Humor in the Bible

Five Funny Stories

Judges 16:4-20, Samson: How could you be so clueless?

Exodus 32:1-24, Aaron: Um... could you explain again about the calf coming out of the fire?

Acts 12:1-17, Rhoda and friends: So when are you going to open the door?

Numbers 22:21-35, Balaam: Which one of you is the donkey?

Acts 14:8-20, People of Lystra: Ack! No! Don’t!

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Balaam argues with his donkey. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
Judges 16:4-20, Samson: How could you be so clueless? (4/11/16)

I don’t want to downplay the pathos in the story of Samson, because he is one of the great tragic figures of the Bible. A man of tremendous gifts, blessed and chosen by God for a special work, he squandered everything that had been given to him by using it for his own ends.

Nevertheless, the story of Samson and Delilah is just funny. Samson gets himself a girlfriend among the Philistines, the sworn enemies of the people of Israel and the ones Samson was specifically born to subdue. She takes a bribe to find out why he’s so strong. Samson, who at this point in the story we might believe is nobody’s fool, tells her a tall tale.

So she runs a test, and when he’s as strong as ever, she complains. This happens two more times! Samson, wake up! Don’t be stupid! Don’t you see what’s happening? No, because apparently he is stupid!

Delilah keeps bugging him to tell her his secret, and then she keeps trying it out! Finally he gets sick and tired of her nagging – hen-pecked even though he’s not a husband – and he tells her the truth! Does he think she won’t try that? You don’t know whether to cry or laugh about this story, but you’ve got to admit that laughing at Samson, not with him, is a serious option.

Exodus 32:1-24, Aaron: Um... could you explain again about the calf coming out of the fire? (4/12/16)

The Bible has got a lot of people in it, and as a direct consequence, it has a lot of lame explanations for bad behavior. Possibly the lamest one of all comes from Aaron.

Moses has been gone for a few weeks to talk to God, and the people of Israel are getting a little stir-crazy sitting around the camp. So they get a great idea: let’s make some gods! They go to Aaron, and he thinks, okay, why not? Aaron, Moses’ brother, who has been passing along the word of the one true God given to the greatest of the prophets, this Aaron, tells the people to give him all their gold. Then he “fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf.” Then he thought, wow, pretty good god, there, and he builds it an altar. Excuse me? You just made it – and now you are going to worship it? But let that pass; it isn’t the funniest part of the story.

Now God and Moses play a round of My Son/Your Son. All parents recognize this game. A couple may have only one son, but still they say things like, “My son got straight A’s; unfortunately your son dented the car on the way home from school!” God notices what Aaron and the people are up to, so he starts rolling up his sleeves. He tells Moses, “Your people are sinning, and I’m going to smite them!” Moses retorts, “My people? No way! Those are your people, and if you smite them, the Egyptians are going to laugh at you.” God decides that Moses is probably right, and he sends him down to the camp. But let that pass, too.

When Moses gets back to the camp and sees what’s going on, he’s ready to do a little smiting of his own. He demands an explanation from Aaron, whom he had left in charge. And Aaron says, “Gosh, Moses, I haven’t got a clue what happened. I threw the gold into the fire, and out came this calf.” That’s comedy!

Acts 12:1-17, Rhoda and friends: So when are you going to open the door? (4/13/16)

A vision from God can seem like real life, but Peter is the only person I can think of off-hand who thought that real life was a vision.

An angel breaks Peter out of jail, and as soon as Peter realizes that this is the real thing, he hustles over to Mark’s house, presumably to hide out from the law. The community has been gathered there praying. Peter knocks on the door and says who he is. Rhoda is so excited that she runs to the others to tell them that their prayers have been answered and Peter is at the door! Unfortunately, she forgets to open the door.

The rest of the inmates start arguing with Rhoda about what she’s seen (Was Thomas there? Ha!), and they still don’t answer the door! Peter keeps pounding, so eventually they all go to the door. They are amazed to discover that their prayers have been answered and that Rhoda isn’t quite so scatter-brained as she looks. Peter doesn’t stay long; he “departs and goes to another place.” You just know he’s thinking, “I’ve got to find a place to stay, but not with this crowd. These people are nuts.”

Anyway, when you pray for rain, take an umbrella.

Numbers 22:21-35, Balaam: Which one of you is the donkey? (4/14/16)

Did you know that not all prophets are Jewish? Later this year we might take a quick look at the non-Jewish prophets.

The Bible records three animals who speak: the serpent in the garden of Eden, the warhorse in Job 39:25 who hears the battle and says, “Aha!” and Balaam’s donkey.

Balaam was one of the heathen prophets, and he had been approached by the princes of Moab to lay some sort of curse on the people of Israel. An angelsent by the LORD, or possibly of the LORD, it’s hard to be sure – goes out to stop Balaam. The donkey, clearly the brighter party, goes out into the field. Balaam strikes her and gets her back to the road. The angel stands in the road again, and the donkey, apparently in an effort to get Balaam’s attention, crowds his foot against the wall. He strikes her again.

The third time the angel blocks their way, the donkey lies down, and Balaam strikes her again. This time she says, “What is up with you, man?! Why are you beating me?” And Balaam answers her! But instead of saying, “Wow, a talking donkey? I’m gonna be famous!” he threatens to kill her. They argue back and forth a bit, which still doesn’t strike him as odd.

Then the angel appears to Balaam and demands an explanation for the beatings. Balaam says, in essence, “I didn’t know anybody was watching.” That’s not especially funny, but Balaam’s argument with the donkey certainly is.

I like the way the donkey is frowning and giving Balaam a piece of her mind in the illustration above. It's a humorous picture, well suited to this story.

Acts 14:8-20, People of Lystra: Ack! No! Don’t! (4/15/16)

We end our week on funny stories with a little slapstick.

Barnabas and Paul were on a missionary trip and stopped for a while in Lystra, located in what is now south-central Turkey. The people there were “Greeks,” or at least they were Gentiles and worshiped Greek gods. Zeus, the head god in the Greek pantheon, was usually depicted as a big, sturdy, middle-aged guy with a full, curly beard. Hermes, the messenger god, was usually shown as a young man, slight and clean-shaven. I tell you this because it’s the only hint we have from scripture of what Barnabas and Paul may have looked like.

Anyway, Zeus and Hermes were heathen gods, and when Paul works a miracle, the people of Lystra immediately start yelling about gods coming to earth! Even the priest of Zeus, whom you might expect to ask some pointed questions, gets carried away and brings out an ox for a sacrifice.

Barnabas and Paul are appalled! They have come to preach Christ to the heathens, and instead they have converted the heathens to the worship of Barnabas and Paul! You just have to laugh, not only at the heathens, but also at our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who are running around in torn clothing and shouting “No! Stop!”

More Humor in the Bible

Biblical Humor
Playful Appellations, 1
Playful Appellations, 2
Less Playful Appellations
Five Funny Stories

Copyright 2016, 2017, 2021 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.

The illustration of Balaam being reproved by his donkey is from the family Bible of John O. Spencer and Lydia Bunn, married 18 Nov. 1857 in Hector, Schuyler Co., NY. A partial listing of the posted images from this Bible is given at
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Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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