How do you know that’s not why you’re here?
Heroes of the Faith –
Esther and Mordecai
Esther 3:1-15, Mordecai Refuses to Bow
Esther 4:1-17, Esther & Mordecai Try to Avert Disaster
Esther 5:1-4, Esther Approaches the King
Esther 7:1-10, Esther Pleads for the Jews
Esther 8:1-17, Another Law is Passed
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Esther 3:1-15, Mordecai Refuses to Bow (2/22/2010)
One reason I read commentaries and the notes in assorted study Bibles is that I get new insights when someone makes a point that disagrees with “common knowledge.” In the story of Esther and Mordecai, the usual reason proposed for Mordecai’s refusal is that Jews would only bow down to God, and I always accepted this without thinking about it. Shame on me! Recently I read somewhere that in fact this is not true. Jews bowed down to kings and other people all the time, e.g., Genesis 33:6-7, 42:6; Exodus 18:7; Ruth 2:10; 1 Kings 1:16, 18:7; 2 Samuel 1:2, 9:5, 18:21; etc., etc. Now, I’ve read all those scriptures many times, and I still accepted without question the idea that Mordecai was refusing to bow because Jews would only bow before God. We have to read this stuff for ourselves, people, and pay attention while we’re doing it!
Anyway, given that the common knowledge doesn’t seem to be right, how are we to interpret Mordecai’s refusal to bow down to Haman “because I am a Jew.” How about this? Mordecai knew Haman, because they were both officials in the court of the king. Probably Mordecai knew that Haman was a bigoted, self-centered jerk, and Mordecai didn’t think he was worthy of honor. That’s certainly consistent with the rest of the story that we are reading this week.
Esther 4:1-17, Esther & Mordecai Try to Avert Disaster (2/23/2010)
Even though Esther was the queen, she lived in the harem along with all the other women, and she could only go to see the king when she was summoned. When Mordecai finds out about Haman’s plan to exterminate the Jews, he sends Esther a series of messages urging her to intercede with the king on behalf of the Jews. She explains that she hasn’t been summoned, but Mordecai is unsympathetic. He says, “How do you know that this isn’t why you became the queen?” She agrees to go, but only after all the Jews fast for three days to pray for her safety. Still, she’s not optimistic.
Esther 5:1-4, Esther Approaches the King (2/24/2010)
Queen Esther took her life in her hands and went to see the king, even though she hadn’t been summoned. Fortunately, he was glad to see her. Because she was as smart as she was brave, she didn’t just say, “I came because I want you to do me a big favor” when he asked her what she wanted. Instead, she said, “Oh, kingy-poo, it’s been so lo-ong since we’ve been together. Please let me fix your dinner.” He was charmed. He asked her again after dinner, and again she replied that all she wanted was to spend time with him the next day.
Meantime, she had also asked that Haman be included in both dinners. Boy, was he proud! But not so proud that he didn’t stay offended at Mordecai.
Esther 7:1-10, Esther Pleads for the Jews (2/25/2010)
I admire Esther. Not only was she brave and smart, but she was reasonable. “If my people were only going to be sold into slavery, I wouldn’t even have bothered you.” Some things aren’t even worth bothering the king about! Of course, her reasonableness about enslavement makes the law allowing the killing of all the Jews look even worse by comparison. So maybe her comment still qualifies as “smart.”
Now, the king had not known that his queen was Jewish, but he did know that she was beautiful and a great hostess, who valued his company over half the kingdom. So when he finds out that someone has passed a law allowing her to be killed, he is outraged. Then he finds out that it is his close friend and advisor who’s attacking the queen and her people. Even more angry, he leaves the room to cool off a little. Haman, seeing that he is in deep trouble, to tries to throw himself on the queen’s mercy – literally. We can imagine that he reaches out to her, or takes her hand, in his fear. Unfortunately, just as he goes down on his knees to the queen, the king comes back. The king sees his wife’s enemy beside her couch and concludes that now he’s trying to rape her. The servants, seeing that he is a condemned man, as good as dead, cover his face.
Esther 8:1-17, Another Law is Passed (2/26/2010)
Do you remember the A-Team? They used to come in to help somebody with a problem, build some fabulous war machine – usually some kind of tank – out of scraps, and save the day. Then the leader (George Peppard) would say, “I love it when a plan comes together!”
I think Esther and Mordecai must have had the same feeling. The day that Haman had planned for the extermination of the Jews turned into a day of great victory, but only after Mordecai planned and maneuvered and Esther repeatedly risked her life by going to the King without being summoned. No wonder there is an annual festival, Purim, devoted to these two great heroes of the faith!
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Copyright 2010, 2012 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.
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