Disciple of Thecla
3/21/13 at 06:57 AM 0 Comments

History Channel's Miniseries: a Hairy Analysis

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The History Channel's miniseries jumps ahead from David to the end of Zedekiah. Pretty much all the prophets have been skipped. The only prophet the series covers is Daniel. Although Jeremiah is shown, he does not do much. Most of 2 Samuel is skipped and pretty much all of 1 Kings and 2 Kings. Now, I take a slightly different perspective in my analysis because I look at this from a literary viewpoint as well as a scriptural viewpoint.

I understand that many things were cut for time constraints and because the two books of Kings list forty kings - rough estimate guess - instead of a mere eighteen or nineteen between David and Zedekiah. During the reign of David's son Solomon, the kingdom was divided into Israel and Judah with each its own king. Israel was destroyed by Assyria. Over a century later, Judah was conquered by Babylon. Only the people of Judah returned; their region was then named Judea, and from there, we get the word Jew. Now, you know how they go from being Hebrews to being Jews.

From a literary or story-telling perspective, I do not know how 1 Kings and 2 Kings can be covered in their entirety. Apart from history, I have not heard of any writing that discusses moral or cultural decay over generations. Because the entirety of 1 and 2 Kings is difficult to express in a story format, all the accumulative and unrepentant sins are ignored. Even though the narrative in the episode states the nation is being punished for its sins, its idolatry, and its rebellion against God, the audience is never shown precisely what angered God so much.

I really cannot fault them or criticize them for leaving out most of Kings because I know I would do the same since it is difficult to express in a story. I would find other ways to convey humanity's sinfulness and need for salvation such as when Athens massacred the polis Melos.

So, anyway, the narrator lets the audience know that God's chosen people have sinned immensely and have given way to false idols and spiritual harlotry. Prophets such as Jeremiah are the people's only connection to God. The main sin is turning against God. Then, the audience is introduced to the aging prophet Jeremiah. The 21st king Zedekiah imprisons Jeremiah who insists they submit to Babylon to save the city and the people. There is quite a lot of political intrigue surrounding the Zedekiah story and what led to the destruction of Jerusalem, but this is not in the episode. I think all the intrigue and destruction could make for its own movie.

The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar surrounds Jerusalem to starve it into submission. I like the way it portrayed the evil, callousness of Nebuchadnezzar when the scene contrasted the starvation of besieged Jerusalem: people fighting over dead bodies to eat with Babylon king feasting over a freshly-roasted animal just for him. Zedekiah frees Jeremiah to implore his help.

advisor: look here. It says 'repent, repent, and the Lord will save you.'

Jeremiah: it is too late for that.

Flashbacks show what people went through to establish Israel, and this siege is a betrayal to them. I liked the flashbacks and the narration there because the scene reinforces that the generations have turned against God, thus turning against everything God promised their people and thus turning against the people who established their nation.

I love how the episode flows from the end of Jeremiah's and Zedekiah's into Daniel's story. During the invasion of Jerusalem when the Babylonians charge inside to massacre and enslave, Daniel and his friends are shown running through besieged city. Soldiers enslave him and his friends. Jeremiah goes to Egypt. Zedekiah flees with sons, but they are captured, sons slain in front of him. Then, he is blinded. Finally, the audience sees a blind Zedekiah and all the captured Jews including Daniel being marched into Babylon.

After the siege in Jerusalem, the episode switches to the second chapter of Daniel in which Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Many of Daniel's words praising and honoring God are absent from this episode. While the major events remain the same, the episode's story has been thoroughly tweaked with none of the fascinating imagery.

With the dream interpreted, Daniel is promoted into the king's court. According to scripture, Daniel's three friends are also promoted thanks to Daniel petitioning the king on their behalf (Daniel 2:49).

Instead of a devout Daniel asserting things on his friend's behalf, we have a submissive and compliant Daniel but also a defiant and rebellious Azariah. I definitely enjoyed the portrayal of Azariah. In the scripture, he is a mere name. The portrayal of Daniel, however, suffered from passivity and is no justice to the scripture.

The character of Azariah was so powerful, so zealous, so defiant, that the people in charge of the series did his character a terrible disservice - not to mention a disservice to the story itself - by leaving out one of the most powerful verses in scripture. When the three friends were shoved into the furnace during the episode, they cried out "God help us!" but this line was out of character for Azariah because they built him up to be such a defiant fighter and then had him wimp out. With the way they designed his character, I can imagine Azariah citing this scripture perfectly, which they unfortunately left out.

"our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)

How wonderfully defiant against tyranny! How devout and loyal to God! No matter what the Babylonians do to them, they will never bow down and will worship only God. This is true dedication. People who truly dedicate themselves to God are willing to suffer anything for the sake of their God. And this verse is a lesson that every Christian should take notice.

Nebuchadnezzar departs from his sanity. Belshazzar his son inherits the kingdom. Darius takes over Babylon. In the episode, they left out many Darius and shifted many of his events onto Cyrus. This makes it more concise for story-telling. Daniel sings an actual psalm from scripture.

The second half of the book of Daniel in the actual Bible is dedicated to all his visions concerning Israel and the End Times. Of these, the audience receives only a fractional glimpse, but these are the most theologically significant parts of the Daniel story.

After Daniel survives the lions in the episode, Cyrus allows the Jews to return to Jerusalem. The episode jumps forward 500 years to feature Romans harassing people from Nazareth for vague and unclear reasons. Taxes? Nope, they have tax collectors for that. Conscription? Nope, Rome loved to use her own army, but I think foreigners could enlist to attain citizenship. The Roman harassment against Nazareth is a strange scene and setting for Mary to learn she will give birth to Son of God. I love Joseph's reaction when he learns Mary is pregnant. Very realistic.

I do not know when this started, but it is a tradition that one of the wise men is black. This wise man played the prominent role in the episode. Wise man goes to Herod to ask about the newborn king, but Herod knows nothing. The wise man's comments bewilder him, yet he speaks with such certainty that Herod must investigate. Herod searches through the writings of the prophets and learns about the newborn king by reading Isaiah about the virgin birth and the child born in Bethlehem.

Meanwhile, I noticed that my kitten was bored and had a hard time going to sleep.

John the Baptist is portrayed as a white guy with dreadlocks. During this episode, I have noticed that anachronistic or individualist hairstyles have a certain meaning or significance. Daniel had a 17th century French hairstyle that reminded me of the musketeers. Azariah's hair and beard reminded me of Jewish or Amish style. The only other character with dreadlocks so far has been Samson. Here, racial appearance might be important to consider. In my review of the second episode, I had stated that they cast Samson as a black man because the audience would be more familiar with the sight of dreadlocks, and dreadlocks are a common African-American hairstyle. The people in charge of the series wanted convey a Nazirite Samson as normal and typical in his appearance, using familiar and acceptable imagery.

John the Baptist is different. There is nothing normal or typical about John the Baptist within Jewish society. And this is why they cast him as a white guy with dreadlocks. John the Baptist came from the Levi tribe, which means he was born into the priesthood to a life of wealth and privilege (Luke 1:51-7). At some point, he abdicated all his wealth and privilege, dwelling instead within the wilderness to preach repentance and the coming kingdom of God. Black Samson was cast with dreadlocks to convey the Nazirite long hair. White John has dreadlocks to convey his lifestyle in the wilderness.

Jesus is tempted and overcomes. Satan has a freaky, disturbing resemblance to Obama. Satan considers himself god on earth. Obama has his very own demagogue cult that worships him as god. Now, that is a hair-raising sight. Older and more wrinkled, but still creepy.

But let's keep the focus on Jesus because Jesus defeats Satan. First, Jesus is baptized to signify his faith and dedication. Then, he calmly rampages as demons and unclean spirits in Capernaum. But first He is baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. The main error in how the episode depicted the baptism of Jesus is the absence of the Holy Spirit.

"When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him" (Luke 3:21-22)

Although people with their status and position should know and comprehend these matters, the blame for the absence of the Holy Spirit in the episode should not be with them alone. Contemporary Christianity has gotten away from the intellectual heritage. I needed to go to a secular bookstore to get Augustine's book explaining the City of God. Augustine is one of the greatest and most influential theologians, yet Christian bookstores shun his most profound works. As a result of shunning our intellectual heritage, most Christians have a hard time understanding the Trinity or the Holy Spirit because they no longer understand our own religion.

Regarding Jesus's miracles, I can understand if they skipped Cana and went straight into the expulsion of demons from Capernaum, but I don't know about the boat scene. The boat scene, albeit tweaked with only Peter, starts at chapter 5. However, in the previous passage Jesus spends time in Capernaum defeating demons and kicking out unclean spirits (Luke 4:31-44) and healed Peter's mother-in-law.

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As of March 26, I noticed some typos in my article "No Seppuku for Saul" and I have corrected the errors.

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