Monday, November 22, 2010

Esther 7-8

The Facts (Chapter number: Verse)

Esther 7 - The king and Haman went to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king asked Esther, "What is it you petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled." Queen Esther answered him, "If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me - that is my petition - and the lives of my people - that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king." The king asked whom it was who presumed to do this and Esther named Haman. And Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The king rose from the feast in wrath and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg his life from Queen Esther. When the king returned Haman had thrown himself on the couch where Esther was reclining. "Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?" said the king. Haman's face was covered and Harbona, one of the king's eunuchs, mentioned the gallows that Haman had constructed for Mordecai. The king said to hang Haman on those gallows. So Haman was hanged and the king's anger was abated.

Esther 8 - On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman. Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told him what he was to her. Then the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. So Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.

Then Esther spoke again to the king; she fell to her feet, weeping and pleading for him to avert the evil design of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. The king held out the golden scepter to Esther and she rose and stood before the king. Esther asked that an order be written to revoke the letters f Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote giving orders to destroy the Jews. The King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to the Jew Mordecai, "See, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he plotted to lay hands on the Jews. You may write as you please with regard to the Jews in the name of the king, and seal it with the king's ring; for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the King's ring cannot be revoked.

My Comments

Okay, at least now Esther's banquet plot makes a bit more sense. I assume the multiple banquets was to give Haman a sense of security so it would be easier to surprise him when she revealed to the king what he had planned. She's even treated like basic people in these chapters. She has her own ideas, she's able to speak these ideas to the king without any negative repercussions and she's given leave to put her plan in motion. Of course because of the way the plan works out, it seems none of the Jewish people will ever associate her with their salvation. The king's name and seal is on all the written mandates and Mordecai went out into the people with the king's honors. Doesn't seem like anyone will have any clue what Esther had done for them. Whether she ended up as the queen by accident or not it does seem she put her fortunate circumstances to good use and even used them to her advantage. She knew she had the king's favor and she used it the best way she knew how. That does count for something, especially in a book that loves to vilify its women.

And it would have been easy for the Bible to make this story about just Mordecai and the king, and given them all the credit for this deed. And especially at the end of Friday's post it certainly seemed like that was how the whole thing was going to work out.

So props to the Bible for its decent handling of Esther's story. I don't get to give the Bible props very often so it's kind of a nice change of pace when it all ends and I don't have any major complaints. Even though I had my issues while I was reading the book I kinda take some of that back now, mostly just the issues I had with her plan last two chapters. Of course when you're only reading it a piece at a time those kind of confusions can happen.

Let's hope Esther ends on a decent high note as well.

Wednesday: Esther 9-10


  1. The story says to me that the best Esther can do is to help a man get to a position of authority so he can make things right. She's treated better, but not good enough.

    Those orders being sent out contain "all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces", not Esther. She has to weep and beg the king so that her uncle-parent can wear gaudy garb and act in the king's name without ever having had to bow to Haman or plead with the king.

    The house of Haman is passed to Mordecai without comment on the generosity of Esther or any expression of gratitude or approval from Mordecai. The description of his rich clothing is longer than the description of his taking over the house of Haman.

    I can imagine that there was nice conversation and Mordecai at least said thanks, but I sure wish it were in the text. They had room for that if they had room to document the threats he made to her earlier.


    I read your notes and then check a few translations of the specific passages before commenting. This is so much more fun than reading the whole text.

  2. All very true. But in the grand scheme of the Bible, where women are treated only slightly better than livestock, Esther gets a pretty good telling of her story.

    Way I see it, women have so little power in the Bible that doing something like getting Mordecai in a position of power to aid the Jews is pretty much the best she can do. Although I give her a little more credit that since Mordecai really didn't have much to do with the decree the king handed down, other than passing it out. Esther asked that this decree be written and as far as I can tell she actually created this decree herself with the help of the secretaries.

    Most of the badass women in the Bible don't get all the praise I think they should, but the fact they are there counts for something. We are working with a VERY low bar here. After reading the whole Bible up to this point I'm just glad there's a woman being talked about in more than one verse AND she's put in a heroic light. Doesn't take much to make me happy now, lol.

    I'd check the alt translations more but my Bible doesn't have too many in the footnotes and I don't want to prolong my torture by reading multiple versions of the same sections. Would be way too much to take.

  3. Here's my opinion, for what it may be worth
    One of the purposes of this blog is to "show how sexist the Bible is or is not, since the Bible as been used for many years as the reason why women are inferior to men, an oppression which still lingers to this day in no small part because people still interpret the Bible as saying that God has decreed that man shall rule over women. I want to know if women's inferior status is in fact supported by the Bible or if this has come about from many centuries of people reading and misinterpreting the Biblical word."

    I do not think that the Bible should get a gold star for simply treating women less worse than usual. It's a relief for the reader certainly, but that's all. It should be noted that Esther must have special permission to speak to her husband, and is coerced by her uncle to demean herself to protect his pride - he won't grovel but will force her to do so. She is then portrayed as wonderful for acquiescing. This is all about her having inferior status and submitting to authority. Authority is in the hands of the ultimate father figure and by his designates on Earth, men. I know you said earlier that it seems like a skipping record to keep saying how women are treated poorly when mentioned at all, but this is the point of the exercise, right?

    "Most of the badass women in the Bible don't get all the praise I think they should." Too true. So much so that many of their names are short-hand for improper behavior today: "Oh yeah, ever since the world began, a hard headed woman been a thorn in the side of man" mentions Eve, Delilah, and "that evil Jezebel", all to show how they do their men wrong.

    And as for the orders, those are Mordecai's: Esther 8:9-10 "At once the royal secretaries were summoned—on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king."

    As you note "We are working with a VERY low bar here." I am of the opinion that how low that bar is should be stressed rather than downplayed. There's a wonderful old book title that sums up the Bible's treatment of Esther in comparison to others: "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me".

  4. Lol. I think I needed that. I'm trying to get better at being more forceful with my positions. It's not one of my strong suits, and I tend to do better when I'm all angry and fired up (see any of my posts on rape laws).

    And I can't believe I missed that bit about Mordecai telling the orders to the secretaries... I was almost certain I'd read Esther there...

    Oh well, now that I've finished the book it seems that the entire point was how awesome Mordecai is (he's the only one mentioned in the last chapter) so my tiny praise given here is completely gone now. Don't even know why they bothered calling the book Esther or subtitling almost every section "Esther Saves the Jews" because from the way the Bible writes it up at the end it seems Esther has absolutely nothing to do with anything. It's just ridiculous.

    And your opinion is worth a lot here. :) I greatly enjoy your comments since they always seem to add a bit more to what I've already written. And it seems I can count on you to kind of give me a kick in the pants when I'm looking like I'm being to soft on the Bible's sexism. :P


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