The Bible makes Tim Bulkeley laugh. Me too.

The Holy Bible - full of laughs!
The Holy Bible – full of laughs!

I don’t know how you get your giggles. But Tim Bulkeley gets his from reading the Bible. He managed to find plenty to guffaw at in the Torah, and has no doubt located some side-splitting episodes in the Former Prophets. But as soon as he hit Ezra, he found that laughs were few and far between. In fact, he’s been struggling to find anything very funny about this book at all.

I agree that Ezra isn’t the most entertaining of Hebrew literature. But this should at least raise a snigger:

There is a quite ironic, and rather funny, fulfillment of the prediction made by the adversaries of the Golah. In Ezra 4, the local rulers of the province Beyond the River write to King Artaxerxes with the intention of stopping the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple. One of the reasons they put forward is that “if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be reduced” (Ezra 4.13). The fear which is being manufactured here by their opponents is that the Judeans will rebel and not pay their tribute to the Persians. However, in Ch 6, we learn from the later correspondence between the local rulers and King Darius that the Persian king has sided with the Judean Golah against the local ruler. The irony lies with the fact that the local ruler’s original prediction still does in fact come to pass, only not in the way they expected. For as a result of the temple-building which goes ahead in Yehud, the royal revenue will indeed be reduced: because the Golah are to be given the tribute. Note the repeated reference to “tribute”, “royal revenue” and the province “Beyond the River” in Ezra 6.8, which ties the verse back to Ezra 4.13. However, quite against the expectations of the local rulers, the loss of Persian revenues is to be the result of the command of the Persian king himself! Hilarious!!  In the end, the story presents Yehud as an exemplary imperial subject giving sacrifices and prayers that benefit the Persian king – in contrast to the Samarians and the Judeans’ other opponents – thus completely turning around the initial accusation that the Judeans are natural rebels against empire.

n.b. Tim seems to have skipped Leviticus. I wonder why?
Update: Tim comments below, and lets us know that he’s done Humour in Leviticus. Extraordinary!

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2 thoughts on “The Bible makes Tim Bulkeley laugh. Me too.

  1. Hi, thanks for the mention and the idea. Ezra has a bit more humour than I thought, though I “did” Ezra before seeing this post (it’s the marking season :(, though it’s still far from my favourite book!

    I did do Leviticus here: Humour in Leviticus it was out of order, I might fix that dating retrospectively…

    Like

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