Opening the Bible to read Esther is like entering another world altogether. It is a compact and complete story – no foreknowledge required. It unfolds some secrets carefully while others remain hidden, with incredibly little exposition, as though the author is inviting us to just sit down and watch the show.
The prose is packed with rich details and thorough characters, most of whom you’ll meet today. The cast (in order of appearance): Ahasuerus, or Xerxes, the Persian king, who reigned from India to Ethiopia… Vashti, the queen, who refuses to play the part imposed upon her… the king’s advisors, heightening the tension in their supporting role… Mordechai, whose allegiance to the king has firm boundaries… Esther, the young woman fated to gain the king’s affection… and Haman, whose pique at Mordechai’s transgression becomes a vendetta.
It seems that every noun has an accompanying adjective. You’ll notice a lot more details than I can list here, but I want to highlight a few. Notice the scenes that are pictured: white cotton curtains with violet hangings… the oil and myrrh and spices and ointments as part of the regular period of beautifying… the casting of lots from the first month till the twelfth month… the attention paid to the separate worlds of women and men… the emotions, the juxtaposition of small kindnesses and obtuse ruthlessness.
And, finally, you’ll notice the perilous stakes. The opening sequence shows us what happens when the king feels he’s been slighted. Pay attention to the rhythms of chapter 1 as you would to the prologue of a movie: the setting, the roles, and especially the character’s motivations...
Our verse for this week is Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Esther 1 through 3. Now let’s read it!
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.