Well, till I had time for research, in between assignment marking, I thought David Ker had solved my problem with Ezra. (No, not my problem with Ezra the character’s treatment of foreign wives, my problem finding humour in the book.)
David’s suggestion was this:
This is an easy one. In fact our family was just laughing about this passage last week. Ezra 5, Tattenai and Shethar-Bozenai tattle on the returned exiles in hopes of getting their work stopped. In chapter 6, Darius responds with unexpected affirmation of their work and then curses anyone who interferes with them with impaling on stakes made from the beams of their house. His edict ends in v. 12 with Darius ordering them: “I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.”
Verse 13 reads: Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shethar–boznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily.
After our family read that passage we were all chuckling and saying, “Yeah, I bet they did it speedily.”
This is a prototypical scenario in OT narratives with the underdog being oppressed by an evil villain and then a king turning it around to the honor of God’s people (Joseph, Daniel and Esther being other examples).
And he may well be right, but looking at the passage it seems to me that it is by no means evident that Tatnai and his mates were indeed trying to get the temple-building project stopped… At least not all commentators seem to think so…
Another candidate: is Ezra 8:31ff. the HCSB Student Bible suggests there’s humour here, as do some others, but I am not sure…
Can anyone convince me? Either of one of these or of another example of humour in Ezra… Please!