Gleanings from the Bible: Esther

Esther must be the most entertaining book in the Bible. It has it all: intrigue, conflict, racism, courage, irony, dark humour, coincidence and even a little gore (for those who like that sort of thing), all set against the background of the Persian Empire, during the Exile of the Jews from their homeland. I can imagine it being performed as an onstage melodrama. Cheers as Esther and Mordecai enter and boos for the evil Haman.

The overall purpose of the book seems to lie in explaining how the Jewish Festival of Purim came into being but it has often been noted that nowhere is God explicitly  mentioned. At the same time there is a request for fasting and throughout the coincidences are so remarkable that we should obviously understand that God is at work engineering events in the background.

There are films about Esther, but I recommend reading the book in one sitting. I’m not going to recount the whole story here, but there are some highlights which I must mention.

The first is Queen Vashti’s refusal to be at the beck and call of her husband, Xerxes. Could this be an early form of women’s lib unwittingly serving God’s purpose to have Esther in the right place at the right time?

Then there is the challenge of Mordecai as he enlists Esther’s help in approaching the king: “… and who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Would that we could all find the purpose God has for our lives and have the courage to follow it. Using our gifts for others rather than simply basking in the blessings that have come our way.

The third highlight is simply the delight in seeing events escalate and unravel to reveal the villain and see him get his just desserts.

Finally, when Haman’s edict was overturned and the Jews were given permission to defend themselves and plunder their enemies, the author notes, almost in passing, that many people of other nationalities became Jews. As you would!

As we admire the strength and courage of Esther and Mordecai, we also acknowledge that, as in the rest of the Bible, it is God who is the ultimate hero. As ever, he gives courage, turns the hearts of kings and weaves a rich tapestry of events that reveal his constant faithfulness and love for those who will rely on him.  

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