Bob Dionysus Turns Into A Blood-Thirsty Lion


by Larry Fyffe

That the Bible is selectively quoted by modern-day metaphorical ‘Assyrians’ and ‘Babylonians’ – those who idol worship coffers filled with gold and silver – is a theme found in a number of song lyrics by Bob Dylan.

In the Book of Isaiah, Yahweh (God) warns that the invaders of (northern) Israel will advance on Judea for the wealth that is hoarded by its rulers. God’s not sure how much help He’s going to give the Judeans because they themselves embrace Lucifer who has been cast down to earth.

The prophet Isaiah admonishes Judean leaders in ‘The Song Of The Vineyard’:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil
That put darkness for light and light for darkness
That put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter
(Isaiah 5:20)

In a song filled with the eternal recurrence visions of Frderich Nietzsche and William Yeats, Dylan, in the manner of the angry prophet Isaiah, castigates the modern-day evangelistic Vineyard Movement:

Politicians got on his jogging shoes
He must be running for office, got no time to lose
He’s been sucking the blood out of the genius of generosity
You been rolling your eyes, you been teasing me
(Bob Dylan: Summer Days)

As well as the Branch Davidians:

Well, I’m leaving in the morning as soon as the dark clouds lift
Yes, I’ m leaving in the morning just as soon as the dark clouds lift
Gonna break in the roof, set fire to the place as a parting gift
(Bob Dylan: Summer Days)

Ìn a vision akin to that of the Gnostics, light turns into darkness on earth – morals reversed:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer
Son of the morning
How are you cut down to the ground
Which didst weaken the nations
For thou hast said in thine heart
I will ascend to heaven
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God
(Isaiah 14:12, 13)

Figuratively speaking, wealth and power be worshipped as worth more than Creation, than Mother Nature Herself:

Well, the devil’s in the alley, mule’s in the stall
Say anything you want to, I heard it all
I was thinkin’ about the things that Rosie said
I was dreaming I was sleeping in Rosie’s bed
Walking through the leaves, falling from the trees
Feeling like a stranger nobody needs
So many things that we never will undo
I know that you’re sorry, I’m sorry too
(Bob Dylan: Mississippi)

Double-edged as usual are the lyrics of the singer/songwriter:

Somewhere Mama’s weeping for her blue-eyed boy
She’s holding them little white shoes and that little broken toy
And he’s following the same star that them three men followed
from the East
I hear that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace
(Bob Dylan: Man Of Peace)

The morning star called Lucifer is a trickster like mythological Venus. He’s the Great Deceiver, who steals the wits of the wise. Jesus turns out to be a false messiah, at least according to orthodox Judaism, in as much that He brings no peace.

Interpreted it might that Dylan depicts his persona as the Devil:

Somebody seen him hangin’ around
At the old dance hall on the outskirts of town
He looked into her eyes when she stopped him to ask
If he wanted to dance, he had a face like a mask
Somebody said from the Bible he’d quote
There was dust on the man in the long black coat
(Bob Dylan: The Man In The Long Black Coat)

Dylanologist Kees de Graaf’s interpretation of the song below gets it crooked.

Dylan’s upset at Christian preachers who are into it for the money:

How I made it back home nobody know
Or how I survived so many blows
I been through through hell what good did it do
My conscience is clear, how about you?
I’ll give you justice, I’ll fatten your purse
Show me your moral virtues first
Hear me holler, hear me moan
I’ll pay in blood, but not my own
(Bob Dylan: Pay In Blood)

In other words, Bob Dylan is not going to let himself be nailed onto a cross in the vineyard.

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


  1. The greatest entertainers of-all-time; you know what they can do if they want? They will get you thinking they’re God or the Devil, or something. They’ll let you think things about them. That’s what the truly great ones do. Creativity is an abnormality to the critics. And each one of them says the same thing, over and over again: that I must be bad, in order for their hero to be good. I let them think things about me, all kinds of things. A million faces at my feet but all I see are dark eyes. I can turn that around. Faces come out of the rain, when you’re Dr. Strange. And maybe the darker they think that I am, the further they will stay away from me. I will even let them call me the ‘ultimate bad’ if they stay way-away from me. I encourage them to root out the darkness in their own respective hearts.

  2. Mythological ‘Dionysus’ tends to be associated with female nature and intuition; ‘Apollo’ with male reason and order. They are often used by writers as symbols whereby they are intertwined within each individual human’s psychological makeup to a greater or lesser extent.

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