To escape the edict of Egypt's Pharaoh Rameses I (Ian Keith), condemning all newborn Hebrew males, the infant Moses (Fraser C. Heston) is set adrift on the Nile in a reed basket. Saved by the pharaoh's daughter Bithiah (Nina Foch), he is adopted by her and brought up in the court of her brother, Pharaoh Sethi (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). Moses (Charlton Heston) gains Sethi's favor and the love of the throne Princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter), as well as the hatred of Sethi's son, Rameses II (Yul Brynner). When his Hebrew heritage is revealed, Moses is cast out of Egypt, and makes his way across the desert where he marries, has a son, and is commanded by God to return to Egypt to free the Hebrews from slavery. In Egypt, Moses' fiercest enemy proves to be not Rameses II, but someone near to him who can "harden his heart".