Marginalization through Humor

The humorous story of Ehud recorded in Judges 3 needs a queer reading to understand the deeper meaning of the text and its implication for LGBTq readers. Judges 3 may not come off as humorous to a modern reader but in antiquity it was considered funny. The implications of the words maybe lost on readers today, but the text is full of ancient allegories. Understanding the ancient meaning of these allegories can reveal a new way of understanding the story. However, a reading that takes these insights into account may not be funny to LGBT people because the illusions are hegemonic and increase their marginalization.[1]

Many ancient cultures considered left-handedness to be against natural order and thus by implication “The left hand usually symbolized ineptness and perversity” while the right hand symbolized power, goodness, and favor. The text indicates that Ehud is left handed, and the connotations of this would lead an ancient hearer to think that something sinister is likely to happen, something that is against Divine logic.[2] The ancient hearer is essentially inclined to think that the lefthanded person (Ehud) would be against God’s plan. The storyteller uses the hegemonic understanding of the hearers to flip the narrative, but in doing so uses humor in a way that further marginalizes left-handed persons or anyone else who does not fit in a binary worldview.

Imagery in the text would also lead an ancient hearer to understand the sexual overtones of the story. Words like “come to,” “sword,” and Ehud’s being labeled a Benjamite add to the sexual overtones of the story.[3] Both traditional and queer theologians agree that there are sexual overtones in the text.[4] However, they view the implications of the imagery differently. According to the queer point of view, “what lies behind the sexual imagery and innuendo is the desire to dehumanize the foreigner by labeling them as sexual deviants.”[5] Using negative stereotypes of sexual imagery only furthers the marginalization the “other.”

Although the humorous imagery used in Judges 3 is not accessible by a surface reading, it nonetheless has a marginalizing effect on queer people. Even a surface reading uncovers the hegemonic overtones of the story, but there are further implications when the contextual allegories are understood. These allegories can harm people who do not fit in to the hegemonic, binary worldview. Thus, the humorous imagery employed in Judges is harmful and marginalizing to LGBT people.



[1] Deryn Guest, “Judges,” in Queer Bible Commentary, ed. Deryn Guest, Robert E. Goss, Mona West, and Thomas Bohache  (London: SCM Press, 2015), 167-177. All sentences in first paragraph are my understanding based on reading Guest’s chapter on Judges.

[2] Guest, “Judges,”169-170.

[3] Guest, “Judges,” 170-171.

[4] Susan Niditch, “Judges,” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, ed. John Barton and John Muddiman (New York: Oxford, 2001), 179-180; Guest, “Judges,” 167-177. This is my own statement, based on looking at both of these sources.

[5] Guest, “Judges,” 173.