Thursday, December 09, 2010

Deuteronomy as a Film, Cats & The Death of Moses

The 5th book of the Christian Old Testament, and the last book of the Torah is a book called Deuteronomy.

The name Deuteronomy means "spoken words" and comes from the first words of the book that read "These are the words..." and the title is appropriate as the book largely consist of significant sermons given by Moses before the chosen people enter the promised land.

These sermons in themselves, while certainly interesting, are not quite movie material, so I wouldn't expect a "Deuteronomy film" any time soon. The first "sermon" primarily deals with the history of the Israelites and later sermons are more instructive in terms of the law the people are to follow in the promised land. Everything from how to view divorce and murder to what foods are considered clean and unclean.

Not quite the stuff of movie gold.

That being said...Deuteronomy has shown up in pop-culture as one of T.S. Elliot's cats that shows up in his poems that in turn shows up in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats. Old Deuteronomy is a cat known for his elderly status and knowledge of the law that earns him respect as an elder in the cat community.

So maybe there's room for Deuteronomy still.

In fact, the entire book would make for a less than inspiring film, but the elder Moses certainly could have some film charm, particularly in the dramatic and emotionally and intellectually captivating way in which he dies.

In the book of Numbers there is the account of Moses disobedience in executing God's plan involving bringing forth water from a rock. As a result God will not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land (that story discussed some here as part of the Numbers post and an explanation of Moses' exclusion can be read here).

The Death of Moses

But as Deuteronomy comes to a close we see Moses death as well as the passing of authority form Moses over to Joshua, which could be a powerful scene. The images of leadership passing can often be quite moving and powerful.

Moses in these final days looks with longing towards the Promise Land with his exclusion from being a part of this place. He teaches the people of Israel a song, then he provides individual blessings to each of the tribes. He climbs up to the top of a mountain and is shown the whole land by God, and then he dies in Moab.

Generally this book lacks the narrative to be a film, but does have this powerful scene at the end.

Additionally, the tone of this book and theme says "Don't fear anything but God who has ultimate power and authority" Which is an interesting message and theme that isn't a common theme in contemporary art, film, and literature.

Posts in the series: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

Image of Cats character Old Deuteronomy from

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