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Humor in Bible Characters

Humor in Bible Characters

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Published by glennpease
BY MARION SHUTTER

COPYRIGHT, 1892
BY MARION SHUTTER

COPYRIGHT, 1892

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Published by: glennpease on Dec 03, 2011
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HUMOR IN BIBLE CHARACTERSBY MARION SHUTTER COPYRIGHT, 1892This is loaded with mistakes, but I share it anyway because it helps us see thehumorous perspective of the Bible."The -history of the ancient Hebrews,"says George Eliot, "gives the idea of apeople who went about their business andtheir pleasures as gravely as a society of beavers ; the smile and laugh are often men-tioned metaphorically ; but the smile is oneof complacency, the laugh of scorn."Against the authority of so illustrious aname, the writer of these pages confesses asomewhat different impression. It is diffi-cult to believe that such sentiments as thefollowing could have arisen among a peoplewhose only smile was that of complacency,whose only laughter that of scorn:"He that is of a merry heart hath a con-tinual feast.""A merrv heart maketh a cheerful countenance.""A merry heart doetli good like a medicine.""Go thy way ; eat thy bread with joy anddrink thy wine with a merry heart.""The voice of mirth," ^Hhe voice of glad-ness" are phrases of frequent occurrence.The ancient Hebrews believed that therewas a "time to laugh" as well as a ^'time toweep." Grave and serious as they were,there must have been in them, after all,something sunny and pleasant. They didnot find the heavens forever black and the
 
earth forever cheerless.When we turn to the historical and bio-graphical portions of Scripture, we find hereand there a bit of quaintness and drolleryin pictures of life and delineations of char-acter that must have brought to the faces of those who read them or heard them smilesother than those of complacency ; that musthave been enjoyed Avith laughter other thanthat of scorn.Mr. Shorthouse says, ^'Xature and humordo not lie far apart j the source and springsCbaracter Sftetcbee. 27of humor is human life." ^^The essenceof humor/' Carlyle remarks, ^^is sensibiHty;warm, tender fellow-feeling with all formaof existence." ^^ The man of humor," writesanother distinguished critic, "seeing at oneglance the majestic and the mean, the seri-ous and the laughable; indeed, interpretingwhat is little or ridiculous by light derivedfrom its opposite idea, delineates characteras he finds it in life, without any impertinentintrusion of his own indignation or ap-proval."The writers of the Bible sketched man-ners and traits as they found them. Theirpencils were faithful to nature. Theyreported what they saw. The featureswhich provoke the smile, as well as thosewhich move us to admire, condemn or Aveep,are pictured on their canvas. They had aneye for the ludicrous side of life, as wellas for its more sober aspects. So genialis much of their — often unconscious — 
 
humor, so far removed from l)itterness orscorn, that it should seem as if Addison andIrving might have drawn some of theirinspiration from these old Hebrews.28 -mix mt> Dumor of tbe JBfble.In this chapter we sliall give some ilhis-trations from their sketches of character.I. — Ahimklkc H.In the time of the Judges tlie unprin-cipled Abimelech coutrived to have himself proclaimed king in Shechem. Knowing hisunfitness for the throne, and vexed at hissuccessful machinations, Jotham, a manof ready wit, ridicules the pretensions of the monarch and the folly of the j^eople,in an admirable fable. Addison says:^^ Fables were the first pieces of wit thatmade their appearance in the world, andhave been still highly valued, not only intimes of the greatest simplicity, but amongthe most polite ages of mankind. Jotham'sfable of the Trees is the oldest that isextant, and as beautiful as any that havebeen made since that time."Perching himself ui)()n the top of a hill,that his parable may not be brought toan untimely end, he speaks to the multitude:^^The Trees Avent forth on a time to anointa kinii: over them. And thev said to theCbaracter Shetcbee. 29Olive Tree, Keigii thou over us. But the

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