So for the last few months I have been taking advantage of the extra time to furiously work on The Complete Jewish Pilgrim. I have also been watching a lot of Biblical movies for inspiration. In doing so I have realized that while there are many movies based on the Bible, most of them focus on the same handful of figures (I’m looking at you Moses). The Bible is full of some seriously amazing stories that would translate really well to the big screen, including some that would make phenomenal epic sword-and-sandal war movies. To this end I have compiled a list of seven stories from the Hebrew Bible that are way overdue for having their own films. Here they are in chronological order:
Joshua (based on the Books of Deuteronomy and Joshua)
Straight off the bat, I am amazed that a major full-length film has never been made about Joshua and the Israelite conquest of Canaan. This story has everything: the siege of Jericho; the conquest of Canaan; the establishment of the ancient pre-kingdom realm of the Israelites; the beginning of the priesthood; and the raising of the Tabernacle at Shiloh. It may not necessarily be a smart movie to make at this time due to the current political climate in the Middle East, but I would still love to see this story depicted on the big screen.
Deborah (based on the Book of Judges)
The Bible has many major female figures, including some that are featured prominently has heroines. But from an action standpoint, none of them can hold a candle to Deborah. She ranks among the greatest female military commanders of all time, along with such luminaries as Joan of Arc and Queen Boadicea. Deborah’s story is so unique that it took another three thousand years for Israel to produce another military leader of her caliber in the form of Golda Meir. As an added bonus, with luck Hollywood can convince Gal Gadot to play her.
The Divided Kingdom (based on the Books of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles)
This one doesn’t focus so much on any particular Biblical figure, but more about the events that followed in the wake of the death of King Solomon. Solomon, one of the Bible’s most controversial figures, built ancient Israel into a minor regional power, but at the cost of ostracizing many of his fellow Israelites. The subsequent intrigue and strife after his death led to the division of the kingdom and civil war, a conflict that haunted the Israelites for four centuries. From an historic perspective, this could potentially translate really well into a movie.
Elijah (based on the Books of 1 & 2 Kings)
Elijah, like Joshua, is one of the greatest and most important figures of the Hebrew Bible who has never gotten the Hollywood treatment. Elijah played an incredibly important role in the period of the divided kingdoms, and of the prophets mentioned in the Hebrew Bible he is held second in reverence only to Moses. In addition to having an epic story overflowing with miracles and wars and intrigue, it would be a good opportunity to explain Elijah’s connection to Passover. To make it even more epic, we could add in the story of Elisha for good measure.
Jeremiah (based on the Books of 1 & 2 Kings, Jeremiah and Lamentations)
It is possible that Jeremiah is the greatest known author of the Bible. In addition to the Books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, it is believed that he wrote the entire Deuteronomical history, thus crediting him with perhaps twenty percent of the Holy Scriptures. He had a long tenure as an active prophet, and was a living witness to the Babylonian conquest of the Southern Kingdom. His story is epic in scope: his ministry in the final days of Judah; the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the First Temple; the end of the line of David; and the Babylonian Captivity. I would go see that.
The Hammer (based on the Book of Maccabees)
This is another one that has me baffled. This is the story of one of the greatest uprisings in ancient history. It is the story behind the holiday of Hanukkah. It is the Jewish version of “Braveheart”, which is probably why Mel Gibson wanted to make it a few years ago (its a good thing he didn’t make it for political reasons; but let’s face it, it probably would have been awesome). This is the Hanukkah movie I’ve been waiting to see since I was a kid. A Jewish rebellion against the Greek army of the Seleucids led by a guy nicknamed The Hammer? Seriously Hollywood, what are you waiting for on this one?
The Rabbinate (based on historical accounts)
Okay, this one is not technically based on the Hebrew Bible as it takes place in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. Conceptually it is not for everyone, but mostly for real Jewish history wonks. The idea on this one would be to tell the story of the great rabbis who led the Jewish people in the wake of the Great Revolt and the Bar Kohkba Revolt. It would also talk about the downfall of the priesthood, the loss of power of the Sadducees and the Sanhedrin, and beginnings of the Talmud, Mishnah and Kabbalah. I know this one sounds kind of boring, but I would love to see it.
Here are some other stories from the Hebrew Bible worth a big-screen treatment:
King Solomon – While there have been movies that have featured this wisest of Israelite kings, none of them have been particularly well done; we could use a first-class update.
The Assyrian War – There a lot of possibilities with this, from the fall of the Northern Kingdom to the origin of the Ten Lost Tribes; as a bonus we could start with a flashback to Jonah
Herod the Great – Not a story from the Hebrew Bible per se, Herod was one of the definitive leading figures of the Second Temple period; his story has only been touched on by Hollywood
For some great information on Bible-related films, check out www.biblefilms.blogspot.com