Clearly, there is irony in that many of the punishments meted out by God in the Hebrew Scriptures were measure for measure. The reader immediately notes that the divine punishment fits the crime. For instance, the Egyptians drowned children in the river, so God drowned them in the sea. Miriam, Moses’ sister, disparaged Moses “because of the Cushite woman he had married (Numbers 12).” The Cushites (Ethiopians) were very dark-skinned, and Miriam’s punishment was that she became leprous, or “white as snow.” Miriam became deathly white for making critical remarks of a dark-skinned person.
The Israelites whined that the manna was not sufficient and demanded meat in a most despicable way (Numbers 11). They went on to say that they remembered (evidently, fondly) the free fish they were accustomed to eat in Egypt. God’s punishment was to give them meat until “It is coming out of your nose and makes you nauseous.” The ingrates died “while the meat was still between their teeth.”
(This paper appeared in Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, Vol. 13:3, Sept. 2000, 258-285. ©2000, by Hershey H. Friedman, Ph.D. & Bernard H. Stern)