The God Squad: From the mailbag

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on


In your column about God’s sense of humor you mentioned the verse in Ecclesiastes that was transformed into the song “Turn, turn, turn.” It was not Bob Dylan, but Pete Seeger who added additional words, wrote the music, and made the original recording, which was covered by the Byrds. I think God has a wacky sense of humor. Thank you for your many writings.

MG: Yes, indeed. The lyrics are taken almost verbatim from the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, and to my knowledge this one of the only times a passage from the Bible has been set to music for a popular song (as opposed to a religious hymn). Even popular Broadway musicals about the Bible like “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” do not set to music actual biblical verses. This is unfortunate because the Bible is filled with passages that deserve a song. My choice would be “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Or “The Lord is my shepherd.” In any event, what I meant to say was that I wished Dylan would have written “Turn, Turn, Turn,” or any other biblically inspired songs. What parts of the Bible would you, dear readers, want to see put to music?

To everything,

Turn, turn, turn

there is a season,


Turn, turn turn

and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;


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