A Cry For Help

In last year’s Bible intro course, one of the essay options invited students to compare Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ to the biblical source texts (they also had other choices, in case ‘Hallelujah’ didn’t appeal to them). That was a runaway success for the course, but now I have the challenge of coming up with another comparable song for this coming autumn’s essay option.
Here are the restrictions: The song in question should be based on/comparable to an Old Testament text (students won’t have encountered the NT yet in the course; indeed, Pentateuch/Writings is even preferable to Prophets). It should not be a brain-dead easy comparison, and the song should be at least pretty good. It’ll be a better choice if it’s not an evangelistic appeal, though old-timey songs are probably theologically depotentiated for this audience. Multiple cover versions make it even better (lots of options, and more room for comparison); Robert Wilkins’ ‘Prodigal Son’, covered by the Rolling Stones, would be great except the class won’t be anywhere near Jesus’ parables by the time they have to write the essay.
What song(s) would you suggest?
All nominations, of course, are subject to my own pedagogical/aesthetic discernment. Remember, someone’s going to have to read as many as a hundred essays on this topic.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A Cry For Help

  1. Michael Jackson’s Thriller could be interested in comparing the various views of the afterlife, particularly in the Psalms about descending into the Pit.

    REM’s Losing My Religion could be interesting in dealing with the Israelites’ worshiping of foreign gods.

  2. You will not be surprised to learn that the entirety of Life of the Age to Come comes to mind, as does San Bernardino.

  3. The initial one that comes to mind is Bowie’s Absolute Beginners, of which there have been several cover versions with regard to Moses’ (or indeed anyones) call from God – more might come to mind when I actually think about it, but incase I don’t have any thinking time I offer that.

  4. Derek Olsen says:

    Metallica’s “Creeping Death”! It’s the Exodus narrative from the perspective of the Angel of Death…

  5. Derek Olsen says:

    (It might be too easy, though…)

  6. Judy S-N says:


    Although my favorite for comparing a song with the biblical text(s) is

    and I particularly like Wanda’s version

  7. michael says:

    I second Daniel’s suggestion of The Mountain Goats.

    Also, several songs on Sufjan Stevens’ “Seven Swans” would work nicely (“All the trees of the field”; “Abraham”).

  8. Michael Thate says:

    Great idea! How about:
    Johnny Cash, “When the Man Comes Around”
    Metallica, “Following the God that Failed”.

  9. Mike says:

    A few Bruce Cockburn songs could be helpful, such as “Creation Dream,” “Lord of the Starfields,” “Starwheel,” “In the Falling Dark,” “Stolen Land,” “Hills of Morning.”

  10. Peter Gabriel – Salsbury Hill
    Toad The Wet Sprocket – Fly From Heaven

    Those are the first two that come to mind. Anything by U2 would be obvious if that’s your goal, you know, to be obvious. Wake Up Dead Man being ideal.

  11. Lou Reed – Perfect Day. Creation is the obvious one, but there are lots of other possible links too.

  12. Thomas Coles says:

    Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn! – but, very boring to write an essay on.


    Similarly, Desmond Dekker – Israelites


    Buena Vista Social Club – Hasta Siempre, Commandante


    Because Jesus was a revolutionary hero murdered by an oppressive state?

  13. Thomas Coles says:

    Charlie Daniels Band – Devil Went Down to Georgia, very old-testament.

  14. Derek Olsen says:

    Lynard Skynard’s “Simple Man” provides a modern take on the parental instruction trope of Wisdom Lit particularly Proverbs

  15. Mark says:

    How about almost anything by Girls in Trouble? http://www.girlsintroublemusic.com/listen/

    The older album are all midrash on passages from Hebrew scripture that concern women–and they are not all stories, either. For example, ‘Mountain/When My Father Comes Back’ is a song from the perspective of Jephthah’s daughter. The lead singer wrote several of the songs in lieu of a Master’s Thesis.

    The more recent album is midrash on midrash.

  16. Mark says:

    Oops. The song is ‘Mountain/When My Father Came Back’.

Comments are closed.