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Posts Tagged ‘King Xerxes’


Esther 3: Preamble – A Reprise

Sir John Everett Millais: Esther

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

At Christmas time several years ago, we reflected on Esther 3 as a preamble to the Jesus story. The coming of light. A voice asking for mercy. Justice amidst corruption. The presence of simplicity in a complicated world. Plots and schemes returning to haunt their authors.

As the story unfolds, we see our own modern headlines in the verses. Millennia later, what have we learned?

Bulletins were sent out by couriers to all the king’s provinces with orders to massacre, kill, and eliminate all the Jews—youngsters and old men, women and babies—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar, and to plunder their goods. 

We sift into groups that exclude. We gather words and weapons to assault “the other”. Millenia later, where do we invest our resources?

There is an odd set of people scattered through the provinces of your kingdom who don’t fit in. Their customs and ways are different from those of everybody else. Worse, they disregard the king’s laws. They’re an affront; the king shouldn’t put up with them. If it please the king, let orders be given that they be destroyed. I’ll pay for it myself. I’ll deposit 375 tons of silver in the royal bank to finance the operation.

We shrink from corruption. We turn away because we believe we have no power. Millennia later, how many Hamans stalk the innocent?

At the king’s command, the couriers took off; the order was also posted in the palace complex of Susa. The king and Haman sat back and had a drink while the city of Susa reeled from the news.

We gather in solidarity. We welcome and heal. Millennia later, what is our story?

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we open ourselves to seeing “the other”. 

Tomorrow, one small woman.

To read three posts on Esther 3, enter the word Preamble into the search bar and explore, or visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/12/25/esther-3-and-b-preamble-part-i/

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Esther 2: A Plot Discovered

Johannes Spilberg the Younger: The Feast of Esther

Monday, February 12, 2018

What do we do when we have possession of information about a harmful plot? This is the question posed by today’s reading. Esther comes to the attention of King Xerxes, and the king gave a great banquet to all his officials and ministers—“Esther’s banquet.” He also granted a holiday to the provinces, and gave gifts with royal liberality.

Amidst this celebration, Mordecai reports a plot to assassinate the king not to the king directly, but through his cousin Esther. We might pause to ask ourselves what we do with information that comes to us that indicates danger to others or ourselves.

On this day, with Mordecai sitting at the King’s Gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the entrance, had it in for the king and were making plans to kill King Xerxes. But Mordecai learned of the plot and told Queen Esther, who then told King Xerxes, giving credit to Mordecai. When the thing was investigated and confirmed as true, the two men were hanged on a gallows. 

God says: When you stumble across a plot that threatens harm, bring your tension and worry to me, and listen for my counsel. Always remain faithful to a life of compassion, hope and mercy. Always forgive those who harm you while asking me to transform hardened hearts and stiff shoulders. Always be wary of associates who draw you into grumbling, hoping to bring you into the schemes they weave. Remember that Jesus instructed you to “render to the emperor what belongs to the emperor and to God what belongs to God”. (Matthew 22:21) Remember to align yourself with me for I have great plans in mind for you.

It is tempting to complain about the corruption around us without acknowledging our part in a corrupt structure. It is comfortable to be silent while others wage war around us.

What do we do when we have possession of information about a plot that does harm? Today Esther and Mordecai give us insight. Today we reflect on the plots we discover. And we reflect on what we are to do.

Through the last several hundred years, numerous thinkers, writers, spiritual and political leaders have reminded us that evil grows quickly when good people remain silent. We may want to explore some of these quotes at: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/04/good-men-do/

To learn more about the dangers in reporting an assassination plot in ancient days, visit: http://thetorah.com/why-does-mordechai-not-report-the-assassination-plot-directly-to-ahasuerus/

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Esther 1: Susa

Jacopo del Sellaio: The Banquet of Ahasuerus

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Over the next few days, we will explore the story of Esther, a recounting of how a brave young woman saves a nation of people by mustering the courage to respond to God’s call. Polar forces place her in grave danger; yet Esther survives to rejoice in God’s guidance and protection. As we accompany her on this journey from fear to joy, we move from ordinary time through Ash Wednesday to Lent to discover the potential for transformation. Esther invites us to move away from typical days of activity into a more quiet life of introspection. Like Esther, we examine our relationship with God to see how fear manipulates us. And like Esther, we arrive at a new level of understanding of God’s love.

This is the story of something that happened in the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled from India to Ethiopia – 127 provinces in all. King Xerxes ruled from his royal throne in the palace complex of Susa. 

UNESCO has declared Susa a World Heritage Site as one of the oldest cities in the world. Rebuilt by the Persian King Darius, inhabited by the monarch Xerxes in the Book of Esther, and later conquered by Alexander the Great, Susa represented a city where many cultures and peoples came together.

In this opening chapter of Esther’s story, we learn about Xerxes’ court. As a soldier and builder, he made his mark in the ancient world, and his famous Tukta banquets were reknown. It is at one of these feasts that our story begins.

The king gave for all the people present in the citadel of Susa, both great and small, a banquet lasting for seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and blue hangings tied with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. Drinks were served in golden goblets, goblets of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. Drinking was by flagons, without restraint; for the king had given orders to all the officials of his palace to do as each one desired. Furthermore, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in the palace of King Ahasuerus.

Queen Vashti refuses to do as King Xerxes asks and so is banished from court. Into this scenario steps the innocent, beautiful young Jewish woman, Esther. We observe the wealthy and famous in this ancient world and we reflect on our world today. Celebrities and sports figures hold our interest, while the lower classes serve as the invisible support to a lavish life. The powerful command while the powerless live on the margins of society.  What questions come to us as we reflect on this opening chapter of Esther’s story?

Tomorrow, Esther becomes queen.

For another reflection on Esther 1, visit The Race of the Just post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/10/19/the-race-of-the-just/ 

King Xerxes is also known as Ahasuerus or Achashverosh. For more information on the people in this story, visit http://www.iranchamber.com/history/susa/susa.php, http://www.livius.org/articles/place/susa/, https://www.britannica.com/place/Susa, https://www.ancient.eu/Xerxes_I/, https://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/esther-and-mordecai-under-xerxes-of-persia/,or http://www.womeninthebible.net/women-bible-old-new-testaments/queen-vashti/

 

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Friday, June 1, 2012 – Esther 6 – Reward

Rembrandt: Ahauserus and Haman at Esther’s Feast

We cannot determine God’s timeline and when we watch how his plans unfold in our space and time we see that God has refined the shepherding of billions of souls to a mysterious art.  And it is something that he practices well.  Life is complicated.  God knows that rewarding one creature stirs envy in another.  This is the story of Satan and the fallen angels who succumb to their jealousy.  God knows that giving his creatures the choice to opt for darkness or light means that some of them will fall; but God also knows that his loving compassion leaves many opportunities for reform and changes in outlooks, and so he leaves his plans open . . . in order to work with the creations he so loves. 

God is fully aware that his show of mercy stirs jealousy in the hearts of others, and so he prepares plans for these contingences.  We have seen and we have been told and we have experienced the fact that God will always turn harm to good.  The extremity or numbers or layers in any given situation are never too much for God to handle.  He is more than up to the challenge . . . for he is the creator of all we see and experience. 

Today’s reading – another of my favorites – takes us to the beginning of another story of how a woman saves a nation.  It takes us to the place in the narrative where we see how the seed of envy blooms into a fully-blown narcissistic tantrum which in the end brings down the initiator rather than the intended victim.  Mordecai, a Jewish man living in the Persian court of King Xerxes (or Ahauserus), and his niece Esther, who is married to this King, have submitted their plea for justice.  The King has responded and now we await the sentence he will deliver.  As the king struggles with the plots that surround him and the information which has been brought to him, he goes back to a former event – a time when Mordecai saved his life by warning him of an assassination plot.  When we read today, we see how the evil plotted against goodness has a way – in God’s plan and in God’s timeline – of returning to visit itself upon the perpetrator.  What happens next to Haman is the very consequence he had wished to deliver to Mordecai and Esther – it is a punishment born out of the darkness of envy, and it goes home to exterminate its originator. 

If you have time today, read this story through.  Different Bibles have different methods of presenting the material that was later inserted to flesh out the story but it is worth the trouble of sorting through all of this.  The story of Esther who would rather hide than confront evil with goodness and truth is its own reward.  Today’s lesson that we cannot understand how things will unravel around us is a story to carry in our hearts.  It both cautions us against entertaining ideas of revenge and it bolsters us in our hope that ultimately the light will overcome the darkness.  All is revealed.  All accounts are paid.  In full.  And this is what we have the opportunity to ponder today. 

Reward often carries with it the fact that some human beings will covet the good fortune of others.  Some human beings will wish destruction for those who receive gifts from the king.  It remains with us to wait patiently for the ultimate outcome which the just king always delivers.  Those who plot in the darkness are done in by the very mechanism they set into motion.  This is divine justice at its best.  It is for the follower of Christ to discern his or her place in God’s plan, to be patient as events unfold, and to pray for the redemption of those who delight in the darkness.

Written on June 4, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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