What Do You Consider to Be the Most Humorous Passage in Scripture?

What do you consider to be the most humorous passage in Scripture?

Thanks for asking! I'm always grateful for those who find humor important for our health and welfare, including biblical humor. There's a lot of it. But my favorite? I suppose one obvious choice would be 1 Samuel 4:1-11. Israel goes out to fight against the Philistines, engages them in battle between Ebenezer and Aphek, and loses; about 4,000 soldiers die on the battlefield.  Why? The elders finally figure it out: the army forgot to get the ark from Shiloh. God had not been with them. They correct their mistake, set out again, this time "bringing God." The Philistines enter the second battle in fear because Israel's God is now present. They've heard of God’s mighty works. Yet they defeat Israel once more, kill far more thousands of soldiers, and even capture the ark (Israel's God)! Eli falls off his chair and dies (v. 18).

I understand that this is all very serious life-and-death stuff and not at all hilarious, in that sense; yet I find humor just in the biblical recognition of human hubris—of "bringing God" so that God is on our side. I hear this in christianmingle.com ads: "Find God's match for you." As if God couldn't use eharmony.com to accomplish the same purpose; and as if there are no marriage troubles among Christians. I hear it among politically active evangelicals who truly believe God will grant Republicans what they espouse. Don't worry—I see it in Democrats too. I hear it interwoven into our national pride—especially in the United States—where "God is surely on our side" in our dealings with other nations and terrorists. We fail only when we forget to bring God along. I remember it, also, from a host of classical and synodical gatherings, where God surely sees it “our” way and not “theirs.” We have the Bible on our side. And, yes, I see it in my own life too. It's the echo of the tower of Babel (built to reach heaven) where God must stoop to see it. Hubris. Humor.Grace that saves.

About the Author

Henry De Moor is professor emeritus of church polity at Calvin Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. He’s the author of Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary

See comments (1)


      Thanks, Henry, for your take on humor in Scripture.  I don’t know if the example you gave is as much an expression of humor or just absurdity, which can be a form of humor.  By taking the ark into battle, the Jews thought they were bringing God with them into battle.  That was the absurdity.  It was as though they could place God in a box, even though their own hearts may have been far from God’s.  And then you cite present day absurdities (or humor) of trying to bring God into our situations while carrying our own flag or expecting God to carry it for us.
      A closer example of such humor, might be that of the Lord’s Supper.  Christians of different stripes try to make Christ present in the elements of bread and wine, whether they are transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ, or whether he is actually along with the elements, or is spiritually present through an act of faith.  Such communal expressions of Christ’s presence with his body (the church) will give strength and victory to the church.  Sounds like the ark all over again.  Is this also an expression of humor?  Those on the inside don’t think so.  Apparently, the Jews didn’t either.  Where’s the humor?