Thursday, January 28, 2016

THE SONG Movie Biblical References and Easter Eggs #TBT

Being that The Song is based on the story of King Solomon, there are dozens of “Easter eggs” in the film in the form of scriptural references pertaining to his life and writings. I compiled a list of them before the film's theatrical release, and since we didn’t make all that much use of them from a marketing standpoint (I’m not saying we should have, just that we didn’t) I thought why not post them here in the off chance that anyone is interested?

The list and its spoilers are below the next picture. If you haven’t seen The Song, you can stream it on Amazon Prime. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, I believe you can do a thirty-day free trial.

Since I’m feeling sassy today, a side note before getting to the list:

Pretty much everyone got…and was intended to get…that David King is King David. Congratulations. And, an annoying amount of people reacted to this with a sarcastic, "Oh, that's really subtle." While it is admittedly not at all subtle, given the vast disparity of biblical literacy amongst audience members, filling your film with scripture references is like conducting an Easter egg hunt for kids from two to twelve years old.

Sometimes you have to put the big, fat, neon, L’eggs pantyhose egg right in the open grass in order to not only give the toddlers a chance to find an egg, but to demonstrate to them that there is even an egg hunt going on in the first place.

If you were a twelve year-old who saw the egg set out for the two year olds, then assumed every egg was so poorly hidden, and so then quit, not only would you miss out on a great number of eggs, you’d look rather ridiculous insulting the intelligence of the adults whom you think made the eggs too easy to find.

So, if you scoffed at the neon David King panty-hose egg, there’s a good chance you missed most of the many eggs listed below.

Also, for crying out loud, Google the name "David King." It will likely be several dozen pages before anything about The Song appears. Why? Because it's an actual name that several people actually have.

The film’s prologue is a summation of 2 Samuel 11-12 and 1 Kings 1-2.

The rest of the movie is inspired by 1 Kings 3-11 and assumes the traditionalist narrative that Solomon wrote Song of Songs (aka Song of Solomon) as a young newlywed and Ecclesiastes as a world-weary and remorseful king.  

All voiceovers are taken from Solomonic text - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.

As stated, David King is obviously King David.

Like his biblical parallel, David King is a renowned songwriter and musician.  

David's hit song, "Can't Hold On," is derived from Psalm 38.

In the Bible, King David sees Bathsheba bathing on a roof.  In "The Song," David King sees Bethany swimming naked in a lake.

Bathsheba is the wife of one of King David's generals.  Bethany is the wife of one of David King's bandmates.

King David's adultery with Bathsheba produces an unplanned, illegitimate pregnancy.  Likewise with David King and Bethany.

In a failed attempt to cover up the pregnancy, King David tries to get Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, drunk in hope that Uriah will sleep with Bathsheba and ultimately believe the child is his own.  In "The Song," David King takes his bandmate's beer and hands him whiskey in an attempt to get him drunk for different, but equally selfish, reasons.

Ultimately, King David has Bathsheba's husband killed by placing him on the front lines of a battle. In the film, Bethany's husband commits suicide upon discovering his wife's unfaithfulness and his friends betrayal.

In the Bible, the prophet Nathanael speaks on behalf of God and confronts David over his egregious sins.  The prophet tells the king that, among other punishments, God will take the life of David and Bathsheba's child.  David, genuinely repentant and grief stricken, lies facedown on the floor – begging God to have mercy on him and the new child.  "The Song" also depicts David King facedown in repentance after he's devestated his friends and destroyed his family.

After the death of her husband, King David marries Bathsheba just like David King marries Bethany.

From King David's union with Bathsheba comes Solomon:

"Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah." - 2 Samuel 12:24, 25 NIV

"Jed," the name of the main character in "The Song," is also taken from this verse - the one verse in which Solomon is called "Jedidiah."

David King's guitar features a crown emblem.  Just like his biblical namesake, our David dies and leaves his "crown" to his son.

The first verse of Psalm 23 - arguably the most famous song written by King David - is engraved on David King's tombstone.

At David King's gravesite, Bethany's gray hair and youthful face are a tribute to Emmylou Harris, who is considered by many to be the Queen Mother of Americana music.  But, it's also a nod to Proverbs 16:31, "Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness."  The biblical text indicates that, by the end of King David's life, Bathsheba was revered by her husband and sons.
Top: Kenda Benward as Bethany King :: Bottom: Emmylou Harris

Jed's first song, "Son of a King," has lyrics that summarize David's affair and the ensuing fallout. The lyrics are equally applicable to both Davids.

As he reluctantly drives to a gig at a vineyard harvest festival, Jed passes the city limit sign for the fictional town of Sharon, Kentucky.  The sign reads:

"Sharon - Population 2221"

22 is Song of Songs, the 22nd book of the Bible. 21 is chapter 2, verse 1: "I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys."  

The character Rose Jordan and her hometown of Sharon are named after this verse.

Like the young Shulamite woman in the Song of Songs, Rose is the daughter of a vineyard owner. (SoS 1:6)

Also, the Jordan river is frequently referenced throughout the Bible.  Jesus was baptized in it.  The Israelites had to cross it in order to enter the promised land.  It's often used symbolically in songs and literature to delineate the boundary between earthly life and eternal paradise.

Jed's impromptu banjo jam, "Split the Baby," is a musical hat tip to the landmark event in Solomon's life described in 1 Kings 3, in which he arbitrates a legal dispute between two prostitutes claiming to be the rightful mother of the same baby.  Both he and Jed administer justice in a way that leaves onlookers in awe.

Rose correctly notes that the lyrics to "Turn, Turn, Turn" are in the Bible. They were adapted by folk-musician Pete Seeger, nearly word for word, from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, a book traditionally attributed to Solomon.

Nearly every life event listed in Ecclesiastes 3 (and "Turn, Turn, Turn") occurs in the film.

Shep mentions that both Jed and his father, David, have songs about God.  78 of the 150 psalms in the Bible are attributed to King David.  Psalm 72 is written by Solomon. Song of Songs is traditionally attributed to Solomon.  And, 1 Kings says Solomon composed over 1000 songs.

Rose tells Jed that she has two brothers, "but they weren't cut out for winemaking, so they bailed [left home]."  In Song of Songs 1:6, the woman says that her angry brothers made her tend to the family vineyard.

Rose asks Jed where he learned to skip rocks across the water so well.  His response is a reference to the story of David and Goliath.

Jed tells Rose if she dances with him it will keep her warm.   Ecclesiastes 4:11 says, "Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?"

Rose asks Jed what he would ask for if he knew God would give him anything he wanted.  Jed says he would want to be wise.  In the Bible, God appears to Solomon in a dream, promising to give Solomon whatever he desires.  When Solomon asks for wisdom, God is so pleased with his answer that He promises to give him that and everything he didn't ask for - peace and prosperity unsurpassed in Israel's history.

Almost immediately after asking for wisdom, Jed decides to propose to Rose.  Throughout the opening chapters of Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a woman.

Wisdom versus foolishness is a running theme in Solomon's work and in, "The Song."  Both words are used several times in the film.

Jed builds Rose a vineyard chapel.  He doesn't finish it for several years.  Under Solomon's command, Israel built its first temple to God. It took seven years to complete.

On their honeymoon, Jed writes Rose "The Song."  Tradition holds that Solomon wrote Song of Songs as an erotic love song for his first wife and true love.  The lyrics from "The Song" are heavily derived from Song of Songs - particularly, 8:6-7.

Like Solomon, Jed becomes very rich and famous - even touring outside the US. The Bible says that royalty and dignitaries from all over the world came to hear Solomon speak and to see the grandeurs of his kingdom.

Jed and Rose have a son named Ray.  Solomon's son and successor was named Rehoboam.

After becoming famous, Jed meets the singer and violinist, Shelby Bale.
She is a composite of the 700 wives and 300 concubines that 1 Kings 11 says led Solomon away from God.

Many believe that Solomon had a love affair with the Queen of Sheba though the biblical text never explicitly says this.  Nevertheless, this is the female name most associated with Solomon, and the name Shelby derives from it.

(I actually decided on the name "Shelby" while writing the script in a farmhouse near Shelbyville, KY.  A tattoo on Shelby's inner forearm says, "Shelbyville.")

Also, Shelby's surname "Bale" is a homophone of "Baal" - the name of an idol that continually proved to be a stumbling block to ancient Israel.

1 Kings 9 tells us that Solomon took Pharaoh's daughter as the first of many pagan wives. Shelby's tattoos feature gods and symbols from ancient Egypt, Babylon, and others.  And, at Jed and Shelby's Amsterdam concert, her costume, make-up, and hair bear a striking resemblance to Cleopatra.

No, there's not anti-tattoo agenda in The Song. I just thought it would be a visually striking way to differentiate Shelby from Rose and to pay homage to the source material: the Biblical account of Solomon's life.

Shelby's introductory song, "Confetti," is inspired by Solomon's descriptions of "the adulterous woman" found in the opening chapters of Proverbs.

Just as many of Solomon's marriages were likely the result of strategic political alliances, Jed tells Rose that touring with Shelby will increase his fan base and thus his income.

The song "All I Want To Be" incorporates Solomon's famous observation that, "there is nothing new under the sun," as well as Proverbs 13:12, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."

Like the man and woman in Song of Songs, the film's characters use allusions to wine-drinking and wine-making as a metaphor for relationships and sex.

Jed's royal-themed photo-shoot with Shelby is an allusion to the actual royalty of Solomon.  

In fact, as the film progresses, Jed's hair and beard grow, causing his appearance to more and more resemble traditional depictions of Solomon.

Jed and Shelby grace the cover of "Rock & Roots" magazine with the headline, "The Son Also Rises."  This is an allusion to the famous verse from Ecclesiastes, "The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose." (Ecclesiastes 1:5 KJV)

Stricken by a guilty conscience, Jed begins to have paranoid nightmares of being pursued by his father-in-law and his father.  Proverbs 28:1 reads, "The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion."

There is also a lion motif in the film. A painted portrait of a lion hangs on the wall in David's party.  Jed and Shelby stare at a nature TV show featuring a lioness pouncing on a wildebeest.  In "1 Samuel," a young David tells King Saul that he has killed a lion.

Jed's song, "Chasing After Wind" is very derivative of Ecclesiastes, which teaches that life "under the sun" - that is, life without God or any heavenly considerations - has no objective meaning or purpose and that nothing on earth can satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.  Seeking meaning and ultimate satisfaction in life apart from God is as futile as "chasing after wind." Many believe that Ecclesiastes expresses Solomon's remorse and repentance for walking away from God.

"What do we mean if nothing has meaning? If in the end, we're chasing after wind?"

Jed's moral failures nearly destroy his music career, and he is presented with an opportunity to make a comeback.  In the end, he walks away from fame and fortune to live the simple life with his wife and children.  This is a happier ending than the one in the biblical account. Solomon's sin leads to his son, Rehoboam, losing most of the kingdom in a civil war that divides his country into the two nations of Israel and Judah.

(I’ll note in passing that a few people have complained/insinuated that this "happier" ending was the result of my kowtowing to the supposed genre conventions of “faith-based films.” Nope. Upbeat endings are not so much a CHRISTIAN movie thing as they are just a movie thing in general.)

Jed's final song in the chapel (post-credits scene) places the life and teachings of Solomon in the broader context of the entire Biblical narrative of "Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation" - No one knows or can know everything God has done and will do from the beginning of the world to its end. Our only hope is that God's Son will redeem those who live by faith and that He will bring every deed into judgment and make everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 and 3:11).