(1956 c 220')
Based primarily on the book of Exodus, Moses is brought up as an Egyptian prince and then learns that he is one of the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt. Rameses sends him into the desert to die, but he survives and learns from God how to liberate his people from bondage.
From Light God created life on earth. The Egyptians caused the Hebrews to work as slaves. A baby is sent to Egypt. The Pharaoh fears a prophecy and proclaims that all Hebrew new-borns must die. The mother Yochabel (Martha Scott) puts her child in a basket and floats it on the river. She tells her daughter to follow the basket among the reeds. The Pharaoh’s daughter Bithiah (Nina Foch) sees a basket floating in the river and finds the child. She says she found only a basket, and she asks to be alone. The other women are sent back to the palace. She says she found the answer to her prayer for a son. Her attendant Memnet (Judith Anderson) tells her the blanket is a Levite cloth from a Hebrew slave. Memnet sinks the basket but secretly keeps the blanket. Bithiah swears Memnet to secrecy. Bithiah calls the child Moses because she drew him from the water.
Years later Moses (Charlton Heston) drives his chariot in a procession. Rameses (Yul Brynner) tells Pharaoh Seti (Cedric Hardwicke) that he is his son and will succeed him. Seti says he will choose the best as his successor and the husband of Nefretiri (Anne Baxter). She sees Moses and calls to him. Moses enters the court and salutes the Pharaoh, who welcomes him as his nephew. Nefretiri asks who he is. Moses presents the Ethiopian king and his sister as an ally. She gives a large emerald to Moses. He tells the Pharaoh he has brought twenty barges of treasures for him. Rameses says the Hebrews believe a deliverer has come. Rameses suggests that Seti he let Moses build his new city. Seti does so, and he asks Rameses to find the deliverer and capture him if he exists.
Moses tells Nefretiri she must marry only a pharaoh. She tells him to build the city, and she kisses him. Moses kneels to his mother, who advises him to marry Nefertiri but not fall in love with her.
Hebrews work building with bricks. Joshua comes down from a wall, and Lilia (Debra Paget) gives him water. Rameses talks with the Hebrew overseer, Dathan (Edward G. Robinson) and asks him where the deliverer is. Dathan will try to find him. Many slaves struggle to move a huge monolith. A woman has her dress get caught under the stone, and she is about to be crushed. Lilia asks them to stop it. Joshua comes down and fights the overseers and asks them to let the old woman loose. Lilia runs to get the prince and is chased. She begs Moses for mercy for a slave. Guards tell him a slave struck the overseers and must be killed. Moses goes and uses his knife to cut the old woman free. Baka (Vincent Price) tells Moses that it is no loss if the old ones are killed. Moses argues with him. Joshua says he is a stone-cutter. Moses asks why he struck an Egyptian when it means death. Moses says he has courage, and Joshua speaks of almighty God who will deliver them. Moses orders him released. Rameses arrives on a chariot. Moses asks if there is grain stored in Goshen, and Joshua says the temple granaries are full. Moses orders baskets brought. They go to the granaries and get grain in baskets.
Nefretiri plays a board game with Seti, who pushes away another petition regarding the grain and Moses. Rameses comes in and says the slaves have Moses, who gives them one day a week to rest. Rameses says Moses holds Ethiopia and Goshen. Seti says he sent for Moses; but Rameses says Moses is not coming because he is pressed with other matters. Seti says he will visit Goshen to see if there is treason. Rameses tells Nefretiri the she will be his. She kisses Rameses, and he pushes her away. She says she could never love him, but he asks if that matters; she will be his wife.
Baka tells Moses they need more sand, but Moses says he will risk it. He orders them to set up the obelisk. Seti comes in, and Moses explains he is busy with the great obelisk. They manage to erect it successfully, and Seti admits he is pleased about that. He asks Moses if he raided the temple granaries and gave it to the slaves along with a day of rest. Moses admits he did and says the dead do nothing. Moses says he has built a city for Seti’s glory. Seti asks if the slaves are loyal to Moses, but he says they are loyal to their God. Seti says that the name of Moses will be carved with his, but not the name of Rameses. Seti leaves with Moses. Baka asks Rameses if he will lose his throne because Moses built a city. Rameses says he will rule.
Nefretiri chooses cloth for her wedding night. Memnet tells her to send her other servants away. She says Moses has no royal blood because he is the son of Hebrew slaves. Memnet says Rameses does not know yet. Nefretiri says Moses will be her husband, and Memnet hands her the Hebrew blanket. Nefretiri makes Memnet keep quiet. Moses comes in and kisses her. A young woman comes in and says that Memnet is dead. Nefretiri says Memnet’s evil lies will not prevent him from being her husband. Moses sees the Hebrew cloth and asks why Memnet brought it. She says she was taking it to Rameses, and Nefretiri admits she killed her. She says a child was wrapped in the blanket. Moses asks who was the child, and Nefretiri says Moses is a son of Hebrew slaves. He realizes that she believes it. Moses asks who the mother is, and she says that Memnet called her Yochabel.
Moses goes to Bithiah and shows her the blanket, and she says it was spun by Memnet. She tells him to put away his suspicions. Moses asks her if she ever knew the Hebrew woman Yochabel. She says no. He says she is the only mother he ever knew, and he will always love her. He goes out, and Bithiah calls for her chariot.
Bithiah arrives in Goshen and calls on Yochabel and asks to speak to her alone. She says Moses will come there, but he must not know that she is his mother. Bithiah says she put the throne of Egypt within his reach. Yochabel says her heart ached for him and she will take the glory and riches that Bithiah has given him. Bithiah says she will be taken from Goshen tonight. She tells her other children to get ready to leave. Moses comes in and sees Yochabel. He recognizes her as the woman who was caught between the stones. She denies that he is her son. She says if he can pray to idols, he is not her son. Her son would be a slave with the spirit of the living God. Moses asks her to swear in the name of this God that she is not his mother. She cannot and cries. Aaron (John Carradine) and Miriam (Olive Deering) introduce themselves as his brother and sister. Moses asks what change is in him and whether he is Egyptian or Hebrew. Yochabel says now he is a slave. Bithiah asks him what he will do. He says he will stay there to find the meaning of what he is. He tells Aaron and Miriam that they are not leaving. Bithiah asks if justice and truth could be served better from a throne so that all men could benefit from his strength. Moses asks her to forgive him. Yochabel says she has seen God’s deliverer.
The Hebrew slaves are forced to make bricks with straw, and they carry wheat to the threshers. Taskmasters use lashes. Moses works with the slaves. Lilia brings him water. Baka calls her to him and says he will make her a house slave. She begs him not to take her. Dathan says she is not worthy of him, but Baka orders her brought. An old Hebrew man complains that the Egyptians defile their women, and an overseer wounds him. Moses carries him out of the mud. The old man says he would behold the deliverer, and he dies.
Servants carry Nefretiri there, and she asks for Moses. In her room she praises Moses and calls him a man of mud. She asks him to kneel, and she says she is worried about him. He says his people keep him from her arms. She asks him to come back to the palace. He says God does not hear the cries of his people. She asks him if he wants her to be in the arms of Rameses, and he says no. She says he can free his people and worship his God so long as she can worship him. He promises to come on the day of Seti’s jubilee. He goes to call on the master builder.
Baka chooses the proper flower for Lilia, and he says Dathan can see only mud. He tells the others to leave and gives her wine. Joshua sneaks in and shouts there is a fire in the chariot house. Joshua comes in and knocks down Baka as Lilia runs out. Egyptians capture Joshua and tie up his arms and legs. Baka begins to use his whip on him. Moses comes in and asks what right Baka has to kill a slave. Moses strangles him to death. Joshua asks why he killed an Egyptian to save a Hebrew. Moses says he is a Hebrew. Joshua says Moses is the chosen one. Dathan listens at the door.
Rameses asks where Baka’s body was found, and a soldier says it was buried in the sand. Rameses asks them to find Joshua. Dathan comes in and says Joshua did not kill the master builder. Rameses asks who did. Dathan says the deliverer killed Baka. Rameses asks who it is, and Dathan asks for money, his freedom, the water girl Lilia, and the house of Baka. Rameses threatens to send him where he belongs. Dathan says the deliverer is Moses. Rameses asks why an Egyptian would deliver the Hebrews. Dathan says Moses is Hebrew, and Rameses says he will pay Dathan’s price.
Seti, Nefretiri, and Rameses watch women dancing. Rameses offers Seti’s jubilee with a gift, an empty bottle. Rameses says the deliverer is not a myth, and he will summon him to Pharaoh’s justice. They bring in the Hebrew Moses chained. Rameses says he warned Seti of treason and asks him to judge truly. Rameses says he is the son of Hebrew slaves. Moses says he is the son of Yochabel and Amran, Hebrew slaves. Bithiah kneels before Seti, who dismisses her forever. Set asks Moses if he is a traitor who will lead people in revolt against him. Moses says he is not the deliverer because only a God could free the slaves from bondage; but if he could free them, he would. Seti says he treated him as his own son because he saw worth in him. Seti asks what evil caused him to turn against him. Moses says it is the evil of slavery because they are of another race and creed. Seti tells Rameses that Egypt shall be his, and he puts his hand in Nefretiri’s hand. He advises him to have no friend and trust no woman. Seti says he protected the helpless, but he who called him father would make rebellion against him. Rameses asks what death he decrees for Moses. Seti says that Rameses can decide. Rameses orders Moses taken away. Seti orders the name of Moses to be stricken from every place in Egypt.
Rameses and Nefretiri visit chained Moses in a dungeon. Rameses tells Moses that he will live and suffer.
Dathan enjoys his luxurious house, and Lilia comes in. He tells the others to leave them. She asks him to let her go if he fears God. He says he prospered because he bowed before the Egyptians. She begs him not to shame her. He says Joshua’s life depends on her, and she says she will do anything to save him.
Moses is taken to the desert and is released by Rameses, who gives him the Hebrew blanket as his robe with a staff as his scepter. He leaves him with one day’s ration of bread and water. Rameses commends him to his Hebrew God. Moses touches the border stone and walks into the desert. Rameses says farewell.
Moses walks across the sand and through a sandstorm. He reaches mountains at night and hears voices. He walks on in the desert and finally falls. He hears the bell of a goat and finds a palm tree with fruit and the well of Midian.
Women come to the well for water, and Sephora (Yvonne De Carlo) finds a man asleep. An Amalikite arrives with his flock of sheep. Sephora tells them it is Jethro’s well. Moses fights them with his staff and makes them move away from the well. He draws water from the well, and the women wash is feet.
In their tent Moses meets Jethro (Eduard Franz). Moses says he came from Egypt, and Jethro says the God of no name must have guided his steps. Jethro says his people are the children of Ishmael. He invites Moses to go with them. Moses says he is a stranger in a strange land, and it is death to help a runaway slave. Moses says he will dwell in this land.
Sephora tells Moses that the God on the mountain is sleeping. Moses with a beard says God would be in every mountain and valley and be in every heart, mind, and soul. He asks if anyone has gone to see him face to face, and she says no one has seen him on Sinai. She says it would be death to look on his face. He says his people have died because he turned away his face. She says God has saved him from Pharaoh’s anger. He says he is a wanderer, and she asks him to rest from wandering.
Jethro’s daughters prepare to dance before the sheikh, but Sephora says she will not. The men talk with Moses, and Jethro says he will let Moses choose from his daughters. Musicians play, and the six sisters dance for the men. They throw their shawls before Moses, and Jethro tells him to choose. Moses says he cannot choose now, and he walks out. Outside Moses sees the volcano active and says God is awake tonight. Sephora says the woman of Egypt was beautiful, and she describes her. He agrees. She says they are not wealthy, but she speaks the truth. He says he has nothing. He asks if she would fill the emptiness of his heart. She says she will not be jealous of a memory.
Seti is laying in bed as Rameses and Nefretiri watch him. Seti says dying is a part of living. He tells Rameses that he will be pharaoh by sunset. Rameses says he will make Egypt great. Seti says he can overcome anything except his own arrogance. Seti says Nefretiri has been his joy. With his last breath he breaks his own law and speaks the name of Moses. Rameses says the royal falcon has flown into the sun.
Moses answers questions from his little son. Sephorah calls Moses and says there is a man among the sheep. He finds the dog barking at Joshua, who collapses. Moses calls for water and asks how he found him. Moses says he will find peace. Joshua says Rameses is oppressing their people, and he must lead them out of Egypt. Sephorah brings water, and Moses says he killed to save Joshua. Moses says he is a shepherd. Moses sees a bush that is on fire but is not burned. He says he will go see this great sight.
Moses climbs up Mount Sinai with his staff. He sees the glowing bush and hears a voice calling his name. He is told to put off his shoes because the place is holy ground. The voice says he is the God of his fathers. Moses asks why he does not hear the cries of his children in bondage in Egypt. God says he has heard their cries, and he will send Moses to Pharaoh to bring his people out of Egypt. Moses asks how he can do that. God says he will teach him what to say. When he brings out the people, they will serve God. He will put his law into their hearts and minds. Moses asks what name he shall give, and God says “I am that I am.”
Joshua asks Sephorah about the holy mountain. They see Moses approaching, and she says he has seen God. She notices his hair has turned gray. Moses says his eyes could not look upon him. He revealed his words to his mind. He is not flesh but spirit, and his light is in every man. He is to go to Egypt, and Joshua says he is God’s messenger. Sephorah says she will go with him. Joshua says he will get swords, but Moses says he will not free his people with swords but with a shepherd’s staff.
Pharaoh Rameses receives ambassadors from other countries. Moses comes in as the ambassador from Jericho, and he says he brings the word of God. Rameses asks what is the word. Moses says that the God of Israel says to let his people go. Rameses says they are his, and he will not let them go. Why should he let them go? Moses tells Aaron to cast down his staff. He does, and it turns into a cobra. Nefretiri tells her son it will not harm them. Rameses calls it a magician’s trick and has two men throw their staffs down. They turn into snakes also, but the cobra swallows them. Moses picks up the cobra, and it becomes his staff. He tells Rameses to obey. Rameses tells his people to make bricks without straw, and he withdraws.
Moses and Aaron go to his people, and they ask when they leave Egypt. Aaron says they will not have straw to make their bricks. They complain that Moses made things worse, and some want to stone him; but soldiers arrest Moses and take him to Nefretiri. She says she cursed him each time Rameses took her in his arms. She says he has not changed. Moses says he has stood in God’s presence. She asks why she fell in love with the prince of fools. He says he is bound to a God, a people, and a shepherd girl. Nefretiri asks about her. He says there is a beauty beyond the senses, beauty of the spirit she does not understand. She says that will not free his people, but she may help. He says God may work his purpose through her.
At a well Miriam tells them to fill their jars because it will go dry. Joshua waits for Lilia, and he tells her he was told she is dead. She says she is with Dathan of her own free will. Joshua says the hour of deliverance has come.
Moses tells Rameses to let his people go. Aaron tells him to obey the Lord. Rameses says he blesses the waters. Moses has Aaron stretch out his staff in the water, and it turns red. Water from fountains turns red too. Moses says Egypt will thirst for seven days. Rameses pours out sacred water, which becomes red also.
Rameses tells them to send the people away. Moses comes again, and Rameses says the various plagues came of themselves, not by God. Moses says he will know by seeing hail fall from a clear sky and darkness cover Egypt during the day. Moses say after three dark days his ministers will send for him. Moses leaves, and it begins to hail.
After three days of darkness his ministers say that Moses’s predictions came true. Rameses says he will not yield to a slave, but he has summoned Moses. Nefretiri asks him if he has hardened his heart against his son. She mocks him for surrendering to the God of slaves. Rameses orders the Hebrew brought in. Moses comes in and asks if Rameses has seen the light. Moses asks how long he will refuse to humble himself before God. Moses says his word will bring one more plague on Egypt. Rameses warns Moses not to come before him again, or he will die. Rameses says the first-born son of the Hebrews will die, beginning with the son of Moses.
Nefretiri comes to the home of Sephorah, and she asks her if that is the son of Moses. Sephorah says Nefretiri lost Moses when he went to seek his God, and she lost him when he found his God. Nefretiri tells her of the plague, and Sephorah prays to God. Moses comes home and finds Nefretiri, who embraces him. She says Sephorah left to save his children. He says it is the first-born of Egypt who will die. He says he cannot save her son. The destroyer will come at midnight. He sends her back to her son. She says his love for her will protect her son, and she leaves.
Joshua comes to the window of Lilia and brings blood to save her life. Dathan tells Joshua that she is his of her own free will. Joshua paints blood over the doorway.
At a table Moses prays before they eat. His nephew Eleazar (Paul De Rolf) asks why this night is different than other nights. Moses says it is because God will deliver them. Bithiah comes to the door, and Moses welcomes her and her bearers. He says the darkness of death will pass over them this night, and tomorrow they will leave Egypt. He says this woman taught him. They hear people screaming. Joshua comes in, and Moses tells him to close the door and let death pass. Moses prays and breaks the bread. Eleazar asks Moses why they eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread.
Rameses and his counselors wait, and the son of one of them dies. Rameses finds his son dying, and Nefretiri says God’s curse is on him. She says she asked Moses for his life, and he will not die. Rameses asks for Moses to be brought to him. Moses comes to Rameses, who complains that his shadow came between him and his father and his queen. Moses says the power of God has freed them. Rameses tells Moses to go, and Moses thanks God that tomorrow they are going as a free nation who will reap what they sow. Nefretiri, carrying her dead son, comes down the stairs and hands him to Rameses, who puts him on a statue. Rameses prays that his life be restored, and he will raise a temple to the Lord of Darkness.
Joshua blows a horn, and Aaron calls the Hebrews to behold the dawn of freedom. The Hebrews gather their flocks and begin to depart. Soldiers turn Dathan out of his house, and he sees the blood on his door. He asks where they are going. Joshua orders the tribes. Some men carry the bones of Joseph and sing. A boy is thrown a golden calf. Joshua sees Dathan, and he throws him off a wagon and lets Lilia ride. Dathan tells an Egyptian official that he is going back to his house.
Moses at the border sees so many and asks God how he will find food in the desert for the multitude. Joshua tells him they are ready, and Moses gives the word. Moses tells them to remember this day when God leads them out of bondage. The people and their animals walk together.
Rameses is praying, and Nefretiri asks if his god hears him. She says he is stone with the head of a bird. Rameses says he is Egypt, but she says he let Moses kill her son. Rameses says he cannot fight the God of Moses. She tells him how Moses spurned her. She says they are laughing at him. He gets angry and orders his armor and chariots. Nefretiri gives him his sword and tells him to bring it back with his blood.
Egyptian chariots come out of the city, and Rameses leads them. Joshua hears the thunder of their horses and sees them coming. He sounds the horn and orders barriers formed to block the pass. Moses tells them to move back. Dathan makes some afraid. On a precipice by the sea Moses says they have seen miracles of the Lord and still they have no faith. Dathan says he delivers them to death. Moses tells them they will see the salvation of the Lord. A pillar of fire stops the chariots. Moses faces the sea and stretches out his arms. Then the sea begins to part and makes a dry space. Moses tells Joshua to lead them. An adviser tells Rameses that they cannot fight against a God. The people pass between the walls of water. Joshua tells Moses to stand on a rock where the people can see him. The pillar of fire fades away, and the Egyptian chariots chase after the Hebrews. Rameses orders them to destroy them all but bring Moses to him alive. They drive between the walls of water too; but after the Hebrews have passed through, Moses asks who will withstand the power of God. The water fills in the gap, drowning the Egyptians. Rameses sees it and bends over.
Nefretiri sees Rameses come in holding his sword. She asks to see his blood on his sword, and he throws down his sword and sits on his throne.
Moses led the Hebrews to Mount Sinai. After Moses was gone for forty days, Dathan stirs up the people by questioning that he is still alive. A woman says he went there to get the law of God, and they argue with each other. They ask who is to lead them. Dathan says they need food. He asks Aaron to make them a god of gold, a golden calf. He tells them to bring their jewelry.
On the mountain Moses talks to God and asks for God’s law. He sees a pillar fire and hears a voice proclaiming the ten commandments. Meanwhile Aaron is finishing the golden calf. The women wear Egyptian veils and tread grapes into wine. The voice says not to kill. The people become perverse as they worship the graven image. Dathan wants to sacrifice Lilia and throws her on the altar. Moses sees the fire burning the words into the stone. They are in the form of two tablets, and he carries them. The voice tells him the people have corrupted themselves. The people give in to various sins.
Moses descends and is met by Joshua, who kneels. Moses shows him God’s ten commandments. Moses says the noise is song and revelry. Joshua blows his horn, and the people listen and see Moses. He tells them they have sinned and are not worthy to receive the ten commandments. Dathan says they are free. Moses says there is no freedom without the law. He asks who is on the Lord’s side. Some call to him, and Lilia comes to Joshua. Moses calls them idolaters and says they will drink bitter waters. He says those who will not live by the law will die by the law. He throws the tablets on the idol, and they explode in a fire.
God makes them wander in the wilderness for forty years until all their evils are consumed. The Lord show Moses the new land, but he says he will not cross over the river Jordan. Sephorah says he is God’s torch that lights the way to freedom. Moses charges Joshua to lead the people into the promised land. Joshua says they will serve the Lord. Moses gives the five books to Eleazar. He tells them to go and proclaim liberty to all.
This epic drama depicts the legendary life of Moses, who is credited with leading the enslaved Hebrews out of Egypt by using magic that brought various plagues on Egypt. He leads them into the Sinai desert and brings them commandments to regulate their morals. The film reflects the powerful story of the main founder of the Jewish religion and shows how even people that have been enslaved can become liberated by higher wisdom.