FAITH: Ever heard the one about the circumcision war trick?
Type “laughing Jesus” into Google Images and you’ll find a whole array of artists’ conceptions of what Jesus might have looked like enjoying a good joke or a humorous situation.
The ability to laugh is the one distinction of being human and the man Jesus would certainly have been no exception to the rule.
Unfortunately, there are absolutely no examples in the New Testament of Jesus in a lighter moment. But, that doesn’t mean there is no humour at all in the Bible.
In all my years of attending church, I don’t recall ever hearing a sermon about Biblical humour, probably because the majority of humour is black humour.
Black humour is not appreciated by everyone because it has a dark side and fairly unpleasant consequences for the victims of the situation. It’s what my wife would call “guy humour” — the kind she rolls her eyes at when I’m giggling away.
Take the poor Philistines, for example. In Samuel 1:5, they have just defeated the Israelites in battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant (you know, the same one the Nazis purloined in Raiders of the Lost Ark).
They came to rue the day they took it, though, because the Lord “smote them with hemorrhoids” (some translations of the Bible use the more delicate word “tumours”).
The men of the city of Ashdod quickly figured out the problem, and decided to send their war trophy to the neighbouring city of Gath.
Well, soon all the men of Gath were screaming for Preparation H.
The Gathites were no dummies and decided to ship the Ark off to Ekron. Verse 12 says, “And the men of the city who did not die were smitten with hemorrhoids and the cry of the city went up to heaven.”
So, they decided to consult the priests of their god Dagon to figure out how to solve their dilemma.
Their advice? Make five golden hemorrhoids as a gift and return the wretched thing to Israel.
I would have liked to have seen the expression on the face of the goldsmith — “You want me to make five what?”
I’m sorry, but that is funny.
Another episode of black humour takes place in Genesis 34, in the story of Dinah.
Dinah was a comely lass, the daughter of Jacob, who caught the eye of Shechem, a young Hivite man.
Shechem had his way with Dinah, then had the gall to ask his father Hamor to approach Jacob and Dinah’s brothers with a marriage proposal.
Dinah’s brothers decided to be sly about their revenge. They insisted that it was unthinkable to marry off Hebrew women to those who were uncircumcised.
They said, “The only condition on which we can talk business is if all your men become circumcised like us. Then we will freely exchange our daughters in marriage.”
So, Hamor and Shechem persuaded the whole Hivite clan to get circumcised, basically playing on their greed, for the Hebrews had huge herds of livestock.
Shortly after the mass circumcision, two of Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, walked into the Hivite town “while all the men were still very sore,” put them all to the sword and rescued their sister.
In the whole history of human warfare, there never was a victory strategy like that one.
But, the funniest story in the Bible is the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah in Genesis 29.
Jacob journeys to his uncle Laban, looking for a wife.
Laban has two daughters — the younger, Rachel (“beautiful of form and face”), and the eldest, Leah, who had “weak eyes.”
Basically, Rachel was hot and Leah was as homely as a cross-eyed warthog.
So, Jacob strikes a deal with Uncle Laban to work seven years for him in exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage.
After seven years of hard labour, Jacob comes to claim his beautiful bride.
But, on the wedding night, Uncle Laban pulls a fast one and sends in Leah under her veils into the marriage bed.
Funniest line in the whole Bible? “So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah!”
Needless to say, Jacob is incensed.
Laban is unashamed of his bald-faced deception, saying, “Look, we can’t marry off the younger daughter before the older one. So, work for me for seven more years and I’ll give you both of them.”
Jacob reluctantly agrees.
But, I can’t help but chuckle at the thought of Jacob’s face on the morning after.
“Good morning, my darl — what the heck?”
The Bible is a holy book and full of great stories.
But, without a doubt, God has a sense of humour.
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