Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Bible, Part 2

My Presbytery meeting finished early last night, and I was home in time to watch the next instalment of The Bible, which consisted of episodes 3 and 4. The story covered Joshua, Rahab and Jericho, then skipped to Samson, and then skipped again to Samuel as an old man, when Israel asked him for a king. Saul was portrayed particularly well, I thought.

There is another gratuitous battle scene in Jericho – as if the Bible didn't have enough – but I suppose it helped to explain why the spies were known to be in Jericho. I was glad they had the scene with the Commander of the Armies of Yahweh, but the TV series portrays him as merely angelic, whereas the text hints that it is God himself, since the one thing he says to Joshua is "Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy."

One annoying thing about the series is that it adopts a late date for the Exodus (c. 1250 BC) which means that it is 150 years from Joshua to Saul – whereas 1 Kings 6:1 says that it was 480 years from the Exodus to Solomon. One consequence of adopting the late date is that the period of the judges needs to be squashed, and it must be concluded that the judges were ruling at the same time. This has the effect of making the judges local heroes – something the series is explicit about. But it goes against the emphasis in the text on the judges "judging Israel" and not just particular tribes or localities.

Samson killing the Philistines, by Gustav Doré
The other thing that annoyed me was the interpretation of the word eleph. This is traditionally translated "thousand" as in "Samson found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men" (Judges 15:15). But some scholars, who find the large numbers in the Bible hard to accept, suggest that "eleph" means a military unit – something like a dozen men. The TV show follows this, and has Samson killing a dozen men with the jawbone of a donkey. Not only does this make the feat so much less spectacular, but Samson himself talks about the "heaps" of men he has killed. The strongest argument, however, against the "military unit" idea is that it means Gideon is only reducing his army from 400 to 300, instead of from 32,000 to 300. For a helpful discussion on this issue, see Barry Webb's new commentary on Judges, pages 71-74.

As for the popularity of the series, the phenomenal ratings have died down a bit – last night's episode had only 600,000 viewers. Or is that meant to be 600 × 12 = 7200?

Read my review of Part 1


lukeisham said...

"Or is that meant to be 600 × 12 = 7200?" lol :)

Unknown said...

One of my problems (acknowledging yours too) with the Samson episode is the removal of his father from the story altogether, with the implication (by a distant look on his mother's face as she puts her hand on her abdomen after the angel has spoken to her) that Samson's conception is divine , as if they are trying to make a correlation to Jesus.