MDB 16: Esther 2

Mark Johnston Articles

Esther 2
Esther is one of the most intriguing books in the Bible - not least because it never mentions God's name. Despite the questions and suspicions raised by this, the obvious reason why this is so is quite simply that it was left out on purpose. In a way not unlike Ecclesiastes, it makes a God-denying world look at itself in the mirror and face up to some awkward questions about how it tries to make sense of life. The late Professor Edmund Clowney reputedly 'preached' Esther by retelling its story in his own words, pausing and then saying, 'Wasn't that lucky!' - and then sat down. The question behind the narrative is, 'Who rules the world?'

Before we launch into today's passage, we ought at least to remind ourselves of yesterday's section which introduces the story of Esther. It's all about a king with his power and alcohol intoxicated leaders who act as though they rule the world, only to find their world crumbling in their hands through their own self-indulgent recklessness - all of it hinging on Xerxes' degrading treatment of his wife in public. How like our own day that sounds on all counts!

Then, in today's chapter - three years down the line - we meet Esther. She appears first of all as a seemingly insignificant footnote (2.5-7); but then as the woman who will take centre-stage in the drama that is about to unfold. We are perhaps too quick to read this chapter and think 'Beauty Pageant'; but nothing could be further from the truth. The girls involved in these murky proceedings in a Persian harem were being degraded and their lives could never be the same again. The question in Esther, the Jewish believer's mind could only have been, 'Where is God in all of this?' So too, for many faithful Christians, there are all too many times when God seems strangely absent.

Yet what strikes us about Esther, despite all her unspoken questions through this, is the quiet shrewdness and integrity of her behaviour (2.10-11). The effect of this was to win her respect in the eyes of all around her. She knew what it was to humble herself under the mighty hand of God and wait for him to exalt her at the proper time (1Pe 5.6).