Prince of Egypt — The Movie
In 1999, Prince of Egypt opened in theaters across the country. Because it differed so widely from the usual movie fare of sex and violence, this production received high acclaim—even from religious figures like Billy Graham, James Dobson, Robert Schuller, and others.
Supposedly, it is based upon the life of Moses and was produced under the guidance of over six hundred leaders “of various faith communities.” It is touted as being “faithful to the biblical text.” While the film may be faithful to the Scriptures in some ways, in point of fact, it is not wholly accurate by any means.
Prince of Egypt portrays Ramses II, of the thirteenth century B.C., as the Pharaoh who refused to let the children of Israel leave the bondage of Egypt, and who thus brought God’s plagues upon himself. This dating scheme reflects the liberal, critical view of the book of Exodus, which contradicts the chronology set forth elsewhere in the Old Testament.
The date of the exodus is one of the key controversies of Old Testament study. Conservative scholars place the event in the fifteenth century B.C., while liberal writers contend that the exodus occurred some two hundred years later.
Most who argue for a later date are committed to the “documentary hypothesis.” This is the theory that Moses did not produce the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). This view, incidentally, is contrary to what Jesus himself indicated.
For those who accept the plain testimony of the Scriptures, the evidence for the early date is quite compelling.
From the time of the exodus, to the first year of construction on Solomon’s temple (966 B.C.), was a period of four hundred eighty years (1 Kings 6:1). This would place the exodus at 1446 B.C.
This harmonizes with the statement that during the days of Jephthah (ca. 1100 B.C.), the Hebrews had been in Canaan for about three centuries (Judges 11:26).
There is also considerable archaeological evidence which corroborates the early date. One scholar says:
“All the accredited Palestinian artifactual evidence supports the literary account that the Conquest occurred at the time specifically dated by the biblical historians” (Waltke 1972, 47).
For example, in 1896 William Petrie, the renowned Egyptologist, discovered a stele (stone slab with an inscription) at Thebes. The writing indicated that “Israel” already was settled in Canaan early in the thirteenth century B.C. This points, therefore, to a much earlier date for the exodus (Caiger 1936, 112).
Moreover, recent studies on the artifacts taken from the excavation of Jericho, destroyed by the Hebrews after Israel’s forty-year sojourn in the wilderness (Joshua 6), appear to corroborate further a mid-fifteenth century B.C. date for the exodus (see Wood 1990, 44-58).
After a careful consideration of both the early and late-date views, professor John Rea concluded that
the factual evidence can better be explained by the early date view; and to those who believe strongly in the inspiration of all Scripture, the statements in 1 Kings 6:1 (MT) and Judges 11:26 and supporting passages are conclusive for a date of the Exodus c. 1445 B.C. (Pfeiffer et al. 2003, 576).
Unfortunately, some (e.g., John Willis of Abilene Christian University), who profess to being conservataive, have yielded to the liberal viewpoint (1979, 126-7).
Hollywood No Friend of the Bible
Finally, let me make this point. Moses, as a biblical character, has no real relevance apart from his role as a prophet who prepared the way for the coming of Christ (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-17; cf. Acts 3:22ff). Yet there is no hint of this grand theme in Prince of Egypt.
Anyone who believes that the movie industry will deal fairly with the Bible is in a fantasy world of his own. There is an old saying: “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” Such is no less true of Hollywood.
- Caiger, Stephen. 1936. Bible and Spade. London, England: Oxford University Press.
- Pfeiffer, Charles F., Howard F. Vos, and John Rea, eds. 2003. Wycliffe Bible Dictionary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
- Waltke, Bruce. 1972. Bibliotheca Sacra, January-March.
- Willis, John. 1979. The World and Literature of the Old Testament. Abilene, TX: ACU Press.
- Wood, Bryan. 1990. Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April.