Women of Scripture: Esther
Posted by Zenaida
I recently watched “One Night With the King,” a dramatization of the story of Esther. And dramatic it certainly is. However, I’m not going to critique the movie. A little trivia for you, though: the lead who played Esther, Tiffany Dupont, also played Lydia McBride in “The Work and the Glory.”
Here is a brief synopsis of the story line:
Esther is raised by her cousin, Mordecai, a Jew living in captivity, after her parents died. The King, Ahasuerus, summons his queen, Vashti, to his court during a celebration, and she refuses. So for fear of letting the word get out that the queen refused him, and allowing women to think it acceptable to disobey their husbands, Vashti is deposed, and virgins (including Esther) are brought to the palace for the purpose of choosing a new queen. Esther is told by Mordecai that she should not reveal her Jewish heritage. She is chosen as the new queen.
Haman rises to power, sees Mordecai refusing to bow and pay obeisance to him, and acts on his vendetta against all Jews by promising the King money for their destruction. Then Esther is told by Mordecai that she must go before the King and plead for the lives of all Jews. She goes to the inner court, risking her life by doing so, and asks the King to attend a banquet she will prepare for the King and for Haman. Haman is about to have Mordecai hung, when the King remembers that Mordecai had been instrumental in thwarting an attempt on the King’s life and honors him instead. At the banquet she reveals her identity and accuses Haman. He is disgraced and then hung on the gallows he had intended for Mordecai, who is elevated. Jews are given power to defend themselves. And everyone lives happily ever after.
I am going to avoid the implications of Vashti’s fall from grace. The point I found interesting was that Esther is told by Mordecai to hide her Jewish heritage. This does not seem in keeping with traditional values. And, when she asks him to do the same, Mordecai is willing to die to avoid showing the “proper respect” to Haman or to hide his heritage in keeping with Jewish values. But, Esther becomes Queen to a heathen King. She is asked to become someone she is not. Did she have to compromise in certain areas? Prayer? Modesty? Eating habits? Was she happy at the palace? It must have been a privileged life. Did she mourn the ability to be a practicing Jew? But, when the fate of the Jews is at stake, she is moved into action by fear of losing that heritage altogether.
13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.
14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there aenlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a btime as this?
Mordecai convinces her by telling her that deliverance will come with or without her, and she will not escape the destruction by remaining silent. The famous line “…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” expresses uncertainty. It seems that if Esther had been a man, she would have been told that she had been saved for this time to do God’s work. But, being a woman, her position is only speculated. Is it because God would never tell her to hide her identity? Is this an example of God creating something good out of a poor choice?
There is in fact no reference that I can find to any divine connection to Esther. Only her Jewish heritage. She is not ‘favored of God’ or placed at that time and place for divine purpose. She was in the right place at the right time, and found favor with the King by being beautiful and bringing tearful pleas before him. She disobeyed the law by appearing in court without being summoned, but was given power to overthrow Haman, give royal authority to the Jews to destroy 500 men and take the spoils if they wished (which they did not), and hang Haman’s 10 sons, and set a remembrance called Purim.
When Mordecai asks her to go before the King, she does fast for three days and asks Mordecai to do the same. However, there is no divine manifestation. Only the interpretation of events to confirm divine influence. Is there an example of God speaking to woman?
Also, Esther seems little in control of her decisions. She is not the initiator of her choices. They are always suggested by Mordecai first. “…for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.”
What is Esther’s message?