Fifty Bible Riddles

from Richard Lederer's Classic Literary Trivia


Riddles are perhaps the most ancient of all verbal puzzles, dating back at least 2,500 years. The most famous riddle of all is the one that the Sphinx put to Oedipus: "What goes on four legs in the morning, on two at noon and on three at night?" Oedipus, one of the first game show contestants, answered the riddle correctly and thus became Oedipus Rex. His solution: "Man: in infancy, he crawls; in his prime, he walks; in old age, he leans on a staff."


In the biblical Book of Judges, the mighty Samson comes upon a swarm of bees making honey in the carcass of a lion. From this, Samson makes a bet with the Philistines that they cannot solve his original riddle: "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." After seven days of weeping, Samson's wife wheedles the answer out of him and conveys it to the Philistines. In a rage, Samson kills thirty of them and lays waste their city. Today we don't take riddles quite as seriously, but we do derive sweetness and strength from a cleverly turned poser.


The Bible has inspired not only an outpouring of great literature, art, and music, but also an impressive array of riddles based on its stories. The canon of biblical riddles reminds us that we can laugh with the Bible as well as learn from it:

1. When was baseball first played in the Bible?
A: In the big inning.

2. What animals disobeyed God's command to "be fruitful and multiply"?
A: adders.

3. Who was the champion runner of all time?
A: Adam. He was the first in the human race.

4. What was the longest day in the Bible?
A: The one with no Eve.

5. At what time of day was Adam created?
A: A little before Eve.

6. Why couldn't Eve have measles?
A: Because she'd Adam.

7. Did Eve ever have a date with Adam?
A: No, it was an apple.

8. On what did the earliest people do arithmetic lessons?
A: God told them to multiply on the face of the earth.

9. How were Adam and Eve prevented from gambling?
A: They lost their paradise.

10. What did Adam and Eve never have but left to their children?
A: Parents.

11. What evidence is there that Adam and Eve were pretty noisy?
A: They raised Cain.

12. How long did Cain hate his brother?
A: As long as he was Abel.

13. When was meat first mentioned in the Bible?
A: When Noah took Ham into the ark.

14. What animal took the most baggage into the ark; what animals took the least?
A: The elephant took his trunk, but the fox and the rooster took only a brush and comb between them.

15. Why weren't there any worms in the ark?
A: Because worms come in apples, not in pairs.

16. What creatures were not on the ark?
A: Fish.

17. Where did Noah keep the bees?
A: In the ark hives.

18. Who was the best financier in the Bible?
A: Noah. He floated his stock while the whole world was in liquidation.

19. Where did all the people in the world hear one rooster crow?
A: In the ark.

20. Why couldn't people play cards on the ark?
A: Noah sat on the deck.

21. Where was Noah when the lights went out?
A: In d'ark.

22. Why couldn't Noah catch many fish?
A: He only had two worms.

23. When is paper money first mentioned in the Bible?
A: When the dove brought the green back to the ark.

24. What did the cat say when the ark landed?
A: Is that Ararat?

25. Why was Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt?
A: Because she was dissatisfied with her Lot.

26. When was tennis first played?
A: When Joseph served in Pharaoh's court.

27. Who was the straightest man in the Bible?
A: Joseph. Pharaoh made a ruler out of him.

28. How was Pharaoh's daughter like a stockbroker?
A: She took a little prophet from the rushes on the banks.

29. What did the Egyptians do when it got dark?
A: They turned on the Israelites.

30. Who was the first man in the Bible to break all ten commandments?
A: Moses.

31. How do we know for certain that Moses was a male?
A: He wandered around the desert for forty years and never stopped to ask anyone for directions.

32. Who were the three most constipated men in the Bible?
A: Cain, because he wasn't Abel; Methuselah, who sat on the throne for 900 years; and Moses, because God gave him two tablets and sent him into the wilderness.

33. Who was the greatest actor in the Bible? What did he die of?
A: Samson. He brought down the house, then died of fallen arches.

34. How was Ruth rude to Boaz?
A: She pulled his ears and stepped on his corn.

35. Why was Goliath astonished when David hit him with a stone?
A: It had never entered his head before.

36. Who was older -- David or Goliath?
A: David. He rocked Goliath to sleep.

37. What evidence is there of sewing in the time of David?
A: He was hemmed in on all sides.

38. Why was the prophet Elijah like a horse?
A: He was fed from aloft.

39. Who was the most successful doctor in the Bible?
A: Job. He had the most patience.

40. What did Job have to cover his sackcloth and ashes?
A: Only three miserable comforters.

41. Who was the strongest man in the Bible?
A: Jonah. The whale couldn't keep him down.

42. Who was Jonah's guardian?
A: The whale brought him up.

43. How is the story of Jonah an inspiration?
A: Jonah was down in the mouth but came out all right.

44. How was John the Baptist like a penny?
A: He was one sent.

45. Who were the three tiniest apostles?
A: Peter, James, and John. They all slept on a watch.

46. Who set the record for the high jump in the Bible?
A: Jesus, when he cleared the temple.

47. How was St. Paul like a horse?
A: He liked Timothy, hey?

48. How was a baseball game played in the Bible?
A: In the big inning, Eve stole first, Adam stole second, Rebecca walked with the pitcher, Gideon rattled the pitchers, Saul was put out by David, Absalom and Judas went out swinging, and the prodigal son stole home.

49. Who were the shortest men in the Bible?
A: It is commonly believed that they were Knee-high Meyer and Bildad the Shuhite (shoe height), but Paul said, "Silver and gold have I none," and no one could be shorter than that.

50. What three noblemen are mentioned in the Bible?
A: Barren fig tree, Lord how long, and Count thy blessings.

... and Lederer's favorite, which he discovered only after writing the book:

Q: Why were Adam and Eve the happiest couple in history?
A: Because she couldn't tell him about all the other men she should have married, and he couldn't tell her how much he loved his mother's cooking.