The Hebrew Bible rightly deserves to be termed the Book of Books in the world of letters: it is distinguished from other literary productions by the richness of its sentences, its charm of style and diction, its pathos, and also by the flashes of genuine humour, which here and there illuminate its pages. Naturally its humour differs materially from the broad, rich humour of Sterne, Cervantes, Voltaire or Heine, but it has a stamp of its own, which is in some respects akin to that found in certain passages of the ancient classics. One or two examples will serve.
In the first book of the Iliad, Homer describes a scene on Mount Olympus, in which the Greek gods and goddesses are represented as seated at a banquet, and waited upon by the lame Hephaestus. Observing his halting gait, they burst into peals of laughter. Comparable, perhaps, with this is the description of the well-known scene on Mount Carmel, when Elijah, the true prophet of God, gathered round him the false prophets of Baal. After they had leapt on the altar from morning unto even, crying incessantly, “Oh, Baal, hear us,” Elijah stepped forth, and exclaimed mockingly, “Cry ye louder, for he is a god; perhaps he talketh or walketh, or is on a journey; or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked” (1 Kings xviii. 27).