Esther: “Houston, We have a Problem!”

I guess part of the reason that I love the book of Esther is that it is surrounded with so much controversy (I’m Irish, okay?).  There are so many objections to the book of Esther that it will take another book just to list all the objections!?!  Martin Luther demonstrates part of our problem.  He complained that he was so hostile to the book of Esther that I would it did not exist; for it Judaizes too much, and has in it a great deal of heathen naughtiness.  Exhibit A: Esther has to shack up with the king for one night just for the chance to become the queen.  What’s up with that?  We can quickly conclude that Esther is no Daniel, but then, dear reader, neither are you so perhaps you had better hold those stones you were about to toss at poor Esther (more on this subject later).

Do you need more objections?  We have more:

  • Esther can’t be placed in history as a queen of Xerxes (Ahasuerus of the book).
  • God is entirely missing from Esther and any reference at all to practices of Jewish worship, prayer, the temple, the Law of Moses, etc.
  • The language of the book is supposedly (emphasis on supposedly) Hebrew from a much later period than the time of Xerxes.
  • Esther becomes queen because of a one night stand with the king
  • The characters of Esther and Mordecai.  Karen Jobes puts it very diplomatically: The astute reader sees a disquieting moral amibiguity, at best, in the way Esther and Mordecai are betrayed.
  • The whole tenor of chapters 8 and 9 in which the Jews happily slaughter all of their enemies

Do you see the problems? I will not take the time here to address all of the objections, thought it can certainly be done.  Hopefully, as I go along in the book, all of this will come up and be addressed. However, the big one—where in the world is God in this book?—is worth discussing because I think it is so central to our understanding of the book as a whole (not to mention a brilliant literary device), but that is a topic for another post.

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