December 1, 2010
Hebrew Scriptures is filled with call stories, of unlikely characters who struggle with human limitations and inadequacies and the steadfast Divine Yahweh who is at work in and through those persons crafting a story and a purpose of Eternal proportions. Such is the story of Queen Esther, an unlikely Jewish heroine in Persia, under the reign of Ahasuerus (Xerxes I). Under the leadership of Haman, the Prime Minister, a plan was developed not only to eliminate all Jewish persons in the city but throughout the entirety of Persia. While the author only makes elliptical references to the Divine, Yahweh is at work in the life a ...view middle of the document...
Haman basically seeks to wipe out all Jewish people. At this point in the story, Mordecai calls on Esther to approach the king and intervene in Haman’s plan. Approaching the king unbidden was not allowed, even by the queen herself and Esther was being asked to put her own life on the line to do so.
The condensed summation of her story is that she does approach the king, she cleverly exposes Haman and she saves her people but the crux of her story is that she was an unlikely heroine and she was real in human fear. In literary irony, Haman ends up facing the same execution he had created for Mordecai and the Jewish people are protected by royal order. Esther knew she was facing death to approach her husband, yet she did. She bravely said “If I perish, I perish” (4:16). Michael Coogan states that many scholars believe Esther to be a work of fiction, given the dating of Mordecai’s age in relation to the time of book. Whether Esther’s story was factually based or not doesn’t take away from its overall important meaning. Esther, a woman who finds herself married into a Gentile life, answers the call that once again wraps a cloak of Divine deliverance around the people of Yahweh and continues the covenant made with Abraham.
In verse 14 of Chapter 4, Mordecai is speaking to Esther through Hathach and asks “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” His words imply that God will deliver another to save the people but Esther’s family will not be delivered. In his critical commentary on the book, Dr. Lewis Paton states, “Although the author does not mention God, there is little doubt that he thinks of the ancient promises that Israel shall never perish.” Mordecai then asks her to think about why she has been called into this time and this place and an implicit Divine orchestration are brought to her attention. With that, Esther then resolves to approach the king.
Obviously Mordecai understood the overall plan of Yahweh to protect and deliver Israel and was sharing that she was the most obvious means of doing so. It’s very reminiscent of Abraham being sent to Canaan and then leaving out of fear, only to have God work the covenant plan with and through him in Egypt. God’s faithfulness to the covenant is never in question; the unknown variable is the response of the humans that are called to participate in that plan. Scripture clearly demonstrates that God will rework the logistics of honoring the covenant when humans foil the original command. In the case of Esther she answered the call.
Paton also argues that there isn’t a noble character in the whole of the story, Xerxes is a despot, Esther conceals her identity for the sake of winning a place in the king’s court, Mordecai advises her to lie about whom she is and obviously Haman...