Not Your Grandma’s Moses

Exodus Gods and Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings is, in many ways, a startling movie. It didn’t leave me with a strong impression of profundity, but it did make me a bit reflective. The media hype about God as an eleven-year-old boy proved to be merely hype. In fact, the boy deity was one of the most intriguing characters in the film. The role was played respectfully, and God, like a good Englishman, favored his tea. There was nothing comedic about it, however. More troubling was the agnostic Moses, à la Clash of the Titans with its unbelieving Perseus. Moses, even after meeting God, comes across as having little interior life. He hides in a cave and builds an army of terrorists making him seem like Moses bin Laden. He conceals himself while innocent Hebrews are hanged for his crimes (and did they even hang people in ancient Egypt?). When a great storm brews over Memphis, however, it is with a sense of wonder that we ponder at an eleven-year-old doing all this.

The movie plays lightly with the scholarly “explanations” that used to be doled out in seminaries about how one plague led to another. In fact, the character called “the Expert” in the credits is shown lecturing the Pharaoh on the causation scheme of clay churning up in the Nile turning it red, and killing the fish which in turn drove the frogs from the toxic water, but when they died flies came along and the flies spread disease. Then the Expert is hanged. Not so subtle a warning to biblical scholars. In fact, there seems to be a science behind much of the movie that makes miracles less acts of God than acts of nature. Even the drying of the Red Sea is understated. Its return is reminiscent of the Christmas Tsunami of 2004. God is sometimes not there when you’d expect a deity to care.

On the matter of caring, for an age of nones who have concerns for equality, the film was thin on women’s roles, making even the Bible appear to foreground them more. Sigourney Weaver—great in any context—seems only to be there to wish Moses dead. Even Miriam is given scant lines in the movie and no role in the Exodus itself. In Prince of Egypt she at least led her famous song. Zipporah is lovely but shows no sign of being as handy with a flint knife as Exodus makes her out to be. A woman of action. Miriam’s quick thinking saved the infant Moses. Overall, however, the Bible is a guy’s book, and Exodus is a guy’s flick. Opening with the battle of Qadesh on the Orontes is a way to draw men to a Bible movie. Lots of slashing, gashing, and charging horses. And the splendor of Egypt, filmed in Spain and the Canary Islands. Some miracles, it seems, are even impossible for CGI.

Of Cats and Goddesses

During one of my periodic forays into current Asherah lore on the web, I discovered a new breed of cat. Well, actually, I didn’t discover it, I just became aware of it. Because of a misspelling on a website I learned that the Ashera (trademarked name!) is the most expensive cat in the world, retailing for $22,000. A blend of three species (the mind boggles), the African Serval, Asian Leopard, and domestic cat, this feline comes in at least three varieties, including the especially appropriate Royal Ashera. If you’ve come into an inheritance and want to waste a few grand, take a look at Lifestyle Pets to see the wonder.

According to Kirta she has a temper!

According to Kirta she has a temper!

Curious, I searched to find if anyone would tip a hand as to where the name of the cat was derived. Choosing the name of the queen of the Ugaritic divine world seemed a little too much coincidence for me, but then again, homophones happen. When the Prince of Egypt, Dreamworks’ answer to The Ten Commandments, was released, I had several people ask me why the Israelites were singing about “Asherah” after they crossed the Red Sea. I had to watch the movie very closely, but I figured out that they were singing “I will sing,” which, in Hebrew, sounds suspiciously like “Asherah.” I never did discover Ashera’s origins.

Cats, however often maligned as associated with witches and vampires and other creatures of the night, are certainly among the most divine of domesticated pets. If I were free to purchase an animal companion the Ashera would be in the ranking (after I’d won the lottery, of course). Whether intentional or not, who would not want to own a cat named after the only goddess to be mentioned in connubial relations both to El and perhaps even to Yahweh? (The latter association, like the naming of the cat, is entirely open to question!)