The Book of Esther in the Bible is a cautionary tale for our civilization today. If you are religious, then this will be a simple walk for you. If you are not religious, however, I want you to listen extra carefully. Because I am going to show you how the Bible is a book of human psychology, and we all know what happens to those who don’t do their reading. They fail. They fail to get the grade, to grasp the concepts, to see the big picture. They excel, at ignorance. The book of Esther is all about not seeing, so open your eyes, come with me, and see for yourself.
There is no mention of God in this book of the Bible. However, we will see honor, courage, sacrifice, love, as well as a violent destruction and end to intolerance, and incivility. Not by the hand of God, but by the hand of men, and one honorable woman.
The book of Esther, one of two books in the Bible named after women, is a compelling anecdote. King Xerxes sends for Queen Vashti to attend his banquet, but she does not come, not a small offense. The King wanted the guests at his banquet to see how beautiful that his Queen was, but she does not accept his invitation. When the Queen does not come, King Xerxes becomes very angry and decides to consult his “experts” in the matter.
Consulting with fools who call themselves experts is foolish.
They advise the King that he should not allow Queen Vashti into his presence any longer and to search his kingdom for a new Queen. He agrees, and the search begins. There is a man named Mordecai. He is a man of Jewish descent. He has a cousin, Hadassah (Esther), and because she had no mother or father, he raises her as his own daughter.
Care for your family, like family. It is family that lifts us. The more family we have, real family, a family that is willing to sacrifice, the higher we will be lifted. It is of ease to have an abundance of friends and acquaintances. It is much harder to raise up a large and trusting family, but the reward is great.
Esther was pleasing. Alluring in both spirit and action, her presence, as powerful as her beauty. Before long she had gained the favor of the King. He was more attracted to her than any of the other women, and so he placed a crown on her head.
During this time being Jewish could lead one to many fates dependent upon the place and circumstances one found themselves. One could be exalted in some circles and cities, while seized and put to death in others, all of your belongings plundered by your enemies. Mordecai was a wise man and instructed Esther to keep her Jewish descent quiet. So she did, but she had also become Queen of Persia in the meantime. Complicated.
The King loved Queen Esther, and he loved her for who she was. He didn’t have the opportunity to dismiss her lovely spirit, and incredible beauty because he didn’t know she was Jewish. Would that have made her less beautiful, less sweet?
The fewer factors we have to dismiss a person with, the more likely that we can fall in love with them. We must be able to love one another, and we can not do that once we have dismissed someone. Dismissal is violent. It creates a rift with two distinct and warring sides.
Well, even a humble man can have enemies, and Mordecai had a mighty one. His name was Haman. However, a humble man is an honorable man.
To be humble is to have a manageable hunger. Starvation will turn a man into a wild beast. But, a person who isn’t humble is always starving. Thus, you can not trust a person who is not humble, not any more than you can turn your back on a wild beast.
Mordecai heard of a plot to assassinate the King, and he reported it to the Queen. As was done with all things in this time, the event was recorded in the Kings record. But somehow Haman was rewarded for stopping the assassination, but Mordecai was not. Mordecai, an honorable man refused to show honor towards Haman, a man who no honor was due. Haman wanted him dead. Worse, he wanted all of his people, the Jewish people, dead,
Why bring destruction to others. We can not outrun the shockwave of the bombs that we detonate. When you bring ruin to the lives of others, you bring destruction to your own life. Balance is achieved, always, under all circumstances, and for all people. You can not outrun the shockwave of balance. Though you may try to move out of its way, you can not.
The King elevates Haman to the highest seat in the Kingdom, and now he is sure that he will be able to kill Mordecai and his people. However, the Kings love for Esther was very high.
“Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws:”Haman
Hatred for another because of a difference in their customs is no grounds for contempt. Does hatred have any place at all? Hatred is reserved for those that are a danger to your existence. Hate is not the desertion of honor. Hatred is an emotion that is felt and used in self-defense, not in defense of supremacy of customs.
Haman urges the King to let him eradicate the Jewish people, and even offers to pay. The King replies “keep the money…and do with the people as you please.” Harsh.
A balance will be achieved. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but…….two wrongs means a right is right around the corner. Because there will be a balance.
Mordecai does what a humble man would do, more humble than me. He mourns. He mourns for his impending death and the death of his people, Esther included.
“Do you think that because you are in the King’s house, you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place.”Mordecai
That place once again is the balance. It may not be done today, but it will be done. Moreover, remaining silent while a people, any people, of any color, or background, or religion, are killed, and persecuted, and imprisoned will find it’s silent deliverance one day. That will not be a good day for those souls that decided to remain silent while their brothers and sisters ARE done wrong. A bad day.
At this time, presenting yourself before the king without an invitation was punishable by death. I told you, this honor thing is no joke. But Esther is a woman of honor. A woman who knows that there is no progress, no turning of the tables, no opposition without sacrifice.
“I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”Esther
When you see your brother and sisters hurting, it is time for you to make a sacrifice. If you are not willing to sacrifice, then you will die. You will die physically, and you will kill yourself emotionally because you have disturbed the balance. If you stand for nothing, you will fall for nothing. If you stand for something, then you will perish for something.
Haman went to do what evil men do. He wasted his energy building something that he will never enjoy. What Haman built was a gallows 75ft high to hang Mordecai, and he built it in his own yard. He had not planned on love. The king was deeply in love with Esther. She had told him that she needed something from him, and he was anxious to know what it was that she needed. He assured her that he loved her, so much in fact, that she could have anything that she asked for up to half of the kingdom. She agreed to tell him at a banquet.
As a little night reading the king had his biography read to him, the records of the king. Humble right? It was because of his reading he noticed that Mordecai had not been honored for his part in halting the King’s assassination. So he decided that he would honor Mordecai. He asks Haman how he would honor a man who is deserving of the Kings blessing, not telling him that man is Mordacai. The king agreed to all of his suggestions and sent him to do all of these things for Mordecai, including parading him around town in royal dress on one of the King’s finest horses. Demoralizing.
Toil you evil hands, but your hard work will be enjoyed by another, not by you. You may be drunk on time, but time is not on your side.
Haman and the King attend a banquet, courtesy of Esther, and it gets ugly. Oh, and Esther did approach the King, and he didn’t kill her. He loved her too much, as you will soon see. Esther wastes no time in telling the king how she is Jewish, and the king doesn’t even bat an eye.
Love is blinding. It changes completely what you see and how you see it through your eyes. To see something through love is to see something for what it is. There is no other way to look at anything or anyone. Through loving eyes is the only way to see the world. It is the only way to interact with and understand the world. You must love it, to see it.
Haman knows that time is no longer on his side. He knows that the walls are closing in, and so he does what a weak soul does. He grovels, he begs, and he cries for his life. He crumbles to his knees because the pain of dying for nothing is too much to bear. Esther informs the king that it is Haman who plotted to eradicate the Jewish people, her people. Without much hesitation the King has Haman hung on the gallows that he constructed for his enemy Mordecai. The king takes all of the property belonging to Haman and gifts it to Esther, and to care for her family Esther appoints Mordecai in charge of the estate.
The scales are tipping, but a balance has yet to be achieved. The king allows Mordecai to write as he sees fit, a decree ordered by the King that will be signed into law regarding the Jews.
It is established that the Jewish people can assemble, defend themselves against their enemies, and plunder the belongings of those enemies. So they did as the decree stated.
They killed more than 75,000 of their enemies, but they took nothing. Though the law stipulated that they were entitled to plunder their enemies, they took nothing. Moreover, when their enemies were defeated, they shared a feast, as a community, as a family. A feast that they provided for themselves. They took nothing.
There is no honor in hatred or gluttonous starvation. Hunger for peace. Want for a community. Hunger for sufficient nourishment, wish for lack of enemies. Undue hunger will only lead to self-annihilation. Humbleness too has an appetite. Always hungry, never starving.
Love is stronger than hate.
Good prevails over evil.
Balance is violent.
Good cannot be packaged as evil, like evil cannot be packaged as good. Balance is above our silly human deceptions. We can not trick time and space. In this story, love is stronger than hate. And hate is put to death because of the overwhelming power, trust, and community that is propagated when it is watered by love.
Our world is crumbling around us. Our relationships with each other are not honorable. And answers for how to mend all of it, are found here, in this book.
If we can not find beauty in something, then we can not save it. If it is a tree, a neighborhood, a social program: the arts, the environment, the elderly, Native Americans, Latinos, the disabled, African Americans. If we can not find beauty in something, then that thing is doomed. It will die. Because we will kill it. Some things will die quickly; others will die slowly. A long slow and painfully unnecessary death, but all will die. No beauty, no life. No love, no reason.
Love and honor. That is life. Our love tells us who and what to sacrifice for, and our honor accompanies us to those boundaries. Self-preservation is within those boundaries. However, plunderers don’t get to claim self-preservation, because they have no courage, and they do not know honor.
Aaron L. Carroll
Photo by Roi Dimor