this debate.
In any case, going back to David and Michal, David does go and kill the Philistines, and brings back several of their weapons, and a small bag of “body parts.” Those were probably the foreskins, but again, that is never actually mentioned. But what is mentioned is rather strange. Saul asks, “So you did kill a hundred Philistines?” But David replies, “Two hundred; the LORD was with me.” This sounds pious, but it’s not Biblical. The Bible says David killed just the prescribed one hundred (1Sam 18:27).
David is given Michal as a wife, and thus becomes son-in-law to King Saul. But this does not stop Saul’s fear of and rage towards David.
The Fall of King Saul and the Rise of David
Next depicted is Saul’s attempts to kill David and David’s fleeing from Saul with the help of Michal. But it is all depicted so quickly that I doubt I would have known what was happening if I didn’t already know the stories. Several chapters in 1Samuel cover these events, while they are covered in the show in like two minutes.
For instance, in one scene, Saul is enraged with three men in white robes and has them executed. But who there were or why they were executed is not really explained. It is only by knowing the Bible that I knew they were priests of the LORD, and the reason Saul killed them is that one of them gave supplies to David when he first fled from Saul (1Sam 21). Among these supplies was the bread of the presence [or, showbread]. This is important as Jesus refers to this scene (Matt 12:4 referring to 1Sam 21:4-6).
The story of King Saul ends with him going into battle with his son Jonathan and the Israelite army. The Israelites are soundly defeated. Saul sees Jonathan being shot and killed with an arrow. He then falls on his sword and kills himself.
It is true that Jonathan was killed at this time (1Sam 31:2). But the Bible text does not say how. And it does not say that Saul saw him being killed. And it is true Saul fell on his sword and killed himself. But left out is that Saul first asked his armor-bearer to kill him, saying, “Draw your sword and pierce me through with it; lest these uncircumcised come and pierce me through, and mock me” (1Sam 31: 4). The armor bear then kills himself (v.5).
David is now depicted as becoming king of Israel. But the show makes it appear that it was an easy thing. But in fact, “there was war for a long [time] between the house of Saul and between the house of David” (2Sam 3:1). At first, for seven years, he was only king of Judah, the southern part of Israel. He then becomes king of all Israel for the next 33 years, making his total reign being 40 years long (2Sam 5:5).
The show says he needs a city, and captures Jerusalem to be the City of David. This is true (2Sam 5:6-9). But he is shown triumphantly coming into Jerusalem with the ark of God. The ark was not brought to Jerusalem until later, and then only after a serious problem that is not at all depicted in the show (2Sam 6).
In fact, most of what happened during the reign of David is not depicted. The biggest allotment of time is spent on David’s relationship with Bathsheba. He is rightly shown as seeing Bathsheba bathing and calls for and sleeps with her. She becomes pregnant. To try to cover up the adultery, he calls for her husband Uriah from the battlefield. But Uriah refuses to go into his wife, feeling it is not right for him to have such pleasure while his fellow-soldiers are still fighting. So David sends him back to the battlefield with sealed orders for him to be killed.
David then marries Bathsheba and she gives birth to a son. But Nathan the prophet rebukes David for his actions, and declares that the son will die. David prays to God for that not to happen, but it does anyways.
All of this is Biblical (2Sam 11,12). But it is interesting that the show would choose to focus on a sex scandal when so much more happened during the reign of David.
Bathsheba conceives again and gives birth to Solomon (2Sam 12:24). David then expresses his desire to build a temple for the LORD. But Nathan the prophet tells him that his son Solomon will build the temple. That much is Biblical (2Sam 7). But David is shown with a model of the temple. There is no Biblical mention of him making such a model.
The episode ends with a scene showing David, Bathsheba, and Solomon as a boy. David tells Solomon that he will build a temple to the LORD and gives him a small model of the temple. Again, there is no mention of any such models in the Bible. But such a scene could have happened. And I assume it is setting up the beginning of the next episode, where the reign of King Solomon and the building of the temple will be depicted.
There were many other minor inaccuracies in this episode that I did not mention as this review is too long as it is. But I think I have written enough to show that this miniseries simply is not following the Bible. But most of all, it is trying to cover too much ground in too short of time. As a result, many very important events are being omitted or glossed over. Specifically, the story of David in the miniseries ends with 2Samuel chapter 7. But there are 24 chapters in 2Samuel, all about David’s reign. And his death is recorded at the beginning of 1Kings. All of that is omitted.
This series of reviews is continued at: "The Bible" Miniseries on The History Channel: A Review of Episode Three.
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The above article was posted on this Web site March 27, 2013.
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