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Author: Heather McKay

Abstract

Instances of humour alongside violence occur infrequently in the Hebrew Bible, the humour being always wry or black. Sometimes, the humour lies in the story itself, or becomes evident only when an intertext is juxtaposed, or apparent when the discerning reader recognises exactly what the author is doing in the telling of the story. Reception history has made plain that different readers “hear” different things in biblical stories, and visualising the stories in the mind’s eye allows one to note the reactions of all the characters in the story and the humour in them. Bathos happens in Jacob’s fight at the Jabbok, for Jacob “pays” for his blessing with a limp. It also occurs in the several discomfitures of Jonah. Black humour occurs in the niggling back-and-forth argument between Abraham and God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah and in the sly depths of Dinah’s brothers’ plan to despoil the Shechemites. The interplay of intertexts also provides black humour: the golden calf becomes human excrement, whereas Jezebel becomes the canine equivalent. More humorously, though, Ezra tears his own hair over the practice of inter-ethnic marriage, while Nehemiah attacks the parents of the participants. This chapter explores the purpose behind this conjunction of humour and violence.

In: Violence in the Hebrew Bible
Author: Heather McKay

Abstract

Instances of humour alongside violence occur infrequently in the Hebrew Bible, the humour being always wry or black. Sometimes, the humour lies in the story itself, or becomes evident only when an intertext is juxtaposed, or apparent when the discerning reader recognises exactly what the author is doing in the telling of the story. Reception history has made plain that different readers “hear” different things in biblical stories, and visualising the stories in the mind’s eye allows one to note the reactions of all the characters in the story and the humour in them. Bathos happens in Jacob’s fight at the Jabbok, for Jacob “pays” for his blessing with a limp. It also occurs in the several discomfitures of Jonah. Black humour occurs in the niggling back-and-forth argument between Abraham and God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah and in the sly depths of Dinah’s brothers’ plan to despoil the Shechemites. The interplay of intertexts also provides black humour: the golden calf becomes human excrement, whereas Jezebel becomes the canine equivalent. More humorously, though, Ezra tears his own hair over the practice of inter-ethnic marriage, while Nehemiah attacks the parents of the participants. This chapter explores the purpose behind this conjunction of humour and violence.

In: Violence in the Hebrew Bible
In: Kailas Histories
In: Kailas Histories
In: Kailas Histories
In: Kailas Histories