The Ten Commandments (1956) is one of the best movies ever made. It’s ambitious, awe-inspiring, emotional, and respectful of its source material. Everything I could ask for from a Biblical epic. So it was all the more surprising when I discovered a major plot hole in the film on my most recent viewing of it.
The God with No Name
First, some context. You see, this film boldly states that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the very God of Israel, has no name. Or at least He had never revealed His name to the Israelites up to that point in history (about 1400 B.C.). It’s an intriguing proposition that made me as a kid try to notice things that I take for granted. Of course we know the name of God today. But for God’s chosen people who had suffered in slavery for centuries, it must have felt like He had forsaken them because they worshipped Him in ignorance of His name or any other attribute of His character.
In this scene, pay attention to the man who inspires Moses to find God and speak with Him.
When God first speaks to Moses, face to face, on Mount Sinai and gives him the task of delivering the Israelites from Egypt, Moses says that the people won’t believe him unless he can tell them God’s name. How does God respond? He says, “I Am that I Am. Thou shalt say, ‘I Am hath sent me unto you.’” He doesn’t specifically state that His name is Jehovah at that moment and He never does in this film. But in Exodus 6:2-3, it reads, “And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them.” All of this happened just before Moses returned to Egypt.
All right, are we clear on the fact that none of the Israelites knew the name of God before Moses went up to Mount Sinai? Okay. If that’s the case, then why does everyone refer to Joshua by that name throughout the film, even when Moses is still an Egyptian prince?
Joshua is Hebrew for “God is salvation” or “God is help.” Notice that word, God, at the start of his name. The first part of the name Joshua is short for Jehovah. But how could that possibly be? No one knew the name of God at that time! The name that people claimed not to know was hiding in plain sight. When the people speak Joshua’s name and then wonder out loud what God’s name is, it’s like saying, “I wonder who Thor Odinson’s father is.”
I’d like to note that this is a plot hole in the film, not a contradiction in the Holy Bible. Numbers 13:16 makes it clear that Joshua was originally named Hoshea (which means “Salvation”) until Moses renamed him Joshua as he sent him and 11 other spies into the land of Canaan. At that point, Moses had known the name of God for years, so it makes perfect sense for him to give Joshua that name.
Why Did They Do That?
Why did the filmmakers make such a huge gaffe? Probably to save time and avoid confusion. The movie is already close to 4 hours long, so it doesn’t have time to spare focusing on a side character’s name. And everyone knows the name Joshua from the Bible while few people would recognize the name Hoshea. It’s simpler to just call him by his eventual name, even if doing so opens up a huge can of worms they weren’t prepared to deal with.
By the way, Jesus is the Greek form of the name Joshua. I hope you had a happy Easter and that you enjoyed joining me in search of one last Easter egg.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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