Reimagined heroes of the Hebrew Bible

This year sees the release of Samson, a feature-length film that reimagines the Biblical tale of a young Hebrew blessed with supernatural strength. To celebrate, we’re looking at the ways in which the stories of famous Biblical Hebrew heroes have been retold through modern forms – such as film, TV and online gaming – to capture the attention of contemporary audiences.
Samson
The last judge of the Israelites, Samson was a young Nazarite bestowed with incredible strength by God. Not only did this allow him to slay a lion with his bare hands, but it also gave him the power to conquer the Philistines. It was said that if Samson’s hair was cut, his Nazarite vow would be broken and so he would lose his strength.
His tale was first recaptured for the big screen in 1949, with director Celil B. DeMille’s movie Samson and Delilah. Released by Paramount Pictures, it sees Samson (Victor Mature) seduced by the Philistine Noblewoman Delilah (Hedy Lamarr), who seeks the secrets of his incredible strength to destroy him and avenge her sister’s death. The epic film was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design, and proved how successfully Biblical stories could be adapted for cinema.
Since DeMille’s creation, there have been multiple films inspired by the Hebrew Nazarite. The most recent is the Pure Fix Production’s movie from directors Bruce Macdonald and Gabriel Sabloff. Samson has already been released in the US and will hit UK cinemas in September 2018.


Noah
The survivor of one of the Bible’s greatest apocalyptic events, Noah was the tenth of the pre-flood patriarchs. After witnessing humanity’s faults, God decided to return the earth to pre-creation state and Noah was tasked with building an ark to save the animal kingdom from destruction.


The Genesis flood narrative has been countlessly retold in many different forms. The story lends itself particularly well to younger audiences. It’s the basis of a common nursery rhyme (‘The Animals Went in Two by Two’) and frequently appears in picture book illustrations and cartoon episodes.


It’s also been adapted for screens. In 2014, the epic live-action movie Noah was released. It stars the acting talents of Russell Crowe and Emma Watson. As well as making over $362 million in revenue, the picture received great critical acclaim, with The Telegraph calling it ‘astonishing’.


Surprisingly, Noah’s tale also been recreated for online casino players who like to play slots. Noah’s Ark takes the form of a 30-payline slot designed by the renowned gaming software company, IGT. Its colourful reels feature many of the animals that were saved from the deluge.


Moses
Moses is regarded as one of the most important prophets in Judaism, as well as many other faiths. When an Egyptian Pharaoh ordered all new-born Hebrew boys to be killed to stop them ever allying with enemies of Egypt, Moses’ mother hid him for protection. He was eventually found and adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter.
Later on in his life, he was forced to flee Egypt for killing an Egyptian slave. But God commanded Moses to return to liberate the Israelites from slavery. He rose to the challenge, and famously led the Exodus of the Israelites across the Red Sea.  
The Exodus has been the basis of many popular film and TV adaptations. The most unexpected came in April 1995. An episode of the animated children’s programme, Rugrats, was aired to celebrate Hanukah. ‘A Rugrats Passover’ became the highest-rated Nickelodeon show in history and was met with overwhelmingly positive praise from numerous Jewish publications. It won a Primetime Emmy Award, an Annie Award and a CableACE Award.

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