Everything the Light Touches Is…Oh Wait, That Light’s a Burning Bush (Allusions in The Lion King)

Who would have possibly thought that babysitting would lead to a Biblical allusion blog, huh? Nonetheless, it was in the midst of a bunch of kids that I really began mulling over the allusions that could be found in the Disney film The Lion King (protip: kids LOVE talking about biblical parallels within their cartoons, they can’t get enough of it).

Within the context of the film, I really began to see some striking similarities between Simba’s story and the narrative of Moses. That’s right, folks, it’s not just for Hamlet parallels anymore.

The resemblance is uncanny, don't you think?

The resemblance is uncanny, don’t you think?

Moses and Simba were both raised as royalty within their respective hierarchies. Although Moses was adopted into the Egyptian royal family, whereas Simba was the continuation of the line of rule by blood and succession, that link of status remains nonetheless. Similarly, both Simba and Moses were driven into exile by a murder. Simba was framed for the death of his father by his uncle Scar, whereas Moses killed an Egyptian after witnessing him beating a Hebrew man (Exodus 2).

During their exile, both Simba and Moses found support systems and built up friendships and relationships (Simba with Timon and Pumba, and Moses with the Midianites), giving them a sense of belonging and “found family” even in the face of exile and leaving the only homes they had ever known. Those groups themselves can be seen as a similar parallel. Timon and Pumba, despite their initial fear of Simba, soon take him under their wing and teach him how to survive on their terms in a new place. Despite Moses being a foreigner to them, Moses is welcomed into the fold of Midianites as well; he becomes a shepherd for them, marries the daughter of a priest of Midian, and builds a life with them in a new home.

maxresdefaultSimba and Moses were also both led to a greater calling in their lives by a heightened figure of power. Simba, upon reaching adulthood, is confronted by the spirit of his father, Mufasa, and tasked with taking up the destiny and responsibility of returning to his home and freeing his people from oppression. This parallels Moses and his encounter with God, who took the form of a burning bush in order to commission him with returning to Egypt and leading his people out of slavery and into their own freedom (Exodus 3). Both protagonists expressed reluctance to their respective callings, claiming that they weren’t worthy of the task and it shouldn’t fall to them to take on such a goal. Through this, we are given an understanding of the fact that both characters consider themselves to be rather unremarkable; Simba has willfully and consciously turned away from the responsibility to rule that was impressed upon him as a child, as he associates those memories with the death of his father and the inherent guilt tied into that, whereas Moses is said to be “slow of speech and tongue” and therefore fears being put in the spotlight and given the task of taking on a position of leadership. This sets up an intriguing parallel of reluctant, seemingly insignificant characters rising to a great task and prevailing.

Perhaps the burning bush also sounded like James Earl Jones.

Perhaps the burning bush also sounded like James Earl Jones.

Despite their initial hesitance, they both eventually take up that calling and return to free their respective people from oppression. Simba does this by deposing his uncle Scar and reclaiming his place as king over the land; Moses does not ascend to a position within the monarchy, but rather, through an ordeal of plagues and pleading with the Pharaoh, he is finally allowed to free his people and leave Egypt to seek their own land and prosperity.

Through these narratives, we see a strong correlation between the events and themes of the two. In the end, both protagonists rose to a higher calling in order to lead their people out of suffering and provide a better future for them. In this way, the framework for much of Simba’s narrative can be see as heavily alluding to the early years of Moses’s life and deeds.

Explication of Psalm 52

“To the choirmaster. A Maskil of David, when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul, “David has come to the house of Ahimelech.”

1 Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
2  Your tongue plots destruction,
like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
3  You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
4  You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
5  But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
6  The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
7  “See the man who would not make
God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!”
8  But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
9  I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.”

Doeg-the-EdomitePsalm 52 is a lament from David, set forth after the portion of the narrative which deals with Doeg, Saul, and Ahimelech. Although Ahimelech’s loyalty to David and his recognition of David’s virtue ensured that David’s life was spared from Saul, there is still tragedy inherent in the story, as 85 priests were murdered for refusing to give David up to Saul. David exalts the Lord for sparing his life and leading him out of danger with Saul, but he is also filled with anguished over the deaths of the priests and Doeg’s murderous actions. David expresses his pain and anger towards the actions and betrayal of Doeg, setting forth all of the ways in which his actions will bring about retribution from the Lord, and it ends with an affirmation and reiteration of his own faith within God. In that way, we see both a marked contrast in the faith of Doeg and David, as well as in the favor or disfavor in which they will find themselves in the eyes of God because of their actions.

Psalm-52-word-balloons1It also has elements of a historical psalm, as it is a reiteration of an earlier account found in 1 Samuel. 1 Samuel 21 and 22 tell the tale of Doeg and Ahimelech. After David fled to avoid being killed by Saul, Ahimelech granted him bread and a sword, but Doeg had been detained in the area and recognized David. Word reached Saul that David had been discovered in the area, and Doeg gave him the news of David’s presence and of the provisions granted to him by Ahimelech. When Saul questioned Ahimelech, Ahimelech defended David, stating that there was no one else as loyal and faithful as David amongst them. Displeased by this loyalty to David, Saul ordered the guards to kill the priests; when they refused, he instead gave Doeg the command, who then killed 85 priests. Abiathar, a son of Ahimelech, escaped and took news of the slaughter to David, who took the guilt of those deaths upon himself and told Abiathar to stay with him for safety. So in that way, we see a recounting of an early narrative account, although with this poetic psalm we add emotional and personal nuances from David’s perspective.

Verse 2 contains personification, as the phrase “your tongue plots destruction” grants a more individual agency to Doeg’s tongue in accusing it of plotting and scheming. This verse also offers up a simile, as David describes Doeg’s tongue as being “like a sharp razor” in his betrayal and deceit.

Verses 3 and 5 give us examples of an anacrusis, as the phrase “selah” is interjected within the psalm, seemingly without reason. Selah is thought to be a liturgical or musical direction for the choirmaster, so removing it from the psalm would not directly impact the message of the psalm itself.psalm-52

Verse 8 contains beautiful imagery, as David compares himself to a green olive tree, nourished and blessed by his favor with God.

There is a wealth of parallelism within this psalm:

  • Verse 1 shows antithetic parallelism in its contrasting of the evil of Doeg to the enduring love of God
  • Verse 2 shows synthetic paralellism, as the second line completes and complements the extent of Doeg’s deceit and treachery
  • Verses 3 and 4 show synonymous parallelism, in that they reiterate the idea by contrasting Doeg’s lies against the truth with different phrasing
  • Verse 5 also shows synonymous parallelism, as it continues with that notion of how Doeg will be punished by God in expounding detail
  • Verse 7 demonstrates more synonymous and synthetic parallelism by adding on to the idea of the ways in which Doeg turned away from God and sought to achieve things through his own actions
  • Verses 8 and 9 exhibit synonymous and synthetic parallelism, as they follow that similar vein of offering praise and exultation to God, building upon the original notion with each passing line

Psalm 52 follows that trajectory of a lamentation, from his initial agony towards Doeg’s actions and a warning against what those actions will reap from the wrath of God, following through to David’s own supplication, confession of faith, and praise. In that way, we see David take even this tragedy and betrayal towards the priests and use it to offer up praise to God, as his own faith remains steadfast and strong.