Is the Bible a Comedy?

Is the Bible a Comedy? June 7, 2023

The Bible can be very funny if you give it a chance.
The Bible can be hilarious if you give it a chance. Image Public Domain.

When proposing that the Holy Bible may be a comedy book, you could expect two types of reactions. The first are those nonbelievers who will respond with a disrespectful “yes, the whole thing is a joke, hahaha”, as if that’s funny. The second are those rigid Christians who will dismiss the very question as offensive. However, a fringe group of us are eager to appreciate the Bible for the entirety of its offerings, and that includes humour. 

In truth, it is nearly impossible to think of a genre the Bible does not touch upon. Indeed, the Holy Book goes beyond your average sacred prophetic scripture and consolidates everything under one ceiling, for example, the drama of a soap opera, the violence of a war epic, and the magic of a fantasy tale complete with sorcery and mythical monsters. Furthermore, it’s a collection of melodiously gorgeous (and gruesome) poetry, a wicked exploration into erotic taboos, an occult text hiding secret symbolism, and the most famous superhero story ever told (Jesus!). But why stop there? The Bible even boasts construction instructions (Exodus 25), cooking recipes (Ezekiel 4:9), and a detailed family tree mapped back to the dawn of humanity. Hence, the greatest blasphemy of all would be to ignore its vast stylistic coverage, which definitely incorporates comedic value. 

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (New International Version)

If you know where to look, the Bible is brimming with jokes. At times, unintentional, I’m sure; often humorous due to its outdated theories or quirky specifics. However, these instances are so plentiful that one can readily imagine translators chuckling to themselves throughout the millennia passed. 

To honour the small joys in life, here is an assemblage of the funniest verses you’ll find in the best-selling publication in history:

Book of Genesis 18:10-15

Jan Provoost - Abraham, Sarah, and the Angel.
90-year-olds, Abraham and Sarah, are having a baby. (Jan Provoost, Public Domain)

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

(New International Version)

Scholars consider this exchange as substantial proof of humour in the Bible. The idea that 90-year-old Sarah would birth a baby is so ludicrous that everyone finds it hilarious. But when God appears offended, Sarah quickly fibs, stating that she wasn’t laughing, only for God to dispute her with, “I heard you!”

Of course, God was great, and Sarah had that baby with Abraham. It was a son they named Isaac, which translates to “he laughs”.

Book of Genesis 38:6-10

Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

(New International Version)

Hey, remember when God told Onan to sleep with his brother’s wife? And then killed him for using the pull-out method? So funny. I think?

Book of Exodus 33:22-23

“And it shall come to pass, while My glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with My hand while I pass by; and I will take away Mine hand, and thou shalt see My back parts, but My face shall not be seen.”

(21st Century King James Version)

Moses is only permitted to speak to God’s butt.

Book of Leviticus 11:43

Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby.

(King James Version)

Creeping thing that creepeth? Exceptional use of vocabulary there!

Book of Numbers 11:19-20

Moses Sees the Promised Land. James Tissot.
Moses Sees the Promised Land but the Israelites are still complaining. (James Tissot, Public Domain)

You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”

(New International Version)

When the enslaved Israelites escaped Egypt, their troubles had just begun. With a lack of nourishment, they complained of hunger, wondering if they had made a mistake by fleeing from a land that fed them so well. God was so infuriated by their ingratitude that he promised to shove so much food into their bellies that it would come out of their noses, and they’d hate it.

Book of Numbers 22:27-28

When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

(New International Version)

It’s worth your time to read this entire chapter and share in the thrill of Balaam arguing with his donkey without pausing to question the curious occurrence. If you experience visions of Shrek, then you’re doing life right.

Book of Deuteronomy 25:11-12

If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

(New International Version)

In no uncertain terms, if a woman grabs a man by his testicles, you must chop off her hand. I don’t make the rules.

Book 1 of Samuel 18:27

Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king’s son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.

(King James Version)

Another one of those “funny not funny” types of examples, but a pile of 200 foreskins? It’s an absurd image. What makes it even worse is that this was a gift from David to King Saul, asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage. So romantic!

Book 2 of Samuel 6:6-7

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

(New International Version)

Poor Uzzah dedicated his life to the Lord, helping to transport the Ark of the Covenant back from the Philistines. But when the oxen stumbled, the Ark nearly fell, and Uzzah quickly steadied the artefact with his hand. Unfortunately, such a touch is a massive no-no in divine law, and God struck the man dead instantly. This is the same God that reportedly loves us, by the way.

Book 1 of Kings 3:24-25

Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

(New International Version)

Some context: two prostitutes got into an argument over who was the genuine mother of a newborn baby. King Solomon’s solution? Cut the baby in two, and each take a piece!

Book 1 of Kings 14:10

Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.

(King James Version)

I’ve included this entry for the word “pisseth” alone. Please sign my petition to bring that slang back.

Book 1 of Kings 18:27

Elijah was always playing with fire.
Elijah was always playing with fire. (Giuseppe Angeli, Public Domain)

And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

(English Standard Version)

Here is another popular demonstration of where the Bible is hilarious by design, but it is also an extremely crucial juncture in God’s global domination. The scene revolves around a competition between the priests of the deity Baal, and Elijah, the messenger for Yahweh. The summoning of fire was to decide the winning team, and the followers of Baal really went for it. They even cut themselves to get their god’s attention. But it was futile, and Elijah mocked them, questioning if Baal was perhaps busy sleeping or peeing. Once he’d had enough, Elijah summoned Yahweh to show them what he’s got, and a fireball fell from the sky, setting an altar ablaze.

Book 2 of Kings 2:23-24

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

(New International Version)

In case you missed that: 42 kids mocked Elisha for being bald, so God sent two bears to massacre them all. Those were children. You have to laugh, or you’ll cry.

Book 2 of Chronicles 18:6-7

But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”

The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

“The king should not say such a thing,” Jehoshaphat replied.

(New International Version)

The king of Israel hates Micaiah because Micaiah never prophecises a promising future for him. It reminds me of people who keep hitting Google links until they find the answer that agrees with their opinion.

Book of Job 2:9

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

(New International Version)

The Book of Job is potentially my favourite Bible section, and not only because it is stuffed with hilarity. This narrative starts with God and Satan making a bet where they challenge Job’s religious dedication by taking everything away from him. So mean! A gloriously poetic breakdown ensues where Job suffers immense distress while refusing to sever his connection with the Lord. In the particularly amusing line above, Job’s supportive wife tells him to cease his loyalty to God and die already.

Book of Proverbs 6:16

The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to him:

(Christian Standard Bible)

God hates six things! Wait, I mean, seven! Haha, pretty suspicious when the all-knowing Supreme Being can’t even remember his number of opinions on a matter. Even stranger is how the Bible has left this blunder untouched for thousands of years. Only the Easy-to-Read Version dusts the Lord’s error under the carpet with “The Lord hates these seven things”.

Book of Proverbs 11:22

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

(New International Version)

Book of Proverbs 21:9

Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

(New International Version)

Book of Proverbs 31:6

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

(King James Version)

Above are three standout verses from Proverbs, delivering a bit of causal sexism before encouraging alcohol consumption to solve our problems.

Book of Isaiah 28:10

Isaiah talking gibberish again.
Isaiah talking gibberish again. (Michelangelo, Public Domain)

For it is blah-blah upon blah-blah, blah-blah upon blah-blah, gah-gah upon gah-gah, gah-gah upon gah-gah, a little here, a little there.

(Lexham English Bible)

There are several translations of this important verse, including: “For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there.” (New International Version);It is “tsav letsav, tsav letsav; qav leqav, qav leqav, a little of this, a little of that. (Common English Bible); and my personal favourite, “They speak utter nonsense.” (Names of God Bible).

Book of Jeremiah 24:2

One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.

(King James Version)

You gotta be wary of those naughty figs! They’re so bad!

Book of Ezekiel 3:1-3

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

(New International Version)

Ezekiel’s book is written from a first-person perspective. He is also the first person I know of to eat scrolls.

Book of Amos 8:1-2

This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit.
“What do you see, Amos?” he asked.
“A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered.

Then the Lord said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

(New International Version)

Next time I see ripe fruit, I’ll recognise it as a symbolic message from God, telling me that the time is ripe to do the thing. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Book of Jonah 1:1-5

Jonah is no match for this fish.
Jonah is no match for this fish. (Pieter Lastman, Public Domain)

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.

(New International Version)

Jonah is one of the most comical Biblical characters. First, he runs away from God, trying to escape the omnipresent Lord on a boat. Next, God attacks the ship, but Jonah is oblivious because he has fallen fast asleep. Finally, a whale eats him, which is comedy gold.

Book of Habakkuk 2:15

Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!

(New International Version)

Don’t get people drunk just to stare at them naked. I wonder how often this happened before they had to declare it Biblically prohibited.

Book of Malachi 2:2-3

“If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.

“Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.

(New International Version)

In the first paragraph, the Lord warns a group of priests that he will curse them if they don’t honour his name. He follows this by essentially saying, “You know what? I’ve actually already cursed you, so there.” In the second paragraph, God threatens to wipe poop on their faces.

The Gospel of Matthew 17:27

The New Testament also tells its fair share of jokes.
Is Jesus telling a joke here? We will never know. (Carl Bloch, Public Domain)

“But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

(New International Version)

Swinging into the New Testament, here comes Jesus performing a magic trick that would still baffle magicians today. To avoid getting arrested for tax evasion, Jesus requests that Peter catch a fish. Now look inside its mouth. Ta-dah! Coins for the taxman!

The Gospel of Mark 11:12-14

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

(New International Version)

What Would Jesus Do? How about getting so upset with a figless fig tree that he curses it to a lifetime of no fruit. It wasn’t the season, man! I also adore that “his disciples heard him say it.” They were probably exchanging worried glances, I imagine. 

The Gospel of Luke 6:1-5

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

(New International Version)

Back in the good old Bible ages, anyone seen working on the Sabbath Day was liable to find themselves battered to death by stones. But when people confronted Jesus for his harvesting activities, his cheeky response was, “I am the Sabbath!” He happily resumed the task from his self-proclaimed position far above the law. 

The Gospel of John 21:7

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water.

(Common English Bible)

I’m unsure why Peter was naked in the first place. His panicked reaction after the mention of the Lord is also amusing.

The Gospel of John 11:11-15

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead”

(New International Version)

Jesus attempts to soften the sensitive topic of Lazarus’ death by using metaphors; “He’s sleeping.” Of course, Jesus’ use of language was an extension of divinity, and it went way over his disciples’ heads, the group wondering why Jesus didn’t let Lazarus sleep if the man was unwell. I can picture Jesus facepalming at this point before he spells it out for them. Lazarus is dead! Soon following, Jesus resurrects Lazarus, so I’m unsure who got the last laugh.

Acts of the Apostles 20:7-9

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.

(New International Version)

Peter’s sermon is so long and dull that a man named Eutychus slips into a deep slumber and tumbles from a window to his death. It’s a vicious diss to Peter’s monotony, recorded in the Bible forever.

The Epistle to the Romans 16:21-24

Saint Paul name-dropping his homies.
Saint Paul name-dropping his homies. (Valentin de Boulogne, Public Domain)

Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.

I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.

(New International Version)

Maybe just my humour, but I love how Romans 16 is Paul’s shout-out section, where he namedrops his friends like he’s won an Oscar. I imagine everyone he’s ever met giving him a call, begging him to mention them in the Bible.

The Epistle to the Galatians 5:11-12

Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

(New International Version)

There could be no better tone to end this article than having Paul suggest his opposers don’t stop at circumcision and instead whack their entire penises off. Even by today’s standards, that’s a brutal insult, hahahahahaha!

About Jared Woods
Born in South Africa and now homeless as a nomadic something or other, Jared Woods does whatever he wants. He has authored numerous books, including the spiritual philosophy texts known as the "Janthopoyism Bible". Follow Jared on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @legotrip You can read more about the author here.

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