Faith

The Book of Esther

Esther is a fast-moving erotic comedy. It is also one of the books of the Bible.

Esther is the story of a young Jewish living with her older cousin, who is recruited to the Emperor’s harem. The foolish King wants to teach women a lesson, and a wicked advisor named Haman plans to kill her cousin and murder all the Jews. But the story ends with a woman writing the laws, her cousin getting a plush government job, and the Jews safe and respected!

A Comedy

The comedy of Esther is two-fold. First, it’s just funny. In one episode wicked Haman thinks the King is planning a reward for him, and so gives extravagant instructions — but the reward is actually for his enemy Mordecai!

So Haman came in, and the king asked him, “What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?”

Now Haman thought in his heart, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” And Haman answered the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let a royal robe be brought which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head. Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!'”

Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry, take the robe and the horse, as you have suggested, and do so for Mordecai the Jew who sits within the king’s gate! Leave nothing undone of all that you have spoken.”

So Haman took the robe and the horse, arrayed Mordecai and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!”
Esther 6:6-11

Likewise, there is plot driven humor. The entire action of Esther is driven by the King’s desire to teach women their place:

This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media will say to all the king’s officials that they have heard of the behavior of the queen. Thus there will be excessive contempt and wrath. If it pleases the king, let a royal [h]decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not [i]be altered, that Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20 When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small.”
Esther 1:18-20

But the story ends with the King giving Esther the authority to formally create a new holiday!

Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim. 30 And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews, to the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, 31 to confirm these days of Purim at their appointed time, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had prescribed for them, and as they had decreed for themselves and their descendants concerning matters of their fasting and lamenting. So the decree of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim, and it was written in the book.
Esther 9:29-32

The comedy of Esther is what J.R.R. Tolkien called a “eucatastrophe” — a happy end from what should have been a dire circumstance. “God,” the “Land of Israel,” and the “Law” are never mentioned, but the structure of Esther is that of the Bible — with Revelation being the happy (and even comic, as it ends with a wedding!) eucatastrophe to the whole affair of creation.

Fast Moving

Esther is also a quick story. I wrote that “The Gospel of Mark is so fast it leaves you dizzy” — but Mark is sixteen chapters, and Esther only ten. Also like Mark the writing is non-standard]. Mark is written like Robert DeNiro in The Irishman:

Well, as for John, he was clothed in camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist. And for food he ate locusts and wild honey. And he cried out, “Right behind me comes someone greater than I! I am not worthy to stoop down and loosen the tie on his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he himself will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”

So it was in this setting that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.

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