Text of the Week
This picture, entitled "Queen Esther" by Edwin Long, is of Esther in the harem. The beautiful young girls were given many beauty treatments and then sent in to the king. This kind of exploitation of women was common in that day, and is not uncommon in ours. Esther was selected to be the Queen -- after the King had disposed of his previous Queen Vashti for disobeying. He had ordered Queen Vashti to appear (naked) before his guests. She, a king's daughter, refused and so he banished her and sought a new queen. Apparently obedience was valued over modesty.
One had to be careful with such a tempestuous and unreasonable ruler. So before Esther would speak to him about a matter of justice, she set the stage very carefully. But she was brave, as well as beautiful -- and so she would speak! Come hear the story on Sunday! Friends are always welcome!
Things you didn't learn in Sunday school...
If you want to take a little time and read the whole Book of Esther this week, you will probably enjoy it! It is an exciting story, full of adventure, a real villain, a beautiful young girl who marries a prince, and a happy(ish) ending. Good triumphs over evil in the end. However, it is a story with deep undertones: racial hatred and potential genocide, the danger of a vain leader, and the exploitation of women.
The story was likely written in the third century BC (or BCE). It was likely written as a novella or short story rather than transmitted orally. It explains the festival of Purim. Unlike most books of the Bible, Esther exists in three different forms (Hebrew Masoretic Text, Septuagint, and Alpha Text.) There are subtle differences among the three texts, and they may have been derived from the same original source (or perhaps two) which have since been lost.
Esther is also a bit odd in that God is not directly mentioned at all in the story. There is a point where Mordecai tells Esther that "relief and deliverance" will arise for the Jews from "another quarter" -- implying a belief in God as deliverer, a very Jewish understanding of God. (4: 13-14) There is also a place in the story when Zeresh tells Haman that if Mordecai is Jewish that he "will not prevail against him, but will surely fall before him," implying a special protection of the Hews. (6:13) There is also a sense of hidden causes paired with human action -- which is the way most biblical stories work. We won't read the end of the story -- it is pretty bloody. You'll have to read that for yourself. On the point of vengeance, Esther is disappointing as a hero.