King Solomon, funny man

While working on my novel, I’ve had to reimmerse myself in various translations of the Bible. And I’ve realized something completely unexpected: the book of Proverbs, while mostly a dreary trail of exhortations to be good and work hard and beat your children regularly, can actually be funny.

Just imagine these nuggets issuing forth from the depressed protagonist of an old Woody Allen movie:

  • Proverbs 17:1 — Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife. (NRS)
  • Proverbs 19:3 — A stupid child is ruin to a father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. (NRS)
  • Proverbs 10:26 — As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him. (KJV)
  • Proverbs 25:24 — It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman and in a wide house (KJV)


And here’s my favorite, Proverbs 5:16, in a chapter exhorting the (male) reader to abstain from adultery: Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? (NRS)

Evidently the translation of this verse is disputed — with some Evangelicals contending that it is not a question and has nothing to do with sex, you sicko — but the meaning seems straightforward to me. (Speaking of King Solomon and Biblical humor, if you’ve never read Joseph Heller’s God Knows, do.)

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