Esther: The making of a woman . . .

The book of Esther is about a woman in her becoming the woman of God.

She begins her life carrying her only significance, the one that she was born with, her nationality and upbringing, but above all, her beauty.

The woman in a man’s world, recognizing that she is in a man’s world and working within it, unlike the king’s first wife who rejected man and lost everything, even the chance to make a difference, to bring some change. The first queen was invited to be the king’s exhibit, to be reduced to her beauty value, reduced to her status as determined by the king and nothing more. The Esther of God is in the same danger and she begins like this, taught by a man, chosen by a man, and going along with this world’s beauty system… will she stop there? Is her role fulfilled by being picked to be the wife? Does the story end as she silently submits to the authority of her husband?

The powerful men of this world, as the book begins, assemble to ensure that women end there, in blind obedience to the orders of man, devising ways to enforce it with all their might. But that is just the beginning of the book. It does not stop there.

The Esther of God does not reject man but she draws him into her history making, she opens up avenues for him to do justice.

The woman of God evolves as her worth extends from the bounds of her external beauty to an identity intertwined with salvation history, her vision pierces through the walls of her palace to the lowly streets of the kingdom. Her worth now hangs on the salvation of the people.

The woman develops from her expected and quiet role, she moves within the laws, the musts, the imperial edicts. . . . Mere obstacles which make her sprout to greater wisdom and determination with providence as her only guide, a silent voice veiled to the unobserving eye, a God who chooses to hide His name behind hers. She finds her way alongside the expectations of men, of kings and Jews, all these being priceless forces that corner her to see the demands of her life extending beyond the beauty treatments and quiet family dinners to her becoming the social being, the woman whose existence affects the lives of dozens of households beyond her own. She has to rise above time, above the futility of her present, to remember her past and act as the author of the future. The woman of God at full maturity is able to see the worthlessness of being offered half a kingdom at the expense of the crying voices of distress in the streets of that same kingdom. But she DOES NOT close her ears!

The woman of God lives and dies as people live and die. She has no existence outside her people’s salvation. She exists as she listens to the Mordecais in her life. The Mordecais who encourage her NOT to remain silent and be just another pretty face in this dominant empire. The Mordecais urge the Esthers of this world to join them in salvation history, to make the most of the power providentially showered on them from above and to be their co-warriors.

The woman of God listens to these Mordecais, not to the men who would prefer them to remain as beauty exhibits for the kings of this world. Esthers submit to the voices of men who will not let them stay silent… for silent is selfish, says Mordecai, it is self-preserving. Mordecais are not certain, they also grow, they also wonder: Who knows? Perhaps. It’s possible. Maybe this woman is here for a purpose… But THIS IS the power of man in all its force, the power to make a true queen and through a single sentence to unleash the course of history. A Jewish woman with the name of a pagan goddess, married to a pagan king, feasting on unclean foods, unobservant of all our rituals, could she be chosen by God to do His work? Yet Mordecai dared to see providence where classic piety would not…

God’s Esther answers the call at the risk of her life, at the risk of breaking the existing protocols of queenly behaviour. As she finds her identity, the king finds his. As her worth shines forth it can only but reflect on Mordecai. The woman of God grows into herself and her king grows out of his vanity along with her. She is no longer the king’s queen, but the Queen of the people and of the generations she saved…

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