So I fell down on the job yesterday. I didn't post anything about On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. My bad. I really didn't have anything to add about it. That shouldn't be taken as any sort of indictment against the book. It's more an indication that I've been fried for the past week what with a head cold, Holy Week, and a son who learned the joys of projectile vomiting yesterday.
But I'm back today with the following: in the spirit of the silliness of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, I offer my top five list of the biggest jokes in the Bible:
5) Jacob's Limp - One of the unfortunate things about translations is that you often lose the flavor of the Biblical text in question. For example, many of the Old Testament writers enjoyed jokes and play on words. Nowhere is this more evident than in Genesis 32:22-32, the story of Jacob wrestling with God.
For those of you who don't remember it, Jacob is scared out of his mind because he'll have to face Esau, the brother he ripped off not just once, but twice. He stays up all night and winds up wrestling with God. God even cheats by wrenching Jacob's hip out of joint but Jacob won't let Him go until He blesses him. And so God changes Jacob's name to Israel and we're told that he limped away.
So why is this a joke? Because "Jacob" means "crooked" and "Israel" can mean "straight" (among other things). So when Jacob was crooked he walked straight. When Jacob became "straight" he walked crooked.
Here's the thing about Hebrew word-jokes: they're never funny.
4) Isaiah's son's name - In a related vein, names in the Old Testament are rife for humor as well. They always describe the circumstances of the child's birth or the individual's character. A few quick examples: Isaac means "he laughs" (very appropriate, given how both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the idea of being parents). Joseph means, in essence, "give me another!" This reflects Rachel's desire for a second son fairly well, don't you think? Elijah, the prophet who went toe-to-toe with the priests of Baal and won, means "The Lord is God," a good summary of his ministry.
But then there's Isaiah's son. I sympathize with him because his name was an object lesson for the people of Israel.
I'm a pastor's kid and I remember how embarrassing it was when my dad used me as a sermon illustration. But at least my embarrassment was temporary. Isaiah's kid had to live with it his whole life.
What am I talking about? In Isaiah 8:1-4, God instructs Isaiah to name his son "Maher-shalal-hash-baz," for "Before the boy knows how to say 'My father' or 'My mother,' the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria." It turns out that "Maher-shalal-hash-baz" means "quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil."
3) Ehud the Left-Handed Judge - This has been one of my favorite stories for a long time. I was first told it in the fifth grade by my mother in, of all things, a mid-week Bible class, because she wanted to show us that the Bible had some wild stories in it.
If you're not familiar with this one, it's in Judges 3:12-30. Basically Ehud was raised up to fight the Moabites and the way he did it was ... rather unique.
Since Ehud was left handed, he strapped a foot-and-a-half long sword to his right thigh. He then visited King Eglon of Moab to deliver Israel's tribute. Eglon's guards, apparently assuming that Ehud was right handed, only checked his left thigh for weapons.
Crack security staff, no?
Ehud then told Eglon he had "a message from God" for him. As soon as Eglon ordered his advisors out, Ehud drew his sword and stabbed Eglon. The Moabite king, it turns out, was so fat that Ehud lost his sword in him. Ehud left and locked the door behind him.
Eglon's servants, upon discovering that the doors were locked, jumped to the conclusion that Eglon was in the bathroom. Because you apparently don't interrupt the Moabite king's "private time," Ehud was able to escape and rally the troops to fight the Moabites.
Dead serious. Everything I just said is in the Bible. Look it up for yourself.
2) Paul's hyperbolic statement regarding the Judaizers - The Old Testament isn't the only place to find humor. This one's really brief but always makes me chuckle.
In the book of Galatians, Paul has to deal with a group we call the "Judaizers." The Judaizers were Jewish Christians who believed that before Gentiles could become Christian, they had to first become good Jews. That included getting circumcized. So they went out and preached their version of the Gospel, encouraging Gentile Christians to ... well, go under the knife.
Needless to say, Paul was not happy with this development, especially since some of the Galatian Christians fell for it. He railed against them for falling back under the Law when they were free. But he saved the coup de grace for Galatians 5:12, where he basically says that he wishes the Judaizers would just finish the job and emasculate themselves.
That's right, Paul isn't too scared to work blue!
That brings us to the #1 joke in the Bible, the one that always makes me laugh:
1) The Empty Tomb - Let's face it, this is the biggest joke in the Bible, bar none. But before anyone surfs away in a rage because I'm a heretic, let me explain. It's not that the joke is on us, it's that the joke is on sin, death, and the devil.
Because if you think about it, that unholy Trinity probably thought they had won on Good Friday when Jesus died. They thought they had killed God's Son and defeated Him. They likely were ready to dance on His grave. But then, on Easter Sunday, Jesus rose and showed that the joke was on them. They had really lost and now, as St. Paul joyfully declares in 1 Corinthians 15:57 - "He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
So we can laugh with joy because He is risen!
There you go. Next month, come back for a rather interesting historical fiction book, one that I'm in the middle of reading. I may have a bit to say about it, maybe I won't. We'll just have to see.
In the meantime, go check out what other people are saying:Sally Apokedak
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