Sunday, October 16, 2011

Did God Ever Tell A Joke?

I just read a weird piece called Can God Take A Joke? Sadly the piece isn't about God's sense of humor, but rather about religious comedians. The title though did get me thinking whether there was a single instance of intentional humor in the bible. Namely, has God ever told a Joke?

Some quick Googling found this "The Straight Dope" post, which lists only one "joke" in the old testament:

(1) Wordplay. Told by the Lord that his 90-year-old wife Sarah will bear a son, Abraham laughs to himself. And what's more, continueth the Lord, obviously a little peeved at Abe's attitude, "you shall call his name Isaac," from Yitzak, "he laughed." Not a line that's going to kill them in Vegas, but I didn't claim these were going to score big on the laugh-o-meter.
Clearly this isn't actually a joke, but rather god disliking Abraham's (and I guess Sarah's too) attitude. For the first time I was struck that the name Yitzhak is actually somewhat rubbing Abraham's nose in his own misconduct.

The Bible does attribute Laughter to God a few times, for example:

יב  זֹמֵם רָשָׁע, לַצַּדִּיק;    וְחֹרֵק עָלָיו שִׁנָּיו.12 The wicked plotteth against the righteous, and gnasheth at him with his teeth.
יג  אֲדֹנָי יִשְׂחַק-לוֹ:    כִּי-רָאָה, כִּי-יָבֹא יוֹמוֹ.13 The Lord doth laugh at him; for He seeth that his day is coming.

(psalms 37:13)
However as far as I remember they are God laughing at men - and not really a show of humor. (See psalm 59:9, Psalm 2:4)

This question of whether there was ever a joke in the bible, seems to come up in the internet quite often (See, HereHere and Here) however it seems no one can actually find an intentional joke in the bible - beyond some puns. I've tried hard to think, and while I can think of the Talmud mentioning God laughing (נצחוני בני) I cannot remember a story where humor is ever attributed to God.

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