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O Vashti

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged. But seeing that my roommate Allan is stuck at some Youth Ministries concentration event at the school café thingy.  I have commandeered his computer long enough to actually blog. Muahahaha! ^o^

Anywho…

I’ve been pouring through the book of Esther lately. Wonderful Woman that she is. It’s one of the few books that I’ll get no actual teaching on in this school. But it is one that I do have fond memories of.  I can still remember when Lewis Todd an old gentleman at my church spoke through the book for the evening service every Sunday after youth group. Grandpa Todd we always called him.  It was always funny because he was a strict man, God fearing and I’m certain he’s in Heaven.  But Esther seemed and still when I reflect on it, such an odd book for him to do.  Especially with the lack of God in it, at least our wonderful Hebrew/Protestant version of it. It’s been the only time I’ve heard it spoken of in a series. His big idea of it being that God had hidden behind the pages. It was the last book I believe he completed before his death.  (Not completing the one had planned on afterwards) I wish I could better remember the words he had spoken those many years ago on little Esther.

I also remember back in my sophomore year when the movie One night with the King came out. How my friend Ken voiced his dislike of the book, its lack of God, yet firmly accepted its canonicity. However it was his wife’s favorite book, and she was not pleased in hearing his hatred of the book.  It was after all one of the few stories in the Bible with a predominant feminine character, a heroine.  Moreover it has in it a love story it you want to view it that way, the movie (and it’s book presumably) did.  So like a good husband he agreed not to voice his complaints around her.  Also after seeing the movie I remember that Ken just had to read the biblical book afterwards to compare.  Just like him to be a “good” pastor.

I’ve been wanting to go through the book for a while now and this past week I decided that I needed to be getting into the Bible more, so I sought some books in the library.  I had honestly forgotten that we had had sermon on Esther in chapel that morning.  Not till I was checking out the books and the student worker asked me if the sermon had sparked my interest in the book.  Honestly it hadn’t, but I guess subconsciously it had gotten me to actually get to checking it out.

So I’ve begun looking at her.  Both in the English Standard Bible, wonderful Protestant that I am and also my New American Bible, wonderful Catholic I think I wish to be.  But I had decided to instead focus my study first my the Hebrew version and then to look at the Greek in second part.  You know for when I feel the need for God to be around my wonderful Esther.

The book of Esther appears in our wonderful Canon after Nehemiah, at the end of the historical section, for the Catholic Bible its after Judith, still part of the historical books, but its grouping with Tobit and Judith also places it among the Pious stories of their Bible.  For the Jewish Bible it appears in the writing section among the five scrolls which are read for the various feasts and festivals.  Of course Esther being the story of Purim this should make a wee bit of sense.  I guess I say that because I think the canon order says something about the books in our Bible.  There being place their order for a reason.  I think it might tell something of the story of the book.  So what kind of story is the book of Esther?

If you’re conservative it’s probably a historical tale about the birth of the festival of Purim.  If not so much you probably think it is a merely a fable to give a history for Purim lest it be a Gentile festival since all good Jews know such a thing would be bad.  Esther certainly wants to be perceive itself as historical tale and for many years we’ve been content with that, of course now with new findings on Persia and Historical stuff, we aren’t so sure what to do with it.  The commentary series Berit Olam describes the Book as a sort of Play.  Moreover some Jewish families during Purim will read it as play during the celebrations acting out characters.  Perhaps booing or cheering for others.  The anchor bible series also describes it as a “historicized wisdom tale.”  Part of the lack of God being that as a Wisdom tale Yahweh is presented through the Wisdom of the characters.

I don’t doubt the history of the Esther, (although I do of the Greek additions ^o^) but I would be okay in also calling it a Historical Pious tale or a Historical Wisdom Tale.  Much like I would with Job, Tobit (If I may so dare).  With that in mind I think Esther should be read not worrying about the historicalness let God deal with that, instead let it be read having fun with it.  After all part of the festival of Purim included drinking until you confused the Blessings of Mordecai and the Curses of Haman.  You know something to enjoy from the Bible like the story of Ehud slaying the bloated Eglon.

Oh my, wonderful ranting ^o^  let’s look at some Bible.

Esther 1.1-9:

“Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the capital, in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days. And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa, the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired. Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus.”

So here we have Ahasuerus (Or Xerxes and will be referred to as such from now on.  Mostly because its quicker to type).  Uh… anyhow Xerxes has this great feast with everyone being invited.  Well everyone being if you’re a someone within the Persian kingdom.  It is a grand affair and it has one stipulation.  Drink, drink to your heart’s content.  1.8 says “For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired.”  If you believed in the idea of “Eat, Drink, and be merry.”  This was the party to be at, well if you were a man.  Although lucky you for the special women, since Vashti the Queen over the other women in the harem is having her own little party.  So hey you can go ahead and eat and drink and be merry with her.  Well…  at least for a little bit.  I have to wonder though where Artemisia would have been.  That wondrous spunky female General that Xerxes had within his repertoire of generals.

Esther 1.10-22:

“On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him.

Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment, the men next to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom): “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?” Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.” This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed. He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people.”

Here we have the next part of the tale.  The joys of when your king has decided to become a drunkard.  Xerxes fine man that he is orders his woman to be brought to him, that all might see her “royal crown” and “beauty.”  Some commentators basically say this could mean that the Queen was to appear well less clothed then more.  Wonderful a Queen reduced to a stripper because of a drunk King.  I hardly blame her for refusing to come.  (It should be noted that while Hebrew version you can see a hero out of Mrs. Vashti, the Greek version reduces to her just another one of those villainous women.  Way to take the women down Septuagint)!  So Vashti refuses to appear in the buff before all those drunk men and Xerxes being the pompous king he is gets a tiny bit angry.  Okay he blows a head gasket!

O Vasthi, what have you dared to do?  It’s a bit too early for such talk, Ms. Modern women.  Well in come those ever lovable wise men.  I’ve come to a conclusion about wise men, unless God implores you to be a wise man (or woman) be prepare to make mistakes.  Everyone but good old Daniel kept failing Ol’ Nebby and Job’s pals aren’t palish at time.  Well they decided that a queen can’t refuse her king for any reason since, oh no! Women might just rebel against their men.  After all logical Vasthi’s actions will inspire the other women in the land.  “Egads!  We can’t allow that!”  Therefore though Vasthi the wonderful heroine she is refused Xerxes his wish, she’s not as cool as Esther, she doomed (really should have been Jewish Vasthi). Vasthi thus becomes a tragic heroine and is punished swiftly, No more head of the Brothel no more even seeing that Xerxes king guy.  After all if nothing is done the women will rise up in the land and refuse their own hubbies the desires of their hearts.

With that the message is sent out of her punishment and the first chapter ends there.  But uh-oh poor Xerxes must now find himself a new woman.  Oh wonderful Esther you’ll get your chance to be a heroine and hey be more woman then your times will allow.  Kind of like Judith and Deborah.

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