Is there humor in the Bible?

Question
Is there humor in the Bible?
Answer
While the Holy Spirit considers crude joking a sin (cf. Eph. 5:4), there are different forms of wit and wordplay observed in the Bible. But the reader must recognize that they are reading humor from another time, another age. And although much of it even today is rather hilarious, the reader must know that it's not meant to entertain.

Take for instance a log being in someone's eye (Matt. 7:3-5) or somebody swallowing a camel (Matt. 23:24). These images are rather funny to think about. Proverbs 11:22 says, "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion." We don't see that one on many greeting cards! Or Proverbs 22:13: "The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!’" Absurd, right? And then there is Elijah who doesn't hold back when he accuses the false god Baal of "relieving himself" instead of performing a miracle (1 Kings 18:27 reads as "bowel movement" according to Holladay's Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon). Of course these examples of funny things aren't meant to amuse, rather to reveal the utter depravity of man's sinful condition.

In Genesis 18:12-15, though she denied it, Sarah laughed upon hearing the Lord say she would have a son. She lived with that one for the remainder of her life as the son she bore was named Isaac, which means "laughter" in Hebrew. Here God emphasized the wonder of grace, didn't he? God's humor can be convicting and redemptive.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).