Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Humour in the Bible (5)

Ridicule can be an amusing and funny way to point out some foolishness in a situation, or in a belief, or in a lively argument.
It  is a form of humour which must be handled with care. In many situations the humour can be expressed in gentle teasing, but there is always a risk that such teasing can slip over a line into destructive mockery.   Exposing ideas to ridicule can be worthwhile. Ridiculing people is destructive.
There are a couple of passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) which use ridicule to great effect. Here is one:

Psalm 115  3Our God is in the heavens;
   he does whatever he pleases.
4Their idols are silver and gold,
   the work of human hands.
5They have mouths, but do not speak;
   eyes, but do not see.
6They have ears, but do not hear;
   noses, but do not smell.
7They have hands, but do not feel;
   feet, but do not walk;
   they make no sound in their throats.
8Those who make them are like them;
   so are all who trust in them.

One can almost imagine the people chortling with glee as the writer teases those who make idols and trust in them -  mouths which do not speak, ears which do not hear ... etc
Here’s another:
Jeremiah 10
Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2Thus says the Lord:
Do not learn the way of the nations,
   or be dismayed at the signs of the heavens;
   for the nations are dismayed at them.
3For the customs of the peoples are false:
a tree from the forest is cut down,
   and worked with an axe by the hands of an artisan;
4people deck it with silver and gold;
   they fasten it with hammer and nails
   so that it cannot move.
5Their idols* are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
   and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
   for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
   for they cannot do evil,
   nor is it in them to do good

This passage is very similar to the Psalm.  In it Jeremiah ridicules the idea of giving obeisance to an object, an idol which you have just made.  I think that the passage is supposed to be funny. Don’t we all grin when we read that hilarious imagery: Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field”.
It’s not been my intention to be preachy as I write this series on biblical humour.  But it did occur to me that we too “bow down” to things we have made.  We render service to the “idols” of our own “weapons of mass destruction”.  And we pay obeisance to the latest big screen television, or huge S.U.V  as we describe them with words of awe.

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