The humor of Elijah!

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Many of the funniest sections of the Bible are related to the use of idols and the worship of false gods. This article discusses the biting, and somewhat sarcastic, humor used by Elijah in his spiritual showdown with false prophets on Mount Carmel. This event occurred during the reign of the notoriously evil King Ahab of Israel, who ruled over God's people from 874 to 853 B.C.

Our example of Bible humor begins with Elijah challenging Ahab to send the nation's pagan priests to Carmel (1Kings 18:19). The purpose of the prophet's request was to demonstrate, through the means of a contest, who was the true God that deserved the people's dedicated worship. Ahab agrees with the request, but only 450 of the 850 priests Elijah challenges (those who serve Baal) show up (1Kings 18:22).

At Carmel, the competition between Elijah and the many false priests entails both parties offering an animal sacrifice to the deity they serve and seeing which one responds with fire. Elijah allows the prophets of Baal to be the first to petition their god for an answer to their prayers. Watching the spiritual battle are countless Israelites who have been attempting to worship both Baal and the Lord at the same time (1Kings 18:21).

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Baal's prophets dance around their altar and call upon their deity from morning until noon. Absolutely nothing (as one would expect) happens to their sacrifice (1Kings 18:26). No flames magically appear to consume their sacrifice (even though Satan has the power to bring fire down from the sky, see Job 1:16). In fact, no supernatural manifestation of any kind occurs. The time is now ripe for Elijah to inject his sarcastic, and a bit crude, humor into the competition.

Laughing Child
Laughing Child
Frans Hals, c. 1623

The Bible likely records only part of the humorous taunts Elijah hurls, which were loud enough for the Israelites in attendance to hear. He mocks the prophets by stating, "'You'll have to shout louder than that,' he scoffed, 'to catch the attention of your god!'" (1Kings 18:27, The Living Bible).

Elijah's deriding humor hits a crescendo when he offers reasons why Baal does not answer them. He sarcastically shouts, "Perhaps he is talking to someone, or is out SITTING ON THE TOILET, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be awakened!"

The verbal jabs of Elijah, at the expense of the pagan priests, entail some of the best humor in Scripture. Could Baal's lack of a response be due to severe constipation that has consigned him to a toilet? Maybe he is in a lengthy conversation that is far more interesting than listening to the whining of his priests. Could it be he is sound asleep after all the "hard work" involved in being worshipped? Could it be he needed a break and took a well-earned vacation? Baal certainly seemed too involved in his own self-interests to answer anyone!

The response of the priests to the mocking humor was to cut themselves with knives and lances for several hours (1Kings 18:28 - 29). This attempt, however, to attract Baal's attention also fails miserably. What does work is the simple and short prayer of Elijah, which brings a pillar of fire from heaven that consumes his sacrifice! This leads to all 450 of the false prophets being put to death (verses 39 - 40).

Additional Study Materials
What was Jesus' greatest miracle?
Did Elijah get taken to heaven?
What is Holy Laughter?
Who are the major prophets?

The Best Bible Humor!

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