The Bible is surprisingly full of humorous episodes that can make one chuckle or even laugh out loud.
The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom, including this profound insight on the value of humor, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). While many see the Bible as a dry book of theological stories, it contains a good deal of humor in it, though not always what we would expect living in the modern world.
One of the first “jokes” God pulled was in the book of Genesis. When visiting Abraham and Sarah, God said to the elderly couple (well passed child-bearing years), “I will bless [Sarah], and moreover I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her” (Genesis 17:16).
Abraham couldn’t keep himself contained, “Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?'” (Genesis 17:17)
Sarah had a similar reaction to the news, “Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’” (Genesis 18:12) God caught her laughing, but “Sarah denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. He said, ‘No, but you did laugh’” (Genesis 18:15). You can’t pull a fast one on God!
God had the “last laugh” as the name of their son became Isaac, for Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; every one who hears will laugh over me” (Genesis 21:6). In Hebrew, Isaac means “he will laugh.”
Another humorous episode happened in the book of Numbers, when the People of Israel were complaining in the desert. They called out like a petulant child, “O that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic, but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (Numbers 11:4-6).
God responded by saying, the “Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils” (Numbers 11:19-20). He gave them quail that covered the earth, three feet deep! You wanted meat? Here you go!
In the book of Kings, Elijah is having a “Battle Royale” with some pagan priests and taunts them by saying, “Call louder, for he is a god; he may be busy doing his business, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18:27). Some translations make “doing his business” more explicit by translating it as, “relieving himself.” This is in accord with the original Hebrew and so Elijah is taunting them by saying their god might be busy going to the bathroom!
These and other events in the Old and New Testaments reveal a lighter side to Christianity, showing that even God has a sense of humor and that “A cheerful heart is a good medicine.”