Esther 1

One of my favourite biblical stories. Is all plot, and it’s a cracker so it is very readable.

It’s the time of the Jewish exile, when the Babylonians who dispersed the Jews to build their empire have been replaced with the Persians, who will be more sympathetic and eventually sponsor Jerusalem’s rebuilding. It’s a bit like a female Daniel: the story of a jew who made it to the highest echelons of power in the ruling empire.

Starts with a great 7 day feast, the end of a sort of conference and reward for all the rulers and supporters of king xerxes’ vast empire, and a shameless PR job to leave them in no doubt who is the grandest person around. Among all the descriptions of lavish decorations and wealth the writer emphasises that it’s an open bar, as much wine as you like. After all these years, still a beautiful thing.

There is a separate feast for the women, the Queen, Vashti, is not there so the king sends for her to parade her beauty. Some suggest the reference to her wearing her crown is to imply a la Prince’s raspberry beret girl, she wasn’t too wear much more, which after days of limitless alcohol, only too possible. She won’t come. Got to hand it to her for guts, she didn’t want to be treated like a chattel.

It’s a career decision. The king is angry and takes advice that he needs to set an example or else all the women in the kingdom will become feminists (can’t have that!), so he instantly starts looking for a new wife.

I don’t think we learn much about god in this chapter, but we learn that people have always been the same. It’s an ancient story, but everyone is behaving in totally recognisable ways.

The fact that this book is in the Bible -apparently god’s name is not mentioned once – is exciting to me. It’s a woman’s story and it’s a story of real politic. And it’s the word of God.

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