God To The Devil, “Make My Day”: A Job Dylan Allegory


By Larry Fyffe

Bob Dylan covers a song that bespeaks the biblical Book of Job:

There was a man in the land of Uz
Whose name was Job
A that man was perfect and upright
And one that feared God
And eschewed evil
(Job 1:1)

The Devil figures that Job is upright just because he has lots of sheep and stuff, and a large family to boot, so he challenges God to put up or shut up:

But put forth thine hand now
And touch all he hath
And he will curse thee to thy face
(Job 1: 11)

Now God is no cowardly lion, and tweaks the Devil’s nose, and says ‘Go ahead, punk, make my day – see to it that Job suffers, and we’ll find out what happens’.

Bob Dylan draws upon the biblical allegory:

How many times have you heard someone say
If I had his money I’d do things my way
Hmm, but little they know
Hmm, it is so hard to find
One man in ten with a satisfied mind
(Bob Dylan: A Satisfied Mine – Hayes; Rhodes)

The Devil puts his best hoof forward – gets his gang of bad guys to steal Job’s sheep; a storm to kill most of his family; and, for good measure, Job gets boils:

Hmm, once I was wading in fortune and fame
Everything I dreamed of to get a start in life’s game
But suddenly it happened
Hmm, I lost every dime
But I’m richer by far with a satisfied mind
(Bob Dylan: A Satisfied Mind)

In real life, Dylan goes through a tough time, and finds comfort by flirting with religious fundamentalists, writing and singing gospel songs, and listening to his friend Frankie:

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve travelled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
(Frank Sinatra: My Way – Paul Anka)

Job’s friends tell him that he must have done something wrong. Job wonders if his children have. His wife thinks his faith is over-the-top.

Job comes to the realization that he’s been too self-assured in his belief that he knows the ways of God:

Wherefore, I abhor myself
And repent in dust and ashes
(Job 42:6)

God did it His way, and wins the bet made with the Devil – Job is forgiven and the scarecrow regains his earthly Paradise:

Hmm, when my life is over, and the time has run out
My friends and my loved ones I’ll leave, there ain’t no doubt
When it comes my time
I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind
(Bob Dylan: A Satisfied Mind)

A precondition to God’s betting be that the Devil is not to kill Job, but only make him suffer:

After this lived Job an hundred and forty years
And saw his sons, and his sons, even four generations
(Job: 42: 16)

In the allegory, death was not to be Job’s end until God made that decision. Job’s spirit for life pulls him through the ordeal, and his life continues on. But much more than this, he realizes that life will go on without him.

Mistaken it is that Bob Dylan is apocalyptic in his vision – though, like Job, he wavers at times, i.e., Job wishes, during his suffering, that he had not been born, but he reconsiders and does not give up hope:

When the storm clouds gather ’round you
And the heavy rains descend
Just remember that death is not the end
And there’s no one there to comfort you
With a helping hand to lend
Just remember that death is not the end
(Bob Dylan: Death Is Not The End)

Bob Dylan has read the poetry of the Romantic Transcendentalists, and live on in his song lyrics they do.

What else is on the site

1: Over 460 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums.  The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site.  We have also produced overviews of Dylan’s work year by year.     The index to the chronologies is here.

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions.  There is an index here.

4:   The Discussion Group    We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.   We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further.  The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines and our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews

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