Lori loves to read, study, and teach the Bible. Part of understanding the Bible is to know the culture of those times.
I can't say with any certainty that certain Bible writers deliberately wrote humorous anecdotes. But there is no denying that the actions of some characters or events that happened are absurd, strange or funny. I say this with no irreverence for the sacred Scriptures. But the people in the Bible were just as flawed as we are. The absurdity of their sinful choices and behavior can be rather funny and Jesus often used irony and sarcasm to reveal their folly. We can safely say that there are important lessons in every story and passage in the Bible, even the ones that make us see the funny or strange parts.
A Hair Raising Death
2 Samuel 18:9-14
King David's son Absalom was even more handsome than his father. He was pretty near perfect in the looks department. He had long, thick hair and because it was so heavy he cut it once a year to lighten the load. What is weird is he weighed it when he got a haircut. It weighed two shekels which equaled four to five pounds. That's a lot of hair. This is an obvious source of pride.
If weighing his heavy hair wasn't weird enough, one day he was fleeing a battle on his donkey and got his long luscious locks tangled in a Terebinth tree and the donkey kept going. He was hanging there that way when he was spotted. Joab got the report and went out and speared Absolam to death.
The Lesson: Absolam's bizarre and tragic outcome was due to his many points of pride and evil schemes against his father when he tried to usurp his throne. The pride of greed for power and glory will catch up to us. God will do as He wills to those who do evil. Thanks be to God when we repent He restores us. Unfortunately that was not Absolam's end.
Swallowed, Puked Out, and Lived To Tell About It
Jonah, Jonah, Jonah. What a character. Jonah was a prophet that God called to warn the people of Nineveh that God's judgment was coming if they did not repent. Nineveh was one of the most wicked societies imaginable. They were also the enemy of God's people. To be frank, Jonah hated them, so he ran away, boarded a ship Tarsish bound, a twenty-five hundred-mile distance in the opposite direction from Nineveh. No way was he going to preach there.
God handled this situation in a very unusual and funny way. When a terrible storm accosted the ship and a shipwreck was imminent, the passengers panicked and threw cargo into the sea, but it didn't help. Jonah confessed that he was the reason they were in peril and why. He gave them permission to throw him overboard. When he arrived into the deep a hungry whale came by and inhaled Jonah into his stomach. Three days he was in that whale's belly. It gave him a lot of time to think and pray while seaweed, fish of every size, and the whale's stomach acid swirled around him. When he repented, God commanded the whale to barf him up on the beach.
The Lesson: This is a pretty funny scenario but also a very serious one. It took this bizarre incident to bring Jonah to his knees and to be willing to obey God. He made the trek all the way to the wicked city and preached as he was commanded. But he still had a bad attitude having high hopes they would not repent. It seems he only obeyed God to remain safe from harm, and not from a love for God and the welfare of Nineveh. We must obey God with a right hard and not for selfish gain.
The Pouting Prophet
There is more humor in the story of Jonah. After he preached to the Ninevites to repent and turn to God, they did and God relented and did not strike them. This made Jonah really mad because he still hated the Ninevites. Therefore he complained to the Lord and said, "Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!"
Can we say "Drama?"
God said, "Is it right for you to be angry?"
Jonah ignored God's question and went up on a hill to pout and to see if God would strike Nineveh anyway. It was really hot up on that hill and despite Jonah's terrible attitude, God sent a plant to shade Jonah from the elements. Jonah was grateful.
But here's the chuckle part. Just before dawn, God sent a worm to eat up the plant. Jonah certainly wasn't laughing, but it was a creative way to get his attention. Boy, was he angry. It was an object lesson for Jonah. When the plant withered a hot east wind came and he became faint and begged God to take his miserable life.
God said, "Is it right to be angry about the plant?"
"It is right to be angry," Jonah said. "Even enough to die."
God replied, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left, and much livestock?"
The Lesson: We don't get to hear Jonah's response. All we know is that God was trying to show Jonah that he should care about precious lost soles because God cares about them. We have a tendency to judge people in the world who do bad things. We forget how precious they are to God and that once upon a time we were given God's grace when we repented and turned to Him. We should have a heart for the lost and give them the good news with love.
A Twisted Comeuppance for Father-in-law
Judah married a woman from Shua and had three children with her - Er, Onan, and Shelah. He had Er marry a woman named Tamar, but Er was wicked and God took his life. The law said the deceased man's brother must marry his wife so she could bear children, so Judah told Onan to marry her. He did not want to have her children as his heir so he spilled his seed on the ground. God was not happy with that so he killed Onan too.
Shelah was too young to marry yet so Judah sent Tamar back to her family until Shelah was old enough, but he had no intention of having his last son marry her, lest God kill him too.
Years later Judah's wife died. He was in Tamar's area shearing sheep. When she heard about it and realized the now grown third son was not going to marry her she pulled a fast one. She removed her widow's clothing and put on a veil and sat by the road as a prostitute. He propositioned her and she asked what he'd pay. He told her he'd send a goat as payment. She wanted a guarantee he would follow through and asked for his walking stick and identification seal and its cord.
They had relations and parted ways. She went back to resume life as a widow but she became pregnant by that union. A few months later he sent his servant to find her and give her the promised goat, but people said there never was a prostitute there. He found out she tricked him and was pregnant with his child. He sent for her to be burned. In front of everyone, she brought out his walking stick, seal, and cord and said: “The man who owns these things made me pregnant. Look closely. Whose seal and cord and walking stick are these?” Gulp. Busted.
The Lesson: Judah confessed and declared she was more righteous than he because he failed to give her to his third son. He broke Mosaic law out of fear God would kill his last son, even though his son would be protected if he married the woman and they had children. Had he trusted God after a lifetime of seeing Him work he would have received blessing and not public humiliation and offending God.
Here's My Sandal, It's a Deal
Naomi lost her husband and two sons who were Moabites. She told Ruth and her other daughter-in-law Orpah to return to their families. Orpah wept and kissed her goodbye, but Ruth pledged to stay with her, "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. (1:16). As a Moabitess, Ruth took a big risk and sacrifice going with Naomi to her homeland, Bethlehem, Israel.
When they arrived, Ruth went out to glean the barley fields belonging to Boaz, a kinsman of Naomi's deceased husband. Through a series of events, Boaz decided he would like to act as the kinsman-redeemer and marry and care for Ruth (and would include caring for Naomi). The problem was, there was another family member who was first in line to act as kinsman-redeemer. Boaz went to the city gate and sat with the relative with ten witnesses and told him that Naomi was back and wanted to sell off a piece of land and would he be interested in redeeming it? The man said he would.
Boaz then told him the land came with Ruth. He would have to marry her. The man changed his mind and took off his sandal, handed it to Boaz and said: "You buy it." Giving his sandal to Boaz was an act of sealing the deal. Apparently, this was a tradition in certain business transactions in that day. Kind of amusing. Boaz did marry Ruth and they gave birth to a boy named Obed, who would become King David's grandfather and in the lineage of Christ.
The Lesson: There are so many lessons in the story of Ruth. Boaz was an honorable man. He saw Ruth's virtue and made sure she was taken care of in the barley fields. He was willing to go through the legal process of giving the closest kin the opportunity to marry Ruth. He was committed to first see that Ruth and Naomi's welfare were the priority. Because of his obedience, he was able to marry Ruth and produce the child Obed.
The Riddle of the Lion and the Honey
Samson, the mighty warrior, and judge of Israel wasn't someone to mess with. His long hair made him a muscle man no one could bring down. He did have a weakness though - women, gentile women. He married three times.
One day he was walking down to Timnah and on the way a lion attacked him. He killed the lion with his bare hands. When he got to Timnah he found a woman he wanted. He went home and returned sometime later for the wedding. He thought he'd go back and look at the lion's carcass and found that a swarm of bees had made honey in the carcass. He scooped up some of the golden goop and ate it. Yuck.
When he got to Timnah he had a bachelor party of sorts and gave a riddle to his thirty friends. If they guessed what it meant he would give them a fine linen robe and fine clothing. If they couldn't guess, they would have to give him the robe and clothing. The riddle was:
“Out of the one who eats came something to eat;
out of the strong came something sweet.”
The men were frustrated and threatened the wife if she didn't find out the answer and tell them. She went to Samson, weeping and telling him "You don't love me, you hate me because you haven't told me the answer." MANIPULATION by crocodile tears. This is funny. The Bible says: At last, on the seventh day he told her the answer because she was tormenting him with her nagging.
When they gave him the correct answer he was furious. He went to Ashkelon, killed thirty men, took their clothes and gave them to his friends. But he was still so mad he left Timnah and went back home. Meanwhile, his wife married his best man. Scandal!
The Lesson: Samson's pride, lust, and disobedience by marrying a pagan woman were his downfall in this matter. The power of the Lord did come upon him when he went and killed the thirty men, but out of anger, he left his wife and went back home. His sins would continue to play out in the future and though God used him he eventually died from his folly.
Foxes on Fire and the Jawbone of an Ass
In the next chapter in the story of Samson, his temper gets the better of him again. He went back to his wife and wanted to have relations with her but her father told him she married his best man but her sister was available. That didn't fly with him so he went out and caught thirty foxes. He tied their tails together and put torches on them and sent them out into the Philistine's grain field and burned it all down. What a freaky and funny thing to do. In addition, he destroyed all their vineyards and olive groves.
The Philistines were so mad they burned up his wife and her father. Three thousand soldiers from Judah were ticked because they were in danger because of his behavior. They went to capture and tie him up. When the Philistines showed up, he burst through his ropes, found the jawbone of an ass, and killed one thousand Philistines with it then tossed it away. Then this place was called Jawbone Hill. That's funny.
After this Samson judged Israel twenty years, however, the Philistines dominated the land (v. 20).
The Lesson: Though the story seems funny there is something to learn. Samson's anger and pride caused the death of two people and incurred the wrath of a large pagan army. His bursting of the bonds showed them God's favor and power upon Samson and he would be famous, though not revered for it. The pagan Philistines ruled the land because of his many poor choices that went against God's will.
Shave and a Haircut, Bing Bing
You may get a kick out of this one. Samson's third wife was a Philistine woman named Delilah. The Philistine leaders begged her to find out and tell them the secret of Samson's superhuman strength. With a lot of nerve, she asked him what made him strong and what it would take to tie him up securely.
He made up a story saying it would take seven bowstrings. The Philistines gave Delilah the bowstrings, then hid in the house while she tied him up. When they came to take him he burst out of the bonds.
Just like Samson's first wife, Delilah pouted and nagged and played the victim. So with great pleasure, he told her if they tied him up with new ropes he would become weak. But once again, when they came to capture him he burst out of the ropes.
Another drama queen moment from Delilah begging to know how he could be tied up securely. This time he told her if she weaved seven braids of his hair into the fabric on her loom and tighten with the shuttle. So she did and when they came after him he pulled his hair out of the loom unscathed.
She pitched another fit and just as with the first wife, it says he gave in because she tormented him with her nagging until "he was sick to death of it," lol. He told her the secret to weakening him was cutting his hair. She lulled him to sleep with his head in her lap and had a Philistine come in and cut off his hair. When he woke up he didn't realize his hair had been cut, lol.
The Philistines caught him and gouged his eyes out. Not so funny.
The Lesson: Once again disaster fell because of Samsons' lust for pagan women and allowing her to nag him out of good sense. It cost him an eye and great humiliation. If he had obeyed God by not getting mixed up with these pagan women, he could have been used mightily.
Jesus Slept at the Strangest Time
The disciples and Jesus wanted to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. A squall came along, the wind was blowing hard and waves crashed over the boat and the boat was swamped. The disciples were scared spitless. Consider that many of the disciples were seasoned fisherman and had spent years on the Sea of Galilee. They'd seen a lot of storms in their day, so this storm was a big deal. As all this chaos was going on, Jesus was lying down in the stern sound asleep. The ship was tossing and heaving and water was probably splashing all over him, and the disciples were probably shouting back and forth. He was so dead asleep the disciples had to shake him awake.
"Lord, don't you care if we drown?"
Jesus wiped the sleep from his eyes, got up and told the wind to be quiet. And in an instant, the weather turned calm. Then he turned to the disciples and said: "Why were you afraid?"
They were probably thinking or saying among themselves, "Um, because the boat was about to sink and you were sleeping. Of course, we were scared."
The disciples freaked out and were terrified. "Who is this that even the wind and waves obey Him?"
You got to wonder if Jesus went back to bed. Wink.
The Lesson: This is a faith story. They'd been with Jesus for a long time and seen him do mighty works and miracles and yet they did not trust him through the storm. Do we trust Jesus through the storms of life?
Peter the Swashbuckler
Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10-11
It was dark. Jesus and the disciples were done with their Passover meal. Jesus had been travailing in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood over His imminent crucifixion. Then came a threatening throng to take Jesus captive with the hopes of an execution. We shouldn't be surprised by Peter's bravado and impetuousness. Though it really wasn't funny, two thousand plus years later we can see a bit of humor in what happened next.
The thugs and leaders, including Judas Iscariot, came along with clubs and swords to take Jesus away for trial. Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss then an altercation took place. Peter impulsively swung his sword daringly and whacked the ear off of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. Jesus scolded him - "Peter, put that sword away. Don't you think I can take care of myself? I can call legions of angels if I wanted to. This is My Father's will." Then Jesus picked up the ear and stuck it back on Malchus' head. You have to admit, that's kind of a funny mental picture.
The Lesson: Peter failed to see it was the Father's will for Jesus to be arrested and crucified, even though Jesus had told him many times. On one of those occasions, Peter rebuked him. Jesus rebuked him back sternly by saying "Get thee behind me Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33). At the transfiguration, Peter heard Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus about His coming death. When he suggested making tents for the three, God spoke from heaven and said: "This is My beloved Son, Hear Him!" Peter wouldn't listen and rejected God's plan for Jesus.
When Peter cut off Malchus' ear, he wanted to protect and defend his Friend. It would be in a few short hours Peter would deny even knowing Him. His devotion to Jesus failed. But we have a gracious God and Jesus restored Peter after the resurrection.
© 2019 Lori Colbo