Jokes in the Bible

Is it wrong to giggle at the Scripture? Are there jokes in the Bible?

I ask because for some time now, the morning prayer group have found it difficult to contain themselves when reading Psalm 44 verse 12: “You sold your people for a trifle.”

We know what it means, but it just brings up images of a small pot of Bird’s Custard Trifle

Now we’re online streaming, the same problem arose today, when we looked at Psalm 115 verse 6: “Their idols…they have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell” and immediately thoughts went to the first joke we managed to teach Aneurin, though we taught him the ‘dog’ version.

My god’s got no nose!
No nose, how does it smell?

There are other examples:

Matthew 4:18: “As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting Annette into the sea – for they were fishermen.” (author’s hearing)

I always feel sorry for Peter and Andrew’s sister when I listen to this passage being read. We hear nothing about her ever again, but primarily, she’s not even introduced!

I’m sure by now you’ll be saying that these are just jokes from translation, or even worse, jokes from mishearing, but are there REAL jokes in the Bible?

When we open our Bibles, we do it in the belief that we’re reading something serious and solemn, even though it contains the Good News about Jesus Christ – about his death and Resurrection and what that really means for us. There are, however, some real jokes in the Bible, even though we might not understand the Hebrew culture of jokes:

When Elijah summons the prophets of Ba’al to Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18, he does so in the full knowledge that this is going to be a one-sided battle between his God and Ba’al. But Elijah tries to make it look as though there is a level playing field. Ba’al after all is the god of rain, the god of thunder, the god fertility and the god of weather in general. So, what better way for this god proving himself in a time of drought than by sending down lightning to burn up an altar, soaked in water.

The prophets of Ba’al called out to him, they limped around the altar, in the end they cut themselves, whilst all the while Elijah taunted them. “Maybe he’s meditating or wandered off, or maybe asleep.” We’ve missed the joke… when Elijah taunts them about him meditating and wandering off, the two Hebrew words he uses can also mean err… ‘using the bathroom!’ Ba’al’s taking a bathroom break whilst meditating on the loo!

A second joke occurs in Mark Chapter 5. Jesus asks the demons possessing the man, “What is your name?” and the demons reply, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And Jesus commands them to come out of the man and possess a herd of pigs who immediately run over the edge of a cliff into the lake. Did you miss the joke?

The Jewish people are under the military rule of the Romans, who are ordered into Legions. They are unpopular and almost every single Jew would wish that a legion would take a long walk off a short cliff!

There are more jokes if you only look carefully.

Peter Hall

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