HUMOR & LAUGHTER IN THE BIBLE
[Steve Herzig states, Israel My Glory Magazine, Feb/Mar 2000, Jewish Humor, American Ministries for The Friends of Israel]
"Webster's Dictionary defined humor as 'something that is, or is designed to be, comical or amusing, that quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous.' In that context, God's Word is filled with humor. In fact, the Hebrew Bible mentions laughter (zehok) fifty times. Depending upon the context, the word is translated as 'play, enjoy, insult, mock, rejoice,' and 'scoff.'
One cannot help but laugh when picturing the account of the prophet Elijah's meeting with the false prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:27. Elijah's shouts to them, 'Cry aloud; for he is a god. Either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or, perhaps, he sleepeth, and must be awakened.' Today we could rephrase that something like this; 'Why isn't your god doing anything? Oh, I get it. He's on the phone. Or maybe he's on vacation!'
Equally as comical is the narrative in Numbers 22:28: 'And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times!' Even funnier is the next verse. Balaam answers her!
Consider these from the book of Proverbs: 'As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman who is without discretion' (11:22); 'It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house' (21:9); 'It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman' (21:19); 'A slothful man hideth his hand in his dish, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again' (19:24); 'The slothful man saith, There is a lion outside'; I shall be slain in the streets' (22:13).
Clearly, God has stamped His sense of humor within the pages of His Word. And it is just as clear that He has infused it into His Chosen People as well. Jewish humor takes the definition of humor and narrows it to something comical or amusing created by Jews, about Jews, and reflecting the lives of Jews. In fact, the amusing verses from Proverbs clearly constitute Jewish humor, encompassing all three of these characteristics...
Sometimes things hurt so much we just have to laugh. Perhaps that is why God says in His Book, the Bible, that 'A merry heart doeth good like a medicine' (Prov. 17:22)."