Esther is a person without any character until her own neck is on the line

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

We were just talking about this Sunday night. We decided the book should be called Mordechai rather than Esther.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Wayne Wilson's picture

I'm glad Mark is studying and praying about how to preach this wonderful book.  May the world be spared any visions he receives about Esther's One Night with the King.

By the way, there is very good reason to think the Luther "quote" about Esther from the Table Talk (which Luther didn't write) is actually a reference to the apocryphal book of Esdras

Jonathan Charles's picture

I certainly don't get out of the book that Esther came from a nominally spiritual background, nor have I understood that she and all the other girls were losing their virginity to the king in a pre-marital sex kind of way.  I understand, and can't remember if I heard this back in seminary, that the king added all of these girls to his harem as concubines and had sex with them as concubines and of all of the young concubines that he had sex with, he chose Esther to be his queen.  Surely not the Biblical ideal of marriage, but David didn't line up with the biblical ideal of marriage, yet we don't pass the kind of judgment on him that Driscoll passes on Esther.    

Lee's picture

For most things I wouldn't give two pop bottles for Mark Driscoll, but he's close on his summary of Esther.  Our children's Sunday Schools and other teaching opportunities have done a general disservice to the real story, one of wanton pragmatism instead of real faith.  Hardly any two characters could be more different in similar circumstances than Daniel and Esther.  Daniel "purposed in his heart not to defile himself..." when the opportunity for advancement in the pagan world was thrust upon him, but Esther was careful to "not show... her people nor her kindred...;" i.e., not to identify in any way with the God of Israel or His people. 

However, I disagree that her actions had anything to do with character or faith.  It was simply more pragmatism.  She wasn't going to get out of this alive, so she took a shot at whatever there was available.

Over the centuries many have found themselves in similar situations, and it makes for good heroic tales.

Samson was one such individual.  

On this anniversary of 9/11 we remember Todd Beamer and those on Flight 93 with their "Let's Roll" moment.   

Esther's "If I perish, I perish" is her "let's roll" moment.  She realized she was doomed; there was nothing else to do. It was definitely brave, but says nothing about her character and faith.

The story of Esther is not about any qualities of Esther, but about God, who sovereignly utilized a spiritually bereft, highly pragmatic young lady to fulfill a promise He made in Gen. 12 even though she was ashamed to identify with those people or that promise. 

God is good all the time.

 

 

 

 

Lee

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Character is not formed by having your neck on the line, it is revealed by having your neck on the line. And I don't think we have enough information about the specifics of what happened when to draw conclusions about what she did or didn't do. 

Trust Driscoll to propose the slimiest interpretation possible.

I wonder, with all the talk about Esther being too cowardly to not reveal her people- should we apply this principle to missionaries on the field in places like China and the Middle East? Are they spineless wimps, or merely being pragmatic?

Was there a particular reason that she should have announced to all and sundry that she was a Jew? After all, captivity was a consequence of Israel's unfaithfulness to their God, and they were told to submit to their captivity, were they not? 

Jim's picture

Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king like hundreds of other women. She performs so well that he chooses her as his favorite

BryanBice's picture

Lee wrote:

For most things I wouldn't give two pop bottles for Mark Driscoll, but he's close on his summary of Esther.  Our children's Sunday Schools and other teaching opportunities have done a general disservice to the real story, one of wanton pragmatism instead of real faith.  Hardly any two characters could be more different in similar circumstances than Daniel and Esther.  Daniel "purposed in his heart not to defile himself..." when the opportunity for advancement in the pagan world was thrust upon him, but Esther was careful to "not show... her people nor her kindred...;" i.e., not to identify in any way with the God of Israel or His people. 

However, I disagree that her actions had anything to do with character or faith.  It was simply more pragmatism.  She wasn't going to get out of this alive, so she took a shot at whatever there was available.

Over the centuries many have found themselves in similar situations, and it makes for good heroic tales.

Samson was one such individual.  

On this anniversary of 9/11 we remember Todd Beamer and those on Flight 93 with their "Let's Roll" moment.   

Esther's "If I perish, I perish" is her "let's roll" moment.  She realized she was doomed; there was nothing else to do. It was definitely brave, but says nothing about her character and faith.

The story of Esther is not about any qualities of Esther, but about God, who sovereignly utilized a spiritually bereft, highly pragmatic young lady to fulfill a promise He made in Gen. 12 even though she was ashamed to identify with those people or that promise. 

 

Well said, Lee. I would add by way of contrast that Daniel is almost exclusively referred to by his Hebrew name, even among the pagans, whereas after her initial introduction to the reader, Esther is known only by her pagan name (as is Mordecai).  If I've read him right, I strongly disagree with Driscoll's view of Vashti, though. She stands out in stark contrast to Esther, doesn't she? To her credit, Vashti nobly refuses to be sexually exploited though it will cost her greatly; Esther went along for whatever reason.

SBashoor's picture

In adult Sunday school class this weekend, I proposed to the class that Esther might not be a good role model at all. We're so prone to look for moral heroes that we might miss the point of the book--God works behind the scenes for His sovereign purposes even when His representatives appear to be utterly godless. Raised a few eyebrows.

Early Jewish interpolators felt uncomfortable with the Esther of the Hebrew Bible. The apocryphal additions in the Septuagint labor really hard to fashion her into a godly woman.

Ironically, in Jewish circles, Vashti has been gaining some traction as a noble woman to be emulated. I frankly don't think that's the point of her part in the story, but it is interesting.

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't see Esther this way at all.

Her motivations are simply "normal" rather than unrealistically noble. In other words, she's like all of us. The fact that she takes some persuading to risk her life is no indictment. The fact that she listens and is persuaded is to her credit.

I think she's a fine role model for dealing with a hard situation she did not choose to be in.

handerson's picture

Nothing like judging someone in light of the revelation that we've received. Context, people, context.

I don't embrace "make Esther a model for Christian women everywhere," but please don't buy into Driscoll's hyper-sexed, dismissive, less than scholarly approach. There's probably a reason that theologians and preachers have avoided this book in the past--it's a really difficult piece of literature and understanding Esther and her motivations isn't as simple as translating the events that happened to her into their (supposed) modern equivalent. This was not a culture where Esther had much, if any, self-determination. So for her to stand up when she did was HUGE.

Where angels fear to tread...

 

Kirk Mellen's picture

I preached through Esther a few years ago as part of a series containing Ezra, Esther and Nehemiah.  Choosing to approach Esther with a clear mind and placing it within the historical context of what God was doing with His people at that period in history made Eshter a fascinating book for me personally.  I will say, however, that it caused mild distress in the lives of some in the church who continued to look at Esther as she had been portrayed in their Sunday School classes growing up.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

handerson wrote:

Nothing like judging someone in light of the revelation that we've received. Context, people, context.

I don't embrace "make Esther a model for Christian women everywhere," but please don't buy into Driscoll's hyper-sexed, dismissive, less than scholarly approach. There's probably a reason that theologians and preachers have avoided this book in the past--it's a really difficult piece of literature and understanding Esther and her motivations isn't as simple as translating the events that happened to her into their (supposed) modern equivalent. This was not a culture where Esther had much, if any, self-determination. So for her to stand up when she did was HUGE.

Where angels fear to tread...

Agreed. We are talking about a culture where a young woman could be handed over to her rapist by her father and brothers if they thought there was a percentage in it for them.

I also agree with those who've said that the purpose of the book doesn't have anything with making Esther into some kind of female action hero.