Humor in the Bible: What Has Isaac Done?

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Gen 26:6  So Isaac settled in Gerar. 7 When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “My wife,” thinking, “or else the men of the place might kill me for the sake of Rebekah, because she is attractive in appearance.” 8 When Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah9 So Abimelech called for Isaac, and said, “So she is your wife! Why then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought I might die because of her.” 10 Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” 11 So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall be put to death.” 


The Pentateuch contains stories similar or very much the same one another. An exemplary text might be the story of patriarchs lying about his wife as his sister. This story occurs three times in Gen 12, 20, 26, so it is a triplet rather than a doublet. From a perspective of the documentary hypothesis, it should be the result of combining three different sources. But there is an alternative way to understand this triplet. It seems possible to read the triplet as biblical humor, which one writer inserted. Here is why.

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Isaac’s Meditation, Wandering, and Humor in the Bible

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Gen 24:63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there were camels coming (RSV).

1. Isaac’s meditation

Isaac is Abraham’s legitimate heir from whom Israelite ancestor’s genealogy continues for generations. He was a miraculous baby as Abraham and Sarah had him at their very old ages, and he survived the critical situation, in which God designated him as an offering of a sacrifice. He is often described as an exemplar of obedience to God because he, obeying God’s order, went upon the altar despite that he could have brought old Abraham under his control.

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