Shabbat Shalom Magazine

Written by: By Jacques B. Doukhan

Humor in the Book of Daniel

Humor is enjoyable because it is often found in unexpected places. The book of Daniel is one such place. The book that speaks about the terror of the Judgment of God, describes massive wars, and warns humans about the end of time is not supposed to be funny.

And yet the smile of God is profiled there, calling for a reading of the text in which laughter is not only allowed,but is also required for an understanding of the book. A few samples from the book of Daniel should be enough to bring a smile to this serious subject matter.

Smile at the success of Daniel and his friends who excel over all the other candidates who eat the sophisticated meal of the king while Daniel and his friends’ content themselves with the modest food of vegetables and water; smile then at the ridiculousness of the chief eunuch's anxiety:

'And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, 'I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your ager"' (Daniel 1:10).

"And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies" (Daniel 1:15).

Smile at how King Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans are trying to outsmart each other: "The king said to them, 'I have had a dream and my spirit is anxious to know the dream: Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, 'O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream and we will give you the interpretation: But the king answered and said to the Chaldeans, 'My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap"' (Daniel 2:3-5).

Smile at the satiric portrayal of Chaldean religion through the repetitive lists that suggest mechani­cal puppets (Daniel 3:2, 3, 5, 7).

Smile at King Nebuchadnezzar when his boasting words about his great achievements in the construction of Babylon are shut up by a heavenly voice: The king spoke saying, 'Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?' While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you . ... They shall make you eat grass like oxen"' (Daniel 4:31-32).

Smile at the ridiculousness of proud and majestic King Belshazzar when he loses control as a hand appears and runs by itself on the white wall:

"Then the king's countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other. The king cried aloud ... " (Daniel 5:6-7).

Smile at the little horn, in the midst of the terrible and dreadful fourth animal, that has "eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words" (Daniel 7:8).

Smile at the vanity of Daniel's long prayer, since God had heard it from its first words (Daniel 9:23; cf. 10:12).

Smile at those powerful kingdoms, which will be broken without the help of any hand (Daniel 2:34; 8:25; 11:45).

Smile at the irony of prophetic history. Whether we consult the dream of the statue of Daniel 2 or the vision of Daniel 7, the same message is heard: God will have the last word in spite of all the bustles of politics. Prophecy about the history of humankind ends with the surprising smile of God.



By Jacques B. Doukhan Editor, Shabbat Shalom



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