NEW YORK, March 11, 2013 — Well, it could have been much worse, and in some ways it was better than expected.
I missed the first part of the History Channel’s series on the Bible, that begins at, well, “The Beginning,” as in Genesis, but I caught up to it last night by the time Moses, not Yasser Arafat, reaches the Promised Land, yes, Israel.
Those of us who study the Hebrew Bible daily and religiously but are not necessarily religious, indulging in the forbidden cheeseburger after study and prayer or the ballgame we may watch after Sabbath services, were afraid that the series may take too many liberties in this, the age of political correctness.
ABC-TV, for example, once tried to re-do Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 “The Ten Commandments,” but forgot to mention that the people Moses was leading were Hebrews. They could have been anybody in that pasteurized version.
In this “Bible,” at least the script was clear enough.
But I must admit that even in this telling it was difficult to imagine anybody as Moses except Charlton Heston or Pharaoh as anyone except Yul Brynner.
Was this version accurate? I’ll let our doctors of divinity get into that, but as for me, not bad, and showing Samson as a black man was a good touch. Jews have become distilled and we do trace our lineage back to Abraham (some would say his grandson Jacob and the 12 Tribes, specifically Judah, hence Judaism), but we come from a mixture. We never were “the white man.”
The best part, for me as a casual observer, was that there was no hiding the fact that God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people. Period. End of story. But as we know, this story is without end. Read he headlines and the Hebrew Bible itself foreshadows everything we read in the papers today.
But whoa! Where’s this been all these years? Even Israeli politicians are afraid to mention Israel’s indelible Biblical connection for fear of rocking the boat.
Frankly, I had expected “the other side of the story,” namely that the Arabs enjoy an equal claim to the Land, and if they do, it’s political, and not Biblical. The History Channel stuck to the Bible, the Hebrew Bible…told, of course, in King’s English, and there is even more to this to prove King Solomon’s maxim that there is nothing new under the sun:
Moses himself anticipated the same speech impediment that struck King George VI more than 3,000 later. The British monarch was cursed by a stammer that had him in fear of speaking in public. Here’s Moses: “O Lord, who am I to approach Pharaoh? I am slow of speech and tongue.”
One quick word of dissent: television continues to show the Hebrews as an unkempt rabble, a motley crew.
Not so from the Biblical account. The Hebrews marched proudly in formation, even as liberated slaves. They travelled in military formation, tribe by tribe, and followed the rules of hygiene before anyone else did. When the censorious prophet Balaam exclaimed, “How goodly thy tents, O Jacob; thy dwelling places O Israel,” he was speaking of Hebrew cleanliness and modesty.
Back to the good points of the series: we saw that Moses heeded the word of God and did not wait for a resolution from the United Nations to go forth to the Promised Land, meantime conquering enemy after enemy on orders from above. David did not wait for The New York Times to give him the okay before going after the Philistines.
There was no Security Council insisting that Israel must show “restraint,” after being attacked and terrorized. There was no General Assembly demanding that Israel cut itself in half and give up portions of itself to the Philistines or to the Palestinians.
There was no talk of apartheid when Israel built barriers to save itself from invaders north, south, east and west. We saw none of that in the Hebrew Bible or on the History Channel’s version of the Bible.
The History Channel did not stint in showing us David’s sin with Bathsheba, and neither does the Bible, which portrays its heroes as great but flawed.
Onward to the headline…”Now to Jerusalem,” says David in this TV treatment, and there goes David, who takes his army and indeed conquers Jerusalem.
Under David’s leadership, no one dared call it “occupied territory.” No one questioned the rights of the Jewish people to build their homes or to extend their properties wherever they wanted in the Land that had been granted to them from Abraham onward and solidified by David after he was anointed in Hebron, which today is mostly off-limits to David’s kin.
“I will glorify myself in Israel,” said God through the prophet Isaiah, and somehow, also through the miracle of television.
Jack Engelhard, a novelist for such moral dilemma bestsellers as The Bathsheba Deadline, The Girls of Cincinnati, and the classic Indecent Proposal, his memoir Escape From Mount Moriah, and Slot Attendant – A Novel About A Novelist, Engelhard’s partly autobiographical expose about the trials of making it as a writer, brings his words to the Communities page covering all topics, with special focus on the absurdity of human behavior and reaches around the globe.
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