The Bible: laugh along

One of the unexpected aspects in the Bible is the laugh-outloud humor you can discover in various books.laughingArtist[3] (1)

An example comes from Daniel 3, where the king of Babylon – then the most powerful emperor in the world – decided to make a huge statue of himself and demand the people worship the golden image.

Notice, as we work our way through the story, the repetition of phrases.

King Nebuchadnezzar summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officers to come to the image dedication. Our author could have written “provincial officers” but he didn’t. Let’s see why.

The very next sentence reported that the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officers assembled for the dedication.

Then a herald announced the new decree: “As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.”

Our author could have simplified the instrument list to “all kinds of music” but he didn’t.

This time, we read two sentences before being told that “as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.”

Immediately astrologers denounced the Jews (who were in exile in Babylon at this point) and told the king, “Your majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, must fall down and worship…”

Try reading the story aloud and you’ll see how the repetition is similar to some children’s stories with a humorous rhythm.

Back to our story. A problem has arisen: there are Jews who would not worship the gold statue. So Nebuchadnezzar angrily summoned the three men (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) and demanded their compliance. He said, “Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good.”

The three Jewish men refused to bow down and face the king’s wrath. So, he had them thrown in to a blazing furnace but they survive.

And we read, “So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisors crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their head singed…” There’s the repetition of officials again.

To the reader, which ruler seems ridiculous and which seems powerful? Through the use of humorous repetition, the author of Daniel mocks Nebuchadnezzar by repeating titles and the list of musical instruments, painting the king as petty and preoccupied with meaningless details.

Meanwhile, God is portrayed as powerful and reasonable. No silly repetition is attached to his actions or those of the three Jewish men.

Through humor placed skillfully in the text, the author’s meaning comes through clearly. Which ruler is petty? And which ruler is powerful? The reader knows – after a few chuckles in midstream.

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One thought on “The Bible: laugh along

  1. Pingback: Faithful Worship | Quality of Life Ministries

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