Esther A Story of Love, Manipulation and Cruelty a Reflection for #digidisciple 10th May 2014 (@minidvr)

Esther is Crowned by King Xerxes

Esther is Crowned by King Xerxes

Reading the Book of Esther is like reading a fantasy of murder, hatred, jealousy, revenge, a naive King, manipulation by evil people, but ultimately one great faith by Mordecai,  of love, familial relationships and the saving of the Jewish people from annihilation at the hands of a spurned royal official.

The main players are King Xerxes who rules the empire of the Persian and Medes between 519-465 BC[1].  Vashti the queen that was deposed after she refused to visit the King in a fit of pique (v1:12).  Mordecai a Jewish man who with his family had been carried into exile by the Babylonians.  Esther the beautiful young, virgin daughter of Mordecai’s cousin Hadassah, adopted by Mordecai,  who became first a concubine, but later an influential Queen to Xerxes.  Haman a courtier who gained Xerxes favour and was elevated to the highest position in power after the King.

After Vashti was deposed, Xerxes consults his nobles who advise that he bring the most beautiful virgins to the palace to please the King.  This is done, and Esther is one of those chosen and taken to the palace to be a concubine.   Mordecai feels the shame of this and daily visits the gates of the citadel and sits in sorrow praying for Esther’s welfare and safety.  Esther had concealed her Jewish identity from the King as Mordecai had instructed her as there was prejudice against the Jewish people among some at court, including Haman.

While sitting at the gate, Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman as he passes through as all others did.  Haman takes severe umbrage at this and decides that he needs to do something about the Jews because of Mordecai’s insolence.   In the meantime, Mordecai overhears two royal officials against Xerxes’s life and confides in Esther, who tells the King – the plot is overturned and the plotters executed. Esther is raised in the King’s esteem and he trusts her more.  The King is unaware that Mordecai was responsible for uncovering the plot, although the facts had been recorded in court documents.

In the meantime, Haman’s intentions are clear.  He persuades the King that killing the Jews throughout the Kingdom was a good idea due to their difference, their refusal to adopt the ways of the Kingdom – the King signs a decree that on a certain date and time all Jews, man, woman and child are to be killed.

Mordecai discovers this decree and beseeches Esther to go to the King and plead the cause of the Jewish people.   She does, despite disobeying the custom to only approach the King on his summons.  Such is the King’s love for her, that he ignores her breach of etiquette and allows her into his presence.  Esther manipulates the King expertly to allow her to hold a banquet where Haman would be guest a few days later.   In the meantime the King discovers that Mordecai had been the one who uncovered the plot against him and orders Haman to honour Mordecai. Haman having done this, knows that his goose is cooked.     When Xerxes attends Esther’s banquet, she manipulates him again to bring about the salvation of the Jews and implicates Haman as the guilty party, plotting to kill her people.   The resulting rage of the King see’s Haman and all of his ten sons put to death.    The King takes on Mordecai and gives permission for the Jewish people throughout the Kingdom to take revenge on their enemies – this results in much blood shed and thousands are killed by vengeful Jews, while Mordecai becomes the most powerful advisor to the King.  A win, win situation for the Jews at the Court and throughout the empire.

 

What is the point of all of this?

First is the faithful witness of Mordecai, whose example is one of a stern, upright faith in God and that God will make things right to save the Jewish people.  His refusal to bow to the Haman might have been regarded as stiff necked pride, but somewhere I find a grudging admiration for his stance, which seems to me to have been based on his righteous indignation at the treatment of Esther, but perhaps also his experience of discrimination against the Jewish people and the ostentatious flaunting of wealth and power over people from Haman. He was evidently a man of courage in the face of adversity – and he faces it head on.  Eventually, although God isn’t mentioned by name anywhere in the book – it’s obvious that Mordecai’s persistence and perseverance overcomes all to save the Jewish people.  Mordecai believed that God had made Esther queen. So Mordecai believed that God could use her to save the Jews. But even if Esther did not speak on their behalf, God would still save the Jews. Mordecai believed this also (v 4:12-14).

Second, Esther is a loyal and loving adopted daughter.  Very aware of her role, but also submissive and obedient to the discipline of the situation that she found herself in, but with the wisdom and courage to adhere to her principles and to use her influence with the King.  The telling thing for me is that she seemed to be convinced that God would save the Jewish people even without her intervention, but obeyed Mordecai’s request for her intervention.  Esther knew that she was risking her life. But she also knew that God was in control. God helped Esther to please the king. The king promised to give her almost anything that she wanted (v 5:1-3).

Third. God comes through in this situation.  His intervention brings about the situations that saved the Jews. His influence through Mordecai and Esther and their actions were directly inspired through their faith and loyalty to him.   Even though he isn’t mentioned directly, the actions in the story of both Mordecai and Esther speak for him loudly and clearly.

Fourth.  There is evidence that God had a plan for this situation. He brought our Mordecai and Esther. Esther is made Xerxes’s Queen (V. 2:17).   Mordecai got Haman’s situation and Haman got the punishment he’d wanted for the Jews (v .7.5-10). Mordecai’s law allowed the Jew’s to defend themselves (v. 9.1-4).

Fifth. The feast of Purim (v. 9:20-22) was created where Jews commemorated when God saved them through his power over the situation.

I found it difficult to take anything good from this book, apart from the obvious ones here.  I find the old testament issues of the innate cruelty evidenced in ways of killing people, taking vengeance as something alien to how I’m formed.  It’s a good story of a different time, context and culture than ours, but sometimes when I look at the things going on in our world I wonder if we’ve ever learned any lessons from history or scriptural evidence about our actions.

[1]. Free Bible Images at http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/esther-1/
[2].http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerxes_I accessed 6 May 2014

About Ernie Feasey

Anglican, Ex-Officer, trying to discern a vocation to Ordained Ministry