Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Book of Eli

Author:  Susan L. Prince

If you have not seen The Book of Eli yet, stop reading now.  This post will have spoilers.

This is the plot synopsis from IMDB:  Eli (Denzel Washington) has been on a journey for 30 years, walking west across America after a cataclysmic war that turned the earth into a total wasteland. The world has become a lawless civilization where people must kill or be killed. The barren roads belong to gangs of cutthroats who rob and kill for water, a pair of shoes, a lighter, or just for fun. Eli is a peaceful man who only acts in self defense, and becomes a warrior with unbelievable killing skills when he is challenged. After the war and the "Big Flash", Eli was guided by a higher power to a hidden book and given the task of protecting the book and taking it to its final destination. Eli guards the book with his life, because he knows that the book is the only hope that humanity has for its future.

I've now seen this film three times.  The first time I was alone in a movie theater taking it all in.  The other two times it was to see it again myself in order to ponder it with the insight of having already seen it, and also to introduce my friends to it.  I wanted to talk about the movie and you can't unless the people you talk to have already seen it, or you will ruin it for them.  It is a given.  That is the reason I haven't posted about it until now.  I didn't want to spoil it for my friends.

A few things immediately come to mind when I think about The Book of Eli: what it means to love the Word of God, the supernatural protection Eli had, the faith aspect of the film, how evil and desolate a place can be when its inhabitants have no knowledge of God, and how even evil does in fact recognize God's word.

 I remember the first time seeing it, and thinking to myself wow.  If we only treasured the Book like this man does.  Protecting it with his life.  I have five or six bibles hanging out in my house, a few in the car and so there is always one available.  But, do I cherish the fact that I have them?  No.  Not like I should.  Do I read it everyday like Eli does?   No.  Not like I should. And what would it be like to have possession of the last existing Bible?

I remember conviction coming over me as I thought about the fact that some people don't have the Holy Bible available to them, and I do.  It is readily available to me and I should thank God for that rather than take it for granted.

Eli loved that book.  It was evident in how he protected it by covering it and securing it in his pack after each reading. He kept the book locked with a key and he would kiss it as he slid it back into its protective bag.  Eli slept with it always within his reach.  If anyone tried to take that book, it was a sure death sentence for that person.   

Eli understood and respected the power in the words of the book he had carried in his possession for thirty years.  Unfortunately, so did Carnegie, the man who was the leader over a city that was as depraved as any city inhabited by people without knowledge of God.  He ruled by intimidation and weapons, but he knew that Eli had a more powerful weapon and was determined to take it.  Carnegie was evil to the core and knew that the Bible has powerful words and that if he had that book, he could use the words in it to have power over all the people.  He said "it's been done before".   That was an absolutely chilling statement to me.

Some people seem to debate if in fact   [ major spoiler alert ]   Eli was blind throughout the film.  I believe that the scenes at the end of the film that alternated between Carnegie finally getting his first look at the book he stole from Eli, and the camera focusing in on Eli's eyes as he is reciting scripture, are pointing out the fact that Eli was a blind man.  This is a twist in the film that I did not expect and was totally blown away by.  That obviously added an entirely different dimension to the movie for me because then I had to replay some of the scenes in my mind to totally grasp the awesomeness of that.  I mean, how did Eli fight so well as to kill to protect that book and himself when others were so bent on killing him and taking that book?  How could he walk through towns he was unfamiliar with so seemingly flawlessly?  How?  How could he have accomplished his mission to "go west" for thirty years while being absolutely blind?

Once I was aware of the blindness of the character of Eli and watched the film again, there are nuances that are shown very subtly that reveal that he is in fact blind.  For example; in many scenes the action is slowed down and the audio becomes the main focus.  In the very beginning of the movie we hear the cracking of branches as a cat makes its way through a burned out forest.  We hear the cries and purrs of the cat which helps Eli know its location.  Later Eli comes to an abandoned home where he opens some cupboards but reaches up to feel what is in them.  He opens a door, which consequently falls off the hinges, startling him, but the viewer thinks he is reacting to the dead body hanging there.  A few other times in the movie it becomes apparent that Eli is being guided by the faint sounds of his surroundings.  Very interesting to observe the movie again, once you know he is blind. 

I believe that The Book of Eli explains how he was able to accomplish his mission in total blindness by subtly unveiling the supernatural throughout the story.  Eli shares with Solara, a young girl who becomes his walking companion, how he came to be in possession of the book.  He shares that he "heard a voice and the voice led him to the book."  Eli also explains that the voice told him to "go west" and that is why, for thirty years, he's been walking across the country heading west.  In a somewhat humorous exchange, Eli explains a little more:

Solara: You know, you say you've been walking for thirty years, right?
Eli: Right?
Solara: Have you ever thought that maybe you were lost?
Eli: Nope.
Solara: Well, how do you know that you're walking in the right direction?
Eli: I walk by faith, not by sight.
Solara: [sighs] What does that mean?
Eli: It means that you know something even if you don't know something.
Solara: That doesn't make any sense.
Eli: It doesn't have to make sense. It's faith, it's faith. It's the flower of light in the field of darkness that's giving me the strength to carry on. You understand?
Solara: Is that from your book?
Eli: No, it's, uh, Johnny Cash, Live at Folsom Prison.

What an example of what it means to walk by faith and not by sight!  The second time viewing this movie, this scene obviously had more weight to it for me.  He was demonstrating what walking by faith really is, it is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 1:11)   Eli was aware of the importance of his mission to get that book to a safe haven, the future of humanity and the world was dependent on it, and this was his hope.  To anybody who didn't hear the same voice that Eli heard, his mission was nonsense.  An outsider could in no way grasp Eli's determination to finish his mission, or fathom why on earth he would bother trying, let alone see it as something that was even possible to do.  But Eli understood that with God, all things are possible.  (Mark 10:27

I was convicted about some issues in my own personal life and made me question how much faith I have.  I've even said on occasion to a friend who asked me to pray, "I can't.  I have weak faith today."  I want to have a faith that would make me take a sure step in total blindness, fighting off evil at every turn, totally trusting God to be in control, and never straying from the narrow.  Eli was tempted to stray from the course, too, but demonstrated holding his thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ when he came upon some trouble and had to remind himself, "Stay on the path. It's not your concern. Stay on the path. It's not your concern."

The remarkable thing about the Word of God is what it says about itself and the Creator.  It says that "only a fool says there is no God."  (Psalm 14:1) and that "even demons believe".  (James 2:19)  In the Book of Eli, even the evil people were not so ignorant as to say there is no god.  In fact, the evil Carnegie acknowledged the power of the Word of God, even though his purpose was to pervert it for his own gain.  When one thinks about it, that is exactly what evil is, perverting what is good for our own personal gain.  And,  often, it happens so subtly that it can easily be unnoticed until it has totally infiltrated one's heart, until the heart becomes hardened.  Sad.   

The bible teaches that even the demons believe and shudder, and in The Book of Eli, the evil people noted the supernatural when one of the men pursuing Eli, after having come upon a couple of men "only a few hours dead" remarked "it's like he's protected somehow, nothing can touch him." Eli's pursuer's recognized that he was "different" because of how he has been able to escape their grasp a few times already.  Earlier he had miraculously escaped from a guarded room and they had witnessed him walking away from an gun battle in which he was drastically outnumbered.  In another scene they were seeing what was left in Eli's wake as he continued to "go west".   Also, the voice Eli heard did tell him that he and Solara would get out of another gun battle alive.  Eli totally trusted what the voice in his heart would tell him.  Conviction came over me because sometimes I may suppress the voice of God in me, oh me of little faith! 

Evil people understand the power of God's Word, and too often, sinful people use it improperly for personal gain, rather than to glorify God and lead people to a knowledge of Him and His Love.  Carnegie angrily responded to one of his men questioning his determination and fervor to go through all of this trouble for a book?  "IT'S NOT A #$%^*&' BOOK!  IT'S A WEAPON.  A weapon aimed right at the hearts and minds of the weak and the desperate. It will give us control of them. If we want to rule more than one small, $#%^&' town, we have to have it. People will come from all over, they'll do exactly what I tell 'em if the words are from the book. It's happened before and it'll happen again. All we need is that book."

In The Book of Eli, the viewer sees what remains of a world that no longer has knowledge of God and it is a desolate place.  It is filled with depravity everywhere one turns.  After the third viewing of this movie, my friend opened her Bible to Isaiah 24 and began reading.  Wow.  What a comparison to what we had just witnessed on screen.  I urge you to go read it for yourself and just contemplate what life without God is like.

I was really taking note of something Eli said when asked about what the world was like "before"?  He answered Solara saying,  "People had more than they needed, people didn't know what was precious and what wasn't, people threw away things they kill each other for now. "  Throughout the movie it is evident that water was the hot commodity.  Everybody wanted water, and he who had water had power and wealth.  Chapstick was another hot item.

People were desperate for things that give life.  People weren't fighting for the last hot toy of the Christmas season on the shelf.  People were bargaining for, begging for, water, a life-giving substance.  It made me ponder what true poverty is?  It made me think about materialism and I'm pondering if it is sin in my life.  Am I throwing away what people might kill for in the future?

It was amazing to think that God's plan for Eli was to walk for thirty years, read His Word everyday, and protect the book.  What happened was astounding, and that was the fact that all those years of reading the book allowed Eli to commit the entire Bible, chapter and verse, to memory.  It was written on his heart and when the book was stolen away by the evil Carnegie, who later learned that the book was of no use to him because it was all in braille. Eli was able to have the Bible transcribed and humanity would now have the Word of God as it tried to start civilization again.

This emphasized to me the importance of learning Scripture and reading it everyday.  It needs to be written on my heart, my future depends on it!

There are so many discussion points in The Book of Eli.  It is a movie that really made me stop and ponder many things.  I know that it is just a movie, but the spiritual truths it highlights are worth discussing and thinking about.  I've rambled on enough about some of my thoughts on it, and believe me, I haven't shared all of my thoughts on it.  Now I'd like to hear yours if you have any you wish to share.


  1. That was a great editorial with some great points,Sue. One thing I got out of it is the thing that is the most precious of God's word and it is "wasted" or even "thrown away" every day more than most things that are wasted...when we choose to do something else over hiding His word in our hearts. I don't think there is even a believer who is not guilty of this at some point. We don't realize the power of the Book because we don't read it and utilize it. By God's call, I took a leap of faith and quit a job that I love...probably the best I ever a time when jobs are scarce. But He wants me in the Word more and He has provided so that I can be. I pray I will not abuse this gift and not let distractions take me away from it. I ask you to pray for me as well.

    By the way...I can't believe you used to tell me how long posts are not good and you don't read the long just skim them. Is it fair for me to rejoice in your own hypocrisy? LOL. I love it! Excellent read! (And I didn't skim it either...although I was tempted).

  2. You have an interesting point in that the Word is the most wasted of all commodities.

    I know. I still don't like long posts, but I had a lot to say. LOL Pictures and blockquotes help break things up though.

    Just like books with illustrations help. :)