Bob Dylan And Human Sacrifice (Part lI)

Part I of this article appeared here.

by Larry Fyffe

God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son:

And He said, "Take now thy son
Thy only son Isaac, whom thou lovest ...
And offer him there for a burnt offering
Upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of"
(Genesis 22:2)

Just as Abraham is about to stab his son to death,
God announces: “This is only a test”:

And He said, "Lay not a hand upon the lad ...
For now I know that you fearest God
Seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son
Thine only son from me"
(Genesis 22:12)

Taking his cue from Mark Twain’s “Letters From The Earth”, singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan parodies the biblical story:

Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe said "Man, you must be putting me on"
God said, "No, Abe"; Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want, Abe, but
The next time you see me coming, you better run"
Well Abe said, "Where do you want this killing done?"
God said, "Out on Highway 61"
(Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited)

Things don’t turn out so well in the New Testament as in the Old. There’s no one around to stop God from looking the other way when His own son Jesus gets killed. Apparently, by sacrificing a human ‘Lamb’ to Himself rather than an ordinary lamb, God intends to strikingly demonstrate that His creations no longer need fear Him; the crucifixion is done for their benefit, to show that the Almighty forgives them in return for their loyalty:

At the ninth hour, Jesus cried, with a loud voice, saying ...
"My God, my God, why hath Thou forsaken me?" ....
And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost
(St. Mark 15: 34, 37)

Posed in the following song lyrics is an interesting question:

Through many a dark hour
I've been thinking about this
That Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot had God on His side
(Bob Dylan: With God On Our Side)

The phrase the ‘Lamb of God’ first appears within the Holy Bible in the Book of St. John:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him
And saith, "Behold the Lamb of God
Which taketh away the sin of the world"
(St. John 1:29)

St. John takes great pains to separate the followers of John the Baptist from those he refers almost exclusively to as ‘the Jews” ; the consequence thereof is the demonizing of ‘the Jews’ by Christian leaders for many centuries, including the killing of Jews by the Crusaders on their way to take the Holy Land from the followers of Islam; for the Nazis of the twentieth century the table’s been prepared:

Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now, too
Have God on their side
(Bob Dylan: With God On Our Side)

I can’t think for you, you’ll have to decide – are the lyrics below rife with sarcasm as well?:

I've been saved
By the blood of the Lamb
By the blood of the Lamb
And I'm so glad
Yes, I'm so glad
I'm so glad
So glad
I want to thank You, Lord
I just want to thank You, Lord
Thank you, Lord
(Bob Dylan: Saved)

Untold Dylan: who we are what we do

Untold Dylan is written by people who want to write for Untold Dylan.  It is simply a forum for those interested in the work of the most famous, influential and recognised popular musician and poet of our era, to read about, listen to and express their thoughts on, his lyrics and music.

We welcome articles, contributions and ideas from all our readers.  Sadly no one gets paid, but if you are published here, your work will be read by a fairly large number of people across the world, ranging from fans to academics who teach English literature.  If you have an idea, or a finished piece send it as a Word file to with a note saying that it is for publication on Untold Dylan.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with approaching 5000 active members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.  Not every index is complete but I do my best.

But what is complete is our index to all the 604 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found, on the A to Z page.  I’m proud of that; no one else has found that many songs with that much information.  Elsewhere the songs are indexed by theme and by the date of composition. See for example Bob Dylan year by year.

And please do note our friends at  The Bob Dylan Project, which also lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, plus links back to our reviews (which we do appreciate).

If in reading the site and listening to some of the music you get even one-tenth as much pleasure as we get in researching, writing and publishing the material, you’ll be having a good time.

Tony Attwood,  Publisher / editor, Untold Dylan.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *