About Me

Saturday, 23 February 2013


So this weekend it is the Jewish festival of Purim, a festival that celebrates the rescue of the Jewish people from a plot to kill them by the Kings aide, Haman. A plot that was overcome thanks to Mordecai and his cousin Esther. (You can read it all in the Book of Esther.)   I absolutely love the book of Esther, it's not a book that is commonly read or taught on, and it's Old Testament, but for women it's a must read!  I mean it's like a fairy story, the beautiful young queen overcomes trials, fear and separation from her family to become the hero of the day and save her people. Disney couldn't do any better than that!

So the story begins with King Xerxes, having banished his previous Queen from his presence, after drunkenly demanding she come and be shown off to all his mates and her refusing (that probably tells you all you need to know about him). It's quite funny really and I don't blame her either, can you imagine, having a nice meal with your girlfriends (the bible says she had thrown a banquet for the women) when your drunk husband demands you dress up and come and parade before his equally drunken and probably lecherous friends so he can show you off? I know what my answer would be (although my husband wouldn't be so foolish or sexist to ask in the first place!)

So then the King decides he needs a new queen and demands that beautiful young virgins are brought from across the land into his harem, so that he can choose one (after they have undergone extensive beauty treatments of course... nice.) I think we can safely assume that the young girls and their parents had little choice in this.

So Esther, who we are told has a great figure and was beautiful (bit Miss World, eh!?) was drafted into the harem. Esther is truly the Cinderella of the piece, having no parents of her own and being brought up by her Uncle Mordecai. Although there must have been benefits to being in the palace clearly Mordecai was worried and we are told that he walked around near the harem each day to see how she was doing. He needn't have worried, because Esther clearly had God on her side and won the favour of all who saw her - the bible says:

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Esther further improves her position after Mordecai discovers a plot to kill the king and tells Esther so she can warn the King.

Meanwhile, the King had an assistant, Haman, who turns out to be the evil villain of the story, with some similarities to Aladdins 'Jafar' ! Mordecai disliked Haman and so just as any true villain does, Haman plots to do away with him, but not just Mordecai, his entire race. Mu-hahahaha... ;)

And so Haman proceeds, in true evil villain style, to convince the King, by lying and not giving him the full picture that all Jews should be killed. 
Mordecai, distraught (as I imagine you would be..) asks Esther to petition the King about this dreadful edict and although she must put herself at great risk, she agrees to speak to the King. First however she asks all Jews in the area to fast for 3 days and she and her courtiers do so as well. She then invites the King to a banquet and asks for her people to be spared:

If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.

Of course the King asks who has done this wicked thing and Haman gets his comeuppance. Not only that, but having laid a plan to have himself honoured and Mordecai killed, as all good fairy-tale-villains do, he becomes a victim of his own evil plan with Mordecai being honoured, Haman put to death and the Jews saved by Royal edict.

What a fabulous story!  Esther really is a bit of a Cinderella, brought up her her loving uncle, and then taken away to the Kings harem at probably a very young age, her life would not have been her own to live. But she was faithful, she was honouring to those over her, she did as she was asked, she just trusted. And she was honoured in return, she became the Queen! Rags to riches, in the face of adversity... And then when the evil Haman tries to overthrow her people, she knew that to approach the King was to face the very real risk of death, or as her predecessor discovered, banishment. One can only imagine what this could have meant, going from Kings favourite to least, in a moment. Having received the utmost attention and care, being the chosen one, and being in a harem with a load of other women - can't have been easy and you can imagine how they would have treated her had she been banished from the Kings sight!

But she overcame that fear, and sought God. Not only herself, but she encouraged those around her, and all local Jews, to gather and fast too. She knew that if she was to succeed she would need God to intervene. What a woman of faith.

The debate on women in church leadership will go on and on but it's stories like this that make me proud to be a Christian woman and proud to be one in church leadership. If our predecessors stood up for their people, effectively for their fellow believers, in such circumstances, in the face of evil, in the face of extreme personal danger, and then stood proud; well I am proud to do the same. And it's stories like this that make me so infuriated when parts of the church say that women are not 'allowed' to lead. Well, if Esther hadn't taken the lead her people would all have been killed. Men, women and children. A great example of a woman in a position of influence, stepping up to be a leader at great personal risk. How can you not honour that?

I want my daughters to grow up knowing this story inside out. That they are strong women of God and in his name they can achieve anything. That they need not fear, even when all around them seems lost. That they are not at the mercy of men like Haman, or even the King, but that they have the power to stand up and make a difference.


1 comment:

Nancy Wallace said...

Definitely a woman worth celebrating!