'The Lion King': Theology and Biblical References
Disney's long-running Broadway musical The Lion King is still a favorite. It has a lot of theology and biblical references in it, but most people don't recognize them. Many themes are seen throughout the production whether intentional or unintentional.
The Lion King is a coming of age story for the lion cub Simba who grows up before our eyes. In fact, the production has three Simbas: a young Simba, a teenage Simba, and an adult Simba.
Each show has superb acting, elegant costumes, beautiful music, precision dancing, and many theological themes.
What is theology?
"Theology" is the study of God and things relating to God. There are many theological references in The Lion King from the beginning to the end, in the middle and surely in the final scene.
Whether intentional or unintentional, the theological themes include the following:
- references to God
- the Bible
- Christian values and beliefs
- circle of life (birth, death, and the spirit of the dead)
The Lion King: Circle of Life
The Nativity Scene
The very first scene can be compared to the nativity scene when Jesus was born. All the animals are summoned to Pride Rock to see the newborn cub, much like the animals that were there when Jesus was born.
- The land animals represent the shepherds in the fields.
- The birds of the air represent the angelic host in the air.
- The wise baboon lifting up the baby cub represents the wise men who arrived to see Jesus much later.
All the animals bowed down, worshipped, and honored the newborn prince because he was expected to be king of Pride Land one day.
Satan in The Lion King
Mufasa was the reigning king, but his jealous brother, Scar, wanted the throne himself. Therefore, he plotted to rid the two people who stood in his way: his brother Mufasa and his nephew Simba.
One day he got Simba alone telling him he had a surprise for him. He told Simba to wait and practice roaring while he went to get his father. In the meantime, Scar planned for Simba to be attacked by hyenas. When Mufasa came to protect his son, Scar pushed the king over the cliff and he was killed. However, he told Simba that it was Simba's fault.
Evil Scar instructed Simba to run away and never return. Scar also told the hyenas to go after Simba and kill him, but Simba ran ahead of the hyenas and escaped.
With the two heirs to the throne out of the way, Scar usurped the throne and began to reign himself.
The Prodigal Son in The Lion King
Simba ends up exhausted and sleeping in a wasteland. He is awakened by a meerkat and a warthog who befriends him for years. They live a carefree life called Hakuna Matata which means "no worries." Simba is instructed to eat the grass and straw from the ground and live a carefree life like the meerkat and warthog.
Simba puts his past behind him until his friend Nala shows up and convinces him he is king and insists that he return to reign because Scar had allowed Pride Land to become desolate with no food and no water and the people were starving and dying.
At first, Simba refused to go back until he saw an image of his deceased father who told him to acknowledge who he was. Like the prodigal son, Simba "came to his senses." Something rose up in him and he took on a new demeanor. He suddenly realized he was king. So, like the prodigal son, he returned home (Luke 15:11-32).
Leaving Home Like Jacob, Joseph and Moses
In the Bible, three Old Testament characters fled from their homes like Simba.
- After tricking his father to bless him, Jacob left home because he was afraid of his twin brother, Esau whose birthright he had stolen. He lived in a far away place for many years. He later returned home.
- Joseph did not flee from his home, but at the age of 17, his jealous brothers sold him into slavery and he ended up in Egypt. Joseph never returned home, but at the age of 33 when he was second in command, he sent for his family to join him.
- Moses killed an Egyptian and fled to Midian to tend Jethro's sheep. He was away from home until God met him at the burning bush and told him to go back home to Egypt to deliver the people out of slavery.
Like Simba, Jacob and Moses returned home. Joseph died but had requested that his bones be returned home (Exodus 13:19).